After the Fall performed on 3/24/13 at Sam Bond’s Garage in Eugene, OR. Thanks to Brian Conley for the video!
A good friend of mine continues to do me the kindness of irritating the fuck out of me by asking how many covers are in our set. We’ve played one cover, twice, but in general the answer is always none. This irritation keeps me thinking over the issue and examining what my resistance to covers is. By examining it, that resistance begins to change. Ultimately, today, it led me to a line from a song by the Brecker brothers, that asks whether success is “doing your own thing, or to join the rest?”
In Cafe Yumm a little bit ago I was subject to their taste music… or somebody’s taste in music somewhere up the corporate chain. It’s a strange place, in terms of music, in that I’ve heard radically different genres during different visits. The first time I went there it sounded like Christian Country Pop, but today it was what I’m guessing is mainstream American Pop. I really don’t listen to enough music to know the State of the Art. Whatever the most communicative classification, in my mind, the two genres are joined by a similar level of packaging. Point being that as I was preparing to depart I heard a song begin with that movie song from sometime in the 80′s or 90′s, Time of My Life, or whatever the title is. But after playing through this sampled refrain the song went on to be something totally different.
I haven’t kept up with or ever been interested in or by the progress of song sampling, but I know it’s a common practice. What struck me was how disconnected the sample was from the song. Disconnected to an extent that suggests to me something I’ve never quite been conscious of in sample-based songs. Appropriating was, I suspect, originally a form of art, but now, having validated its commercial effectiveness, it’s more marketing. It’s not that one song spawned another, but that some song is selected as the packaging for another, in an attempt to evoke positive associations – or for those who never really liked wrapper song, the less intense receptivity of familiarity bias.
In part, I am resistant to playing covers because I don’t want to use songs as packaging. In part I resist it because my primary purpose and interest is to write, to unfold my own understanding rather than aping another’s. That said, I have loved playing other people’s songs. I still do. I’m just not going to sacrifice my authenticity to increase my appeal to people who aren’t interested in my songs. On the practical side, a cover might serve as a doorway to the generally receptive state that allows for interest to develop. Still, when I think of covers, mostly I think of old Randy Newman songs that most people have never heard of and would likely find somewhat disturbing.
There is perhaps a precious freedom in being small enough, and odd enough, that no one offers to buy your soul – or pushes to disfigure it into some more lovable form. As Bahaudin Naqshband put it:
We are adjured constantly to study and make ourselves familiar with the lives, doings and sayings of the Wise because a link of understanding exists between these factors and the potentiality in ourselves.
But if, as have the literalists, we soak ourselves in these elements from motives of greed or marveling at wonders, we will transform ourselves indeed; but the transformation will be animal into lesser animal, instead of animal into man.
The test which is placed in man’s way is to separate the real Seekers from the imitation ones by this very method. If man has not addressed himself to this study through his simplest and most sincere self he will be in peril. It is therefore better, did man but know it, to avoid all metaphysical entanglements rather than to allow himself to be acted upon by the supreme force which will amplify, magnify, his faults if he lacks the knowledge of how to cure the fault, or of how to approach the teaching so that his faults are not involved in the procedure.
To become entangled metaphysically is to attempt to act consciously upon what we might call the intermediary, archetypal or devic powers that mediate the formless essence of Life and the established cultural forms. This can be understood purely in psychological terms, though it is easily seen (and thus often pointed to) in the dynamics of fame. The Star-Making Machinery, Joni Mitchell called it.
This Supreme Amplifying Force is the subject of the 90′s sci-fi movie The Sphere
I’m reminded of a friend’s post on Facebook, declaring that Mozart was reborn in the figure of a composer/pianist on Some Country or Other’s Got Talent. The World’s Most Amazing Pianist, Bogdan:
My friend feels “gifted to simply live on the same planet with such a stunning talent.” I was prepared to be blown away, but I wasn’t, at all. Certainly Bogdan can play the piano, but the composition he played was a bit thin on musical substance. To me, not even interesting enough to watch the second Bogdan video. To my friend, an honor of global proportions.
Which reminds me further of another Some Country of Other’s Got Talent contestant, that guy who dresses like a goth but sings operatically like a woman. Susan Boyle has already mined the rich vein of person who sings beautifully but doesn’t look right, so this guy took it a step further. It’s not just that he sings beautifully but doesn’t look right: prior to his performance on stage, no one in the world – not even his own parents – had ever heard him sing. He was the most virginal undiscovered talent possible. The Pure Lily of God’s HermAphroditic Divinity. And here we all are deflowering him together on TV!
In four hours we’ll be playing in Alton Baker park at Music and the Vineyard, or as it is alternately known, the 66th Annual Freedom Fest. or Festival. Freedom Fest sounds licentious. Anyway, I need to shave and find a shirt.
I am suddenly reminded of Landru.
UPDATE: after the fact
It was great fun playing on a big stage with a super sound-system. In the future, though, I will refuse to open for a pie eating contest. It’s just weird, breaking down our equipment as they’re hauling out tarps to keep pie off the stage. More than that, it makes for a less than optimally constructed show… though I didn’t have the presence of mind, when the promoter asked to change our start time to incorporate the pie eating, to say that it was just impossible for us to play any earlier than we’d already agreed. Lesson learned: Don’t be too flexible.
Another strange thing: there was a hospitality tent backstage, but it was entirely empty save a couple bare cafeteria tables. Outside the tent, someone had taken the time to set-up chairs and tables – as if we might sit there, drinking and eating of the hospitality not present. I’m still perplexed. This was a big tent. It cost money to rent. It cost time and money to set up. Yet it was barren. There were a couple lights in it but nothing to illuminate. Not even water.
Before our set, Bobby showed up with water bottles for each of us. I assumed he’d gotten them from the tent but think now he must have purchased them. Thanks Kid!