Sunday, July 19, 2009

The essential spirit of dancing

Dancing, when it's great (when it's really great), can be the spiritual experience of what would fall under the rubric of an 'altered state of consciousness'. In anthropological terms, where the study of these states has been most fully described, an altered state occurs either through the ingestion of some form of alterant (stimulants, depressants, psychotropics, narcotics, chemicals of any kind) or through the natural alteration of the state of consciousness from the resting state through either sensory experience or movement or, most likely, both.

In the spiritual rituals of pre-industrial life, where some form of dance was almost universally found, these kinds of alterations were common, although most often most intensely for the shamans themselves (a role that was filled by both men and women depending on the historical context of the society). Still, dancing has been in most places a huge, at least, prehistorical part of the spiritual order. Not so much anymore.

The best music has been secular for quite some time. Jazz, blues, rock'n'roll, etc. The places where you go to see this music performed are not really what you might call holy. Dingy would be an often times more accurate description. The level of expected spiritual experience is low. That's not to say that it's not spiritual to see music. It may just be that you don't categorize it that way. You don't necessarily call this experience spiritual but music takes its effect one way or another.

Music has also long through prehistory and into the historical period been associated, indeed an integral part, with the search for the spirit. And it still holds that place in society, just in a labeled secular way. What I'm scratching at is the fact that this label, although not capable of truly dampening entirely the spiritual nature of the musical experience, can indeed redirect the thinking and therefore some of the mental organizations can get goofy. I would say modern society causes some goofs in the averaged mental organizations of individuals in relation to lots and lots of things. Still, just because the institutional organization of religious life historically got really corrupted in the West doesn't mean that spiritual experience is no longer valid or useful. The discarding of the spiritual with the religious is foolish. Baby and the bath water and all that.

We need to reclaim the spirit. From the evangelists and religionists, from the new age spiritualists, and the economists (who subsitute money in place of that feeling of spirit?), Marxists and Troksyites, from the ward heelers and politicos; reclaim it for ourself. For our own individual experience. Bring that spirit back and let it fill the passageways of the soul, drowning out hatred, evil, and misdeeds.

And then let the music overfill those now love/spirit filled passages. Dance to that music and find new mountainous peaks in the spirit climb of the soul. Reacclimate to the shifted perspective of a spiritual life, and reorient the self in a spiritual, therefore altruistic way. That's, I guess, sort of the idea. Or something.

Schopenhauer, that wild and love addicted philosopher, believed true morality could not exist as long as any self-pride (or, more modernly, ego) was left in the self. Part of getting over this, in his system, was to get past the fact of mortality, and part of way to do this was through other identification. Another part was through the experience of music. I don't think Schop talked about dancing, but I'm getting my stuff on him second hand from Joe Campbell; so, my analysis is a little lacking.

The point was music unlocks the cage of the spirit, and dance lets that spirit ride on the currents of wind through the clouds of the self and mind. It fills the self, allowing consciousness to shine its bright light into ever corner of the brain and soul. And that's a good thing to have happen. I try to dance every day. Lately, I dance a lot every day. It makes me feel the spirit all the way to the edge of my skin, all the way through my self. So, there you have it.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

On the Black Sand

Sometime in '07 I discovered Rilo Kiley. At that time, I used to read the Boston Globe cover to cover five days a week, and the record review of Under the Blacklight must've really piqued my interest 'cause I went out and bought that album and proceeded to listen to the shit out of it for months. And saw them perform. And it was awesome.

Fast forward to last week. Jenny Lewis was at the renovated Avalon over by Fenway, now the House of Blues (with attendant bathroom attendants). Her solo stuff is more countrified, more rock-a-billy-ized, but her devastating songwriting remains. The new renovations and chainization are a just a shade on the tacky side, but the stage has been opened up and widened, and the dance floor's been replaced with a really nice schall (sic?) or something. Everything was in place.

A bunch of Lewis' bandmates opened the show with a low key set of really wide ranging stuff. The bassist had glasses the size of a pocket dictionary. They were huge and square. Their set was a foot tapper. As my friend said, they grew on me.

Deer Tick, now, was just exo-super-awesome. They've got this whole alt-country thing going on with just a sprig of southern rock in there. I said a softer edged Drive-By Truckers. The review in the Globe went with a straight comparison to 'Uncle Tupelo-era Jay Farrar' (why he would exclude Jeff Tweedy I don't know). Either way it kind of works. Also, the lead singer did a solo song with a harmonica rack. A harmonica rack! That, to me, qualifies every time as awesome. And closed with La Bamba. And did this really killer cover of John Cougar's Authority Song.

But Lewis. So talented. Such a good band she's got with her. What pipes that woman has. What a voice. It's like some kind of doppel-angel with those lyrics. Not really, but sort of. The show was also really well paced, with a quiet moment here with Lewis alone on guitar, a frenetic moment there what with that See Fernando opener.
I feel so comfortable with her music in movement (probably because I've livingroom danced to all her albums an uncountable number of times). There were a few moments, like Jack Killed Ma and the ending drum duet, when I was transcending myself, when my self was becoming lost in the movement of the music. Needless to say, I danced my ass off. It was an intensity to be sure.

And as a postscript mental note: I know that dancing and drinking don't mix. Why must I consume large quantities of beer before doing my wildman thing? It hurts really bad the next day now that I'm older. I mean really bad. Aching bones and hangovers all at the same time are really crappy. Take note of this for future reference (we'll see how that goes).

Friday, May 22, 2009

Back at it, sorta

So, I've been conditioning a little. Running, dancing, calthesthenicizing (sic), the usual nonsense. Just gave up the ghost on the dancefloor. I was down in the groove on the latter half of Dar Williams' most recent album and was just flailing and turning like a wildman. And I didn't have the strength or the wind to maintain it or really get the center involved w/ the flailing limbs.
It's gonna be a while. Being older is not as fun as you always think it will be when you're younger. Not that 31 was ever the ideal age I was seeing in my imagination as a mal-adapted teenager. I always saw 25, 26. Those were the ages, and they were good ages for me, if busy and ultimating a little chicken-with-his-head-cut-offish. But I digress.
I was talking about music. To me, music is often about movement, but I do at times appreciate music as music sine qua non. I bet I used that wrong. I'm only 75% on that one. I don't remember the direct latin translation. The thing alone, maybe. I don't really know. I try to pretend, but in the end...
I should dance somemore. And maybe go for a run. No, definitely. Definitely run. Maybe. Can't stay here with this computer in my lap, as much as I like to ramble with my fingers across keyboards, sometimes. Like I said, back at it, sorta.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

getting back that elusive groove freak

I've been negligent in my off season conditioning. It's the sad fact. I've got at least twenty pounds to drop if I want to get anywhere close to the place where I'll have the ability to dance like I know I'm capable of. That's about to seriously take a U-turn. My love of dance beats out anything else, especially the imm. grat. of unhealthy food and a weak conditioning program.
So, I am working diligently at this stage to get some stuff up, here and at vimeo, but currently there's a certain tension in my dance, and a subtltly that is not easily captured on film.
But I will post soon, even if it's just stuff to rag on myself about, which I will do because I will include a self-deprecating and mostly just cracking on my self kind of audio commentary that will be available with the performances.

Just pulled a ticket stub out of the pack from last year, and it was Bebel Gilberto at the Paradise Rock Club. The show was last August, and I went just on the strength of her musical pedigree. It was about the second or third show I'd been out to since I'd return to Boston. But she drew me in instantly, and I was slinking, gliding, and deeply feeling the music, letting a deep listening to the words and music as a way of then translating that deep hearing into kinetic movement, trying really to represent the music that, at its best, flows through you.

It was definitely hot and tight. And her Japanese guitarist husband, was something to behold.
Something in deed.
I've got one month to Deer Tick, and Jenny Lewis. that's one month to restore my serious scedule of eating properly and excerising intensely, and constantly dancing with a wild abandon.

Monday, April 27, 2009

asleep at the wheel

So, I didn't get so very far with my attempt to recall and ancedotalize the various concerts I went to last year, or this year for that matter. Actually, I haven't been to a show since, I believe, Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles at Johnny D's, which was many months ago. The show was fantabulous, but it is and will always be wierd being the first person to start dancing. I love dancing way more than I care if I look like a complete idiot (I think that one goes without saying), so I just wiggled my way to the front where all the room inevitably is at bar shows like this one.
I can't really figure out if that's a courtesy to those who want to dance or what it is, but there's always this big gap right at the front when bands play bars.
Yes, I was totally self conscious for almost the entire show. I have to constantly make sure I'm not taking more space than is available or am just pissing someone off, which I always feel like I am. It's still not enough for me to keep the freak down. I just gotta throw my freak down as hard as is feasible and physically possible. Some people were built for comfort. Some people were built for speed. Me, I'm built to freak it on a dancefloor like no other man or woman alive.
And I'll take the pepsi challenge against ballerinas and nationally televised dance competition winners. I'll take it against those fools from the step up to the streets shiite, at least if we get in front of a live band and freak it off the cuff.
I might not take it against the original breakers from NYC back in the 70ies and early 80ies, but I'll go head to head with anyone on a dance floor with a live band. The band is the crucial element. Because my dancing is what I call proactively reactive dance and isn't dramatic or performative. I'm responding instantly and spontaneously to the music as it's happening. Not performing a prechoreographed routine. It's admittedly a very different skillset, and the one thing that I have that most dancers don't is an exceptionally interconnected auditory cortex and sensorimotor cortex, which means that the sounds are being directly translated into movement without the intermediation of the neocortical rational processes.
I can respond almost instantly (assuming good health and cardiovascular strenght and not too much alcohol) to the sounds in the form of movement. There was a time when I went to shows at least once a week, back when I lived in Memphis and there was good, cheap music just about every day of the week. And there was a time during that time, I think it only happened once, one night, but I could literally hear all the different musicians individual contributions individually and respond kinetically to all of them at the same time using various parts of the body. It was an intensity I hope to someday recapture.
First and fore most I gotta get my sorry ass back in shape. Right now I would imagine one good drum solo and I'd be all done. It's time to reclaim my abilities and take them to the next level.
Oh, and yes I have been keeping a video journal of the process of bringing dance into the home and working with choreography and whatnot, but the results are just too embarassing right now to post. Once I've got myself solid, in shape, and really kinestetically aware and able to use that awareness to create...I don't actually know what my goals are in bringing this style of dancing into the performative realm.
I do know that dancing can unlock emotional and spiritual experiences that most people have no idea even exist. True exstatic (sic?) dancing is like no other experience in the world. It truly unlocks potential creative forces I never would've guessed were there. I'm sure there are plenty of experiences that I've never had that others would say are must haves, but I think this is different. This is about reconnecting with the spirit in a way that infuses the whole body with an intense sense of meaning, purpose, and pure spirit. I know that sounds all hippy dippy, but just look for a second. What organized religions use dance as an intrical part of their worship, not many. Now how many of the pre-industrial non-western societies use it? Almost all of them. And who is it that's hijacking the planet? Well, maybe not just the organized religions, but there's an important point in there. I've just gone way to far in a blog entry to try and get any farther at it.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Reciting the makings of you

It's quite the thing how context can define music. Recently, I commented here on the intensity of the dancistic qualities of Curtis Mayfield's, Curtis. I'm now simply listening to the album, and although as I write this the intensity of polyrythmic explosions are building, there is such a clear and powerful message contained in the music through the blazing interrelations of lyrics and sonicality.
"We people who are darker than blue
don't let us hang around this town
and let whatever they say come true
we're just good for nothing, they will figure
a boy's grown up, a shiftless jigger
Now we can hardly stand for that
or is that really where it's at
Pardon me brother, while you stand in yr glory
I know you won't mind, if I tell the whole story
Pardon me brother, I know we've come a long, long way
but let us not be so satisfied, for tomorrow can be a...
an even brighter day"-Curtis Mayfield; Curtis, We the People Who Are Darker Than Blue

These lyrics encapsulate a place where the mind and body can converge into a deeper understanding of the human condition, and they also clearly relate to me personally how easy it is to simply intake one small aspect of reality. I'm bridging here beyond simply music, but it occurred to me that when I was simply trying to dance as exercise in possibly building towards a place where I could daily intake the spiritual extasy of movement as meditation, I was missing a crucial element of the power of music, which can be to bring together wild bodily intonations with the 'rational' as we (I) discover the convergence of that intense experience that is powerfully lost movement with the neocortical flashes of understanding that accompany the Samadhi experience. It's all about harmony or, as a neuropsychologist might say, expanding gamma sychrony (high level correspondence of electrical brainwaves in the various systems and sub-systems of the brain).
My pet theory is that in this state of internal, mental resonance we (maybe just me) filter out less of what we don't want to hear or are not capable of fully understanding, and we (again I'm just generalizing because I'm a philosopher at heart) open our minds to the Daoistic formless form, which is simply the no chaser reality where judgements are just impediments.
Ultimately what I'm trying to say is: Know yr own filter and don't be afraid to get meta with yr mind.
"Familiar music, familiar sound
Does mute your thoughts...for the underground
Lonely sight, for any turning light
Future prophesy...for the mask you see"-Curtis Mayfield;Curtis, Underground (Demo Version)

Saturday, March 29, 2008

At the High-tone Cafe

I've been running with a nostalgic reminiscence across the far reaches of my own personal blogfolio, and I thought I'd make it the clean sweep. So, this is a story about a show at the High-Tone Cafe, a hip little spot in Midtown Memphis, at a time in my life when I was as outgoing as I would ever be.

At the time, I had just recently forgot to take my ATM card with me after taking my cash and my reciept, and so had no access to actual cash, only the plastic kind. I had a few bucks, which is usually enough for the minimal cost of entrance to the various musical extravanganzas that are the weekend glory of Memphis town. Unfortunately, the one I was aiming at was not the usual local fair. Neko Case was coming through town and charging eighteen dollars a head.
Not to be dissuaded, I spent about thirty minutes at the Circle K next door convincing various patrons to give me cash in exchange for the use of my plastic money, so I could make it through the door of the Hi-Tone. It took some doing, even with the favorable rate of exchange I was offering. People are generally wierd about such things outside the bounds of their normal non-triangular money exchanges, but enough customers were heading next door and so wanted to help a fellow music lover in his pursuit of the experience of it live.
After finally gathering up enough actual cash money for my entrance, I headed back to the Tone feeling truimphant and ready. A quick beer at the bar and a hello or two to some casual acquaintances was enough to pass the time before the show got underway. Neko Case is just lovely and a towering inferno of country-tinged beauty, and after the first set I was half full of a spirit of desire and turning.
At the time I was doing some intensive studying of microsociology and would extoll the virtues of Goffman, Mead, and Collins at the veritable drop of the veritable hat. It was just a quiet coincidence that the couple to my left were both graduated sociologists, and we excitedly engaged our concordant love of the field; A nice moment between strangers.
The second set interrupted our delighted conversation and erupted with the downbeat buzz of all that is great about alt-country. The pedal steel intertwined with the expanding plain of her voice was the spiritual most, and I just died with the savage wonder of it all. After the show, I went out and off down the streets singing at the top of my lungs some lunatic nothings that sprouted up from my brain. When I got home, I wrote this:
A Slight History of Music, which I pimped to associated content for four short dollars for no apparent reason a year or so ago. Forgive the excessively muddled grammar and meanings in the piece, it was written in a windstorm and published in a sandstorm.