Friday, November 03, 2006

I'm Going to Write About Music Now

Okay, first a disclaimer. If you've been reading this silly blog for any length of time, you've probably noticed that when it comes to my Pop Culture Roundups, I never go into great detail about the music I'm listening to. I have a very good reason for that. Beyond describing what genre the artist fits into, I find that I can't write much else without sounding cornball. I can't describe music in print without it sounding forced or cheesy.

Here, watch: The Black Keys provide a mix of blues sensibility with raw rock flavor. The drums are no-nonsense, the guitar riffs simple yet powerful, and the singer is comfortable in his own voice.

Actually, that didn't go as bad as I thought it would. But my overall point is that you don't read or write about music. You freaking listen to it. When you write about it, all you get are words like "raw" and "sensibility" and "flavor" and "simple yet powerful," and that really doesn't tell you anything. And I don't like attempting it too much because it DOES sound forced. Why write about something that isn't meant to be experienced in an essay?

This morning, however, I feel compelled to write about music. I want to toss out all the above in favor of writing about something that's always been a part of me because lately I've been finding so much more joy in it. For me, my musical journey is almost as important as my spiritual journey. Yeah, it's that big.

I got up yesterday morning and wrote a song. Seriously. Just like that. I woke up, and even before my daily coffee craving took precedence, I had the following thought: "It's almost Advent and I need to figure out what mildly-simple-yet-theologically-responsible guitar song we're going to use as an introit. I don't like the choices that are currently flashing in my brain. I need to write one." And I did. It's a four-line Advent chorus that mentions hope, peace, joy, and love. Maybe I'll add verses, but this will serve our needs for now. I've long been one of those people who on the one hand is dissatisfied with a lot of praise music, but on the other believes that if you don't like your current options, create new ones. It's the second praise song I've written in almost two years of full-time ministry. This could become a trend.

I love playing music. I've been a drummer since 5th grade. I even had a solo in the elementary school concert arrangement of The Beach Boys' "Barbara Ann." It was just a repetitive eighth/sixteenth combo that at the time was really hard but now seems like...uh...kid stuff. Hm.

I got my first drum set in high school after I saved enough money and practiced with my non-existent band (R.E.M. really loud on headphones). My first time playing set in front of anyone was my senior year when the call went out for a drummer during our Friday morning FCA gathering. I sounded terrible my first time. It got better. In college I was in my first real band, again, a praise outfit for the college FCA equivalent, which took occasional gigs elsewhere. Our high point probably came when we opened an on-campus concert for an a capella boy band called Grafitti Tribe. That's when we were "young and indie." The next year some new members came in wanting to seriously convert the masses and get a record deal.

Fun story that goes along with that...I expressed a concern that I didn't want the band to get all corporate and business-like while pursuing this. They said, "Oh, don't worry, it won't." An opportunity came along to record a demo CD, but it was discovered that the set date fell during a time when I'd be out of town. "Well, we'll have someone else fill in the drum tracks. It's just the nature of the business."

The band fell apart shortly after this.

I put together another ragtag bunch my first year of seminary as part of my field education placement. It was a college ministry with enough talent to do something like that, and we even played at a few sponsor churches that year. This marked my turn from "whatever dude" band member to frontman. Leading practice was all-garage, man. It drove our sheet music-reading piano player crazy. "Hey, during this part can you play more like diddla-diddla-duuun, diddla-diddla-duuun." "What notes are those?" "Uh...duuun." By some miracle, we did okay. That was the last band I've played in.

Seminary also allowed for me to lead a drumming circle on occasion. I'd never done this before, so I first had to look up what it's supposed to be about. The philosophy of the drumming circle is twofold: 1) We all have rhythm, even if it doesn't seem like we do. After all, we all have heartbeats, and 2) In the circle, we create rhythm in community, however the spirit moves. Maybe that sounds a little new-agey, but it can be a powerful experience.

Living in a shoebox-sized apartment doesn't allow for leaving a set of drums set up at all times in the living room. I took every opportunity to pull them out of storage in seminary, even if lugging them up and down stairs was a pain. Imagine my delight when I move into a house with spare rooms so that my drums can finally be set up at all times and...collect dust. That is, until recently. Amazing how therapeutic drumming can be when you're feeling pulled in 12 directions by the expectations of others. In the midst of it, I like to think I've shaken off some rust and it's become a compulsion. Hey, I have 15 whole minutes before I have to leave to visit so-and-so. I'm gonna go make a lot of noise. It's a beautiful thing.

I thought I'd transform myself into a guitar player, so I got an electric to accompany my acoustic. Since I started drumming again, I've decided to sell the electric. I'm a drummer who can also play some guitar chords.

And now I write mainline-flavored praise songs.

But what I really want is another band to play with. And the only guy I know who'd be in it is already in another one.

Anyway, I've written about music now. I'd do another entry on the music I like, but then we'd run into all that "flavor" and "sensibility" stuff. So for now this is as good as it gets.