I don’t like ass kissers, flag wavers or team players. I like people who buck the system. Individualists. I often warn kids: “Somewhere along the way, someone is going to tell you, ‘There is no “I” in team.’ What you should tell them is, ‘Maybe not. But there is an “I” in independence, individuality and integrity.'” Avoid teams at all cost. Keep your circle small. Never join a group that has a name. If they say, “We’re the So-and-Sos,” take a walk. And if, somehow, you must join, if it’s unavoidable, such as a union or a trade association, go ahead and join. But don’t participate; it will be your death. And if they tell you you’re not a team player, just congratulate them on being so observant.
~ George Carlin, When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops?
I remember one hellishly uncomfortable road trip. 18 hours on the way to the Poconos with an aging Elvis impersonator, a seven piece band and a road manager cramped up in a Ford Transit van.
The one person in this crew that I knew was the drummer who often had an incredible knack for rubbing people the wrong way. He would make truly bizarre and insensitive remarks and repeat punch lines from tasteless jokes over and over. Despite these quirks, I considered him a friend and through the years I had noticed that his outbursts of odd behavior often happened during the presence of fatigue and stress. And this was a really stressful fatiguing run. The rest of this particular crew had their fill of this guy quick and would have gladly voted for him to walk the plank if that were an option.
This whole affair was a one-off casino gig that paid pretty well…a quick turnaround. On the long haul back home, as we lumbered through Indiana, the band leader (Elvis impersonator) started to question the irritating drummer about his rumored involvement with Scientology. This turned in to another reason for the rest of the crowd to hate the guy and as Elvis was shouting “Are you a Scientologist or not?” and the mob cheered and egged it on.
I must admit that by this time in the trip I was pretty tired of this guy myself and I was taking some pleasure in his comeuppance.
Anyway, the drummer was trying to be evasive in the face of interrogation and finally said something along the lines of “I admire some of the concepts and principles of Scientology but, I’m not a member of the church.”; something like that but, the horde wouldn’t let it go that easy and continued to berate him for many miles.
I feel bad looking back on it. I could of stuck up for him if for no other reason than, he was refusing to be identified as part of a group while others were dead set on labeling him as such.
This morning, early, I watched an interview with Van Dyke Parks. He’s always been on the periphery of my musical consumption and I find him to be a fascinating figure.
Like I said though, periphery…I haven’t really spent much time on his actual work under his own name. And thus I found myself listening to a couple of his albums while doing my some of my daily chores.
I would describe a good deal of his arranging as cinematic. Which brings up an interesting notion; a lot of actual cinematic music is designed to invoke specific emotions in the viewer. However, those emotional-musical connections are often based on historical, even ancient precedents. When a composer comes up with music that reminds you, vaguely perhaps, of something from a movie…is that composer using the movie as a resource or, hearkening way back? Or, just playing to what’s in the mind’s ear?
Anyway, while listening as background music (maybe I should say “hearing” because I recently heard someone make the distinction that “most people nowadays are hearing music as opposed to listening to it)….anyway, Van Dyke was playing in the background and a thought came upon me just willy nilly: It must easily be in the hundreds of times that I have heard people talking about “the incredible power of music” because it has the ability to “take you back to a place and time”.
I just don’t feel like that…at all. I like music but I’m not interested in time travel.
I finally got around to listening to some of the more recent, posthumously released Jimi Hendrix music. I noticed on several of the studio cuts that there were some little mixing/engineering tricks here and there. Subtle and tasteful but, very digital sounding delays, guitar tones that sound beefed up by overdrive effects…maybe even re-amped (seems like in the back of my brain, I remember hearing Eddie Kramer praise re-amping).
I remember a conversation I had with Lou Whitney back when digital was taking over as the norm in the recording field. I was deep in to studying all facets of the process at the time. I mentioned that future folks, that were deep-geeking on recording, would have evidence of every single step; punches, edits, effects patches…all the minutiae of a great record. Imagine being privy to every one of Teo Macero’s tape splices on Bitches Brew or all of the editing Tom Dowd did on a comped guitar solo. Like I said, deep-geeking.
But, even though there is a digital log of all events on a particular recording, that doesn’t mean that the curator is going to let you see it. So, even after the fact, way after the fact tweaks and twizzles can remain secret.
And that brings up some interesting stuff in this era where bands are first and foremost “brands” and people don’t seem too bothered by shelling out cash to see acts that don’t even have one original member (which by the way, isn’t a brand new idea; see Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Oak Ridge Boys etc.), they aren’t going to be put off by hearing an original recording greatly altered to include the new technology.
Now we’ve become accustomed to the idea of “re-mastered”; it’s a selling point. To be fair, the great majority have no idea what mastering is in the first place. And, of course, there have been major re-releases that had tape speed corrections, noise reduction all that sort of stuff. But, “re-engineering” can involve taking each individual part sung or played and manipulating it…sometimes subject to the whims of current tastes.
The ability to even listen to recorded music is new in the grand scheme of things. With that, the ability to evaluate an individual performance as if under a microscope.
If Coltrane were still with us, he would very likely be blowing his sax in to the same kind of microphone he was over 50 years ago. All in all though, it’s weird and a little offsetting for me to hear Jimi’s guitar played through a rig that didn’t exist in his lifetime. I’m not so sure he would be in to a “Dual Rectifier”, you know?
“Every daring attempt to make a great change in existing conditions, every lofty vision of new possibilities for the human race, has been labelled Utopian.”
~ Emma Goldma
I sought this quote on the notion that I was pretty sure that Emma Goldman said it.
Seems like a fairly common argument against anarchism; “What do you want, some kind of Utopia?”
Sure, why not?