Sunday, September 23, 2007

Mister Composer Head Talks About Sincerity

Okay, so I'm back to practicing the banjo. I'm not sure how to spell that – "practising/practicing". They are both correct, but one is more British than the other. I prefer the British one. Whenever I use it (i.e the British spelling) though, an Editor FIXES it. Don't you just hate Editors?

But I digress…

Someone drew this on a sidewalk (c) David Ocker

I can't play much on the banjo, but I do okay with my favorite country song, "I'm Sure To Fall", by Carl Perkins. That's real country, not the country pop shit that we've been subjected to the last couple decades. Make no mistake. Perkins is country pop too. But it is so much closer to the roots, and not pre-fabricated with stardom and money as the purpose of the music. I think he wrote a real song, for all the right reasons. I could be wrong – it would be the first time, but it could happen – but I don't think so.

But anyway, I played a gig in New York once, with a duo I once played in. We did "I'm Sure To Fall". I played sruti box and sang. Now, I should mention that this was a real sruti box. It only produces certain pitches, and you have to work the bellows with one hand. So you only have one hand left ( it could be the right) with which to manage hole coverage duties in order to get the various combinations of pitches that will imply the chord progression. Plus it's really flat by Western standards, so the guitar player has to completely retune. That's no big deal because everybody from Hendrix to Guns & Roses played a 1/2 step flat on purpose.

But I digress…

Someone dripped this on the sidewalk (c) David Ocker

The thing is this. When we went into Sure To Fall, I felt my heart warm up, got a bit of a lump in my throat, and was aware of a little moisture in my eyes. My heart and mind were filled with thoughts of my wife, and I sang that song for her. That sounds stupid, and it is. But I don't care. That's how it felt.

So the same duo did a gig in L.A., and we did Sure To Fall, by Carl Perkins. Afterwards someone came up to me and said "I'm sure glad you did that country song. You obviously love that song, and it put everything else you did in context". Words to that effect.

The next day I go at an e-mail from a composer friend who was also at that show. Heard the same set, the same songs as the aforementioned guy. She said "It must be nice to be able to put yourself on a pedestal like that, making fun of other peoples' work". Words to that effect.

She picked up on no love, no sincerity.

Why would I work so hard to poke fun at something I don't like? I just would not bother.

I explained this to her. She sent an apology. That was gracious, if unnecessary. She is a classy person.

Someone spray painted this on the sidewalk (c) David Ocker
A friend of mine has often commented that Bruce Springsteen sells "mock sincerity". I think that's fair. Bruce can convince his audience that he actually cares about what he's singing about. I suppose only his hair dresser knows for sure.

But another composer friend remembers hearing Bruce at a bar in New Jersey, way before stardom. He said "You don't have to like Bruce Springsteen, but it was about the best bar band I've ever heard". Words to that effect.

Funny thing about bar bands. They rarely "make it". No matter how good they are.

Keith Richards was asked once what he thought of Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine. He said "They're a lounge band that made it".

I once roasted a pig, named Gloria Estefan, and she had a caption bubble that said "I'm Gloria Estefan. I'm a real pig, and you can eat me!"

Words to that effect.

1 comment:

Peter (the other) said...

It is always interesting, how many completely different interpretations, receivers of the same communication can have (this happens in all forms, including text). It seems it involves what the receiver brings to the communication, which raises havoc with the idea of intentionality in art.

Having recently witnessed a pop/rock show at a large facility, and watching the "performers" jump about so as the audience in further seats might establish from whence the noise was emanating (to aim adoration or tomatoes), I thought about this question of authenticity. Why do we pay such importance to meaning in communication? Do we think we will learn something useful, that maybe we have been missing? Maybe, sometimes, even Dylan is just about tapping one’s foot.

In absence of any really important news, in the last few millennium, perhaps some of us have gotten more proficient at taking on the superficial aspect of imparting great, important meaning. Perhaps the noise of this group, sometimes obscures one that might truly have something to say. This discrepancy could be at the root of hip. Hippness being the attunement to the obscure and the disdain of the fodder of the masses.

And like the shadow do, I to, go on!