After a week of letting desire loose, and criticizing simulacra metaphysics, I thought it would be a good idea to lighten up and risk truly harsh criticism by sharing some of my more aesthetic interests.
A short post; here find two of my musical compositions. The drums are programmed, the bass and keyboard are performed by me. These are in the idiom of reggae dub, but they tend to be a little esoteric. Like anyone who has done dub, my primary influences included King Tubby, Lee Perry, Scientist – a whole slew of brilliant recording engineers. But on these two tracks I think I was most trying for the feel of the more melodic tracks on Dennis Bivell’s “I Wah Dub” album (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ztVpsVEzo6U). Of course Bovell had the benefit of dubbing pre-existent tracks that included guitars and horns. As a home studio performer, I was stuck with keyboards. But I hope I got a dreamy, hypnotic feel to these tracks. Or something close. (Or if not, better luck next life.)
Of course one primarily does music for one’s self. I did these tracks because this is what I wanted to hear. I did try to share them back in the day, when there was something called MP3.com on the internet, and got some nibbles. But generally making music is first about what interests us, and then what interests others. I don’t music can be played – with total honesty – any other way. Professional musicians, it must be remembered, are professionals first, and musicians second. That is, they have a job to do. Failure to realize that has been the down-fall of many a young wanna-be-star. One has to be very, very lucky to ‘make it’ in the music biz and still be playing only what one wants to hear.
Yes, I did record other pieces; but this after all is not a music blog. These two tracks are presented here because one is my personal favorite (“Ocean”) and the other was the most popular of my work in this genre (“Natty”) (it actually got radio play in France and in the American territory islands in the Pacific). So I’m hoping to use this moment to think about the intersection between self-and-other in musical terms. Or perhaps I’m feeling vain.
And perhaps nostalgic as well. For a number of personal reasons, I haven’t really made music for some 15 years. Most of these I won’t get into. I will say that I think I said pretty much whatever it is I wanted to say musically, and just didn’t feel the need to keep saying it. ‘Not doing it anymore’ is actually one of the benefits of not being a professional. Professionals really have to keep doing it, which might get very dull after a while….
An interesting aspect of these pieces – for me – are that they are imagistic. “Ocean” is even narrativistic, in that it begins by imagining an airplane ride over the ocean, then diving into it. (“Natty” is about hair.) I’m actually opposed to the notion that music must be or somehow naturally is imagistic in nature. Surely, we’ve experienced too many experiments in music since this notion was first popularized in the 19th century to buy into that! (Yet of course music teachers in grade school and high school still talk that way, I think.) In my non-vocal pieces, I was perfectly happy titling a track ‘Variation 2’ or ‘Dissonant squawks against a back-beat.’ But I’m not opposed to letting a piece of music remind me of a moment or a story. I just think this has its dangers: I first heard Debussy’s “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun” when I was a kid; misreading the title, I was sure it was from the sound-track for Bambi!
A note should be made concerning my musical history. I listened to classical music only, until I was 17, when I discovered how playing Alice Cooper could really annoy one’s neighbors (at 17, what could be more fun?). Eventually I drifted into punk rock, even hanging out at CBGBs when it first attracted national attention. Eventually I even played and sang with a metal-punk band in upstate New York.
Throughout the later ’70s and early ’80s, I listened – closely – to pretty much any music my ears could find; but my deepest attachment proved to be for reggae. I’ve thought about this many times over the years, and I’m not sure. I will probably write directly about that at some point, but for now I will say that what began as a curious itch turned into a comfortable groove. Perhaps that’s all one needs to know about the music one loves.
Anyway, that’s why I made these two tracks. Reggae had enriched my life, so I wanted to express something of my love for it.