Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Meditation on the Middle Class

An excerpt from Ian's letter to Markita Moore expounding about the origins of an instrumental piece titled "Meditation on the Middle Class".  When I say "you", I meant Markita, though feel free to identify as the intended audience if it seems appropriate!  To date, we don't have any lyrics to this piece.

I (Ian) might sound like a kook in the first point, but bear with me.

There are a few notions and issues I've been stewing in my head for the past several years:
1) Religious/spiritual themes in every day life

There are a few rare occasions, of this, but I've noticed some songs in relatively normal people that evoke a deep sense of spirituality when listening to the music behind the music of some music makers.

These musicians aren't necessarily known for religious views, but to me there's definitely a sense of something deeply special about these songs.

My rawest encounter was at a Canton Public Library open mic which Markita Moore or the late Sean Fitzgerald hosted in 2006. There was a middle aged man who came in with his guitar and sang a robotic song about working and then opened up into a part of his song which described being liberated from the dehumanizing regimen of his work experience. He wasn't particularly virtuosic, or vigorously trained in his playing technique, but you could tell right away that he found deep meaning in being able to perform that song and share the experience with the audience there. This probably had the greatest impression on me as I believe that every day people-at least many every day musicians-are funneling a lot of their being into their music in whatever form they know. The song is more than “their baby”, it's part of how they find meaning in their existence, and this seems to happen for many people in the so-called “middle class”.

A few other songs that evoke these thoughts for me:
Blue Man Group “Synaesthetic”
Broadcast "Arc of a Journey"
Jose Gonzalez “Killing for Love”
Moby “We are all made of stars”

2)  Middle class leisure and local/global crises
I assume that by communicating music with the sense of reverence for human experience as articulated above, individuals assert their identity (which I personally believe I would do). This is an important, probably fundamental aspect of life. At the same time, there are dire issues in the world, some of which happen not too far away from where you and I live.

I find comfort in music, and often am able to live more clearly after I've had to be present for coming up with something to play. I especially appreciate that you've extended the opportunity for me to play with you, Dave, and Phelan. In many ways, this helps me to live more alertly, rationally, and judiciously especially. At the same time, I sometimes struggle with a question on whether or not I should be doing something that is seen traditionally as the effective ways to change issues of the world for the better—by seeking to play music of the above described degree on certain occasions, am I being escapist? I don't think so. Like I said, I'm certain music is important, particularly because it is creative and that it also helps to validate one's sense of being, especially when it's in the context of others.

This brings us to the title of the song. I hesitate to talk about classism because I know that human beings are capable of creating or discovering the good things that matter to all people, and this transcends socio-economic “class” status. People hum, drum, sing, play instruments throughout the world and it ranges from royalty to the underprivileged. Aside from some stereotypes, I don't exactly know what the upper class does having not participated as a “member” of it, but I know that being able to make music is a definite privilege, and I believe orchestra halls, extravagant lighting and lavish seating for the price of a $50 and up concert might be part of it too.  My basic needs are met, and unlike some people living in conflict areas, I'm mentally not 100% pre-occupied with surviving imminent life-threatening crisis, dangers or threats. If and when I do seek to embrace some of these issues, I sometimes turn toward making music to aurally and kinesthetically describe themes of the conflict in mind under more manageable parameters. But does it do much good to others? Does it really constructively grapple with the global problem and its resolution? Perhaps it does, but I've yet to witness their resolution.  Even still, I ponder about ways to appropriately do all of the above in my music when I can.

At the same time, the guy who played his song on work at the open mic, Sean's songs about working or his songs about living in Detroit do point to some deep systemic injustices, and I think besides systemic reform, their music or other artistic and relational experiences are the only things that could have given true solace for healing.  There's something very simple to it all in that sense: all of us want to live deeply.  That's what people have wanted since beyond human record.  This is probably why I play in a pentatonic mode (I think that's what it is at least) for this song, it sounds ancient and elicits some kind of reverence in my mind, but fits in with anything that you, Phelan, and Dave come up with.

This is where I open it back up for conversation as I look forward to your lyrics, if need be, we can record several variations (instrumental and vocals, instrumental with humming or something, instrumental, etc.).