It appears that music, and dancing, are integral expressions of our human society. The last post seems to have struck a nerve with a few; it was agreed that music and dancing are deeply ingrained ways of marking transitions in life, in mourning and in celebration. There is no culture that does not have music. Anthropologists, feel free to correct me if I am wrong.
I have been reading, along with the rest at Whorled Leaves, Gary Snyder's The Practice Of The Wild. I am not very far into it, but I have been drawn into his discussion of what wilderness really is. Wilderness, as it turns out, exists everywhere, in every one of us. In our land-dominating society it is expressed outrightly in very few protected areas, but it still exists everywhere that a few microbes can grow freely. It still exists in our minds, if not our lives.
That got me thinking about the kinds of music I am drawn to. The basic elements of music are drawn from the laws of the universe, the laws of physics, and certain "it feels right" laws. The basic blues pattern exists because for some unknown reason, it "feels right". Many songs are written with unwritten laws of chordal pattern and meter in effect. We humans are wired to feel good about certain repetitive patterns, and certain combinations of notes.
However, there is "tame" music, and there is "wild" music. I grew up, of course, with "tame" music. Church hymns, choir anthems, and Top 40 radio. All designed with creating a predictable human response. Some of the rock music of the 60's and 70's certainly had elements of wildness in it, but as promoters caught on to what sold it seemed to lose that primal feeling, started sounding more programmed and manipulating.
As I grow older (ahem...more mature is the preferred term!) I tend to draw away from any form of music that seem to be produced as a product. I like to hear new songwriters that have a fresh view on things, who can express their views musically. I like to hear young musicians take on old time and old folk music from around the world. Bluegrass, with its high lonesome element, draws me in but never too closely. I'm a musical drifter; I don't want to associate too closely with any one genre.
I found Celtic music without having been influenced by one performance or presence on radio. I liked its rich tradition, its sound that spoke to me; the major and minor chords, Dorian, Mixolydian, a grand happy mix of musical modes. That Irish music is associated with pubs and beer and folks getting together to share tunes over a pint makes it all the more appealing.
Lately I have been listening to Scandinavian music, which takes Celtic music one step further into wilderness. The modes are more dark, the meters more screwed up but still making sense, the picture of a dark gloomy wild moor all the more evident.
I think our musical desires reflect some inner longing, some craving for wilderness. Is it any wonder that jazz, a uniquely American music form, came together on the edge of the wilderness that was America a little over a hundred years ago. Jazz was musical exploration into the wilderness. Bluegrass, as defined by Bill Monroe, took basic human longings and phrased them in the voices of the mountains, of the forests, of the wild that existed then.
No good music comes from strip malls and uniformity. Good music has to come from that which is still wild within us, inspired by that which is still wild in our surroundings. I hope I can draw from the wilderness that still exists in my corner of the world and make music that celebrates it.