The following video is from a science channel that I follow.
I grew up in a safe environment. Everything was safe. The food was safe. Society was safe. School was safe. Home was safe. But as I got older I learned that it wasn’t safe it was just protected.
There are people who still want to live in their own comfortable “protected” worlds. But protection is a myth. A legend elders tell children. It does not exist. And insisting it does exist, does not make it so.
Further I suggest that propagating this delusion is more harmful than preparing for the facts. The truth. Example: Climate change deniers often use their arguments as an excuse to keep from preparing for the consequences of climate change and taking action to slow it’s impact. And now with the pandemic, humanities approach to disease belies their own unpreparedness. Death and sickness has become unacceptable (even though it is inevitable) So they wear masks, they fight over it, they try to shame those who are “awake” and not afraid. They want a safe world where things don’t change. The climate doesn’t change. People don’t get sick and die. The world doesn’t change. Everything is safe.
What does this have to do with difficult music/difficult listening?
Like the quote from William S Burroughs in the Laurie Anderson video,
“language is a virus from outer space.”
Difficult music challenges a listeners perception of the norm. It suggests there is something else we need to consider. It suggests that we look into the dark corners. Difficult music is to sound what abstract expressionism was/is to art. And most people who have abstract art work treat if more as wallpaper than as something that has something to say/contribute to the conversation of our times. And in music, people typically do not choose to engage it because it requires them to think about what they are listening to. It is often difficult if not impossible to just hang it on a wall as pretty wallpaper for the soul. Difficult music is often derided as messy, juvenile, scary, ugly, inaccessible (not conforming to any known genre parameters) and ultimately ignored. It is the red-headed stepchild of the music world.
But we can learn much from difficult music. It is not something to be afraid of. The shadows are not scary if you enter with a flashlight. It can teach us about ourselves in ways we haven’t considered or dared think about. But to encounter and engage difficult music one must be prepared and perhaps that is the problem with our “protected”, “safe” elders they are not prepared and they do not know how to prepare the younger generation for the facts and truth of existence.
So, do you want to explore difficult music? Don’t know where to start?
Step One: Turn off the radio and TV – they are notorious “taste makers” that would rather keep you safe than expose you to truth. There are many artists that have helped me in preparing for the real world. I started learning about many “difficult” artists just from reading the underground music press (back in the 1980’s) when popular music was experiencing an explosion of variety. But difficult music existed long before I started reading about it.
Here are some artists you can start with (in no particular order):
Laurie Anderson Public Enemy
Einsturzende Neubauten/Blixa Bargeld The Last Poets
Alva Noto Lustmord
Robert Fripp/King Crimson et al Ornette Coleman
Diamanda Galas Lester Bowie
Sun Ra Terry Riley
The Art Ensemble of Chicago Steve Reich
Philip Glass (early works) Markus Reuter
Robert Rich Scott Walker (after 1994)
Merzbow Cabaret Voltaire
Swans Nurse With Wound
Matana Roberts Godspeed You! Black Emperor
The above artists all have work available on Youtube so enjoy your excursion into difficult music. Maybe in the future I’ll write about some of the specific recordings. Again this is just an introduction to difficult listening. Maybe not what you want to listen to in these difficult times but the music does speak to the truth of the times we are experiencing.
I’ll start you off with this Nurse With Wound video for the song BOTTOM FEEDER
Neil Peart September 12, 1952 – January 7, 2020
Before I was able to buy my own music my early youth was spent listening to FM radio. Growing up in Northeast Ohio that meant listening a lot to WMMS which was out of Cleveland, Ohio. And as any listener of that radio station knows – you became familiar with RUSH very fast. The station and region was largely responsible for the breakthrough of Rush (a Canadian band) onto the US music scene. They not only would play the full epic songs of a Rush song but also entire album sides.
Neil was the long-time drummer and primary lyricist for the band. He was responsible for the epic multi-part songs that had lyrics with a science-fiction, magical, and/or philosophical viewpoint. He was responsible for introducing me to the Objectivist philosophy of Ayn Rand. Although I had been listening to RUSH for years on the radio the first Rush album I was able to buy for myself was A FAREWELL TO KINGS. I remember that I skipped school to go the store and purchase the record the day it was released in September 1977. It felt like holding a bar of warm pure gold.
Rush had several members since they formed in 1969 but solidified into the trio we have all come to know and love when Neil joined the group in 1974. The lineup would remain intact from the 2nd album, 1975’s FLY BY NIGHT, through 2012’s CLOCKWORK ANGELS.
Here are 5 tracks:
The title track from the first album FLY BY NIGHT which marked a distinct departure from Rushes eponymous first album and and showed Neils significant influence.
A favorite track from the first Rush album that I purchased with my own allowance. I still ask myself some of the questions in this song.
Here is the most popular song from A FAREWELL TO KINGS. A beautiful ballad.
And a popular favorite from MOVING PICTURES often considered Rush’s best album.
This final track is THE GARDEN from the final studio album CLOCKWORK ANGELS. As one commenter noted, “This how to end a legacy. Not with a bombastic exit, but with a tear-jerking melody”. And like the song says, “The measure of a life is a measure of love and respect”.
Thank you Neil for all the great music that inspired the thinking and ideas in my early years. Rest In Peace.
Squirrel sky highways
wires crossed to connect
away from the road
Autumn breathes In Moods
Warm days, cool nights and waterfalls
Time dreaming TWIN PEAKS
Driving brings limits
Destinations form in the soul
Spirits need no roads
Probably like most people, the desperate situation in Syria that has been going on for several years sickens me. I am so disgusted with the politicians playing with innocent peoples lives. But is there hope?
I love this song and video by Maher Zain. It’s filled with powerful images and allegory. Enjoy. Will love prevail through you and me?
* if you purchase this song from iTunes – all proceeds go to Syrian humanitarian relief work. Help The Syrian People: http://humanappeal.org.uk
“What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water. Only
There is shadow under this red rock,
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.”~ T.S. Eliot
I’m a real fan of film analysis. Films are more than just escapist entertainment and in many ways are the modern mythologies of our time. So analyzing these films seems a necessary informative way to gain new understanding of our own cultural mythology.
This video is probably one of the best analysis I have ever seen. If you haven’t seen the film yet that’s okay – this will be a good primer that will enhance your viewing experience.
Enjoy this video criticism for the film CHILDREN OF MEN  – Dir. Alfonso Cuaron.
and here’s the trailer
You already know my love for all things abandoned and forgotten….I recently came across this video…… and I gotta say – makes me wanna buy a drone camera… I must be in heaven – this is soooooo beautiful.