Misfit Love

You’re rehearsing every night now, even when you’ve had a lousy day and you’d rather just watch TV and eat yesterday’s pizza and moan about what could have been. But you’ve got something driving you, so you work and you work to get every damn note just right, because you’re going to be on TV and it needs to be good. And the rehearsals have all been going well, the band is tight, the boys are all getting along, the guitars are perfectly layered, the drummer is killing it. It all sounds pretty nice. But then comes time to do the real gig, and the guy points to you and says GO, the cameras are rolling, and brother, you are ready.

You thought it was fine before, and you can’t explain it, but some kind of crazy voodoo magic takes hold and you just rip. You draw on instinct and all those years of blood and sweat and hassle, and all that practice, and you remember all the pain you’ve ever felt in your whole life, and all your mistakes, your preoccupations, your sins, your past in flames, and that time when you were called a misfit, and it still gets under your craw, and it’s right here, man, it’s right now. This is it. It’s time to purge it. This rage. Get it out!

It’s as if the very hand of God is pushing you to a level of savage focus you didn’t know existed. It’s so primal and perfect it almost scares you. And you end it with a roar that shrinks to silence. Just like you planned it. You are cleansed. You can live another day.

C Willis

Music Confounds the Machines

I have come here today first to bring you love. I have come here to express my deep gratitude to you for your love of music and of each other. And, I have come here to talk about the value of the artist, and the value of art.

When Michaelangelo was painting the great fresco The Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel, he came under intense criticism from various members of the church, particularly the Pope’s Master of Ceremonies — a man named Cesena — who accused him of obscenity. Michaelangelo’s response was to paint Cesena into the fresco in the lowest circle of hell with donkey ears and a serpent coiled around him devouring, and covering, his nether regions, so to speak.

Cesena was incensed and went to the Pope demanding he censor Michaelangelo for this outrage, and the Pope said, “Well, let’s go have a look at it.” So, they went down to the chapel, and when the Pope stood in front of the fresco, he said to Cesena, “You know, that doesn’t look like you at all.”

See, the Pope didn’t want to jack around with Michaelangelo. Michaelangelo was making things that were going to last for hundreds of years. His stuff was going to outlive the Pope’s ability to do anything about it, so the Pope bowed to the inevitable. The Pope was afraid of a painter.

The painter could create another dimension between Heaven and Earth. Flat ceilings seemed to come down into the room in three dimensions. He painted rooms where priests and the church could sit and be transported to- and engulfed in- a higher realm, learning ancient stories- thoughts kept alive over centuries. And he did it by mixing together things he found laying around on the ground- sand and clay and plants. He was a fearsome alchemist.

Art is not a market to be conquered or to bow before.

Art is a holy pursuit.

Beneath the subatomic particle level, there are fibers that vibrate at different intensities. Different frequencies. Like violin strings. The physicists say that the particles we are able to see are the notes of the strings vibrating beneath them. If string theory is correct, then music is not only the way our brains work, as the neuroscientists have shown, but also, it is what we are made of, what everything is made of. These are the stakes musicians are playing for.

I want to recommend a book to you — The Technological Society by Jacques Ellul.

John Wilkinson, the translator, in his 1964 introduction, describes the book this way —  “The Technological Society is a description of the way in which an autonomous technology is in the process of taking over the traditional values of every society without exception, subverting and surpassing those values to produce at last a monolithic world culture in which all technological difference and variety is mere appearance.”   This is the core of the dead serious challenge we face.

The first nuclear weapon was detonated on the morning of July 16, 1945, at 5:29 and 45 seconds.

At that moment, technocrats took control of our culture.

Trinity was the code name of that explosion. It was an unholy trinity.

Technology does only one thing- it tends toward efficiency. It has no aesthetics. It has no ethics. It’s code is binary.

But everything interesting in life- everything that makes life worth living- happens between the binary. Mercy is not binary. Love is not binary. Music and art are not binary. You and I are not binary.

Parenthetically, we have to remember that all this technology we use has been developed by the war machine- Turing was breaking codes for the spies, Oppenheimer was theorising and realising weapons. Many of the tools we use in the studio for recording- microphones and limiters and equalizers and all that- were developed for the military. It is our privilege to beat those swords into plowshares.

We live in a time in which artists are being stampeded from one bad deal to another worse deal. No one asks the artists. We are told to get good at marketing. I have to say- and I think I probably speak for every musician here- that I didn’t start playing music because I sought, or thought it would lead to, a career in marketing.

And, as we are being told that, our work is being commoditized — the price of music is being driven down to zero.

I am working with a group called C3, the Content Creators Coalition run by Roseanne Cash and Jeffrey Boxer to develop an Artists Bill of Rights.  Jeffrey is here today to meet afterward with anyone who wants to get into this. The first right artists have is the right to determine what medium they work in. The second is the right to set the price of their work.

Every person worthy of the name atist, from Rembrandt to Paul Cesanne to Picasso to Jackson Pollack

From William Shakespeare to Tennessee Williams to James Baldwin and Jack Kerouac

From Bach to Stravinski to Mahler to John Adams

Every one of those artists made art that to be understood, the world had to change.

They did not adapt to the world, the world had to adapt to them.

The technocrats suggest we crowd source.

I suggest we not.

The very thing an artist does is figure out what he likes.

The technocrats — the digital tycoons, the iTopians — look down on artists. They have made all these tools and they think we should be grateful — subserviant even — and use their flimsy new tools happily to make them ever more powerful. But we can make art with any thing. We don’t need their tools. Music confounds the machines.

So the iTopians have controlled the medium and the message for a generation now. And they are making a complete hash of things. The clearest and most pervasive proof of this is the psychedelic political season we are in, which we can see playing out in every election around the world.

Before the atom bomb, we had begun to project idealized versions of people up on screens, while the people whose images were projected would hide behind the screens, knowing they could never measure up.

After the atom bomb, we have automated that process. On facebook, everybody is a star. The idealistic, lysergic promise of the 1960’s has been mechanized, allowing us to become ever more facile conterfeiters.

The mask has become the face.

Malcolm Muggeridge said that the kingdom Satan offers a man is to the kingdom of God as a travel poster to the place it depicts.

This internet technology that has been so wildly promoted as being the key, the final solution, to our freedom, has become our prison. What the false prophets of the internet said would replace governments and nation states and commerce, and create a free world of community and sharing, has led instead to a consolidation of wealth and power that makes the monopolies of the early 2oth Century- Morgan and Rockefeller and Carnegie- look weak and ineffective.

Ethan Zuckerman, the director of the MIT Media Lab has apologized for his part in creating what he calls a “fiasco”. Tim Berners Lee, who diagrammed the schematic for our current internet on a napkin, said at Davos last year that the internet needs to be rearchitected.

Our 21st Century communication network, regarded by its early adherents with a religious fervor, has been turned into a surveillance and advertising mecnanism. The World Wide Web is just that- a web that ensnares everyone who uses it.

Artists must not submit to the demands, or the definitions of, the iTopians.

Lastly, I am here to speak specifically about American music.

This country has been led by artists from Thoreau and Emerson through Walt Whitman to Woody Guthrie, through Thelonious Monk and Charlie Parker, to Presley and Dylan to The Last Poets and Kendrick Lamar.  The Arts have always led the Sciences.  Einstein said that Picasso preceded him by twenty years.  Jules Verne put a man on the moon a hundred years before a rocket scientist did. Medieval stained glass windows are examples of  how nanotechnology was used in the pre-modern era. Those artists were high technologists, and many other things- they were aestheticians, ethicists, conjurers, and philosophers, to name a few.

They took risks. Risks a technocrat could never take. Artists risk everything in everything they do. Risk is what separates the artist from the artisan. Art is not a career, it is a vocation, an inclination, a response to a summons.

We, in this country, have defined ourselves through music from the beginning- from Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier in the Revolutionary War, to The Star Spangled Banner in the War of 1812, to John Brown’s Body and the Battle Hymn of the Republic in the Civil War, to the incredible explosion of music of the last century that was called Jazz, or Folk Music, or Rock and Roll, or Country Music- because although our music has taken many different paths, it is all of a piece and a most important part of our national identity- of US.

Music is to the United States as wine is to France. We have spread our culture all over the world with the soft power of American music.  We both have regions- France has Champagne, we have the Mississippi Delta.  France has Bordeaux, we have the Appalachian Mountains. France has Epernay, we have Nashville. Recorded music has been our best good will ambassador. The actual reason the Iron Curtain fell, is because the Russian kids wanted Beatles records. Louis Armstrong did more to spread our message of freedom and innovation than any single person in the last hundred years.  Our history, our language, and our soul are recorded in our music. There is no deeper expression of the soul of this country than the profound archive of music we have recorded over the last century.

This is the story of the United States: a kid walks out of his home with a song and nothing else, and conquers the world.  We have replicated that phenomenon over and over.  We could start with Elvis Presley, but we could add in names for hours-   Jimmie Rodgers, Rosetta Tharpe, Johnny Cash, Howlin Wolf, Mahalia Jackson, Bob Dylan, John Coltrane, Billie Holiday, Loretta Lynn, Chuck Berry, Hank Williams, Aretha Franklin, Jack White, Dr. Dre. That is the American Character.  That is Johnny Appleseed.

At last year’s MusicCares tribute to Bob Dylan, Jimmy Carter said, “There’s no doubt that his words of peace and human rights are much more incisive and much more powerful and much more permanent than any president of the United States.”  I believe that is undeniable.

That’s who the artists are. We can’t forget that.

So, in conclusion, there is this sense that the technocrats are saying, “Look, we’re just going to go ahead and do this, and we’ll sort it all out later.” As they did with the atom bomb.

As artists, it is our responsibility to sort it out now.

Barnett Newman said, “Time passes over the tip of the pyramid.” By that he meant that there is a lot of room at the bottom of the pyramid to put things, but that as time passes, gravity washes them down into the sand. But if you put something right on the tip of the pyramid, it stays there.

We aspire to put things on the tip of the pyramid. That is our preference- our prefered medium.

Digital is not an archival medium.

Technology is turning over every ten years. Their technologies don’t and won’t last.

Our art — if we do it right — will.

T Bone Burnett
AmericanaFest Keynote Address
21 September 2016

Something Very Close To Egomania

April 22, 1958
57 Perry Street
New York City

Dear Hume,

You ask advice: ah, what a very human and very dangerous thing to do! For to give advice to a man who asks what to do with his life implies something very close to egomania. To presume to point a man to the right and ultimate goal — to point with a trembling finger in the RIGHT direction is something only a fool would take upon himself.

I am not a fool, but I respect your sincerity in asking my advice. I ask you though, in listening to what I say, to remember that all advice can only be a product of the man who gives it. What is truth to one may be disaster to another. I do not see life through your eyes, nor you through mine. If I were to attempt to give you specific advice, it would be too much like the blind leading the blind.

“To be, or not to be: that is the question: Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles … ” (Shakespeare)

And indeed, that IS the question: whether to float with the tide, or to swim for a goal. It is a choice we must all make consciously or unconsciously at one time in our lives. So few people understand this! Think of any decision you’ve ever made which had a bearing on your future: I may be wrong, but I don’t see how it could have been anything but a choice however indirect — between the two things I’ve mentioned: the floating or the swimming.

But why not float if you have no goal? That is another question. It is unquestionably better to enjoy the floating than to swim in uncertainty. So how does a man find a goal? Not a castle in the stars, but a real and tangible thing. How can a man be sure he’s not after the “big rock candy mountain,” the enticing sugar-candy goal that has little taste and no substance?

The answer — and, in a sense, the tragedy of life — is that we seek to understand the goal and not the man. We set up a goal which demands of us certain things: and we do these things. We adjust to the demands of a concept which CANNOT be valid. When you were young, let us say that you wanted to be a fireman. I feel reasonably safe in saying that you no longer want to be a fireman. Why? Because your perspective has changed. It’s not the fireman who has changed, but you. Every man is the sum total of his reactions to experience. As your experiences differ and multiply, you become a different man, and hence your perspective changes. This goes on and on. Every reaction is a learning process; every significant experience alters your perspective.

So it would seem foolish, would it not, to adjust our lives to the demands of a goal we see from a different angle every day? How could we ever hope to accomplish anything other than galloping neurosis?

The answer, then, must not deal with goals at all, or not with tangible goals, anyway. It would take reams of paper to develop this subject to fulfillment. God only knows how many books have been written on “the meaning of man” and that sort of thing, and god only knows how many people have pondered the subject. (I use the term “god only knows” purely as an expression.) There’s very little sense in my trying to give it up to you in the proverbial nutshell, because I’m the first to admit my absolute lack of qualifications for reducing the meaning of life to one or two paragraphs.

I’m going to steer clear of the word “existentialism,” but you might keep it in mind as a key of sorts. You might also try something called “Being and Nothingness” by Jean-Paul Sartre, and another little thing called “Existentialism: From Dostoyevsky to Sartre.” These are merely suggestions. If you’re genuinely satisfied with what you are and what you’re doing, then give those books a wide berth. (Let sleeping dogs lie.) But back to the answer. As I said, to put our faith in tangible goals would seem to be, at best, unwise. So we do not strive to be firemen, we do not strive to be bankers, nor policemen, nor doctors.WE STRIVE TO BE OURSELVES.

But don’t misunderstand me. I don’t mean that we can’t BE firemen, bankers, or doctors — but that we must make the goal conform to the individual, rather than make the individual conform to the goal. In every man, heredity and environment have combined to produce a creature of certain abilities and desires — including a deeply ingrained need to function in such a way that his life will be MEANINGFUL. A man has to BE something; he has to matter.

As I see it then, the formula runs something like this: a man must choose a path which will let his ABILITIES function at maximum efficiency toward the gratification of his DESIRES. In doing this, he is fulfilling a need (giving himself identity by functioning in a set pattern toward a set goal), he avoids frustrating his potential (choosing a path which puts no limit on his self-development), and he avoids the terror of seeing his goal wilt or lose its charm as he draws closer to it (rather than bending himself to meet the demands of that which he seeks, he has bent his goal to conform to his own abilities and desires).

In short, he has not dedicated his life to reaching a pre-defined goal, but he has rather chosen a way of life he KNOWS he will enjoy. The goal is absolutely secondary: it is the functioning toward the goal which is important. And it seems almost ridiculous to say that a man MUST function in a pattern of his own choosing; for to let another man define your own goals is to give up one of the most meaningful aspects of life — the definitive act of will which makes a man an individual.

Let’s assume that you think you have a choice of eight paths to follow (all pre-defined paths, of course). And let’s assume that you can’t see any real purpose in any of the eight. THEN — and here is the essence of all I’ve said — you MUST FIND A NINTH PATH.

Naturally, it isn’t as easy as it sounds. You’ve lived a relatively narrow life, a vertical rather than a horizontal existence. So it isn’t any too difficult to understand why you seem to feel the way you do. But a man who procrastinates in his CHOOSING will inevitably have his choice made for him by circumstance.

So if you now number yourself among the disenchanted, then you have no choice but to accept things as they are, or to seriously seek something else. But beware of looking for goals: look for a way of life. Decide how you want to live and then see what you can do to make a living WITHIN that way of life. But you say, “I don’t know where to look; I don’t know what to look for.”

And there’s the crux. Is it worth giving up what I have to look for something better? I don’t know — is it? Who can make that decision but you? But even by DECIDING TO LOOK, you go a long way toward making the choice.

If I don’t call this to a halt, I’m going to find myself writing a book. I hope it’s not as confusing as it looks at first glance. Keep in mind, of course, that this is MY WAY of looking at things. I happen to think that it’s pretty generally applicable, but you may not. Each of us has to create our own credo — this merely happens to be mine.

If any part of it doesn’t seem to make sense, by all means call it to my attention. I’m not trying to send you out “on the road” in search of Valhalla, but merely pointing out that it is not necessary to accept the choices handed down to you by life as you know it. There is more to it than that — no one HAS to do something he doesn’t want to do for the rest of his life. But then again, if that’s what you wind up doing, by all means convince yourself that you HAD to do it. You’ll have lots of company.

And that’s it for now. Until I hear from you again, I remain,

Your friend,
Hunter

Do The Best You Can

How easy is it to get up in the morning when you know you’re not doing all that it takes?
It’s not very easy at all.
You can just lay there awake thinking ‘Oh, what’s a few more minutes in bed, it won’t matter much anyway.’

Wrong.
It does matter.
It will matter.

Now, how easy is it to get up in the morning when you’re pouring it on?
Doing the best you can.
Anxious to get going.
Make progress toward your dreams.
It’s a whole different story.

When you’re resting to renew your reserves, it’s much easier than resting to avoid your day.
When you’re psyched up and excited for your life.
When you’re excited with what you’ve planned to accomplish for the day.
It’s amazing – you’ll wake up before the alarm clock even tries to startle you awake.

Your successes fuel your ambitions.
Your successes give you extra energy.
Your successes pave the way for more successes.
It’s the snowball effect; with one success you’re excited to meet another.
And another…
And another…

And pretty soon the disciplines that were so difficult in the beginning, the disciplines that got you going are now part of your philosophy.

How do you know when you are successful?
Do you have to be a millionaire?
No.
All we ask of you is that you earn all that you possibly can.

If you earn $10,000 a year and that’s the best you can do – that’s enough.
God and everything else will see to it that you are okay.
The key is to just do the best you can.
If it’s $10,000 a year – wonderful.
If it’s $100,000 a year – wonderful.
If it’s $1,000,000 a year – wonderful.
It doesn’t matter $10,000 a year or $1,000,000 a year.
It doesn’t matter as long as you’ve done the best you possibly can.
Earn the most you possibly can.
Be the most you possibly can.

And here’s why…
The essence of life is growth.
The essence of life is growth.
To do the best you possibly can.

And here’s what’s interesting.
Humans are the only lifeform that will do less than they possibly can.
Humans are the only lifeform that will settle for less.
Every other lifeform except human beings strive to its maximum capacity.

How tall will a tree grow, approximately?
As tall as it possibly can.
You’ve never heard of a tree growing half as high as it could.
No, trees don’t grow half – trees send their roots down as deep as possible, stretch their limbs up as high as possible, produce every leaf possible and every fruit possible.

As a matter of fact, you’ve never heard of a human physically growing half.
We keep growing until we’re done.
Now that’s a part of life that we can’t control.
It’s genetically coded and that’s probably why we keep growing until we’re done.
Because we can’t control that part.
It’s the rest of our growing that we can control.

The growing of our minds.
The expansion of our minds.
That we can control.
And that’s what tends to get away from us.
All lifeforms inherently strive to their max except human beings.
Now why wouldn’t human beings strive to their maximum possibility?

Here’s why:
Because we’ve been given the dignity of choice.
It makes us different than alligators and trees and birds.
The dignity of choice makes us different than all other lifeforms.

And here’s the choice:
To become part of what we could be – enough to get by.
Or to become all that we could be.
My best advice for you is to choose the all.
Earn all you can.
Make all the friends you can.
Read as many books as you can.
Develop as many skills as you can.
See as much as possible.
Do as much as possible.
Make as much fortune as possible.
Give as much away of it as possible.
The max.
There’s no life like it.
I’m telling you, once I got on track, I’ve never looked back.
Take up the challenge, go for it!

Take the best of the two easy’s.
Take the route of “It’s easy to get ahead,” “It’s easy to do all you can,” “It’s easy to succeed,” “It’s easy to have financial freedom,” “The more you do, the more you get.”

So the two primary benefits of positive reinforcement are:
1) To build good habits
2) To create more energy to fuel your ambitions, your desires, your achievements

How can you isolate what’s working for you and what isn’t?
How can you make sure that you are reinforcing your positive disciplines?
Well, if it isn’t apparent, easy to see right away, if what you’re doing is happening in such small increments that you’re not sure that you’re on track, then you need to be writing it down.
You need to keep a journal anyway.
But if you really aren’t sure that what you are doing is making measurable progress, you need to keep a written record.

You need to write down everything that may be relevant in your day:
What you did,
Who you saw,
What you felt,
How it may or may not affect you now and in the future.

The best way to track your activities of the day is to write them down.
The best way to track your activities of the week is to write them down.
The best way to analyze your progress through the year is to have written it down.

Why?

So you can look back back on it.
Because by keeping a written record of your life, you will be more accountable.
By putting in to writing the action steps that you have planned, you will easily see what works and what doesn’t.
Most people just try to get through the day; never writing anything down, never keeping track of their progress along the way, never really knowing if they are doing all they can to reach their goals – to drive their ambition.

But gifted people learn to get from the day.
They don’t let a day end without picking up some valuable experience, some emotional content, some idea that may positively affect their future.
To get the most from a day, to learn the most from a day, you need to be able to reflect on the day.

And how can you reflect on a day unless you record it in history?

Jim Rohn
1930-2009