You wonder if this girl has a stoner elder brother at home whose evening munchies gave her the idea…
You wonder if this girl has a stoner elder brother at home whose evening munchies gave her the idea…
For those of us writers and creators who are muddling through middle age, with all of the conflicting demands of work and life, this Huffington Post article provides a pleasant reminder (not that I needed one!) that creativity and middle age are not antithetical:
The biggest misunderstandings about creativity have been produced by psychologists. Beginning in the 1950s, and continuing today, a series of eminent psychologists have argued that creativity is the exclusive domain of the young, and that wisdom is the enemy of creativity. They are wrong. Conceptual creativity is generally the domain of the young, who can make radical new discoveries without being constrained by established habits of thought, and whose thinking is not careful or balanced. But experimental creativity is the opposite. It is generally the domain of older scholars and artists, who have had longer to accumulate knowledge and develop methods of analyzing it, and their discoveries are usually the product of balanced and judicious thinking — wisdom.
The idea that creativity is the domain of the young–or the drug-addled, or the depressed, or the alcoholic–has always struck me as silly. There’s more to creativity than the meat-grinder of the new and exciting! that is produced in marketing campaigns and youthful word of mouth:
Black is the new blue! Sixties Retro is the New Eighties! Long Hair is Making a Comeback! Read This Book–It’s New, Shocking, Startling, Disturbing, Fearless, Wildly Creative, the Voice of a New Generation!
Whatever! Let’s hear it for experience!
I ran across this fabulous quote from the incredibly quotable longshoreman-philosopher Eric Hoffer (the author of The True Believer) the other day:
“Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.”
The aphorism speaks for itself. I then found myself laughing my way through a whole slew of incredibly insightful and pithy Hoffer quotes:
“When people are free to do as they please, they usually imitate each other.”
“Nonconformists travel as a rule in bunches. You rarely find a nonconformist who goes it alone. And woe to him inside a nonconformist clique who does not conform with nonconformity.”
“Passionate hatred can give meaning and purpose to an empty life.”
“A man is likely to mind his own business when it is worth minding. When it is not, he takes his mind off his own meaningless affairs by minding other people’s business.”
“An empty head is not really empty; it is stuffed with rubbish. Hence the difficulty of forcing anything into an empty head.”
Each of these quotes could be the basis of a short book.
The funny thing about Hoffer is the way all manner of true believers glom onto his work to use as a cudgel to attack their enemies– who are just a different brand of true believer. Hoffer’s skepticism tends to disappear.
At any rate, as aphorists go, Hoffer is very good.
After posting the list of pop groups I like to listen to the other day I was listening to music on Spotify and thought it would be nice to freshen up the sound a bit. I searched for “Indian fusion” and listened to some pretty cool music–either Indian musicians with a Western Influence or Western musicians with an Indian influence. One of the groups I found myself liking after a few hours of listening was the Bombay Dub Orchestra, formed by a couple of English musicians who were profoundly influenced by Indian music. They describe themselves on their website as follows:
Bombay Dub Orchestra was formed almost ten years ago following a trip to Bombay, India, by Garry Hughes and Andrew T. Mackay. They’d gone to record with the city’s strings orchestra a few years earlier and decided to take advantage of the relationships they’d built up with musicians in India to create their own project. It took another three years to talk about the idea and a further three years to write, record and release their debut self-titled album.
The album featured lush, cinematic, downtempo music. Ambient electronica and Western classical influences were fused with distinctly Indian instrumentation. A large string orchestra, soloists and vocals were recorded in Bombay and additional vocals and instruments were recorded in London.
It’s great stuff and, as the picture below suggests, the Indian sound on their recordings is assisted by the fact that they employ Indian musicians:
For me, this is another reason to love Spotify. I would never have discovered this music otherwise. And I would never have run across the wonderful Anoushka Sankar had I not run across Bombay Dub…
From the mid 1980s to earlier this year I rarely listened to any pop music other than what was being played over the speakers at a mall. I listened to lots of blues, some punk, some jazz, some classic rock, some classical, a bit of Goa trance when I was writing Ashrams Unlimited…But most of the time since the later 1990s I’ve not even listened to these.
It was earlier this year that I decided it would be nice to listen to music while I’m at work, and what I discovered was the online music stations Grooveshark and Spotify. These services pointed me to previously unknown and unsuspected genres such as trip hop, downtempo, electronica, dream pop…whatever these may mean! To me, the common interest is the moody, vaguely psychedelic, and intense quality of the music, which is both engaging and suitable to being at work.
I’d never heard of any of these bands before the last few months. Now I catch them here and there on Spotify and am always happy when I do. So, here are a few of the bands with a representative song:
1. Portishead, “Glory Box“
2. Mazzy Star, “Into Dust“
3. Lamb, “I Cry“
4. Hooverphonic, “Inhaler“
5. Thievery Corporation, “Lebanese Blonde“
6. Morcheeba, “Trigger Hippie“
7. Massive Attack, “Teardrop“
At any rate, a few good songs that help pass the time at work when that Excel spreadsheet is starting to get you down!
For years I used to listen to blues every day. I started listening to blues because an old family friend, Roger Brown, who was originally from Atlanta, had built a record collection at the local college library in the early 1970s, and once I heard the music there was no going back.
I loved what people call Country Blues, which is essentially the acoustic music recorded by black Southerners in the 1920s to early 1940s, and was never as fond of what is known as Classic Blues, which was more of a jazzy, vaudeville, version of the music. I listened to the Country Blues and read whatever I could get my hands on, and finally I did many hours of interviews with men who’d discovered the blues in the 1940s to 1960s and wrote Blues Discovery: Reaching Across the Divide.
If you listen to the songs below, you’ll see that the music is actually rather more protean than the term “blues” would suggest. The artists have different styles, different preoccupations, different approaches–and by this I’m not just referring to the fact that “I Got to Cross the River Jordan” is a spiritual and “Going to Germany” is (as I recall) a version of a pop song from World War One. The narrative genius of McTell’s “Travelin’ Blues” and the internal drama of Bukka White’s “Strange Place Blues” couldn’t be more different.
Writing, research, and a busy life overseas pushed music out of my life to a large degree after Blues Discovery, but these songs, in particular, remain with me to this day. Enjoy!
2. Blind Willie McTell, “Travelin’ Blues” (1929)
3. Blind Willie McTell, “I Got to Cross the River Jordan” (1940)
5. Gus Cannon (Cannon’s Jug Stompers), “Going to Germany” (1929)
6. Gus Cannon (Cannon’s Jug Stompers), “Walk Right In” (1929)
I was listening the other day to the Monocle Weekly podcast and I heard a rather amazing interview with the American filmmaker Jeremy Xido. Xido was describing his film Death Metal Angola, which brings together terms not often uttered in the same breath!
Death metal, a sub-genre of heavy metal that emerged in the mid-1980s, usually brings to mind an image rather like this:
Death metal was made popular by such metal and thrash bands as Slayer, Cannibal Corpse, and Morbid Angel and is more associated in my mind with Scandinavia and Germany…
Death Metal Angola, on the other hand, presents a very different image :
These young men are the death metal band Before Crush, whose song A Grande Conquista is some pretty heavy death metal!
Death Metal Angola premiered at the Dubai International Film Festival in 2012. And if death metal and Angola don’t roll off the American tongue as easily as death metal and Berlin, the subjects of the film are in no doubt that this music is just coming home to Africa where it belongs:
Interviewer: As they say in the film, death metal originated in Scandinavia and given its elements of Western classical music, how do the musicians make it Angolan rather than a copy of European death metal? Does it have kinship to traditional African music?
Jeremy Xido: If you ask Wilker (the movement’s prime mover and guiding force), he’s adamant that rock music is African – slaves were taken to the United States, they invented Blues, which eventually became rock and roll which made it to England and then back to the States and then to Scandinavia. But the rhythmical roots of it are African, and his belief is that this is rock music returning to where it came from – and it’s bringing these young musicians back to themselves, it lets the know who they are. This is music that grew out of the slave experience, and there’s a rupture in history which means they’ve lost touch with their cultural roots. They think this music that is super-popular around the world is something foreign, but it’s not, it’s theirs, they’re reclaiming it.
While pop culture can be incredibly predictable and mind-numbing, global culture sometimes throws out some interesting and unexpected curves. Death Metal Angola looks like one of those stories that actually has the ability to take us by surprise…I hope to be able to get my hands on the DVD some day.