I spent some time with an “old friend” last night. Michael Nesmith performed a retrospective of his career, which has spanned fifty years. Michael is a fellow Texan, and shares many of my personality traits (AKA quirks). His music doesn’t fit in a box, he wrote “Different Drum” which Linda Ronstadt made famous and (vice versa), which he performed with a totally new arrangement, moving the story from the Haight to Paris. He was in the Monkees (although he only performed one song from those days). He moved on to The First National Band, and then created MTV, creating videos for his songs like “Crusin“. Today he is Videoranch and is still making new music. Although his voice is showing some age, it is still recognizable, ties his works together. His framing of each song was poetic, and at times moving moving. In the clip above he speaks of Red Roads, and how he programmed Red’s tracks through the keyboard so he could “be there”, performing with Nez again.
What was old was new again. Not many obvious Monkee fans present, but who could tell after all this time? From the grey hair in the audience it looked like we were all roughly the same age. There was a group of guys wearing “Save The Texas Prairie Chicken” T shirts.
My wife wasn’t familiar with his music, she knew “Rio” but didn’t know it was his. We’ve shared a lot of music, she’s introduced me to new things, I’ve done the same for her. And that is what this post is about. She derives a great deal of pleasure from new music. In her youth she was A&R for a few record companies, including Factory Records, and she loves new music, not any particular genre, just tracks she hasn’t heard before.
I had often found this intriguing. I love music, and play several instruments, but she loves to listen. Always new bands, college and independent radio stations, well beyond the edgy “I heard it first” snobbery of young people, she needed it to thrive.
Then I came across this study from Canada. New music has a different effect on the brain than music you have heard before. Beyond the simple “I like music”, this study indicates that your brain likes music, and it likes new music even more. When we listen to our favorite music live, we get the thrills from the improvisations, the altered arrangements, the styles of different performers.
One of the performers last night was Chris Scruggs, grandson of Earl Scruggs (who most people know from the theme music of “The Beverly Hillbillies” but who had a seventy year career and created the “Scruggs Style”). Chris played slide and electric guitar, as well as balalaika. New from old, more evidence that musical talent is genetic. If Earl could have seen Chris’ solo on Grand Eunni he would have seen (and heard) the similarities between his banjo work and Chris on the guitar.
I believe that matter and energy are made of the same thing. Energy is expressed in many ways, and many waves. The heat from the Sun, the colours of the rainbow, the laughter of an infant. Sound is a form of energy, expressed in waves, or vibrations. Like any other vibration, it can resonate and reinforce. Now we can prove that it can harmonize with the matter of our brains. I’ve always felt this to be true, it’s just nice to have research to back it up.
I believe this is how music connects us. We resonate with the vibrations, creating chords with others, creating a song with our lives. I often use words like “dance” and “song” as metaphors, because that’s how I see life. Not that I’m synesthetic, or perhaps it’s just a degree of synesthesia. We are part of the song of the universe.As Joni Mitchell put it, We are stardust, we are golden, we are billion year old carbon. And then…
The big wrap up. We’ve got to get back to the garden. Nez finished the night with a mention of the tragedy in Boston earlier in the day. For those of you from another planet or who are reading this in the future, a couple of bombs were detonated at the Boston Marathon. At this point, twenty four hours later, the casualties are one hundred fifty injured, three dead, of which two were children. Many of the injured lost limbs. Missed in the headlines was that thirty people were killed in bombings in Iraq. No data for Syria, or Afghanistan, or Spain. We can either align the phase of our vibrations, creating a larger, stronger wave, or we can be discordant with each others’ music, the result of which is silence.
Give Peace a Chance.