…..and the band plays on

Posted: August 21, 2012 in music, philosophy
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Borrowing from what sadly has become a worn out cliché and acknowledgment (accompanied by a sheepish grin) of questionable mental health, “I’ve got a song in my head I can’t get rid of”. More precisely, your humble correspondent has an entire oeuvre stuck there. It needles and digs. It demands without apology to be noticed and appreciated. The works of Yellowcard call. They insist this writer step away from the microwave and outside of himself, if for just a moment.

Today is not entirely unique, of course. This writer wakes most mornings with some song or artist serenading him in the shower or joining him while he sips (more like ‘chugs’) a.m. java. What makes this appear to be not your standard Tuesday during which keys will be leisurely tapped, cloyingly amusing pics Facebooked (is ‘facebooked’ a word yet?), and breakfast devoured in haste is the phenomenon leaves your correspondent filled with questions and wonder.

“Why today?”, “Why Yellowcard (who, btw, released a new album last week)?” and, in the question leading to his sense of wonder, “what’s up with the friggin’ songs getting in there in the first place?”.

This last seems to inform and illuminate the others like some melodic version of Edison’s Big, Best thing. Yellowcard turned on a lightbulb and shined light on a question that haunts.

Just why is it that so many of us walk through life with their own personal and, often, private soundtrack to life? Why also do we, sadly way too often, feel as if singing along just might make us less than stable? The question is placed out there to be pondered. Pondered because it seems as if there are way too many folks hell bent on turning off, tuning out, or shutting down music they find too tedious, philosophically difficult, or just plain too loud to hum along with.

It’s ironic, but in this “don’t judge” world the refrain “don’t judge” seems to never apply to those who feel no particular joy in another’s person’s favorite sound yet wish to be left alone or in the company of others with like minds to enjoy their music as they see fit.

Some are, ominously, hell bent on convincing as many people as they can that those who hear a particular tune are out of touch.

We love a beat, style, or lyric because it speaks to our deeper sensibilities. It serenades the “I” in each of us. When we hear a sound or message – and when we find a musician or band carrying that sound or message consistently – we know in a place deep within that the music is just for us. We feel this way because the musician or lyricist, more often than not, shares with us mutually held values or beliefs. In our choices of favorites, be those choices made consciously or not, we have found a soulmate we can harmonize with.

The consciously held philosophies of Rage Against the Machine and Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan appear on the surface to clash like so much polka vs. disco. The antiestablishment/ anti-corporatist/up with the people message of Rage…. , however, clearly has asked Mr. Ryan to sing and rage along while the band plays on. Last week Rage…. felt the need to rage against Senator Ryan. This after they learned Ryan enjoys their music. The band obviously feels no desire to endure any intimation of common values between Republicans and they.

Mr. Ryan has found quite a lot of folks, on both ends of the aisle, disavowing common connections. This includes himself and his party. Think Republicans, Ryan, and the knee-jerk dismissal of the inspiration he felt/feels from Atlas Shrugged. Ryan must be doing something right, politically at least. He’s managed to simultaneously encourage, irritate, and distance himself from the extreme ends of the freedom vs. controls political spectrum.

A true politician. Always the middle that wins hearts and minds these days. Pity.

In light of the reaction over Ryan’s appreciation of Rage Against the Machine, hardly an avowedly Conservative band, is it likely that Rage’s response is a demonstration of deeper issues?

When we find an artist who moves us we suspect, often intuitively, that they hold ideas similar to ours. Rage…, a band more philosophical than most, wears their politics on their dust jacket.

Last week like so much “don’t you dare judge” they sought not only to find a means to embarrass and marginalize a now well known fan whose political convictions are, on the surface, consciously different from theirs, but tried also to distance themselves from a difficult truth: they sang to him.

For reasons known only to Mr Ryan and Rage Against the Machine a chord was struck. It resonates within’ the anti-corporate rockers and the buttoned up, Rand inspired Paul Ryan. Perhaps the rage that artist and fan alike feel is the same rage; it shines a light on a difference of perspective not in what to rageagainst but rather differences in what these surface level antagonists see as appropriate means to apply ones rage and where best to apply the rage so that it will maximize the impact of one’s song.

Rage… runs away from achieving full awareness that Mr. Ryan heard them very clearly. Had he not, he would not be able to sing along. He wouldn’t sing along with their sensibility as he himself rages against a corrupt machine hell bent on shutting up and shutting down music it does not wish to hear. He’d have heard a different song and band. The machine that both artist and fan despise sends its message every day to any ear it can reach. It seems, though, that both artist and fan, in their own way, hear itsmessage but are confused about the messanger.

You’ve heard it yourselves occasionally, in implication if not in so many words: “how can you possibly believe such and such”‘ or “what gives you the right to say fill in the blank” or “don’t you know no one who’s anyone wants to hear such nonsense”.

In a move that on the surface is a clear attempt to embarrass a fan they themselves sang to yet find themselves embarrassed by , Rage… has embarrassed themselves. Just as Republicans and Democrats who, finding Ryan painted with the Rand brush, both find a way to attack and ignore the messenger while singing their respective songs, Rage against the Machine miss an opportunity to learn what the connection is between they and Mr. Ryan. They’ve missed the opportunity for, in the President’s words, a teachable moment in which both fan and band (and the rest of us) can learn what the soundtrack is we all sing to.

Wishing for a fan to shut up because he sings in a different key to a different audience, Rage has joined the machine they ought to be raging against – the machine that can not bare to hear another song played. So much for “don’t judge”. More like “don’t judge me and definitely don’t be different than me. If I disagree with you I’ll be judge, my fans the jury, and the Machine of the media will be your executioner”.

Meanwhile this writer will rage later – after the machine has been shut down and artist and fans learn to sing along with one another no matter the tune.

Right now Yellowcard sings to him. They sing of a world where “there’s a place we can find where this pain is useless and we’ll forever be the young”.

As this writer ponders why he hears one song versus another yet is willing to open himself to new music so that he may learn if it is for him, he’s got a song and band he can’t get out of his head.

They tell him “I hear the notes and belt them back to you. I feel loved, I’m burning like a fuse. I’m not afraid ‘cus I know that I’ve got nothing left to lose”.

Breakfast sits cold while the singers in his head, imagining bright days, tell your corespondent that “all I can think about is you and me driving with the Saves the Day record on, we were singing till our voices were gone” .

Singing till his voice is gone this writer listens. The violin rocks, the bass hums, and the music pounds like so many subwoofers having sex. He ponders a world where each of us, while still of course judging the message of another song, know that another must be left alone and free, even if they disagree with us.

We leave them be to play their tune and sing along with the music in their heads without blame, embarrassment, or interference. If the music they hear is out of tune, they will learn eventually.

The soundtrack to our lives and indeed our world has many tracks. Some forget we live within a compilation album.

Damn, the coffee and the Republic I love has gotten cold. Time to rage a bit.


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