In case there are people that actually read this…

I’ve been going through a dry spell of late – musically things haven’t been quite coming together. But, the New Year is on the horizon and I suspect some resolutions are in order. I’ve decided if it’s possible to Band, then I will, if not, then solo gigging will have to do – even though there’s only so much one can do with that. But, it’s better than nothing.

I do have several new tunes completed, or in the works, and look forward to getting them out to you. Also, I’ll be consolidating everything onto one site (here) so you don’t have to be redirected to MySpace in order to listen. Thanks for checking up and for God’s sake, if you read this, listen to the tunes and like what you see/hear, leave a comment. I’d like to keep up with you.

-J

It’s been eating away at me lately: To band, or not to band? On the one hand, there’s guys out there like me who have lives apart from their music who hold down bands and play regularly. On the other hand…it’s a hell of a lot of work and time – and I don’t expect to be in ‘ol O-Town past September of next year. But, listening to the tunes I have recorded – they need something. Like, percussion, bass, some lead…percussion is needed BAD. In fact, the songs are begging for it. I tend to think it’d be worth it in the interim. I have several months to have some fun with giggin’ with a band.

I’ve also been listening to the songs posted online…yea, I’ll be re-recording them all soon. There’s been some changes that need to be addressed. As well as some new tunes that  might catch your interest. Or not. Now that I don’t have an amp, my plan of micing it for guitar and vocals ain’t gonna happen. Going to have to be fine with the one mic rig for acoustic and vocal.

So much for my Acoustasonic. I spoke with the store I purchased it from, and where I bought an extended service warranty for it (where they will pay for repairs), and apparently whatever is wrong is more expensive for them to fix than the amp is worth. My options are to trade the amp in and get something else, or the group that underwrote the warranty will issue me a check for the full amount – basically I’d get a full refund for the purchase price. Good deal gone bad I suppose. But, o well. I could always choose to pay for the repairs myself, but I’m not in love with the thing, so that’s not an option. Who knows what will become of it. Maybe the guys that are working on it will fix it and sell it from their store. Back to square one for finding an amp, though. Most of the ones I looked at were at or over $400. Can’t really afford that now. Maybe I’ll get another acoustic guitar. It’d be nice to have two, one in standard tuning and the other for the open tunings.

This  is a break from the music side of things for me, but still in the creative space. I do write fiction occasionally and prefer short stories since I have a short attention span. Here’s one that I worked on and completed this weekend. I’m sure there is editing that needs to be done, but I don’t have time for that (unless someone wants to pay me to publish…not counting on it). I’m calling it The Derelict.

———————-

The audio message terminated abruptly. There was the distinct sound of ripping flesh from bone before the end and the captain’s frenzied voice cut short with a scream that raised the hairs of those present – hardened veterans and aged politicians alike. At first there was nothing to say, questions abounded in the minds of those men, but soon a General spoke about a rescue mission to investigate the mystery and look for survivors. They all agreed, unanimous, hurried and without question. It must be solved.

For so long they were alone, sending ships in all directions from this once blue planet, now darkened by the perpetual innovation of its inhabitants. They sought for an answer beyond those found within the once vibrant and life-giving atmosphere, but no answer came. No life in the great beyond but what traveled within the metal hulls and bulkheads of the hulking utilities once called “space ships” now serving another purpose. “Hope ships” they may have been called, yet they were not harbingers of hope, but of despair. Silent, they would return with exhausted crew, blank in their eyes, pale in their skin, atrophied in their bodies and mind. Thinner and thinner they became and would return to their home, not beloved, but despised and hated, and would be witness to the decreasing diet of her citizen’s intellectual appetites. Stripped bare of all that might carry on the trinity of mind, body and spirit, to enrich and nourish the soul, sharpen the razor’s edge until one’s dying, or fading day. None of this, of course, occurred to them. It was merely a hateful life, full of answers, but absent of questions.

Madness, perhaps it was. Yet, they knew not the difference between madness and reason, nor could detect when the latter had become the former – and what a fine line it truly was. “No mystery!” was the undying cry of generation upon generation. To discover the tightly held secrets of the little seen world – to find her and rape her. But the secrets so earnestly sought were not as forthcoming as these people thought and the answer for their desperate lives alluded them, even though in truth, it did not. Instead, was satirized, dismissed and ignored to the point of receding into the obscurity of history, and content to watch as the crazed gutted themselves and wrapped their intestines around their children’s throats, who would watch and nod in approval and, in perfect reason, perpetuate the bloodshot focus to the empty sky.

No mystery became the great mystery of the generations. But here was an answer of a sort. “Let us not jump to conclusions my dear fellow citizens” was the hue and cry from the halls of power, and soon after their heroes were selected, they set off on the great adventure where answers for all were promised in abundance. “What awaits us in this exciting new frontier shall illuminate our sky, invigorate our earth, renew our sun…” and so-on until everyone’s imaginations ran wild with hyperbole that the blood curdling screams were forgotten in a matter of days.

Scientists and military men together, bound in destiny and purpose, to bring back that misunderstood thing and make it speak intelligible words. There were items of antiquity thought to be of universal understanding – sculptures, art, music and holos of the pyramids and wonders of ancient man. Mathematical equations from every age, the periodic table, and geometrical proofs. Poetry, novels and sacred texts in every language. It would see these things and understand their mind.

As the day grew closer, anticipation and anxiety increased exponentially to an audible degree. Whispers of “What do you suppose…” and “I hope we find…” and “Will there be survivors…” could be heard scattered amidst the echoing metal corridors. This culminated in one exchange during a particularly busy hour in the mess hall from a Sgt. Major, a veteran with a leathery face and smartly combed white hair and a snarl at the edge of his lips. He pointed sharply at a young soldier in front of him, and raised his voice so all could hear and for a moment all action ceased in the mess as he spoke “I tell ye this, and ye cannut see with tha inner-eye, because ye have not, but I’ve remembered mine. We’ve been all along deceived and here on an errand o’ self-pity we’ve signed our own death warrant in blood from our heart. How far along are we? Suppose we arrive at yonder derelict and be found at a loss, what would ye say then, ye young fools? And in the midst of our questionin’, there rise up in us such a profound fear that cannot be explained away and we are too lost to the void hence? Torn, limb from limb – for that’s what transpired. I’ll wager you’ll not see yer fam’lies again, nor mine. And we enter that forbidden space, for we have traveled too far for not a good reason, there’ll be a devil waitin’ for us and not a one ye can take aim at, nor be poked and prodded, nor one who travles the netherworld with horns and pitchfork, but a devil who’ll not be understood, and who’ll make yer guts turn and eyes bulge and teeth grit so hard they burst outta yer mouth. He’ll enter ye and ravish yer body and soul like a frenzied animal. What will ye do then, ye arrogant bastards? Call on yer reason or passion ta save ye and hear his inaudible laugh as his pleasure he finds at yer flesh’s expense, for his stomach’s an abyss and he’s been a’waitin’ our arrival with the patience of a dyin’ sun. And ye can be sure he waits, and hasn’t yet finished pickin’ the bones from between his teeth. He waits and he’s got the permission of God to be loosed on us like a solar storm. Our flesh’ll melt and heaven’s closed to us. What a pitiful lot we are and ye can take that ta yer men, and ta yer grave.”

The Sgt. Major sat back down and resumed his meal, his fury subsided and soon all was as it had been. Space psychosis was common among the elder travelers of that age, or so they reasoned to within an acceptable degree of probability. There was naught else to explain it. To be sure, devils there were none on these infinite plains of space and time, and soon the anxiety turned to excitement as the day approached when the derelict would be within the range of their scopes, if derelict their was – and all aboard closed tight their eyes and clenched their fists and exerted their power of will on the realization of that dream. The mystery was soon to be discovered and brought into idolatrous illumination.

It was two years almost to the day when the intercom snapped all eyes and ears to attention: Now hear this, now hear this: freighter detected at 213.501, sector 6. All SU’s ordered to delivery pods; all science personnel to bio-hazard, research and medical stations; yellow-alert is hereby in effect. The following protocols are also hereby in effect: First Response, HAZMAT, Priority Level 1 Security at critical pressure areas, Priority Level 2 Security at Bio Filtering Stations, Priority Level 1 security at main engineering and primary engine relay areas, Primary Sensor Array Alpha and Delta and Secondary Sensor Array Beta and Kappa to be directed to the aforementioned coordinates in extended sweep pattern. This is not a drill. This is not a drill. All protocols and yellow-alert will remain in effect until directed. All standard protocols not overridden will remain in effect until otherwise directed. This is not a drill.

It occurred with the efficiency common to those special groups, trained day and night and conditioned to be at one’s peak. There was the ordered scuttling about, and in minutes all was ready. The great ship and once freighter connected, the pressure chamber’s doors hissed with release and the Sgt. Major lead his team into the pitch blackness of a heap 4 years adrift. There was naught to smell or see or to settle or disturb ones spirits, only the dark and the sound of ones own breath in the enviro-suit, the outline of comrades in the holo-HUD of the helmet’s visor, and the communication from the Sgt. Major, who for this particular operation, decided to take point. He lead with the operational efficiency of one who has seen many similar situations, and knew his way somehow between the maze of corridors, hallways and junctions all the way to main engineering. The aft of the ship was swept and cleared and soon PFC Taverney was on the panel looking for a bypass to auxiliary power: a wire cut here, re-wired there, a button pressed, another and another, and like the dawn of day red light proceeded forth into their vision. 

It was perhaps better to be in the dark. All at once a gasp escaped the lungs of those warriors, for what lay before them could hardly be comprehended, or was more appropriate for those fringes of reckoning and imagination, where one dare not tarry long. Bodies of the crew, grotesque, twisted, with mouths agape and eyes wide and horror struck. They’d been carved into, gutted and bent into an impossible number of directions, chewed on and sodomized and torn apart. 

The Sgt. Major’s snarl remained and his face was as leathery as ever “And here’s what I seen, what I told ye boys. Keep yer heads and yer hearts, what’s left of ’em.” And before he could continue one of those dismembered souls looked up and opened his mouth with no tongue and mumbled aloud something akin to a moan. It blinked frantically like it would somehow bring moisture back to its dry eyes and its eyeballs darted around and seeing the soldiers its moan turned to a wail and from a wail to a scream. Its shredded arm outstretched with bone a sinew exposed and only two fingers at the end and it grabbed for the pant legs of PFC Taverney, who recoiled in terror as he watched the live thing start to claw and scream its way towards him with its eyes ever on him and a look of pleading desperation therein. “Get it off…” but before he could finish, the Sgt. Major had exploded the head and it now lay twitching as if living nerves were still connected to its dead limbs, for dead it was.

“Now ye men take heart to what I say ta ye, ’cause here we have a dealin’ with a thing I know naught of, but in my nightmares. And before another one of these unrestful, decimated bastards takes to a’moanin’ and a’wailin’ we have but a singular task. It is to the bridge with us, so put yer cryin’ and bitchin’ behind ye, unless ye find bein’ on the wrong side of an airlock an appealin’ thought. I resigned myself to the task hence, and I can say that I warned ye, but I will’na, even though I did.”

And to the bridge the group ventured, over much of the same, for the entire crew had met a similar end. There would be an occasional wail and scream and more often than not a stray limb would find the pant leg of a soldier, to which it would tug and grab and try to climb on the body of the poor boy who would cry out in terror for the Sgt. Major to save him. The old man would do so with an unblinking eye and without breaking stride, and then the group would be on again in their formation. 

As they closed in on their destination the body-count increased, and the corridors became congested as if the pathway to the bridge was the focal point of the carnage. Soon, the men had to relegate themselves to stepping not over, but on the remains of their once comrades. The Sgt. Major was surgical with his removal of those that he expected would animate at the sight of their presence and fleshy matter splattered the visors of all in line so that the best one could hope for was a view through the red and black smudges. Navigation by HUD alone became a necessity and before long they were peering up at the emergency blast doors which had been secured by the computer at the first hint of imminent danger, to safe-guard captain and his officers in the hopes of maintaining some operation of their vessel.

PFC Taverney set about on the external panel and the others watched the six o’clock for movement, ready at any moment to imitate their leader’s resolve towards the once living things. “The cabin is pressurized, sir” came the private’s response after a minute of re-routing auxiliary power to the panel. “Breathable atmosphere and full power…just came on it looks like.”

“Here we find ourselves at the edge of the horizon.” Said the Sgt. Major. He proceeded to give the order to enter the bridge when from within the blast doors a chorus of voices arose such that could only be described as being the result of profound agony and pain. There were intelligible voices that could be heard above the dozen or so screaming men and women, begging for the mercy of their captor only to be cut short and silenced while the remaining would increase the intensity of their pleas to no avail.

PFC Taverney hesitated, the Sgt. Major took the action and the antechamber hissed as pressurized air escaped. Soon they were all inside and the massive door closed behind them as the chamber repressurized. The screaming continued. “What could it be?” One soldier asked. “I told ye what.” Replied the Sgt. Major and the young man’s disbelief still remained palpable on his face. “There’s no such thing as devils!” Another said. “That’s where yer wrong, boy.” The Sgt. Major said, “They’ve sought to discard him yet here before us he will be and our fate is but a sure thing.” One of the soldiers started to weep while another exclaimed the priority of escape. The Sgt. Major looked on towards the door that would open momentarily, “We are all lost to that stomach untamed by the chest. We have but our eyes and our stomachs and the devil which awaits us at the end in whose image we have shaped our appetites. Fer me, I would lay eyes on the one whom we have sought so hard after. Ye boys remember when hither we enter, what we look on is as much ourselves as a devil it be.”

The blast door’s locks were heard being released from their housing and all at once the commotion within ceased and all was as quiet as it had been. When the Sgt. Major stepped forth through the threshold and onto the main bridge he thought his eyes deceived him, for there was merely those implements and furnishing common to the control room of space-faring vessels. No bodies, no men, no devil. The Sgt. Major dropped his firearm and removed his helmet and for the first time smelled the stink of the stale air. “Ye can show yer ugly self, fer I’ve been a’waiting with anticipation this meetin’ and I’ve had it in my mind you’d ravish me as well as the others, though I’d thought to kill myself before the end, but now know what little good that’d do me.”

“There is a wise man among the jesters?” Came the response and the Sgt. Major could see at the far end of the room an area where no light escaped and seemed to be continually drawn into profound blackness.

“I’ve no doubt that ye can see that I am neither wise, nor a jester, but a man born in inopportunity.”

“And for that you feel you should be spared?”

The Sgt. Major scoffed, “If that were to be I’d beg for yer mercy like the other wailing fools you’d swallowed. I merely ask to see the ancient thing which has us so in a bind of mind and soul and heart.”

“Here before you.” Said he. 

“Indeed. And a question.”

“Granted.”

“Pray tell, devil of devils, what action shall ye take upon thyself when come to the end? Fer no life have we found among these wanting wastelands and in all our pursuits have found a dried well instead of a fountain and a corpse instead of a perpetual living thing. Yet you seem to be one, while not being. Alive and dead, fer you have no satisfaction but to consume us and when you have finished picking the flesh off of the last remaining one, whence shall ye travel?”

“You have no contemplation of the eternity which lay before you and your people, old man. For I shall remain, and you beside me, and all whom have followed hard after me and my likeness. But as for me, I have only hatred for all living things and those dead things of which I am permitted have no breath to ease the burning in my eyes, or the pounding of drums in my ears, or to drop a bit of water on my dry tongue, or can remove the heel from the top of my head. You have born witness not to the pleasure I take, but the contempt that arouses in me the impulse to devour and the more that I devour the more that I hate. It is not satisfaction that I seek here by tearing apart flesh and soul. I do not seek anything, I do not ask questions that do not proceed from my own mind, nor desire any answer but my own. And thus, the answer to your question cannot be expressed, for it is born out of an ignorance of history. Weep for your generation, Sgt. Major, for they have been the least privy to that truth than all others prior, and I shall see every one before the end. And every one of their screams and pleas and cries for mercy shall go unanswered and I will take them again and again.”

“What about the heel?” Asked the Sgt. Major.

“You are asking the wrong question, Sgt. Major. Inopportune is an understatement in your case.”

“Then let us be done with this. I have been swallowed by the ages and now to be swallowed by he whom the ages have been chained.”

“No chains, Sgt. Major. You have been all too willing.”

The audio message terminated abruptly. There was the distinct sound of ripping flesh from bone before the end and the voice of the search and rescue vessel’s captain was cut short with a scream that raised the hairs of those present. At first there was nothing to say, questions abounded in the minds of those men, but soon a leader of nations spoke about a rescue mission to investigate the mystery and look for survivors. They all agreed, unanimous, hurried and without question. It must be solved.

Things have been moving kinda slow lately in my music world. I suppose that is to be expected, with the other priorities of life taking precedence. I haven’t picked up the axe to write or play anything in several days, and it is starting to grate on me.

But, thankfully, some new music happened the other night in the 12-bar blues vein. It was sweet too – just started pouring out and before I knew it, I had a new song with some cool lyrics.

So, now I have about 3 new tunes that need to be laid down and put up – Four Dead in Five, Waiting and Pocketbook Blues. It has been a combination of fatigue and laziness that is the reason for the delay. It will happen this week though, by Saturday for sure.

Part of the problem is I live in an apartment, and belting doesn’t go over well with the neighbors late at night. If I don’t start early in the evening, I’m usually forced to wait until the weekend when I can get it done during an afternoon session.

This particular song, Pocketbook Blues, was inspired after listening to a Taj Mahal “Best Of” CD. I rolled into work one morning and suddenly was singing the phrase “Ain’t gonna be a slave to the man, baby/The Man’s getting rich off the money I spend…” and it took off from there. I suppose it was born from my natural contempt for consumerism and especially after hearing a story on the radio about credit card companies. Well, what better way to capture the cultural and personal moment than in a blues song bemoaning the state of affairs and one’s pocketbook?

One thing I learned when writing the lyrics…blues lyrics are tough. Mostly because excellent blues lyrics always has a one line clincher at the end of each phrase. Like “Red House”:

If my baby don’t love me no mo’

I know her sister will

Clincher. And usually, they are funny. How can you hear that and not laugh? So, coming up with witty clinchers at the end of each phrase was a challenge, but I think I accomplished it quite well – feel free to keep your disagreement to your damn self.

Well, that’s all I have time for now. Read, listen, move on…

 

I recently listened to a lecture given by the CEO of CNL, a real estate development company headquartered here in Orlando. Jim Seneff’s lecture was given back in April as a key note address to a group of students and parents at The Geneva School – a classical Christian school. The subject of his lecture was regarding the American Economy and current recession, reasons for the recession, and the due vigilance necessary of its citizens to understand why such recessions occur – primarily regarding the natural undulations of economic and political cycles. Such dispassionate observations, grounded in history and philosophical thought, are invaluable to me, as such conversation does not exist at any level in media – at least on television or in popular internet news sources (with a few exceptions). It was a refreshingly rational  view on the current situation, given by man whose company’s books sees billions of revenue each year. Not to mention the fact that his industry, real estate, has been the hardest hit by the downturn, on the front lines.

Among the many interesting points Mr. Seneff made, a couple stuck in mind my mind as worth remembering. First, something Mr. Seneff said as a prelude to his definitions of Capitalism and Socialism:

Simplicity on the far side of complexity is brilliance. Simplicity on the near side of complexity is simple mindedness.

That is to say that if one understands the complexity of a situation, yet arrives at a simple conclusion, is displaying true brilliance. While one who does not understand, or refuses to understand, the complexity of a situation, and arrives at a simple conclusion is showing forth a simple mind. For example, Albert Einstein’s famous equation of E = MC2 (I realize that’s supposed to be a superscript for “squared”…don’t have the formatting here apparently). An elegantly simple equation for an infinitely complex problem – energy, mass and the speed of light.

Secondly, was Mr. Seneff’s definitions of Capitalism vs. Socialism:

Capitalism is when the economic processes are entrusted to the private sector. Socialism is when the economic processes are entrusted to the public sector, that is, the Government.

Elegant, simple. Something I can get behind.

What I want to focus on for the purpose of this blog, though, is his former statement regarding simplicity, as it can be generalized to anything. I have often found myself intuitively thinking the same thing, although not articulating it in such a way, especially in regards to music. What I have realized over the passing of time is that there are fundamental principles to just about anything one desires to accomplish. Mastery, in my view, is returning to where one started – returning to the simplicity of the start of the journey, yet having come through the hardships of it. This may echo a bit of Easter philosophy, which is not at all incompatible with my Christian world-view (the origination of the belief being rooted in Near Easter thought after all). The foundations of this idea ring true in a myriad of endeavors – the most brilliant minds are also the most simple, elegant and lucid in their articulation.

Coming back to the starting place with an enlightened mind and returning to simplicity, in my experience, occurs on an unconscious level. The advent of the journey, getting into the thick of it, struggling with difficult concepts, techniques, practices, then at some point in the future, years even, possessing an unconscious knowledge of how something works – the mind processes it automatically, as an instinct. This is true mastery. There is also the fact that not all masters are good teachers, but good teachers are able to articulate the unconscious ideas into a cultural format – Western systematics or Easter circular thought, or somewhere in between.

Despite the difficulties of songwriting, learning new styles, new instruments, live performance, etc, I have decided that there are fundamental principles to all of these. If I can learn the fundamentals, then the rest comes by itself and there is something to build on.

Getting to that far side is where I aim, even if it sometimes feels like a slog to get there…

 

Several posts ago I copied some thoughts of mine regarding Cormac McCarthy’s nihilistic Blood Meridian. This is meant to continue that discussion…

McCarthy has been getting a lot of attention lately, mostly due to the imagining of his fiction in the eyes of the Cohen brothers’ No Country For Old Men, and now more recently with Vigo Mortensen leading in The Road. My interest in McCarthy, however, began as a suggestion from my father, who is a voracious reader, and who described Blood Meridian and the most violent, disturbing novel he had ever read. At the time, I didn’t realize McCarthy’s influence in recent cinema, nor could I have guessed what I was truly in for.

But, my real fascination with McCarthy lay in the fact that he sets many of his novels in the Southwest, and in the case of No Country and Blood Meridian, much of it takes place in the Chihuahuan desert…where I grew up. The Southwest, and particularly West Texas, rarely gets the attention it deserves, so being partial to it, I am bent to explore those nuances of the Humanities which seek to illuminate its heritage. That is not to say that McCarthy’s novels are necessarily historical in nature, although they are to a certain degree, especially Blood Meridian, but more to the point, the geography of West Texas, Northern Mexico, Southern Arizona, make for exceptionally interesting settings.

In addition to this, I found in Blood Meridian a gut wrenching literary tale that undoes any notion of the mythological Western Frontier. There is no romance in the novel that harkens to those 19th century pioneers and sun worn warriors, which we sometimes carelessly project our own fantasy’s and day dreams – perhaps even believing a bit too much  the early to mid 20th century’s depictions of this era in film and literature. The reality was much more bleak, more depraved, more violent than we care to imagine.  And, the taming of the West remains one of the most interesting topics I have yet to explore in depth.

In many ways, we still feel the repercussions of the actions taken by Anglo, Mexican and Native. The resentment is palpable to those who care to pay attention to it, especially on the border towns. Racism is still very much alive. But there is something else that we civilized people tend to ignore to the point of absurdity, that is the marginalizing of the Native to the fringes of society. All it takes is a drive from El Paso to Santa Fe, crossing the Indian Reservations along the way, to be witness to the hopelessness and despair that exist in the tribes presently. Is it any wonder that alcoholism and drug abuse are rampant among these populations when in the span of 100 short years their way of life was stolen out from under them?

I appreciate McCarthy for his candor, because it is easy to fall into the trap of the “White Man” perpetrating all kinds of evils at the expense of the poor natives. I do not hold to this presupposition, and I do not believe McCarthy does either. At least, I do not see that in Blood Meridian, and there are solid historical evidences to believe that the Natives were in fact more brutal than the Anglos and Mexicans in every way. What I do see, though,  is depraved white “Christians”, and I would use that term more than loosely, and even more depraved Native “pagans” killing each other in horrible ways. Everybody hates everybody else, and fear is the driving force for much of the violence – fear and greed. I do not doubt that, during this time in history, these types of evils were perpetrated by all sides.

There is no point in trying to point the finger and blame someone for the hardships now experienced by those who were displaced. What’s done is done and “Manifest Destiny” has run its tired course. As a musician, I feel compelled to capture this time in history in a way that can speak to the imagination in the way only music can. That is the reason I wrote …And The Horses Were Screaming, and is the reason why I hopefully will have the opportunity to work on a full-scale project, using McCarthy’s book, along with some other historical and literary texts and inspiration. Who knows…perhaps McCarthy would endorse such a project.

 

My very good friend was confirmed with Multiple Myeloma yesterday evening, the day after his bone marrow biopsy. It’s hard to put into words my sadness. Sometimes I wish sackcloth and ashes were still common practice for mourning and sorrow, so that the profound depths of this reality could be appropriately expressed.

Harmony is one of those musical attributes that I liken to infinitely complex mathematical equations. Maybe that’s not the right analogy, but there is no question that musical harmonic structures and rules are more mathematical than they are artistic. That’s not to say that it cannot be used in an artistic way – that is the whole point. The structures are simply the tools by which musical artists can create their sonic landscapes. In some genres, the rules are simpler than in others, like in folk compared to jazz.

It was during  my study of music theory at community college when I realized that my tendency to think with 100% of my right brain did nothing for me when trying to stay within the boundaries of the discipline. The harmonies under study were those of the Common Practice period, roughly from the Baroque to late Classical composers – Bach to Beethoven respectively, with some overlap into the early Romantic period. I enjoyed much more the late compositions by Beethoven and any Romantic composer – Chopin, Liszt – than I did Bach or Mozart. Not that I didn’t find them interesting and brilliant, I simply preferred to listen to the free-flowing, sometimes erratic nature of the Romantics, than to its very structured predecessors.

When I discovered Jazz, my world of harmonic complexities became exponentially more complex. If I thought that trying to stay within the rules of Common Practice was difficult when composing 4 voice choral pieces, I truly had no idea what to think of a style that seemed to have no rules, while at the same time having more rules. A paradox to be sure.

I have always thought that Jazz harmonic structures are infinitely more interesting than any other genre of music…but not necessarily as beautiful. That is to say that I find a simple bluegrass melody with 4th and 5th interval harmonization many times more beautiful than a complex Jazz harmony and melody – but both are compelling to me in different ways. Folk melodies and harmonies for my heart, Jazz melodies and harmonies for my head.

With that said, I have discovered that I need to expand my harmonic base and understanding. It has been too long since I’ve studied harmonic structures and I would like to vary my songwriting a bit with some more complex chords. Not that I want to sound Jazzy, just that I feel like my world needs to be colored a bit like Jazz to be completely whole. One thing about Jazz is that much of it can be generalized to other genres and it would be interesting to combine certain Jazz practices into the songwriting of folk music. Plus, there is the added benefit of it making me a better musician, something that can never be adverse. Even if I don’t pepper my music with Jazz influences, it still would be nice to be able to PLAY it and read it – since it, along with classical, is perhaps one of the most difficult styles to master.

A world colored with a bit of Jazz ain’t a bad place to live at all…

I renamed the song mentioned below, Empty, to Waiting, and the lyrics are now posted. Music along with Four Dead in Five coming this week…