Music Exorcism

Music therapy is a popular little number practiced by a handful in the soft sciences. Apparently someone, somewhere, is giving lots of money to people to prove music is good for your chronic back pain. Surely the great scientific breakthrough is right around the corner: the Jonas Brothers will fix your pinched lumbar! I knew it all along. But more seriously, as I’ve axed before: why is scientific research not interested in whether crappy music causes rapid onset of pre-disposed genetic illness due to aggravated stress levels? It’s so clearly what we should be researching with taxpayers’ money. E-mail your representative today!

“Hmph! Don’t be ridiculous!” you say. “Music is only for healing and all those happy things.” Well, yeah, I guess that’s what Coil has been doing all along now, isn’t it? *chuckle* Although, to be fair, it is not at all shocking to me that music is often synonymous with spiritual trance or religious ceremony. Music therapy for the soul: is there any other kind?

Truth: if infatuation with music is your strongest drive in life, you will end up doing something with it. Even if you suck. Which is inevitable — because 90% of the people who do anything, don’t do it seriously or just suck. But even still, of the higher echelon of musicians who take it seriously, still probably about 80% of musicians who play every single day of their lives, basically right out of the crib (or the puberty), never write anything worthwhile even once (so goes the cliche about western classical musicians). On top of that, who becomes technically good at music and who is predisposed for it is largely genetic (sometimes its lifestyle marketing — mainstream rockstar douchebaggery or subcultural vegan revolutionary DIY hero — be the [cool] you want to see in the world!). There probably aren’t “pure musician genes” but genius in any field comes from a mixture of emotional gifts and good genetic predisposition toward that particular field.

So don’t hit me with this nature vs. nurture garbage — I know the score! What this means is that really technically good musicians are often just genetic “naturals”. Not necessarily talented or “inspired” as far as composing goes, but a good number of them have the natural back-up, the prerequisite data in their DNA stream for a predisposition to their specific skill (in this case, music). And so it’s like this with lots of skill sets, especially artists, fighters, craftsmen, etc. I’m not saying it’s a class necessarily, and inspired artists are rare, but you get the picture: it often comes from their stock. It’s part of the reason why some huge music enthusiasts never can get good at playing.

If you don’t buy the genetic lineage thing, consider this complimentary analysis: Chinese and Japanese (and various other nations’) cultures have spiritual beliefs which involve ancestral veneration. The peace of an ancestor’s soul is deeply important to one’s own well-being as well as that of one’s family and community, without denigrating their actions in life as being good or bad. Everybody wins if an ancestor’s soul is able to find peace through ritual offerings. This is true in all religious beliefs, as is the idea that if we go far enough back, our ancestral lines reach the age of the gods, the gods being our original ancestors. Part of what makes you a real musician is playing to appease the gods, and to praise the god of music, the original ancestors of a musician. If our musical ancestors can be appeased through music, everybody in the world benefits.

But, whatever. The truth is, all people who are obsessed with music, require something besides music therapy: music exorcism. ‘Coz the more you do something, the more it becomes an addiction, a rhythm in your life, that begs to be continually renewed. Eventually the demons of practice become so great, each practice and performance becomes a personal exorcism. To call it ecstasy is a misinterpretation — great musicians are plagued by ideas, their desires downloaded from the muse herself. How bizarrely appropriate to the contradictory nature of the universe: the disease and the cure are the same thing.

A good artist summons — or more accurately, channels the “dionysian” ecstasy for everybody. A great talent is not afraid to relinquish their talent because they realize it is a responsibility. Meanwhile, the rest of us sit around thumbing our noses, writing reviews of whether musicians’ extra-terrestrial contributions pass the test, or just wishing we were famous while hating famous people. Fair enough. What can you do in life except argue for your own existence? Opinions, man!

So while music is important to me, how important is it really in the scheme of other things, or in lieu of the desire of another? The strange contradiction of the world is that I have no choice but to obey my own truth, which is only more valid than the truth of another simply because it’s mine. Yet I feel fortunate, that at least the gods I feed are not the gods of violence, sex and lust, politics and power, wealth and prestige — all those tacky things.

It seems the primary message any individual, organization or group has, at the end of the day, is one of self-propagation. All organisms seek to survive and extend their legacy — which is obvious. And this is most apparent in the reviewer and cultural critic — seeking to spread their veil of opinion over others. Presumably in a soft, artistic field like music this is okay — no one is provably getting hurt. However, it does bother me that music therapy researchers still haven’t proven the intuitively obvious empirical fact: Miley Cyrus’ singing gives people herniated lumbar discs.

Oh well. Less headaches, more headbanging, amirite?

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~ by chaosrexmachinae on December 21, 2009.

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