I Like To Stay Well Informed

 

It starts with good intentions.  Not mine, especially, but those of a guy raising money to clean up the oceans, to clear the gyres of tons of plastic waste that our Evil Capitalist society has generated.  Every pointless piece of Amazon parcel packaging adds another weight tied to the foot of our planet, and it’s ending up somewhere in an ocean that once seemed too big and shapeless to know the end of but now seems to be facing its demise.  And here is this dream guy entrepreneur to steer us away from it.

What a great story.  God I am so fed up of the apocalyptic tales, the Evil Capitalist System is failing us, smash it up.  How great, then, that from the go-getting spirit that so often twists itself into greed comes a plan to undo the mess that greed itself has made.  A great story.  I am feeling so good about myself right now.  There is a video.  The music is tooth grindingly awful, and contrary to his intentions makes me mistrust him completely, but the euphoria is working.  So, post number one, shared with a click.  It’s then that the problems start.

Enter post number two, another article.  It turns out, this guy hasn’t thought some of the obstacles that might frustrate his efforts.  These include the sea, the animals in the sea, the fact that not all plastic floats on the sea, the fact that the sea is deep, sometimes really really deep and you can’t moor things to the sea bed when you’re in a really deep bit.  I start to smell some sour grapes, he thinks this guy wants media attention as much as anything else(I think back to the music, and silently vouch for that opinion) but it seems very well researched.  Contrary to popular belief, by which perhaps we mean hope, it seems this thing won’t work.  And that was posted, one click, as an answer to my original shared post, by one of my friends.

But then I think about the second guy.  Maybe he used to work with the first guy and they fell out.  Maybe they argued on Twitter.  Maybe the first is an Evil Capitalist who wants to make it look like that same Evil Capitalism can become Benevolent, can provide all the tidy up solutions as well as all the money.  It’s self regulating you know.  We can create tidying up jobs as well as messing up jobs, like the maids and the landed gentry.  It’s a Capitalist dream.  So I don’t know whether to believe him either.  You see, in the old days, one had to kind of get in a boat to see what the sea was like.  Better still, get out of the boat and get in the sea.  And someone who has done this, and who comes in after a hard day at the office with barnacles in their hair, I will read their thoughts on this subject, but how do you distinguish that from the writing of someone who has a well meaning interest in ecological issues as it reflects their belief in a fair society?

Then I looked closer.  At the dates.  The first actually predates the second, and addresses most of its concerns in a massive (ok well I think that is big) 523 page feasibility study.  I went too fast.  I was looking for something positive, then found it, then lost it again, etc etc.  I have bruises on my knees from their under-the-table jerkiness.

We move too fast.  You cannot learn to swim by moving arms and legs balanced on a chair.  You cannot learn to play music in a practice room, you cannot change business practices without having been a businessman, and you cannot talk about what poor people need without having experienced poverty (or at least talking at great length with people who have).  These are preperations for learning, the real work comes later.  As a musician, I learnt phrases, memorised solos of the great and the good, I prepared as best I could.  But when I got on stage and no one listened, or I felt the energy sag under the weight of my correctly learned arpeggios, it was then that I started to learn what I needed to do to play music the way I wanted it to sound.  And it’s never too early to put yourself in that position, in my opinion.  I wanted applause.  It was a good lesson.

I write because I enjoy it, I enjoy choosing words, not because I want to change the world.  If the world is going to change, I want to hand that onerous task over to people who know something about it.  I want them to plan it out carefully, sensibly and with an even temper.  I want them to be able to listen to people, both good and evil, and come to some arrangement.  Let’s find the experts.  I wouldn’t hand over the orchestration of one of my tunes to a anyone other than an orchestrator.  The world will not be changed by some hypocrite like me who has a tax free ISA account but objects to Cameron’s tax avoidance and who doesn’t look at the date on articles.  I am, however, an expert on why I think some music is crap and some is great (please note this is not the same as defining said music as one or the other).  Do ask, but sit down first.

The internet is like a massive branch of B and Q with no staff, it has everything but….where?  And how do we know what works?  Facts are unchecked, views unsubstantiated, sentences are unpunctuated.  It is an anxiety dream made real, or virtual at least.  We are constantly being told to get angry (social protest), outgoing and confident (school), ambitious (work).  These are all, as far as I’m concerned, hysterical, short term reactions to a world full of complex problems.  If you love something (music, changing the world, banking), start early and go slow, investigate, have breaks, read a book.  I know, I sound old.  I am old.  If we all took things more slowly, with more patience, with less focussing on an outcome we already want instead of where the facts are leading us; well, that sounds like the death of the internet in its present form, that form being the under-recruited shop type model outlined above.  Oh well never mind.  What we need are experienced shop assistants who….I am going to abandon this metaphor here as my funding fell through at the last minute.

And if you are writing about something, you’d better have the dust of it under your fingernails, it had better be the blood that flows through your veins.  I want to see the plankton, with a microscope obviously, on your flippers.  And I am appealing for your honesty, because we all need to know that in this shiny new world, bullshit and research, it all looks the same.

 

 

Some Acknowledgments : Boyan Slat, , Victor Guitierrez and Matt Nixon, whose book “Pariahs : Hubris, Reputation and Organisational Crises” got me thinking about some things I previously knew nothing about and now know a little.

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Outreach.

“It is said that what is called “the spirit of an age” is something to which one cannot return…although one would like to change today’s world back to the spirit of one hundred years or more ago, it cannot be done. Thus it is important to make the best out of every generation.”

Yamamoto Tsunetomo, “The Book Of The Samurai”

A couple of days ago, this piece of lazily constructed and ill conceived reporting staggered into my Twitter feed.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2650805/Is-jazz-form-LANGUAGE-Brains-improvising-musicians-work-way-people-thinking-words.html

You may not feel like reading past the first line. What interested me more than the article, the usual stuff about jazz and the activity of the brain during improvisation, was the unstoppable gush of invective that follows throughout the comments section. I accept that a similarly stimulating dialogue of ideas can be found after most articles on the net; a toing and froing of heated debate, the hushed sound of ideas exploding, reforming, perhaps re- emerging as one or more entirely new trains of thought. The sound, in short, of the collective human intelligence at work.

Fritz, from Sydney, Australia tiptoes in with an opening
hypothesis –

Jazz, gibberish by really talented egotists“, he surmises.

Peggy (unknown, United Kingdom) seems to be on to something –

Jazz isn’t music, just a collection of random, yawn inspiring sounds.

Baz The Blue, from Suffolk, gets to the crux of it, sweeping away the cautious and meandering comments of his worthy associates –

Jazz is horrible.I got put off at an early age by that cool cat George Melly and Cleo Lane ,all that bee (sic) bopping and skatting (sic) did my head in.

I think these people are on the fence when it comes to jazz. I think these are the people that we, as musicians, as human beings on this blessed earth for God’s sake, should be reaching out to. Bums on seats, more people, a bigger audience, get me in that fucking stadium/concert hall/aircraft hanger and make me successful. Outreach. Make jazz a friendly place, it’s just so scary and forbidding and everyone that goes there knows about it already and I feel excluded. Me and my mates actually. I want something going on behind my conversation that makes it sound more interesting, more, I don’t know, edgy

I am reminded of my earliest experiences of live jazz. Between three and six men who could be from anywhere shamble around on stage. The audience look much the same; except me. I am, by my reckoning, fourteen. It is a Sunday lunchtime, and we are at Bromley Football Club. There is special excitement, as this week there are special guests. These special guests look remarkably similar to the regular band, and just as confused about what they might play. There is no stage presence. And there is an easy joviality about this gathering, we are not only there but part of it. They are laughing about something; I wonder what, I want to know. I used to love this little ritual. These people were heroes in plain clothes, ordinary people who were about to go through a Clark Kent-like transformation as soon as they started to play. It seemed impossible; we would watch them arrive, set up, look dubiously at their instruments as if reunited after a long spell in prison.

People like Chris and Mick Pyne, Don Hunt, Dick Morrisey, Stan Sulzmann, Pete Beavis (our school brass teacher; that was pretty cool), Quinny Lawrence. They would never be recognised for what they did, and yet they were here, on a Sunday lunchtime, somehow producing music of what seemed like sublime and effortless beauty, a stream of small miracles produced like coloured hankies from the top pocket of a velvet dinner jacket. They were….revolutionaries, part of a counter-culture that refused to be even recognised as such except by those who understood it and their place in it. Every performance of every tune was a new, classic, revitalised version to me. The more hackneyed and over-familiar the melody, the more exciting it was to see them make it somehow their own. It was, to a fourteen year old who should have been doing something rebellious but was here with his dad, an incredibly liberating experience. A slight of hand concealed years of practice, study, obsession. Easy to see why it would appeal to a teenager who struggled to play a Chopin étude the same way twice (i.e with no mistakes). And yet there was some Chopin in there too, if I wasn’t mistaken; those chords, hard to tell, it’s just some guy up there, he has no tails or page turner. The whole thing was magical, contradictory, exciting. It was edgy, but you had to be in there with them to feel that edge. Not to understand, not to decipher, not to transcribe (yet); just to respect them and listen. I was fourteen.

I hope this doesn’t read like something from the Daily Mail letters page. Times have changed; we are all part of a production line, great music still happens, but we have to pay our way. I happen to object to the fact that a person cannot live cheaply in return for having little financial ambition. And it’s not just artists. People that go to gigs are spending time away from shopping centres, maybe they are slowing the next economic recovery. They are outside society, outcasts, they are edgy, they are investing in time and not money. Yes this is all very simplistic and I hope I get Fritz, from Sydney Australia, and Peg (Unknown, United Kingdom), or some suitable replacements, to explain how this economy works in the comments section below. I am happy to listen. Reach out to me; here is my outstretched hand. Where are yours?