Tag Archives: music

Getting Schooled by Miles Davis

Music is powerfully emotive.
The right piece at the right time can be a spiritual moment like no other, for some of us.
There are specific times I can remember some songs that blew my mind — songs I’d heard in the background time and time again, but a moment presents itself and the head explodes in all the aural rightness.
Like when it’d been a 14-hour day of stupidity in Whitehorse, Yukon, and The Tragically Hip’s “Cordelia” began playing as I pulled my car into my driveway, me ready to snap or sigh, whatever came first. Suddenly slow rising guitars just matched the coursing muted anger and frustration I felt after such a futile day. I sat there and listened to it twice.
Then I turned the car over, and drove the fuck out of town for an hour, listening to that song over and over.
I’d probably heard it 20 times before that night, but just never when it mattered.
Same deal with The Doors’s “The End.” Until I heard it play in Apocalypse Now, it never really registered on my radar. But a midnight viewing of the Vietnam classic in a dusty old theatre with that track bleeding out of crackling speakers, it just blew my fucking mind.
The creative process, for me, is all about timing, so it’s not really a surprise, then, that ingesting creativity should also require good timing.
Miles Davis is giving me an old-school edumacation today about how foolishly exclusive our tastes can be sometimes, and how much our narrow-mindedness can deny us when we wrongfully judge a genre via a single example of it.
For years and years and years, I was decidedly Not A Jazz Fan. And I ain’t talkin’ Utah, okay? Although…
But I mean jazz-jazz. Crazy trombones, pounding pianos, all that jazz-jazz, man.
It’s really the Story of Two Matriarchs. My aunt tried to get me into jazz when I was 8 and spending the summer with her in Toronto. I sort of got it, but let’s face it — I was eight. I wrote stories about pretend animals on “Garfield” note paper and slept with a teddy bear. What’s there to get? Are The Muppet Babies on TV yet? Miles who?
My mother, though, laughed at this fledgling interest in jazz when I returned to Vancouver. It was just noise, she opined. Aunt Pat was pretty nutty and sure liked to get silly with alcohol, what with that wobbly-walk of hers’n’all, so maybe Mom was right.
I slowly got the whole “it’s just noise” opinion myself from hearing the really experimental stuff, and just wrote the rest off.
Over the years, as I got older, I tried Miles Davis in a not-really-trying-because-I-secretly-know-it’s-just-crap kind of way, and stuck to my taste guns: Jazz was crap.
So, a few weeks ago, I finally got around to playing Miles’s A Kind of Blue, which had been in my iPhone for a while, under the thinking that one day the mood might strike. Well, nothing else was making my musical heart respond as I toggled through artist after artist on my phone, and then I saw Miles.
Hmm. Hey, you know, I’m kind of blue. Maybe I should listen to A Kind of Blue.
So, I did. And I liked it, and this feeling niggled its way into me while I scrubbed my dirty dishes at the kitchen sink. A jazzy kind of blue, kind of niggling thing.
Today I’m diving into The Cellar Door Sessions. And it’s working all too well. A half-hour ago or so, my feet were cold and socks loomed. I’ve been toe-tapping since and flip-flops remain in place with warm-blooded happy feets.
I’m glad I’ve tried again and again to get that appreciation of jazz working for me. I know better than most people, I guess, how quickly we can grow and change. I’m all about change.
It all comes back to the adage, “there’s a time and a place.”
It’s true of tastes, too.
From food to sex to music, it’s too easy to sample something once and think it’s representative of the whole. Maybe it’s THAT salmon you don’t like, not all salmon. Maybe they were a lousy lover and you should rethink your thoughts on sex in X-position with X-prop. And, hey, maybe you were listening to the wrong jazz.
Know who I learned that from?
A two-year-old boy named Jack.
He’d try every food a minimum — seriously, EVERY food — of three times. Three times! It could be rancid but he’d take three bites before he decided his opinion. THEN, he knew passionately which side of the opinion he sat on.
Here I was, 35, and always lived on old opinions, and opinions taken in a single sampling. A bite, a listen, a trial of some sort.
“No, I didn’t like that kind of seafood when I tried it 18 years ago, therefore…”
Now I accept that I’m narrow-minded and given to stupidity with a tendency to default my most obsolete opinions.
Everything’s worth trying again. I now make sure it’s a good example of that thing before I judge it. I’ll talk to others, rethink things. It’s a big world of experiences.
Methinks it’d be terrible to miss out on any because of foolishness and poor decisions.
So, here I am. Tapping my toes as the first disc fades out in applause and disc two of Miles Davis’s Cellar Door Sessions swings into a new groove.
Liking what I thought for 25-plus years I could never like.
This growing-up thing’s all right, man.
How about you? What’s something you did a total 180 on, and why? How’d opening your mind to trying it again change you?

In Vinos Veritas: I'll Probably Wish I Hadn't Posted This

I promised myself I would write tonight so I’m doing so out of obligation, not inspiration. Let’s get that straight right off the bat.
And I’ve been drinking. I think I hear Cat Stevens singing “Trouble” off in the background there.
Truth be told, this is one of those heavy-thinking anniversaries most of us maybe have. It’s not affecting me, not in a negative way anyhow. More in a “Fuck it! I’m only here once! I’m BUYING WINE!” kind of way, actually. That’s not so bad. Continue reading

Brought To You In Part By: The Soundtrack of Your Life

I’ve been getting immersed in music for the first time in a long time.
I’ve always gone against type in that I’m neither a film girl, a music girl, nor a book girl, but a hodge-podge of the three. Love ’em all. Expert in none of them, but I’m sure as hell well-versed in them all.
My project of late has been copying my music to my hard drive. Fuck, I was the first person I knew who was using Napster, but I’m the last person I know to copy her music to her hard drive. Jesus.
But I’m about 80% done. Some 15 gigs has been amassed so far, and there’s about 60 CDs remaining, then I’m done. I think I’ve got about 400 or so, so this has taken 2 weeks. Every now and then I come across a CD I have to listen to immediately. A song on it reminds me of a long-gone lover, or a good time someplace, or enduring some hardship.

Gin Blossoms: Waiting for Northern Lights in sleeping bags under the stars on the Midnight Dome in Dawson City, Yukon, with Chris and T.
Love & Rockets: The weekend I was introduced to bondage. Heh, heh.
Depeche Mode: Lots of dirty sex over the years. How to pick any one moment?
Econoline Crush: Watching a couple having sex at a gig with GayBoy.
Cake: Listening to their rehearsal in a club above us, on some street in Sacramento, Cali at 4am, with a guy from Germany who’d later pay a visit in Vancouver. ‘Nuff said.
Lemonheads/RHCP: Party weekends at Mt. Baker with the gang of old, when I realized exactly whose approval I did not need.
Santana: Playing in the background as a strange woman on San Fran’s Haight Street beckoned me in for the strangest fortune I’ve ever been told.
The Doors & The Tragically Hip: Many roads, many places — many, many, many.
Moby: Figuring out life on the shores of Oregon both before & after my mother passed away.
U2 & George Michael: Everything. 25 years of being there through every time in my life.

Music, for better or for worse, can have the effect of tattooing a time and a place in our memory for forever. I can’t tell you in words, really, about what happened in many of the stranger and most memorable incidents in my life, but I can probably tell you what was playing.
It’s amazing, the power music has to ground us in a time and place.
I know I’m not alone in having the post-30 “Why did I stop listening to new music?” quandary. Life just got hard and I didn’t have the time to indulge myself, I guess.
I’m going through CD after CD, remembering how I got it, when I got it, and what life was like. I’m remembering what emotional hole that music filled, and for how long. It’s bringing a wave of my existence washing back over me. And not in a bad way, either.
I’m finally getting some of my house together and my life’s sorting itself out nicely, in every single way, so subjecting myself to this hardcore total-immersion flashback of my life’s actually a very rewarding experience at exactly the right time in my life. I don’t think I consciously knew what effect all this would have on me, but the mind works in mysterious ways, and my timing was perfect.
For the first time in a long time, I’m feeling a lot happier about being this girl in this skin, and I take great pride in having all these flashbacks of the winding places my life has taken me over the years.
It’s funny. I know a few people who are fortunate to have lived the travelled-everywhere lifestyle, something I always thought I’d have. I’ve always been a little angry that it has yet to really come to pass aside from all the awesome roadtrips I took with my old car, but this spring, just in the last two months, I’ve come to understand two things:
One, I have the home all those travelled-everywhere people are jealous they’ve never been able to have since they made their choice to travel, and it’s the home I would have longed for had I been travelling everywhere. Two, life dealt me a whole bunch of cards I could never have foreseen being played, and I had to play the hand I was dealt.
So, I’ve suddenly realized: The life I’ve lived, I’ve done the best I could have, with what I’ve had… and I’ve got some pretty fucking great stories to last a lifetime. You have no idea.
And I guess it’s easy to forget, sometimes, just how much we’ve endured, how far we’ve gone. But then something like music comes along and trips all the memories of old. I’ve been walking through so much of my life by way of music these past two weeks that I’m just blown away by how wildly deviated my path in my life became from who I thought I’d be when I was knocking on the door of age 35.
But I fuckin’ love it now that I’m looking back. Wow. What a strange and twisted road it has been, and I’m sure there’s long stretches I’d wave off and say “no thanks” if offered a chance to do it over, but I’m thrilled I did it once.
Isn’t it like what you tell a kid after a close-but-lost ball game?

“Didja have fun?”
– Yeah.
“Did you do your best?”
“Didja learn anything?”
“Well, there you go. That’s the point of playing. Good job.”

It’s funny what winds up bringing epiphanies upon us. Here, I thought I was just pumping up my iTunes collection. Instead, I’m reaffirming my entire existence and realizing that, while my life’s not perfect and nothing like I’d dreamed… I’m not sure I’d change a thing, and I’m thrilled for all that seems to loom before me yet. With any luck, this life of mine’s not even half over.
I love the life I’ve lived. I may not have explored my inner wanderlust to the extent my childhood self dreamed of, but my life’s been anything but boring.
And, so, the soundtrack plays on.