I haven’t written essays or blogs for a while because I’ve been writing a novel and I’ve reached a point where I need a break from heavy writing so here we all are. Writing is something that you either have or you do not have, like the ability to play a musical instrument or the ability to shop with coupons. Some people just have the knack. You could attend all the writing class ever offered but if you’re writing doesn’t come from the soul you might as well be trying to play a piano with numbers painted on the keys.
I’ve known musicians who practiced the same piece of music all day long trying to get it right. It drives people crazy to listen to it, but I’m here to tell you there isn’t another way to do it. If there was some other way to do it, the people who play music would do it some other way, trust me. It’s frustrating as hell to know that somewhere right in front of you is the sound, and somewhere deep inside of you is the key to unlock that sounds, and you’re trying to thread a needle to get the two sown together. Yes, I did men that the way I spelled it, by the way, and if you’ve ever nailed down a piece of music to where you’re heart and soul and spirit is happy, truly happy with it, you know exactly what I mean. Writing is like that too. I know when it’s right. I know when the story is told. I know when it says what I am trying to get it to say.
The odd thing about music is unless you’re recording your sessions if you do get it right and it is perfect, it can be gone forever without anyone ever knowing it was there but you. You may be able to replicate something from memory and you may be able to bring something back from sitting there and just playing around with an instrument, but there will be times you create something that exists only for a moment in time, never to be heard again, and you will be the only witness. People wonder why musicians are so damn odd and it has a lot to do with just that. They create worlds that disappear in an instant but music is truly of nothing but the human soul, released, and amplified, and I deeply suspect those who create music believe whatever they play, when they do it just right, even if it isn’t heard by anyone else or recorded, that music exists still, in some form, somewhere, waiting for someone else to catch it again, and release it back into the wild, where only those who make music can play.
I know a poet who writes everything she does out in longhand, on paper with a pen. She does have a computer but she likes the way it feels and looks to write, really write, with ink, and work around the mistakes by scratching it out, marking through things, and getting messy with it. I like that style even though I rarely write that way. I can’t write by hand quick enough to keep up with my thoughts and honestly it’s hard to do with a keyboard. But show me a musician who strums an acoustic guitar and backs it up with a harmonica, and I’ll show you the musical version of longhand with ink. These are the people who go bone bare, shunning the electronics that prop up some lesser mortals. Here is the heart and soul of true music, that born of a human being’s heart and an instrument that will tell on you if your talent is lacking. Show me someone in front of a small crowd of people with just the barest of necessities and I’ll show you someone reaching back into the dimmest memory of human beings, when music was first created. There, the greatest of great great grand parents of us all, had the guts and the skill and the need to play music for others who could not, and in that, what we know as music today was born. Live music, when played with just the instrument and skill of the musician is viscerally and wholly human. It is part of who we are as a species. It is what makes us a tribe. It is what separates us from the physical world me live in and takes us to a place created by those who play music. They live there and we are only passing through, but a simple man with a guitar and a harp and a heart, can open a door the rest of us cannot even see.
The creation of written music is one of the greatest of all human inventions. The soul of one human being can be transferred through the ages. Recorded music serves the same purpose and now we can be lifted beyond the ordinary day by people we may never know in any other way. The instruments played could be wielded by a woman, a man, a child, a black, an Asian, a young white man with pimples, a redhead, some aged soldier of many gigs whose times is ending soon, but in an act of totally equality, the music moves us to a point we question not once whose lips or hands it passed through to sooth our souls.
As you pass in front of some lonely street musician, with a nearly empty guitar case, remember that you take for granted what you cannot create. There in front of you is a door to a universe you cannot visit without the sweat, blood, and endless efforts of that one person, and those who came before. Remember that this person will come out to that spot and hold open that door for you, and in return, asks only enough to live with. The musicians hold open a door that we cannot see, and only through their efforts, do we hear it.