MUSIC… THE TRUE INTERNATIONAL LANGUAGE
29 August 2012
Thank you all for your positive thoughts on July’s column, and I hope that it helped some gain some insight on the beauty and benefit of where we are heading in a digital world.
I thought this month it would be good to address the importance of music, melody, lyric and expression. Often at times we get so engrossed in the business aspect that artists sometimes lose sight of why they loved music in the first place, or the daunting aspects of the business will scare away those aspiring artists that feel that road is too risky a career path and brings fears of plugging away at something that will not feed their livelihood.
However, there is another part of life that needs to be fed, and that is the character of the soul and how much we actually enjoy life.
Often heard are people humbly saying: “I used to play guitar when I was younger, but gave it up because I didn’t have faith in my writing”, or “we had a band for a while, but then the reality of life set in and had to get a real job.” Or something similar to these lines.
If a guitar is handy when hearing these stories I ask them to play me something they composed and often am quite blown away by their talents and songwriting.
An artist we are currently producing and working with named Georgina Harvey, for example, I met when she played a few cover songs opening for a performance I was doing this year. I was so moved by her voice I asked her if she composed any originals, of which she replied, “Yes, but they are not very developed and I have never thought of actually pursuing a path in music.”
It was astonishing that someone so gifted had not taken seriously the idea of chasing her dream simply because she was intimidated by the business at the very young age of 21. I asked her to video herself playing her originals, and now just months later she has recorded four originals with different producers we work with and we are currently having two videos produced by Swedish director Patrik Aronsson, everyone putting in time and energy on the faith in her songwriting and beguiling voice.
All this from a chance meeting and from someone who was not too hopeful she would realize her potential. To see her energy and life light up just going through the process so far has been truly inspiring and reminded myself why I felt so compelled to choose a life in the world of creativity and music.
The point is – don’t wait for someone else to believe in you, believe in your gifts and ability to raise people’s spirit with your creative heart and don’t stop performing, writing and recording no matter what level you achieve, if there still lies that burning desire within. You never know who will be listening out there.
Let’s recount an anecdote that hopefully will reinforce the idea to follow your passions, no matter what they are, but most importantly to not give up on any aspirations of creating and performing music if this is what speaks to you the most, for music has been and will always be one of the true international languages, and a career path that is as important as a career in politics, law, business and other livelihoods that are considered ‘necessary’.
I would argue that a career in integrated medicine, agriculture, sciences, sustainable energy, teaching, soul healing (and certain forms of psychiatry) are all right up there with music and the arts, for how many times has a song or melody been there when needed most? How many times has music literally saved the sanity of an insane moment, or gave solace to an otherwise broken loneliness or form of despair?
Music, lyrics and melodies have been the background to our weddings, birthday celebrations, religious ceremonies, spiritual gatherings… there are even stories of soldiers using Heavy Metal tracks to pump them up before going in to battle and even during the firefights.
So no matter what your tastes and no matter what the situation, peaceful or violent, music is often the foundation to our existence and feeds the fire to the depth of ‘being alive’.
I have shared this following story on stage often but for those who have not heard it, it says volumes about the wall breaking, or rather bridge building effects of song.
In 2004 I headed to India to find some ‘time away’ from the Western world, to clear my head and figure out what I wanted to pursue in life. After the years of DRN and touring the world, then years later finding myself a co-owner of nightclub in Portland, Oregon where drugs and alcohol sunk their teeth in, and thousands of discoveries but only because I lived to remember them, which was a small miracle considering how dangerously close I was to checking out of life week after week.
After coming out of this insightful and dangerous time, it seemed that heading to India to take stock was a logical step, and a positive path to getting away from dark patterns. To ‘escape’ the bonds of addiction, and go to a place where I would be humbled by not speaking the language, and where I would be surrounded by people from all over the world that were searching to understand a deeper connection to the soul.
Dharamsala, India where the Tibetan government in exile has called home since 1959 appealed as the place to visit first. It was here that twelve years earlier in 1992 myself and Bob Guccione Jr. had visited to interview His Holiness the Dalai Lama for ‘SPIN’ magazine and found the Tibetan people, their culture, and the small village nestled at the foot of the Himalayan Mountains a most promising place to find the solitude and the environment it often takes to hear what the mind wishes to speak.
In 2004 upon arriving to McCloud Ganj by bus, a 15 hour trip from New Dehli, with two driver/bathroom/food breaks, we met at the station two monks, Sonam and Lobsang. We just started talking after seeing their most genuine smiles.
Those who have been fortunate enough to travel to, or be around, the Tibetan Monastic Culture, will attest to the positive energy that seems to emanate from the streets whenever the monks or nuns are present, especially if they are present in force. Everyone greets each other with sincerity, and they greet each other a lot!
And hearing the daily music that accompanies their meditations and prayer ceremonies is something to behold, especially when hearing it echo through the foothills of the Himalayas. Let’s just say it’s an easy place, and environment, to befriend people, from all over the world.
Painters, writers, authors, musicians, searchers of the melody of life, the meaning of why we sing and paint and dance, instead of succumbing to silence. Sonam, Lobsang and I would meet for lunches, which in time turned in to meeting for dinners. One meal Lobsang and I watched ‘K-Pax’ from a DVD. After viewing this most brilliant film about a wisdom imparting alien visiting earth the conversations about the soul, the possibility of life on other planets, what would be their version of ‘God’, what was their music like? All this was yet another affirmation that creativity is a major part of our pulse.
One afternoon while washing our clothes in a stream not far from the monastery, Sonam took me aside and humbly asked: “Do you know this song that goes… “boom, boom, crack… boom, boom, crack…”?
To my shock I immediately recognized it as the beat from ‘We Will Rock You’ by England’s Legendary Queen.
“Yes!”, I replied, and told him the title and artist name. He then went further: “Will you please teach me this song?”
It was at that clear moment the realization came that turning my back on creating music and more importantly, performing live, was a mistake I no longer wished to indulge in. Seeing this gentle Tibetan monk in his early 30s, escaped occupied Tibet as a kid and has been a follower of Buddhism and lived in a monastery most of his life, was interested in learning the lyrics to ‘We Will Rock You’… life was surreal… and it was good.
Not knowing all the lyrics, and wanting to not screw up Freddie Mercury’s prose, I copied the lyrics out online at the one and only internet cafe in town, bought a used acoustic guitar at a pawn shop and proceeded to basically help him with the pronunciation, and in turn he did his best to teach me how to do the Tibetan ‘Low Voice’ singing… still have a long way to go on that art form, however.
It amazed me that this Queen song, which we in the west use at massive sporting events, touched this monk’s heart, a person on the other side of the world that lives in a monastery, who doesn’t own any earthly possessions and spends the majority of his life meditating, praying, and helping his community, in times of both joy and sadness.
I imagined taking Sonam to the Super Bowl and having him witness many thousands of people all stomping their feet and clapping hands, scream singing ‘We will, we will, Rock You’.
This humble monk would have been in awe.
Queen’s live shows were spectacles in line with celebrated sporting events, and why not? Is not a human’s great athletic efforts on field and court artistry?
Music in life… no, the art of life, should never be discounted as a force of great energy and power to balance out those who have more concern for building massive fortunes than dealing with the sustainability of the future, often focused on seeing how fast we can tear the planet and each other down. Whether as the listener or creator, of which we are all both, melody, both physical and musical, is what can give great purpose to why our heart beats in the first place.
I’ve recently had the great joy of hearing a baby’s heartbeat on the Ultrasound, and must say, it pretty much is the coolest drum beat I’ve had the pleasure of taking in!
So the old cliche of “Follow your dreams” still holds true… but perhaps in 2012 and beyond it might be better to ‘walk beside our dreams’ rather than follow… it may be easier to have a conversation with each other and ourselves if we are walking side by side.
What if we happen to get smarter in the process? Imagine the art the human race can create when we start using 8.5 percent of our brain, and not the inefficient, yet customary 7 percent.
What if our brain is connected to our soul, and simply supplies the electric current to our body so that it may listen to what the soul desires… what it needs to survive? What if…
So, sing… even if it’s in the shower… there’s usually great acoustics in there.
Thank you for reading, and I wish all good fortune to those that have chosen the musical path as a way of life.
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