a week journal recording with 3hattrio
THURSDAY: There is something satisfying about going over to Greg's to invent music. Abby and Buzz, our two dogs, leap all over each other with enthusiasm, their nails clattering on the oak floor. Greg makes tea while I breathe in the incense of the oil paints in his studio. His keen-eyed paintings look down on us as we set up to play. Packing blankets cover the windows to deaden the sound but they also block the light. When it's time for a break we step outside to the sun on his deck and look down on the Virgin River and then up canyon towards Zion National Park. The landscape puts inspirational pressure on us to go back into the darkened room and make better music. Greg is a task master, goading Eli and me to let our instruments and voices fly free. This work has an aspect of prayer, beseeching the muses, locating currents of emotion. The purity of listening makes it happen. That's on the good days, like today.
FRIDAY: I love making music in the morning. Eli is in high school and has the busiest schedule so can't make it all the time. I learned the joy of morning music years ago in college when legendary Cajun musicians Marc Savoy, Sadie Courville and Dennis McGee stayed at my parents' home. They greeted each day by playing tunes and drinking coffee. That was something new for my Mormon mother who had to borrow coffee from the neighbors. Boy, did it smell good in our house. This morning it's tea as we launch into music.
SATURDAY: Last night I had a dream. I discovered a new wing of our house. As I walked through the rooms, I opened drawers. Light spilled out of each one and I found wonderful and exotic objects I'd never seen before. Back in the familiar part of the house, the contents of every cupboard and drawer were predictable. Even while I was still dreaming I knew this was about our current music making. We are exploring and opening wondrous, mysterious drawers of sound. At our best, we approach music with a dreamlike discovery, our eyes fluttering under the lids, our fingers plucking spider webs away.
SUNDAY: Why are most people my age stuck in music for the sake of nostalgia, frozen in some idealized time, usually associated with courting and the music that accompanied it? I recently talked with a friend who spoke of listening to that music now, forty years after its release, with love and tenderness. Perhaps it's not so much that people get stuck in time with music as that they keep faith with it as one keeps faith with a long-term marriage. Maybe that's the real meaning of "high- fidelity." Am I disloyal to the great music that shaped me to always want to make something more, to take music in new directions, to keep plucking away the layers of petals on some infinite flower?
MONDAY: As a closet antiquarian my own music once was all about channeling the ancient ones, finding some power in tradition that continued strong and ageless. Mike Seeger called these old musical traditions "True Vine." This view sees popular music as a genetically modified version of that pure source that has been altered through sound recording, radio waves, digitization, and the pollution of business and marketing. It's like the heirloom tomato has a musical cousin that tastes better and is more nutritious than the store-bought varieties. I love tradition and its music. But I also love living in our own times and circumstances. The new tools of music give us the freedom to make new kinds of music. Who knows what cultural communities will adopt as their folk music?
TUESDAY: There is a downside to being so personally identified with one's music. As the New Year approaches, I've been reading all sorts of "best of" lists for the year. The film and book lists reflect a broad spectrum of style, subject, and genre. But when I look at music, the lists reflect tight expectations of generations, genre, ethnicity and class rather than a swath of exceptional innovation. When I played some of the "best of" Americana artists on Spotify, I heard, by and large, sameness – lots of fine, clean musicianship and utterly boring songs. I don't want music to be merely a blanket over the head. I want it to open up new worlds for people in the same way that film and books do.
WEDNESDAY: It's 2014. How do we take stock of our nation this year? I see lots of reference to GNP, the Gross National Product, and I find myself focused on that word "gross." I'd vote for new indices that tell us how we are doing as people. How about RBC (Red/Blue Compassion Index) or even RPD (Rich/Poor Disparity Index), JFI (Junk Food Ingestion Index), the SOS (Smiling on Street Index) or even the PBC (Public Bathroom Cleanliness Index). But really I believe our culture can best be measured by the MDG (Music Defining Generation Index). My commitment as a devout resolutionary is to aim high. I want our music to excite "the masses." I want our tunes to stick in people's brains.
Wish us luck. ≠≠≠≠ Hal Cannon, one of the hats
Wish us luck. ≠≠≠≠ Hal Cannon, one of the hats