Saturday, October 6, 2012

BOOKS, DEMOS, AND LIMITS




I am about halfway through the letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto, a Kindle daily deal I bought a while back, and a serious gear-shift from Jo Nesbo’s GREAT thriller, Headhunters. There must be some received opinions I could insert here about Facebook, texting, Twitter, email, and blogging, and how those things have fractured our ability to communicate clearly, at length, in a personal and intimate way.  I bet that would end up being only half true, or mostly not true, and I’d sound like an old fart.  Just the other night I was commenting on a Facebook photo of John Wayne in short-shorts.  Like I’m gonna get all retro-fusty here.



Whatever the case for letter-writing vs re-tweeting Hall and Oates blooper videos, these two write. They write ALOT, to each other, and they write well.  They write about their lives, and they write about the big white whale of a project: Mastering The Art of French Cooking. They bring the book along, and DeVoto acts as de facto literary agent in the states, and they become great, lifelong friends. This correspondance was private; it existed within limits and did not seek to be seen by others in a “social network.”  It was soul-building--contained.

This has been the nicest late summer and fall in the Willamette Valley in twenty years, it seems--blue sky and sunshine, tomatoes and cucumbers continuing to ripen even now.  I’ve heard we have another week. It could not be nicer, and a little margin between summer and the rain is good, can get you energized on into February.

We started Boardwalk Empire after Breaking Bad closed up for a while; Game of Thrones was great. The Walking Dead is coming back.  It seems like we live in a golden age of excellent tv shows with great production values and writing.  Plus alot of kick-ass trash.  There’s only one The Wire, or Six Feet Under, or Mad Men--but overall, TV is abundantly good in a way TV didn’t use to be. HBO is boob crazy and that’s a little cornball.   

It looks like The Golden Motors are going into the studio before the end of the year to record a ten-song 30 minute-ish album.  Unlike the first Golden Motors album, which kind of emerged from a more singer-songwriter angle, and took on its recorded character later--and took on life on stage even later--these tunes have been hammered every which way by the band and played in front of people for quite a while.  


I continue to write and demo songs on my own and have quite a stockpile which I like--but every writer has habits, and being open to a band breaks habits and hopefully improves arrangements and the overall flow.  However, one lives within the limits and commitment level of the band.  This is true at the hobby-garage level and it’s true at the regional touring level and the “next level” at the super duper level, I bet, too.

I think I’m speaking for many musicians at many levels when I say it gets harder to embark on album projects knowing that the form has become the 8-man football of art.  I’ll only say this once: people do not realize how helpful and energizing it is for fans to buy a cd/LP/download. We’ve really lost the connection, the sense that this means something.  {Insert 100 terrabytes of commentary by pretty much everyone here.} There’s soul in spending and in exchange that has been obliterated.  And times are tough, even for the 47% who are moochers and not deserving of a chance to smooch Mitt’s loafers.

When I rode my bike to CD World after work to buy the new Bob Mould record, I was repeating a ritual that I’ve been going through since I was sixteen and sneaking off to KC from the ‘burbs. Half of it was the drive, the friends I was with, the Mario’s grinder we got across the street from The Record Exchange.  This sounds sentimental.  I guess it is.  It’s a great record, and also so personal to me, as a fan of 25 years, that it may not illustrate my point at all.  It’s dumb to be nostalgic for a certain style of consumption.  Any fifteen year old who just downloaded the entire Jimi Hendrix discography for free knows this.  But ritual is a different thing.  Cultures that lose their rituals go down the shit-tank.  People stop seeing each others faces, and building relationships.

I’ve snagged dozens, maybe hundreds of albums from the Eugene Public Libarary, and burns and links and thumb drives full of more music than I could possibly afford come my way all the time too.  Somehow it’s the things that we exchange within limits that make more sense and mean more, that’s all.  A quaint idea.  


I heard an idea the other day: “musicians are the new poets.”  Meaning, poets typically don’t make a living at poetry; they teach or have some form of day gig.  This elevates and rarifies the rock and rollers, too--sometimes justified.  Troubadors, poets, singer-songwriters, rockin’ bands with heavyweight literary/art appeal, shit bands talking shit about shit and not knowing shit, and boring poets doing the same--this stuff’s been cooking for a while.  Some folks build tanks for a living, or operate on brains, and are well-rewarded.  If I were Nikita Khruschev I would not bang my shoe on the table to conlude this message, I would slap a flip flop.  It's all good, dude.  Now I am going to put some bass on a song using equipment that did not exist even twenty years ago, and have ALOT of fun.


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