Thursday, December 15, 2011

Come As You Are

Once when asked what Trans-Siberian Orchestra was about, Paul O'Neill replied, "It's about creating great art." When asked to define what great art was, Paul said, "The purpose of art is to create an emotional response in the person that is exposed to that art. And there are three categories of art; bad art, good art and great art. Bad art will elicit no emotional response in the person that is exposed to it, i.e.; a song you hear in an elevator and it does nothing to you, a picture on a wall that gives you the same emotional response as if the wall had been blank, a movie that chews up time. Good art will make you feel an emotion that you have felt before; you see a picture of a forest and you remember the last time you went fishing with your dad, you hear a song about love and you remember the last time you were in love. Great art will make you feel an emotion you have never felt before; seeing the Pieta, the world famous sculpture by Michelangelo, can cause someone to feel the pain of losing a child even if they've never had one. And when you're trying for these emotions the easiest one to trigger is anger. Anyone can do it. Go into the street, throw a rock at someone, you will make them angry. The emotions of love, empathy and laughter are much harder to trigger, but since they operate on a deeper level, they bring a much greater reward.”

That, to me, was what music was all about. Emotion.

When I was younger, I was less tolerant, less understanding about pretty much everything, but especially about music. There was a part of me that just didn’t want to share the bands I “discovered.” More disturbing were bands I liked that were commercially successful, which was selling out, in my eyes.

20 years ago, in 1991, Nirvana released “Nevermind” on DGC Records. After my initial approval of them as part of the SubPop roster, this was close to heresy. To top it off, EVERYONE loved the album, especially the single “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” I turned away.

(On a positive note, they knocked Michael Jackson off the top of the charts.)

The growing popularity of alternative music made me retreat further from all music, as I couldn’t comprehend the melding of “alternative” and “mainstream.” The slow decline of vinyl and subsequently of CDs lent further credence to my thinking that music as an art form was dead.

I’m not sure when I started listening to music again, maybe when I started exercising again and needed distraction as I ran increasingly longer durations. I started going back to favorite punk artists of my childhood and then worked my way forward. Apologies to my children, but much of contemporary music is ridiculously formulaic and irritating (surely that’s the cranky curmudgeon in me talking?). To see what has added greatly to my dismay, check out this link that Patrick of StuffAbout.Me shared: 12 Extremely Disappointing Facts About Popular Music. Ouch.

A return to the Seattle scene in my musical meanderings meant, of course, a relisten to two of the greatest bands of the time, Pearl Jam and Nirvana. Much as I have enjoyed Pearl Jam, to me the more appealing of the two bands remains Nirvana. They, in so much of their music, combine the wall of noise (loud guitars, thundering bass and drums) with infectious pop melodies that is the hallmark of my favorite bands.

I recently had the chance to watch “Classic Albums: Nirvana – Nevermind,” which is a documentary DVD released by Eagle Vision in March 2005, as part of the Classic Albums series. It features interviews specifically for this release with members of the band and Nevermind album producer Butch Vig about the recording of the album. Other interview highlights include Thurston Moore from Sonic Youth, and Steve Diggle from the Buzzcocks. If you ever were a fan of the band or just want to learn more about what made them tick, this is a must-see DVD.

I feel like I've come a long way and become much more tolerant. But I still think much of contemporary music sucks.

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  1. We had different views of the early '90's - I liked a lot of it, on a major label or otherwise. You also have to remember this is when I (wrongfully) thought I'd be making a career out of playing music.

    Not only does current mainstream music suck, there hasn't been a viable alternative for a long time either.

    But everything goes in cycles, not to worry. There are some things happening out there in dance music for example, maybe you won't personally like the music, but you might recognize the galvanizing effect it will have in the sub culture. This is what I miss - a viable alternative to the mainstream.

    That's why I am a huge fan of MP3's and Internet distribution - it evened the playing field in terms of all sorts of music getting equal distribution. It just took awhile to sort itself out and I think that's happening.

    Check out:

    Porter Robinson

    These guys are dubstep artists that I think will be part of leading the charge in 2012. And I'm happy to report that I found a marked-up contract from Porter Robinson's atty. in my inbox this morning. Looks like I'll get a chance to work with him :)

  2. So you don't give into their requests for "The Mix" when you drive the carpools:)?

  3. Between the two Patrick suggested, I prefer Celldweller, they remind me of Laibach for some reason, a band I loved.

  4. Great stuff - Pearl Jam is indeed a great band. I love going to concerts - I go to a lot of the festival style concerts (Coachella, Warped Tour, BFD, Outside Lands). My favorite type of music is punk, punk/pop, rock and country. I probably am at fault for liking a lot of the contemporary music that you don't like, haha

  5. @ laima ians education started early. His first concert was the warped tour.

  6. Love Pearl Jam and Nirvana. Ten and Live on Two Legs have permanent spots in the cd changer in my car along with a couple of Killers cds and The Best of Tom Petty. I'll load Nevermind into the "guest" slot as soon as I find it in my bin of cds.


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