After my protracted CD Release/Promo Campaign, I find myself creatively drained, waiting for the well to fill up again.
Whatever starts those juices flowing again, one never knows what it will be: a good read, a special gig (like the Mayday Pitbull Rescue benefit I just played) …a vacation, or maybe just time. (Time enough to get utterly bored and sick with your idle self.)
Last Saturday, I was moved by a visit to The Musical Instrument Museum, in Phoenix.
If this place doesn’t inspire you, you’re heart has hardened to its core. This is Tony Bennett’s favorite museum in the world. (When it comes to all things musical, you can count on Tony Bennett’s opinion as God’s final word.) Carlos Santana, who is featured in a display, is overwhelmed by it.
The place is huge, exhibiting the music of the entire world–thoroughly and in depth, with reverence and affection for all cultures. With your headset on, you walk through several gigantic rooms–one for each continent–listening to incredible music from all over in the world. Each and every country–even those smaller European nations recently re-partitioned after the break up of the Soviet Union–has its own booth, with video and signage explaining its culture, history, and the engineering of its instruments. This place is a geography and anthropology lesson through music.
When I talk of being inspired, I don’t mean that I am merely enhanced, intellectually, by introduction to unfamiliar and obscure musical forms. I mean that my very soul is touched, swollen with emotions.
As you take in each country, one-by-one, you can’t help think about the human connectedness that defies the boundaries on the map. Moving from Central to North Africa, you witness similar instruments, similar sounds–gradually changing as you head towards the Middle East. Turning East towards India and the Orient, and it changes further, retaining vestiges of what you left behind in Africa. Or continue North, to those “Stan” nations, and to the Himalayas, and the Mongolian Steppe, and hear high mountain jamming Asian style. Or go West, and hear those exotic sounds mutated into Eastern European style among Mediterraneans, Slavs and Czechs, and Gypsies and Balkans.
These micro-thin common threads running through our musical DNA are unmistakable. Back in Africa room, I watched video after video of desert-dwelling and bush-dwelling virtuosos picking handcrafted stringed instruments; I knew I was listening Appalachian banjo-picking. Paste 300-year-old Scottish, Irish & Welsh folk tunes onto African banjo meditations, and you end up with Ralph Stanley.
Let’s face it, music has always been way ahead of us.