Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Operant Instrumental

Good time with Snakey at Sir Johnny's last night. Hard core international mountain biker. Great Walls. Greater Falls. Shit load of Balls.

One night long ago, on the other side of the bosphoric bridge, as everyone waited for their shawarmas, Cousine's girlfriend got into a shit talking session with a local professional. When the situation began to escalate, in rushed the pimp. Snakey, a patient and pragmatic intellect, casually stepped into the fray, and after a brief flurry of activity, the local administrator's upper lip parted in a Red Sea of blood. The cops threw him into the cruiser, nodded at Snakey and sent everyone on their way. Such was, and undoubtedly still is, Snakey. Musician, engineer, loyal friend.

Got home late, but had to get up early. Day of the Dentist, rated R.

After a look at the various instruments of torture laid out before me, I quickly realized that it definitely wasn't going to be Safe. Or Secret. Too many people walk around with teeth that have permanently plunged into Gollumnic territory. I knew something needed to be done.

Speaking of tools, the Strombo Show last week was all about the best vocalists/frontmen in contemporary music, taking the band as the organizing principle. Why does instrumental music not get its 2-part series? Are we so hung up on vocal accompaniment, on hearing the human voice, that we can't regularly enjoy extended sequences of intricate instrumental sound that has the aesthetic qualities that move us in one direction or another. Are we operantly conditioned to listen for the voice? For the story? For the parable? For the reference? Is the rule of metaphor so limited? Can't music itself be referential? Can't it nod and challenge?

Not to suggest that the qualities of lyricism and narrative are lost on me. And I certainly like my great frontmen/frontwomen as much as the next music lover. For every Buckley (pere et fils), there are those who sound so bad they're untenably good. God bless Neil. Others insist on providing vocals when the music sells itself. Sorry Les.

But isn't that just it? The music.

So yeah, thankfully we've got Jimi and Jack. Morrissey and Maynard. Roger and Rivers. Ian and Ian. Plant and Page (not that one).

"Instrumental music", as poor a term as it is, spans all the contemporary genres, save for country and folk music. Then again, I learn something new every day. But you'll rarely hear an instrumental track on a radio station (that doesn't focus on jazz or classical).

Beyond the obvious problem of track length, does the lack of vocals initiate an attention deficit? Are audible explosions or a massive vocal attack necessary? What does it take for respect, for people to give a hoot about it? At the very least, can't it be washed down with an antacid?

Goodspeed to you all. Go out into the world and do, make, say, and think.


  1. Thanks for reminding me I got to see the dentist at the end of the month. Already I'm steeling up my courage. Why not do an intrumental piece with dental instruments?

  2. Eno is the Uno. Good stuff. You'll have to bring this Snakey fellow out for some libations. Point well taken about instrumental music. I'm thinking Eno, Brian Eno.


  3. You tell a fine tale - pepto bismal and gingerale = the Smiths Falls Double Fist.