Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Daughtry is Distracting You All

I’m not the type to use music as the background for my life—I use life as the background for my music. Subsumed within song, dictated by it and sublimated into it, life is a dizzying stream of physicality that is, on a good day, sufficiently benign and uneventful to remain ignored. If something tragic or gripping pulls me out of music consciousness for few moments, I don’t panic. I play something by Death Cab, move the headphones to release the depressions in my ears, and embrace, again, soundtrack as foreground. Said another way, if life didn’t stop to notice me, I fear I’d never notice it.

The above paragraph may or may not be true. I’m sure, however, that it encapsulates my experience last night: a normally uncharged bus ride from New Jersey to Manhattan hosted a wedding between music and soul, a fusion of melody, mind, rhythm, and bone. I didn’t so much enjoy or anticipate or feel the music so much as I embodied it, manifested it, imparted it-was it. My skeleton spontaneously generated sound and vibration, and my gesticulations produced the energy that powered the instruments.

This very private, very enthralling experience illuminated two things: first, that listening to music alone is entirely different than sharing it with other people; and second, that trance music is an abused substance when taken in public. Trance is perhaps the most meditative genre, with a booming, unrelenting pulse and deeply hypnotic textures (hence, “trance”). Its manifestation in most countries, however—especially in Goa, Europe, and Israel, where trance is an overt, dominant style—is extremely juvenile. People obnoxiously announce that they “totally just took some e,” that they’re “raging hard” and “getting their ass melted.” All of these are valid things to experience and to say, but it’s the WAY they say it that denigrates the trance experience. It’s analogous to getting married, and then, on the wedding night, having your spouse belch, grab his/her balls, and say, “I’m pleased as shit to be married to you.” It’s a nice, legitimate thought, but the expression is disgusting.

Popular music is made for mass consumption: three-and-a-half minute songs replete with verse, chorus, bridge, memorable hook, and catchy chord progressions. Millions of people hear songs built this way, memorize them, and go to concerts to sing along. I was recently forced (read: drunk and not wanting to reach for the remote) to watch the music video for Daughtry’s “Home”, and it struck me that, in the live performance shots, everyone was singing along. Apparently, people love to use their voices when they listen to music, and will take any opportunity to do so—lyrics, a sing-along solo, etc. Trance, for all its virtues, does not indulge that love for singing, since it has no lyrics to parrot or easy-speak melodies to hum, nothing that feeds into our predisposition to use our voices. It leaves you verbally frustrated, and that spawns the phenomenon of people compulsively proclaiming how intoxicated they are.

Public trance, therefore, is problematic, since speech-starved masses are left with nothing to say besides for jamband platitudes like, “sick set, bro.” That same emptiness, though, is perfect for personal mediation. Without words or simple tunes, trance is not distracting in the same way that other music tends to be. Singing along is a diversion, a canard, only the apocryphal crux of a song. Trance strips away that element, and leaves purity—a timbre, a tempo, and nothing else. It brings out the same simplicity in the listener, but it cannot if the sweaty, tattooed fan next to you is rubbing his arms and asking if you want to blow lines in the bathroom. Not that you should turn down his offer—that’s between you, God, and your therapist—but it might not be conducive to an introspective evening.

Stay Situational, Trance’s Hypnotic Value
MC Music Machine

No comments: