2022 Jan 22

Posts
11
Words
1355

@January 22, 2022 3:01 AM (CDT)

Channel nostalgia into a freewheeling futurism

@January 22, 2022 8:11 AM (CDT)

I woke up with the idea to start a curation series of original writers on the Internet. What many of these writers have in common is more than thoughts on craft and self-publishing. They each have a slant on liberty, consciousness, and culture.. I could ask them a similar set of questions: Why did you start? Why did you stop? What went wrong with the space? It could be a place of history, perspective, and a critique of the Internet.

@January 22, 2022 8:53 AM (CDT)

I’m not an expert in how folk music has evolved in the last five centuries. But I’d bet that something changed dramatically once radio, record players, and Internet came around.

Basically, technology changed folk songwriting from an “oral tradition,” to one that was frozen into vinyls, and eventually Spotify. While technology in many cases accelerates industries, in the case of Nashville, it froze it in time, to its own detriment.

Before we had the ability to record, songs were like family heirlooms, handed down from generation to generation. Think of folk music like a sonic-version of the game “telephone.” There were errors in translation from parents to children. But these “errors” are what let the songs evolve and update with the times.

On top of that, each new generation would play it in their own way, on their own instruments (which slowly evolved), and would even alter the lyrics to reflect their experiences in culture (which slowly evolved).

While I’m sure there were some impulses to preserve and translate songs EXACTLY, there was, in my imagination at least, an ethos, whether conscious or unconscious, to bring one’s own soul and vision into an age-old song. A songwriter performed covers, respecting tradition, while also bringing their own self into them, which marched the song forward into the future.

Recording technology changed this. For any given song, there was often a “definitive” version that went viral within mainstream culture. The most recognizable version is the one that gets replicated by other bands.

I can’t say the whole century is absent of “original covers.” There are tons of great covers. The classic example is how Hendrix re-invented Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower.” And at home in the country scene, Cash himself re-invented a Nine Inch Nails Song, “Hurt.”

A personal favorite of mine is how DEVO reinvented “Satisfaction,” the more overplayed, cliche, tired, rock song from the Rolling Stones. In my mind it’s groundbreaking because it proves that no song is off limits. No matter how famous, and how well regarded by culture; any song has the potential to be retold, dramatically, through your own voice and vision.

I‘ve been in Nashville, for 4 days now, and it seems like a music tradition that is frozen in time. Perhaps that’s what everyone wants: the locals, the tourists, and the musicians. Perhaps that’s what the market demands: familiar, safe, technically brilliant covers, that people recognize and are encouraged to tip for.

I’m always floored by the musical talent here, but I can’t help but notice that I always leave with this feeling that Nashville has lost touch with the original spirit of country, folk, and bluegrass, where songs would evolve with the times. It’s fun to drink to, I love the songs, and it makes me nostalgic for a past I never got to be part of. But it has no sense of risk, originality, or courage. It feels like a sonic museum of American history that is no longer relevant. It’s an escape.

It’s a weird stance. You’d think staying true to tradition, in a near-canonical way, is the way to preserving something. It’s untainted by technology, synths, celebrities, etc. But the other angle is that since it isn’t modernizing, it’s losing its relevance. If anything, there IS a branch of country music that is modernizing: it’s fusing with Top 40 pop music, and it’s fucking horrendous. It’s an insult to Nashville, it’s history, and it’s talent. What does outlaw country on the Internet sound like?

The pace of cultural change is rapid, but country music has generally nothing to say about it. Where are the lyrics relevant to 2022? And even if something is lyrically relevant to the times, is the sound modern? Is it using a synth or a fiddle? In many ways, country music is conservative, rejecting change, and worshipping “the American” way, even though, ironically, the American spirit is all about radical change and re-invention in the pursuit of a value.

I have a new idea for a project that reinvents, distorts, and mutates the country classics. My inspirations are:

  • DEVO (who totally warped “Satisfaction”)
  • DM Bob & the Deficits (a German band with grungy country covers)
  • Ty Segal (for his garage/fuzz tone)
  • Bob Dylan (a lyric/image-first approach to songwriting)
  • The Grateful Dead (for their winding psychedelic improv)

I will intentionally NOT write original music, at least for a little while, because that’s not the point (yet). Covers will be way quicker to pull off, and fit better within my current lifestyle (writing good original music is hard and takes time). I’ll become a better songwriting by covering classic ones.

And from the listener’s perspective, since they’ll be familiar with the root songs I cover, they’ll be able to isolate what the new “sound” is. There is little invention in song, and complete invention in voice (and maybe lyrics too). I have permission to edit lyrics, add verses, warp tempos, re-write hooks. Nothing is too sacred.

I’m starting with Folsom Prison Blues, the Johnny Cash country-staple. The most extreme way to start this project would be to make 10 alternate bastardized versions of the song everyone knows and loves.

@January 22, 2022 3:06 PM (CDT)

What better vehicle to address a cultural civil war than music?

@January 22, 2022 3:06 PM (CDT)

Grandfather was a slave, for 5 years? (1940s, Greece) Weird bridge to southern folklore. Also weird contrast to me.. slave rhymes with an infant of the Internet age

@January 22, 2022 3:07 PM (CDT)

Bob Dylan’s mystery shield vs. a chameleon-like shifting impersonator, who can warp into certain personas to address certain issues or demographics (think of Logic during the webinar)

@January 22, 2022 3:08 PM (CDT)

Shared calendar is the heart of collaboration, whether 2 or 200 people

@January 22, 2022 11:06 PM (CDT)

Nashville at 37% positivity rate (last 7-days).. seems like “full-immersion,” or herd-immunity status

@January 22, 2022 11:07 PM (CDT)

Strangers in different states.. as I wait for tacos I’m imaging lives that are both strangely similar and different to my own.. how could I know which it is? For any stranger we see, we typically can only afford a flash judgement.. a bengals jersey, sloppy hair, age, a tired expression, high boots, blonde, drunk and a slurry confidence in a taco shop.. a stranger has a facade of symbols, signals, and traits.. whether we ignore them, or engage in small talk, we usually never cross paths with these faces again.. we have 2-20 seconds, and so we need to downsample and stereotype.. but it’s fascinating to remember behind any given strangers face is a whole universe of experience, and no matter how limited or expansive their life has been, they’ve undoubtedly felt some spectrum of love, lust, and hope that loosely maps to yours

@January 22, 2022 11:14 PM (CDT)

I wonder if people who crave autonomy, and “can’t work for the man,” feels this way because they’ve worked with lazy shitty teammates, under ineffective leaders, who themselves struggle to operate with a tangled beaurocracy.. maybe a lean team with synergy, leverage, and flexibility always trumps the lone wolf approach

@January 22, 2022 11:16 PM (CDT)

“do you guys, like, drive horses or cars?”..”vehicles, mam, but I drove a donkey at the Grand Canyon once.”