Today seems like an appropriate day to at least start my exploration of what it is I love so much about music. Of course everybody likes music a lot of people love music, but I feel it is time to investigate what it is that has fueled my long love affair with assorted notes. Why is today an appropriate day? Well last night (Tuesday) I watched Eric Clapton in concert for the 2nd time in my life. Big deal? Yes, for me he is the greatest, the best there has ever been. Which is one of the cool things about music, how regardless of widespread popularity, it is always an intensely personal thing. Clapton is my greatest, not necessarily yours, there is NO the greatest, only our personal preference. That is one of the traps that we can so easily fall into with music, we pick an artist, or a genre & we support it like it’s a sports team. Like this is the only valid thing & everything else should be avoided, or worse, put down in order to elevate our chosen one. For me that is the absolute worst way to look at music, you miss out on so much that way, I know because I fell into the trap for a brief period.
Before I go on, a brief look back on last night. The show was incredible, it was a very different approach to the 1st time I saw him, that time Derek Trucks was in the band & they played a Derek & the Dominoes heavy set (which was awesome). Last night was a much more laid back affair, a larger acoustic section including Layla (very cool), he had a pedal steel player in the band which changed the complexion of some of the songs wonderfully. Then the show got to the Robert Johnson section, I love the blues, I love Clapton playing the blues even more, boy was I in my element. They finished up this part of the show with a song called Little Queen of Spades, it must have gone on a good 10+ minutes which included 90+ seconds of maybe the greatest musical experience of my life. To put it in words will be difficult but I will try. Doyle Bramhall II (the other guitar player in the Clapton band) played a solo, it was an incredible solo, almost an ode to SRV, full of poise & feeling. It was a solo that was good enough to end the song on. That’s one of the things I love about Clapton live, he lets everyone play, he enjoys allowing his band members to shine, he likes to showcase their talents, I presume some of that comes with being internally supremely confident in himself. Anyway, it came time for Clapton to answer with a solo of his own, this was not about showboating or upstaging, but the bar had been raised you could tell his juices were flowing & he had to up the ante. What followed was quintessential Clapton, quite simply the greatest pieces of blues guitar soloing that I have ever seen live. It’s one thing to see something like that on a video or to listen on a cd, but to be there in person, where you can truly feel the music (literally – it was loud), it was something else, that was a memory that will live with me forever. I suppose you might say that I thoroughly enjoyed my Christmas present last night, thanks honey J
Back to the subject at hand, what is it about music for me? As you might be able to tell, my musical tastes are strongly influenced by my love of the guitar, particularly the electric guitar. However I have extremely eclectic tastes, there is not a genre of music (that I can think of) that I don’t like at least some of, I used to say opera but then there is Pavarotti singing Nessun Dorma which brings back wonderful memories of Italia ’90 & thus renders that argument mute. So there it is, I like all music, just some more than the rest. Obviously if you delve into sub-genres, say thrash death metal, I’m going to struggle to find things I like, but with a broader brush I can say I appreciate all genres.
What is it though that I like in a song or a piece of music? I find that hard to define in a definitive way. That’s the great thing to me about music, there is always something to suit your mood or your current place in life. It doesn’t have to be permanent, the music of a moment is like a travel companion that joins you for only part of the journey, you get to keep & enjoy the memories when you have long since moved on. If I were to try & sum up in general what I like in a song though, it would be a combination of soulful, played with feeling & meaningful lyrics, I love a song that tells a story. I also like a song with a good grove, where it is hard to sit still while listening to it, I like harmony, I like so many things. Of course it is rare to find all these in one place, but generally speaking if a song contains at least one of these elements I will find myself liking it.
I like excellence in musicianship, I have a great appreciation for the history of music. I love watching things like the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame concerts, to see artists get recognized for lifelong achievements. I get a kick out of watching that, especially when they jam together I love it when you get to see historically significant musicians play with each other.
I’m not a musical snob, I won’t stay away from an artist just because they are successful, I find that if millions of other people like a song, there is at least a chance I will too, not always but there is a chance. There are lines I will draw though, I don’t care very much for mass produced, plastic, forced pop music, I understand where it comes from (money making) I understand that a great many people like it, but it is just not my thing. I’m not much into the extremes of any kind of music either.
I guess what I like is genuine music, authentic music. Music that had to be made, in whatever format, because the artist couldn’t keep it in. Something in their soul had to be shared, whether it be rock & roll, rap or classical music, if it came from a place of honesty & truth then that is the type of music I like, regardless of genre.
I think that is where my love of music comes from, it’s something about the way I was made, music is not just notes or words for me, it is an expression of the soul. I connect with music, on a soul level, there is music inside of me, I don’t just listen to music, I feel it, that’s part of why I like to listen to it louder than my wife cares for, I need to be enveloped by it. There is a constant soundtrack in my mind whether it be someone else’s music or music that needs to be made, it is extremely rare that there is not a music actively playing in my brain.