The power of music

Music is a superhero. One we all know and which is real. A ‘real superhero’ is an oxymoron. But maybe it’s beacause music is and sometimes isn’t. Music can be silence. Or noise. Music can be anything.

I’m sure music can heal. And even though I’ve always been profoundly convinced of the power of music, that feeling was reinforced when I went to see Keziah Jones play live this weekend. We, people from Carcassonne, had the chance to have him perfom for us on Sunday, 16th July for the second time at the Théâtre de la Cité, which is a stupendous place in terms of sound, history, style… Keziah Jones gave us pleasure, joy, rythm, talent, everything he’s got. And we received it all with such thankfulness and excitement that the theatre filled up with relentless enthusiasm and grooved to his spellbinding beat.

They were only three on stage: the stylish, serene bass player Joey Grant, the ecstatic, very gifted drummer Joshua McKenzie, and him, Keziah Jones. The musical wave that hit us when they started playing was tremendously powerful for three human beings scratching a few strings and beating on some taut skins. Impressive. Strong. GOOD.

You feel so alive at that moment that you become aware – if you weren’t already – of the incredible might of music. You feel the vibe spreading from your heart to the rest of your body – making you move your arms, hips, toes, head – travelling like a blast of good energy, your guts absorbing whatever comes from outside, eagerly devouring the invisible positive fluid only your inner senses can detect. Transmission (of knowledge or of whatever you’re able to give away) is a marvellous process, especially when you’re consciously part of it, should you be the one who gives or the one who receives. There, on Sunday, the audience witnessed a fantastic, touching exchange of reciprocal openness, truth, simplicity, bliss.

He said it, Rythm is Love. And oh, how right he is!!

Marcus Miller, the electric basics

On Saturday evening, as I was coming back from a holiday in France, I went to see a more than great artist I had got the chance to see twice before: Marcus Miller. This clarinetist and electric bass player from New York, who is the exact same age as my Dad, is one of the most talented musicians one could ever listen to – for the record, he played with Miles Davis, and composed and arranged most of the songs on the late artist’s album Tutu among other things. Marcus Miller is a genius, and a very good one. Seeing him live is like witnessing a miracle, although I  believe the former has happened to me more often than the latter so far. I think that whenever one is down, one should listen to one of his numerous opera. However what is missing on the records that can only be found in the presence of the artist is the touching story behind each track. That is what really moved me the other night; he was sharing anecdotes from his past, samples of his thoughts, intertwined pathways that triggered the creation of the songs. He took us on a trip into his universe through words and music. It was a genuine moment of truth and enjoyment.

What we saw that night was the masterful performance of a united group of virtuosi. All the musicians are likely to have been under or around 30, except for Marcus Miller and the percussionist Mino Cinelu (who also played with Miles Davis, Weather Report, Herbie Hancock and many more). So we were obviously amazed by the deep knowledge and perfect command of the oldest’s art but even more surprised by the incredibly talented new generation that was performing before our eyes. They were all evenly good, which was heavenly, pure delight. As my Dad said, if there weren’t all exceptionally gifted, Marcus Miller would have been the only one to be noticed on stage. And I think he himself consciously wants to prevent this from happening because he sounds and looks naturally humble, and simply wishes to give the audience all he can give them. We can’t help assuming that he may nevertheless be very demanding with his musicians to reach such a high standard. Therefore authenticity, thoroughness, and mastery came together for this magical evening that smoothly transported us towards (un)known horizons.

At the end of the concert, he immediately and kindly came out to sign anyone’s ticket and brand new CD. I had the chance to very gratefully shake hands with him, being overwhelmed with emotion and tripping a little over my words. He even agreed to take a picture with my boyfriend and I, which, I found, was extremely generous of him. I will never forget these few minutes spent in the company of a living legend, one which made me develop an increasingly greedy taste for music, which helped me grow up and bind with my parents, which allowed me to nourish my already wild spirit. Thank you Marcus Miller!

Did you say gifted?

How far can we consider a cover a good one? What are the criteria which make us like the version of an artist interpreting a famous song? This is a rather subjective question and each of us will answer: ‘Well, depends…’ Fair enough!

I would like to introduce an incredible artist who is truly dear to my heart. I came across his music – or should I say his world – thanks to my parents who introduced him to me when I was very young. His name is Bobby McFerrin, and having had the chance to see him play live, I can assure you it is no waste of time to listen to his work because it is a vocal performance to play seek-and-hide with notes, themes, melodies as he does; and it does involve some hard-working personality to achieve this kind of transcendental aim:

As we can see, he is a human (is he?) musical instrument. He usually beats time on his chest with one hand while the other plays the notes he sings on the neck of an invisible double bass or his fingers move along the mike as they would on a flute. He can feel the music and as a consequence, we are – or should I say I am? – overwhelmed by his majesty, this beauty… No, it is grander than simple beauty; we have to go back to the sublime for a greater chance to characterise the emotion that seizes us when we witness such talent. It is all the more difficult to enjoy a song being manipulated and transformed when we like the original one. At this point it takes more than mastering a range of songs, more than being able to perfectly interpret well-known rhythms.

To me McFerrin is vocally capable of everything! I believe emotions rule our lives and selves. Here I have a piece of evidence proving I’m not completely wrong. Music IS feeling so to figure out whether you like the work of this artist or not, ask your body (not your mind) for an answer and look for any physical reaction. Your heart is also part of your body so don’t hesitate to ask there too!

Postmusical experience

Today I happen to think about the notion of Postmodernism and Postmodernity. I don’t usually ramble on this kind of things, especially literary and artistic theory unless I have to, but I came across an interesting example to illustrate these blurry concepts.

Last Sunday afternoon I went to a concert in Triskel Christchurch. It was a Jazz Festival event, festival which took place that same week. This is where I realised that naming things actually seems to be arbitrary as Saussure suggests it, talking about the evolution of language in his Course in General Linguistics (67). It wasn’t jazz music at all – or at least, not completely – or maybe it matched a definition of jazz music I didn’t know about, and God knows it is a vast term that encompasses many others. This reflection is the beginning of a never-ending process since it relies on the redefinition or the addition of details, or the exclusion of information from either the name of the category – here jazz music, or the new input – or from the actual understanding and expression of such music. Which one is the most relevant?

None – or both; and I will refer to my first post on this blog when I answer entertainment, art for its sake. But leaving this position aside for now, I would like to draw on another aspect of the dichotomy. Jean-François Lyotard in his essay ‘Answering the Question: What is Postmodernism?’ writes:

A work can become modern only if it is first postmodern. (148)

This puzzling statement may be understood as follows: Modernism being an “aesthetic modernity” – that is a NEW movement, the term ‘new’ is crucial because it is the key word and leading notion of Modernity – it is solely looking for the new while Postmodernism managed to produce it. While the modern aesthetic tries to create the new as such in opposition to and rejecting all that’s past, the postmodern artwork focuses on how to lean on previous art movements and rework them by adding NEW stuff. This is where Ezra Pound’s famous motto ‘Make it new’ makes sense. It is about shaping, modelling the new, not about inventing it – which nowadays sounds a compromised and doomed to fail initiative as all the short-lived avant-garde movements might show.

Eventually I would like to apply this idea of making something new out of something old by quickly reviewing what I listened to last weekend. The first part of the concert was The Vanbrugh Quartet and played mainly baroque music, which made a perfect introduction to the following group, Francesco Turrisi & the Taquin Experiments, whose repertoire was based on seventeenth-century Italian compositions. The latter gave the audience a stupendous (post?)modernised version of these classics through a jazzy interpretation. This is precisely what I would call a postmodern proposition. It offered us a fantastic experience of the new mixed with the recall of former harmonies. Simply delightful. And as T.S. Eliot says:

No poet, no artist of any art, has his complete meaning alone. (153)