I SAW A NEW DAWN RISING, PULLED BACK INTO NIGHT.
I AGAIN SEE A BRIGHTER DAY COMING. OBAMA’S WIN; THE MUSIC OF WILL OLDHAM AND SCOUT NIBLETT, AMONG OTHERS, TELL ME THAT MAGIC IS BACK, THE “BLUE MEANIES” HAVE FLED, AND THAT SOMETHING WONDERFUL MAY BE HAPPENING AGAIN
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I feel I have not liked music very much for a long time. Having been one who experienced the Beatles era — beginning to the end — and participated in the “magic” that only existed at that time, when early on, the music that said that we had all the power to make the world what it should be, made everyone I knew feel like they were important and had a role in an incredible time. That changed. And I haven’t heard anything that came even close to having any kind of message like that, let alone impact, in the decades then.
Then last year, I came across the music of Scout Niblett, Will Oldham, Daniel Johnston, Songs: Ohia, and other’s producing what is called “Indie” (from Independent”) genre. Their music did so much for my life and giving me hope about our collective future. I am convinced that Will Oldham is as much a musical genius as Bob Dylan. And I think Scout Niblett is at least as provocative, and authentic; actually more so, in particular in the way she weaves those unique percussive elements into the mix, waking you, almost shaking into you, her message.
My take of Scout’s main important sharing, her offering, her reminder to us (especially in a world of obsessive-compulsive everybodys and “Monk”) is of the perfection and beauty that is found only in the authentically unpolished, unassuming, and unpretentious. Her work says to me that we are all beautiful in the same way as Nature’s own unpolished beauty. She conveys that we are all truly geniuses, or perfect in our uniqueness, or essentially divine, or all of that. But only when we have the courage to give up trying to shape the outcomes of our actions, and to force our wills upon the world instead of flowing with it. She reminds me that we are so much more, and we border every moment the magical, when we dare let ourselves be our slightly worn and unraveled, imperfect but unique, essential selves, relying on the goodness of our divine intuition to direct our actions, foregoing and putting behind us the mental filters that act like so many nagging nannies or parental voices.
I am brought again to remember that being oneself is not only beautiful, but is what brings down the barriers between us all, and thereby helps us to realize our Unity. We see so much fake “beauty” – inhuman, unnatural productions of technicians – a “beauty” that relies on the precisely timed, measured, and symmetrical patterning of auditory elements, copied, as precisely as atoms, or files on a computer, from past creations, Now no longer “alive.” Such “music” I’ve heard, it is astonishing in its familiarity, its sameness, its ability to NOT wake us up. It makes for good office, workshop, or supermarket music, for it soothes us like a familiar heartbeat to a baby. To its “credit,” its guaranteed not to disrupt your driving either; and perhaps that’s why there’s so much of it: Folks living ever more busy and complex lives, how many choose music that might actually shake them up and cause them to lose their footing, in this rat race to a nowhere, disguising itself as survival and endlessly shape-shifting to mimic the meanderings of the victim’s thinking, so as not to ever be seen (“Nowhere Man” – The Beatles). So, to busy to even want real music. Yes, that’s one big diiference between my generation and what happened afterwards when others were forced to bear higher costs, lower wages, and all the rest, beginning with Reagan’s “dawn” in America, the nightmare end of which we are witnessing now. So, this so-called music, may have its roots and its attractions; still, it is a technicians production, not an artist’s, and can be produced just as well, and just as inhumanly, by computer programs.
Sadly, I’ve watched several generations of “musicians,” more fearful than they would ever show and lacking true vision or (divine) inspiration, spew out, decade after decade, such melodic or even cacophonic, offerings. Like anything else, there are those who want to be artists (musicians, writers, singers, rock stars), and then there are those who have no choice and must do their art, exercise their unique talent, even if no reward is to be had (remember Mozart died penniless, cast into a pauper’s grave). Like Mozart, true genius has no choice.
Scout and Will create perfection in their very insistence on following the razor’s edge of the imperfect, the “not cool,” even the “inappropriate.” Scout, like Oldham, reawakens us to the sublime perfection of the spontaneous and raw tonal pathways, occurring only in the moment, those perfectly askance and glancing, slightly unraveled apparently random, somehow precisely tweaked, purely in the moment intuitive impulses and flashes and even unconscious elements; thus, I hear the channeling of a divine splendor that Scout, for one, could not shake if she tried.
Scout and Will create astonishing audio resting places for the mind, which border on the otherworldly. Quite different from each other are their productions, but equally adept are they in creating the trippy new worlds the lyrics and music weave out of the finer filaments of your mind. The genius of Scout Niblett and Will Oldham lies in their incredible bravery in being truly authentic (not fake authentic; you really see their many facets, which aren’t always flattering). And that authenticity comes only out of an incredible willingness to throw oneself directly into the fires of their fears. I could go on, but just to say that that truth comes through like something so true that it partakes of whatever it is that holds us all up and keeps it all together. And that Truth, in which they express themselves, in my opinion is what makes their music more than good, easy on the ears, etc.; it is what takes it beyond music to something magical…
Indeed, like the Beatles did to an entire generation long ago, I came away changed by their music the first time I heard it. I couldn’t stop listening all night long, and by the morning I felt I would never be the same again. And I haven’t been. Like Barack Obama, Scout Niblett and Wild Oldham also give me the feeling that life is really worth living. That you really do want to hang around in this skin-encapsulated ego for a while. Even if just for the incredibly magical you encounter occasionally.