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What is it we love about music?



For the Monitor
Thursday, January 11, 2018

I’ve spent the past five years asking hundreds of questions to hundreds of musicians from around the Granite State about their music: about how they created it and made it rise from the ashes of a single idea. Many great talks, many inspiring people.

But, you know what? Enough is enough!

Now, I want to hear from both musicians and music lovers about their expectations, their own debt towards the music. What is their role as an audience member? Where does music rank in their life? What do they expect out of a performance after paying to see a show? Jive like that.

Indeed, I see them out there in the clubs, at the bars, theaters, driving in their cars. These music freaks that can’t operate without some form of music pulsating through their heads, their hearts, their minds. I’m one of them. The rabid and timid, the raunchy and refined, the night crawlers and the front porch music lovers, all gathered as one, basking in the beauty of it all.

Yet, as I write Monday night, and the dark wall of winter has taken my soul. Lethargy has swallowed me whole, weighing me down with heavy fish hooks from the wrists. So, I decided to blast a post out on Facebook and see what random music fanatics have to say about the current state of music in their lives and around the state.

Lazy man’s version of reporting.

Many of these hounds of sound, I bet, were probably listening to music when the post arrived – washing dishes, driving from work, pounding iron at the gym. Or, maybe, simply doing bills at a kitchen table, shuffling back and forth from the stove, cooking a hot dish or stacking inventory as they fake playing sax to a Thelonious Monk song.

The response was modest, to say the least, but not the talent who answered the call of duty. Not in the least. Solid correspondence, delivered with thought and candor. Exactly what you’re looking for as the freeze settles into your backbone.

Raf Ster from the Campton area, was the first to weight in, and that’s a great place to start. Ster isn’t just a highly respected musician from the trio, The MidWeeklings. He foremost is a stone cold music junkie. Music ranks third on his list of importance in his life, Ster wrote.

This ranking, I learned, is a reoccurring standing. After health and safety for friends and family, there’s the music. Not sex, not money, not a bigger yard. Music. Not bad.

Jeff Murray from the Bay State got in on the action, and I was happy to see that. I haven’t laid eyes on this old friend from my hometown in 30 years. Heck of a ballplayer, this I remember. And, beyond dampening nearly every aspect of our self-being, Facebook is great for figuring out who is listening to what kind of music, and where they’re seeing it be played live.

Murray, like Ster, is a musician, a rock ’n roll bass player, and music encompasses him. He puts a lot into the music, dedicates vast amounts of time listening and noodling with music, building towards a rhythm, some great expectation. This, I gather. Like I said, it’s been 30 years.

Murray wrote of his role as an audience member: “To be open to receive what is being gifted to you. It’s the ultimate form of communication. And to stay off the damn cell phone!” Here, here.

He’s right. Where is anyone perfect in our passions? A musical performance has many phases, good and bad. It either builds, or it doesn’t. It usually does. And it’s up to us, as audience members, to find that sweet spot within any performance and make it work for us. We wait patiently for those moment to arrive, when pitch and instinct take over on stage, and maybe for just an instance, for just a few ticks off the clock, she will arrive, and within that moment is where your heart will skip a beat.

A wonderful female artist from the Lakes Region named Erika Cushing Benton added to the thread with this: “To be attentive ... to offer a smile when you are moved ... to dance when your body can’t help it ... to allow yourself too be connected to the music and set everything else aside.”

Benton is exactly right. I don’t go to a show to feel like I do on a Tuesday night. I go for that Friday feel, that Saturday Night Fever, to offer a smile to any connection the music is willing to create.

The wildest of all rovers, Brain Doehner, from Manchester, isn’t just a music fan, he’s a lover of sound. And he doesn’t ask much out of the musicians other than this: “Competence in your abilities. Being able to discern the audience mood on what’s working.” Doehner wants to be moved. Someone, shake his hips. Knock his socks off.

Ster, again, helped to knock some of the molding off the Monday blues by offering this lovely tidbit to end the thread. He’s seems to be pleading almost, more than willing to be inspired, ready to take on whatever spell they have hiding in their voices, in those instruments, that the music is willing to cast upon him.

“Turn me on and convince me that you absolutely believe in what you’re trying to do (even if that’s just tonight),” he wrote.

Exactly.

(Rob Azevedo can be reached at onemanmanch@gmail.com.)