Music is Important

“My single dropped today.” Madison Line Records Official Announcement
That is what I was able to say last Friday. It is a privilege to say those four words in today’s economy and music industry and pandemic-changed world. It is a blessing of teamwork and persistence and constant learning and technical prowess to say these words today. Music making is just one of the skills a modern musician must learn if they are moving towards a single “drop”. Once a song is written and fully edited and ready, it must be recorded, mixed, mastered (magical and mysterious “finishing” process), and then it exists as a file, basically. All that work of creativity and money and decision making and you have…a file. Music seems unimportant at that point.
As a less than full time music artist, I have a lot of responsibility throughout my days that is not writing music. Most musicians do have hundreds of items they do weekly that are not music related. But music is the part I can’t wait to get to at work. The active creative process makes much more music and joy than can ever be “dropped”. The joy of making music and recording eventually hits that long, low channel of trudging through platform uploading and design tweaking, marketing strategies, and background accounting in preparation for a “drop”. Someone must do that work and more often these days it is the artists themselves.
Then, the day arrives and your single is magically available to the whole world to buy, share, stream, and determine where it goes in their lives. The artist hopes, once again, that the music is important, it somehow jumps into life again and somehow enough people share and enjoy it to become more noticed and more important to people in their ears and in their story, ultimately.
“(This is) Where I Wanna Be” is the name of my song by my band “the beep” and by me, the creator. It is important to me and I hope you will share that feeling with me by clicking to a file somewhere in the space of the internet. I loved it for a long time on its way to you. And yes we created a cute .gif file that looks like a static-y TV image to make you happy and listen.

Music is Important

Music is Important

I have music playing in my head.

Ever since I was a little boy, I would hear musical lines and melodies and rhythms playing in my head. Taken from the environment, taken from natural sounds, taken from conversations and ideas around me, I would pursue those musical and lyrical ideas and start stinging songs about them. And I would sing pop songs and get stuck on “earworm” melodies (although I have a perfect solution to getting stuck on a song – ask me when you see me next), and drum on the table until mom made me stop. And again. And again. I just have had music flowing in my head and I can pull down Samuel Barber or King’s X or Future at any time easily. I’m “musical”.

But not everyone has music just playing on a mental tape in their head and those people are called “weird”. Just kidding, but you like to have music playing when you work. Oh, how you kill me but I get it. Music is important and if you don’t have it, you want to hear it. I have come to understand that music helps you to focus on something as the brain locks into something familiar and comforting. My blog talks about this often and the science backs it up. But my comfort is internal and I work well in silence.

Do you love silence and work better with no music? Further study forming here.

For the sake of today’s blog, I’ll just stick to the MUSIC BRINGS FOCUS theme and say that no matter what your style or genre or artist (can you really work to that music?), we all need a focal point for our brain to concentrate and music causes me to focus on it rather than my work. So, I am that musician that focuses for many hours a day in silence. Strange. Music moves me greatly and I respond quickly when I do hear it. I become more sensitized maybe. It has been said that music is as much about the space as the notes. I agree.

The silence you see in me is offset by the mental tape and space I enjoy inside me.

Take a quiet break sometime too and maybe, just maybe, put in some earbuds (person sitting next to me at dinner).


Almost Heaven
West Virginia is almost heaven.
Some songs are ubiquitous and connected to a single experience or place. “Country Roads” by John Denver is one of those songs. Although Denver was most often associated in the 1970s with Colorado and the big western sky and seemed personally to be a remnant of hippie culture-turned-pop mellow folk hitmaker, he wrote one song that is solidly West Virginia. My first big concert was John Denver and I was a young fan of his music and attitude. Maybe the music even formed me as a naturalist all my life and respecter of the beauty of God’s creation. Music does that to us – forms our opinion of things when we are not even thinking about it. Even if it reflects the reality of our culture, it also enculturates us further to the angle of response to the culture we should have or could learn.
My stepmother Gladys took a trip in the 1960s across the USA and tried to hit every state. From Virginia. The main one she realized she missed upon her return? West Virginia. It is that remote. At that time the interstates were not complete through the mountains towns and curvy roads were solid West Virginia. I did some years of riding up to my dad’s “homeplace” in the economically challenged center of the state that were curvy and tiring with no four lane roads. Like the song Country Roads says, life is old there. So were the roads themselves and the rivers and mountains of course. I recommend it. 
I was with Gladys and my dad there earlier this month and my son was playing Country Roads on the porch of the homeplace on guitar (I was hoping he did not forget any lyrics, as everyone in West Virginia knows when you miss a lyric on this song). I had a moment. Not just standing in the ever flowing Elk River on a large rock. Not just sitting up on the rock ledge looking down at the two lane bridge and the climb we made. I had the music of the place solidly flowing in me because the music matched the feeling and the music made the feeling even better. 
And I think that is what party music does, though I’m no party animal. It is what patriotic music does. Hiphop. Old country and western. It takes the feelings of the groove we know, adds in the stories of the people and the place, and reminds us of a home, sometimes far away. And that we should have been home yesterday.
Music is important.

Music is Important 14

That Casio keyboard belonged in the trash.

Music is an expression of the heart and soul of people – and their very interesting thoughts. Songwriting is often a cathartic exercise, which I’ll talk about at length in future articles. As I’ve said before in this blog, you can learn a lot about people through listening to their music with them and hearing them describe what they like about certain artists or songs. I’ve heard why my one friend – just one – loves Taylor Swift (empowerment), why my kids like hip hop (creativity) or classic jazz (horn lines sound like freedom), and why my wife listens to 90s rock that has returned to radio (recapturing those early years of our marriage). 
Ok, maybe I made that last reason up; I need to ask her.
This week I listened to a new worship song from Hope VanDouser on our Madison Line Records label, something she’s writing, heard (and watched) an interesting tune from clipping. based on an irritating alarm clock and no beats in a hip hop track, and scanned old time AM radio country classics on a cross-country journey. I listen for words and emotions from real people and find they are ultimately more similar than we realize. Gain and loss, love and frustration, passion and resignation fill the airwaves (yes I love terrestrial radio) and I feel I grow as a person by knowing more about and from many people. Inventive sounds and new combinations bring fresh togetherness across common dividing lines.
What does not bring me pleasure in listening is the irritating sound of a Casio keyboard. I will talk in future blogs about my wonderful college experience with a Casio based group, but the common cheap keyboard is a nuisance and I reveled this week in seeing one in a trash can. The sounds cheapen the musical experience of people who love the real instruments and the quality is at a level that I maintain should not be allowed – lowest. It is unnecessary even in the child’s room when the real sounds are available in community and even smart phone based keyboards sound more resonant and sonorous than a Casio.
And, most importantly, when I was broke in college Casio refused to remedy their terrible “craftsmanship” with an item I bought with my few dollars and their “customer service” produced a lifelong Casio critic. I resist mentioning them except in the opportunity here to show the photo of one of these tormenting keyboards that I discovered snugly resting where it belonged this week – in the trash. 
Everyone share your musical ideas with real instruments and not Casios.