Astute OBSERVATIONS

The musical neighborhood

Crescendo, decrescendo, rubato, desafinado, 1-4-5 in the key of A, 1-6-2-5 turnaround, intro, verse, chorus, bridge, outro. Those are a few words and numbers that are part of the language of music. Popular wisdom says that it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill, 10,000 hours to gather the knowledge. In Aristotelian, that’s 10,000 hours to know the gnosis. You dig what I’m saying? But how does the pupil put that knowledge 
into praxis?
     It’s my column and I’ll wax Hellenic if I want to; I may even wax literary.
     In 1579, my favorite Elizabethan, Sir Phillip Sidney, wrote The Defence of Poesy wherein he asserts that poetry, unlike history, mathematics, or science, presents a picture of what could be and not simply what is. Poetry, unlike those drier disciplines, can teach as well as delight. Poetry takes knowledge and makes something tangible from it. Praxis, if you will. To summarize Sir Phillip, poetry paints a talking picture of truth and beauty.
     In the words of Top 40 radio philosopher Casey Kasem, “Keep your feet on the ground and your head in the clouds.”
     Here in 21st century Inglewood, Music City USA, I, James Haggerty, musician, writing in the music issue of The East Nashvillian magazine, put forth the notion that the talking pictures of poetry have become the singing pictures of song. What are pop songs after all if not poetry set to music? (Of course there is that whole bro country phenomena. I guess some people will never get past the nursery rhyme.)
     The musicians here are blue-collar folks. They are working for a living. It’s not a star trip — it’s a love of and commitment to craft, a strong work ethic, and a desire to make something lasting. You might see your neighbors on The Tonight Show one night. The next night, they’ll be in the club playing different songs on another gig.
     To be able to make music in this town with some of the best musicians playing today blows my mind. The scene we have going on in East Nashville right now is the stuff that gets written about in history books.
     The spirit of creativity and inspiration is alive and thriving in our community. That’s one of the things that make our neighborhood truly special. It’s an oasis in the desert of a world gone mad. I can check the stress and lose myself in the joy of creativity. I can get together with my friends and work on songs; try to craft the perfect bass part. I can connect to the long history of Nashville music-making and try my best to make a contribution to that rich fabric. In the midst of the psychedelic nightmare of this election cycle, I can go out and play a gig in the neighborhood and restore my faith in humanity.
     A bunch of music geeks have everything they need to make the thing they love, and there is an audience that wants to hear it. The days of big budgets and corporate largesse have come and gone. The wheat has been separated from the chaff. Since there’s no one to sell out to, we get to make the music we want to make, and we get to live the life we love. Like my man Sir Phillip said, paint a picture of truth and beauty. To me, that is the essence of our scene.   
     You walk into the coffee shop and overhear a conversation about which vacuum tubes create the best tone in a Fender amp. People here know what pulling out all the stops really means (type “Hammond B3” into your search engine of choice). Around here, music is a living, breathing, foot-stomping, joyful noise, and to top it all off, we have two new commercial-free radio stations! There’s a renaissance going on. Dig in!