reflections from the southeast PA rural underground

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Shamans Among Us

What kind of musical artist creates a mood in sound? One might say that all art carries a mood and that surely all music too, speaks with a sensibility of some kind or other. But the artist that seeks to evoke a truly ambient sound that summons the spaces between soil and air, breath and life, water and sun, light and dark, frenzy and contentedness, or melancholy and ecstasy, reaches beyond the obvious. The obvious, spirited, foot stomping gaiety of an Irish jig or the back beat groove of rock n' roll, while commanding a listener to their crescendos, may lack the ethereal subtlety of sound art. Even when the art bleeds itself ever so closely to the brink of pop. Thanks, to an on and off again friend and long time acquaintance from up northeast PA way. Cheers to him and his lads who gave us a February Sunday of afternoon splendor in the city of brotherly love. Music to while away the hours and dream in deep beauty. All hail the Sun King. Long live Lewis and Clark.

I cruised down Rt. 76 along the Schuylkill, my soft mind buzzed from the previous night's pints and filled with local inspiration, and turned up the radio when I heard the familiar voice mention her guest, author Sherman Alexie. I had been thinking about this present digital age with its virtual creations and social networks for months and wanting to say something. But I kept coming back to a phrase from my youth. It was a bastardization of the Exploited's cry, facebook NOT punk! As the modern-day Native American prophet laughed and described himself as "politely arrogant" to the radio show host, I became energized and all ears. "We are animals. Could anyone imagine a pack of wolves living on the internet? Ha! Ha! Imagine trying to live on the internet! This can't be!" Spot on.

After the interview, the radio turned to another artist of letters. Is it Maya Angelou's deep well of humanness that makes her black voice so steady, clear, rye, classical, and intoxicating? Surely she has the wisdom of age if not also the ages in her smooth mountainous tones. The way she said the very word poetry. Stretched it out, as if over a calm sea. Lolling and rolling. Speaking of her people's month of remembrance and bringing to mind the standard slave hymn Roll Jordan Roll. An antique quality in the fragile cadence, every syllable enunciated and timed with rhythmic perfection. To you, deep woman. Shamaness. Truth giver. Let us always have time for reflective thought.