The Eternal Cow of Music: marinades, metaphors, and music
For many years now, my mother’s family has run a cattle ranch in the East Kootenays. Though the B-E Ranch has afforded many opportunities to be around cows, I still don’t know that much about them. Beef, however, and especially its value when in proximity to a barbeque, is something I do know a little about. What, I’m sure you’re all asking, does this have to do with music? I’m getting to that.
FACT: a good chef can make any cut of beef taste good.
FACT: a bad cook can destroy a tenderloin roast.
FACT: musicians are either good chefs or bad cooks.
FACT: all music is a steak, cut from The Eternal Cow of Music.
Because music comes from the same place, The Eternal Cow of Music, there really is no new or original music. Therefore, the quality of music is in how well it is served, i.e. a good or bad steak.
Even though we are discussing The Eternal Cow of Music, I’m going to beat this lousy metaphor like a dead horse ((Jesus, am I fired yet? Would you believe I teach kids to write?)
French poet, Arthur Rimbaud, once said something to the effect that until we discover/create a new language, nothing original can be written. He was right; however, he was also a damn good poet. Likewise, there is no original music (any “original” composition is merely a new garnish, placed on the “music steak’s” plate in an aesthetically pleasing manner).
Some bands are mind-numbingly good. Some bands are great to watch. Some bands suck. This is just the way that it is. But a lot of musicians serve music well. They take their selected cut from The Eternal Cow of Music and serve it to the public. In this sense, and looking towards Pop Music, Justin Timberlake is a good chef. He can take music of little or no substace or value and present it in a pleasing manner. Someone like Michael Buble on the other hand, takes the tried and true legacy of the velvet voiced crooner and soaks it in ketchup.
Currently in Vancouver we have bands like The Jolts, The Hotel Lobbyists, No Horses, and The Stumbler’s Inn (a miniscule cross-section of a huge scene) whose music can be traced back to an older style. The music itself is not %100 original but they play it so damn well that it can only be enjoyed with great passion. They are by no means knock-offs or a tribute/cover band (tribute/cover bands being, according to the current meat metaphor, the equivalent of the people who print the menus for The Keg). Essentially, it’s like almost any other job. Most jobs are done to the tried and true standards of the past. How well one does their job according to those standards is how they are judged as a worker.
This inability to achieve true originality is not to be lamented though. Sex has been done the same way for centuries and we all appreciateexpertise in that ancient art. Today’s musicians and bands work furiously from old recipes, updating them, adding new spice, experimenting with new ingredients. I can think of one performance I saw recently that left me with the distinct impression of having drawn from over 10 musical sources. This is not to say that it was wholly unoriginal or derivative, but I would have loved to rifle through their record collection because I am sure it was a good one.
In the end, it is simply a case of recognizing the value of a good steak and the ability to respect a good chef when you hear one.