Wednesday, June 02, 2010

We Wear The Music

We wear our music. That’s all that we are really interested in, what our music looks like. How it sounds is secondary. Fashion is the most important element of music at this moment. Its faciomusica coadunatio. At my high school everyone wanted a green Mohawk. Everyone wore studded leather belts and bracelets and died their hair and pierced anything they could and held their clothing altogether with rows of shiny safety pins. Hardly anyone liked to listen to Punk Rock, but everyone wanted to look like it. One boy arrived at our school dressed in all black. He had been imported straight from Los Angeles and his hair too was long and raven hued. He wore Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails and Type O Negative T-shirts. I bought albums based purely on the way he looked, and listened to them with religious fervor, waiting for my own hair and nails and lips to turn black, even though I disliked some of the music more than not. I had a serious case of faciomusica coadunatio.
My understanding of this condition is limited to my own experience with it. The truth is that my hair, lips, and nails never turned black. I never put on a Skinny Puppy tee shirt. Hell, I never even got out of my orange polka dots and electric green paisley prints and into a nice black tee shirt, until I managed to hook up with a guy who was wearing one. Then I wore his. The truth is that listening is not something we humans do well. It requires attention, a sort of non-animal interest, and we are most thoroughly animals. Being social animals we have an overwhelming need to be accepted, to fit in. Fitting in is crucial for animals. For example I once had a hen that killed every black chick that hatched in her nest and spared only the two that were yellow like her. We humans are the same way. We look for visual cues to signify for us whether or not someone is one of our kind. Image is crucial. Being highly adaptive we have developed fashion, which is a method for disguising our true ambiguous nature so that we can fit neatly into a particular clan of humans.
You can look at our clothes and see who we want you to think we are.
“I listen to country.” Means I am a good old American Christian guy or gal. I say this with a pair of blue jeans, with a big belt buckle, with boots and a hat.
“I listen to rap.” Means I’m the bad ass urban outlaw and hustler. I say this with gold chains and baggy pants and shiny new sneakers.
“I listen to Rock.” Means I’m the jaded “not quite all American” that feels a little snobbish about that not quite part but is still fairly protective of the All American. I say this with frayed or torn blue jeans and T-shirt.
“I listen to Alternative” means I am way too snobbish for the glorified country twang that passes for rock, I might even be a communist if that pisses you off.
Punk = I don’t care what you think or how many times I get punched.
Jazz = I’m thoughtful, possibly educated and I like coffee and rainy afternoons.
Classical = I’m very thoughtful, I love the arts, I think global and buy specialty shoes and sometimes have my pants tailored.
There are greater and greater levels of subtlety that might be explored, but it is all a complete ruse. We may or may not be those things we want you to think we are, but we have become adepts at the art of faciomusica coadunatio.
Now buying a shirt or pair of pants is the same as buying music. You can even buy shoes and get a free song on some web sites. The song is like a breath mint offered to you after your dinner. Clever musicians, aware that music should be free, have found a way to slip it in with our habit for primping our image. Like Mary Poppins, they realized that “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.” With faciomusica coadunatio, you can fuss about with your image and get some music without noticing.
We wear the music when perhaps we should let the music wear us. We should let it flow through us and move our bodies, minds and spirits wherever it wills, unimpeded by our monkey brains. The real is there, existing despite the genres and social implications. Nothing is the way it appears. Eyes lie, and so many organisms have learned to turn that fact to their advantage, developing camouflage so that they won’t be eaten by larger organisms. Knowing this, we should go forward accepting that what we see is not what we get. If we open our hearts and listen there is so much more to music than the way we look when we hear it.

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