Saturday, July 24, 2010

Writing, Passion and All That Jazz

I've been pondering my love of music. I enjoy all different kinds. I listen to more styles than anyone I've ever heard of. And there's something kinda cool about Indie bands, untapped musicians who are trying to make it, playing their hearts out, writing because they're passionate about the art they create. Some indie musicians, like writers, are truly awful, but in the vast sea of sludge there are some true gems to be found. And when you discover one, your day feels a little bit brighter.

Kris Allen's unlabeled CD Brand New Shoes for instance, features songs that are quite lowkey and James Taylorish but definitely awesome in their own right. And I'm not trying to knock him, but his new album with 19, entitled Kris Allen, lacks something.

I'll attach the singles Beautiful Moon and Live Like We're Dying so you can see what I mean.

Beautiful Moon

Live Like We're Dying

Beautiful Moon is gorgeous, right? Live is a good song too, but it's a little too commercial, a little too polished. You know what I mean? See how bluesy and free and sung-from-the-heart Beautiful Moon is? And sure he sings Live full gusto, but Kris's unique style gets lost in all the gloss.

And take jazz on another note. Yeah, you can listen to those greats like Cab Calloway, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, Miles Davis and his glorious sextet with the amazing John Coltrane, all remastered on CD, stripped of all grit with the tracks separated and then remixed the way Scotty at the controls thinks they should be, but you end up with much less than what you had before.

You see, there's something amazing and enjoyable about kicking back and listening to old music on LPs a.k.a. records. (Those vinyl discs with the holes in the middle for all you sprouts who've never seen them outside of Flickr.) Vinyl showcases more. The crackles. Vocal glitches. That one part where the sax rules the room. I love those imperfections, as though the musicians are just jammin' in a room somewhere. And you can picture your grandma or great grandma swinging on her porch and sipping lemonade as she daydreams of dancing with her true love who's off at war.

The glossed-over, perfectly mixed, auto-tuned music of today is slapped together for mass consumption, but it's vastly empty. It lacks substance and, more often than not, fails to move people.

1960's tunes, on the other hand, encapsulate history. Pick up nearly any album and you'll get a stance on war, drug culture, loss of innocence, civil rights or free love. Where is that today? Sure, you get the occasional Linkin Park song or whatever, but where is the urgency, the fury, the fire, the passion, the drive to sing about the things that matter, the things that affect our world and threaten out freedom?

And sometimes when you write, what comes out of you first, all raw and passionate, IS what's best. You CAN over-edit, where your work ends up so very pretty on the outside but a shell of what it once was. Taking the advice of too many critters can strip your work of its original rawness, of its best stuff. Use your judgment. Only you can tell your story and know the best way to tell it.

I think I've done this with Kings & Queens to a degree. Don't get me wrong, the novel did need major help, I was way too wordy and used too many be-verbs, but I inadvertently removed some of my best stuff. I let others alter my voice and scrub my work too much. My stupid drive for excellence! It's too late really to go back now, and I am liking the way it is, but it gives me something to keep in mind as I go forward.

For future novels, I'm going to handle the red pen a little more delicately and not be quite so vicious. I don't want a work to lose ALL its rawness and the passion with which I wrote it. Because just like camps of CD listeners versus LP, someone will notice the difference.

Write on, rock on and listen to your soul.

~ Signing off and sending out cyber hugs.

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