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Steve Ison
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Steve Ison

7/18/2013 2:28:05 PM ---- Updated 7/18/2013 3:35:19 PM

Joy In Music
I dunno how it is for you,but i was thinking that the music i really love and gravitate toward is because its got an energy n vibe i want to find more in myself..A sense of freedom,joy,magic in life..

As i've mentioned loads before here i've been listening n exploring 60s soul/motown/Girl Group music almost exclusively for nearly 2 years now..
This obsession shows no signs of abating - and i love it just as much now as i did then and it ALWAYS seems to be totally fresh to me..
It gives me the spirit i want to express in my own music..

Its like i'll wake up in the morning -put that music on and it absoloutly energises me and gives me an optimism and kick start to the day..Its filled with life energy.beauty n vitality..

Even if its minor keyed n dealing with heartbreak,loss,tragedy-there always seems to be a sense of joy underpinning it..
An incredibly self-expressive beauty riding beneath it that understands the power of the magical chord change,that recognises the soul in the melody..
The spell of tension n release..
It makes me realise i've got no interest at all in creating music that dosn't have that seed of joy at its source

So much modern music by contrast seems to suck the life energy out of me..Its a draining,tiresome experience listening to it - Like wading thru concrete.....

The miserable navel-gazing self-pity of the modern singer-songwriter,the cheap n nasty opportunism of modern dance pop,the leaden,tired cliched musicality of modern country,the hipper-than-thou sneer of the modern indie-rock band...

The endlessssssss ubiquitous whiny cod-soulin' voices everywhere you frikkin' turn,that loudly proclaim how 'soulful' they are -but sing no soul to me..

So much utterly' joyless music that the modern corporate world celebrates n $$$$fies !

Even a highly creative band like Radiohead,tho i can appreciate the creative spirit and skill they have - there's nothing i want really from that music..It dosn't seem in touch with joy

Its misery mining...Very eloquently n poetically n musically skilfully f'sure -but still fundamentally feeding off misery..

I was thinking how strange it is,that if musics such a Universal thing - and underneath the complexity of our personalities we've all got the same basic needs

We want to experience love-we want to feel more free,inspired -Yet so little modern music seems equipped to feed us in that way


Thats why i have to go back decades to find music that gives me the magic n life energy i need -'cos i can't really get it from modern music

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Bryon Tosoff

7/18/2013 8:52:11 PM

interesting and nicely done Steve, good subject lets just say , everyone is going to view things differently on how music in its various forms styles genres is going to affect our moods feelings and attitude, it is indeed a very powerful medium. thats obvious

A number of years ago I spoke at a music seminar about the way music reflects the state society is in during whatever age you can slice out of it during the course of history.

certainly rap and hip hop has its roots in a unique culture and shows itself accordingly and reflects the nature of societal problems, challenges and situations and those in that mindset are going to express themselves of how they feel through the music they relate to

I admire the whole aspect of rap and hip hop and the people who are able to do it so well. its got great rhythms and incredible works have been done in that genre. I actually dig the way those cats can lay it down so well. its amazing ,to me anyways

lets take the great classical works, some so dark and moody, and others so uplifting and inspiring......all these styles just reflect and show that various mores and attitudes of that age

I think it just comes down to personal taste, another obvious observation. yet the influences you grew up with Steve is where you feel most comfortable and like the way it makes you feel as you said. as it is with every age and people who have sojourned through time and space we call life

I should pull out my lecture and blog it here. I did a lot of research on it. but really dont have a lot of time these days to do much of following the threads here, its summer, tons to do around home and yard.

thanks for your wonderful thoughts, always a worthwhile read



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Steve April

7/19/2013 10:46:02 AM

wonderful Steve...

joy and soulfullness, the heartland of music...

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Tom O'Brien

7/19/2013 12:03:22 PM

Joy! That's the magic that needs to be there. I often wonder why we do music at all. We don't have to to survive. But folks like us feel we do have to. We can't imagine not doing it. It's because it brings us joy.

I've found a radio station where I live that plays all big band and swing-era music and sometimes I imagine being back in the thirties listening to the radio when that's all there was for entertainment. During the great depression of the thirties, the radio was such a source of joy and encouragement. The music was made to make people happy and lift people's spirits in tough times. Today's music doesn't seem to be about that or concerned with that. Some of it is, but much of it is about the singer's ego and about shock value and about making money.

Even the songs about heartbreak have joy in them. I think angst came into the situation along with rock n roll, and joy took a back seat. There is room for angst - I don't think we'd have rock n roll without it, but there's still room for joy. Music hits us deep. I was thinking the other day about why we sing, and I had the idea that maybe when we were more primitive beings we started noticing the sounds we make during orgasm and started to improvise new sounds because of the joy we were feeling. Then we removed it altogether from that arena and started to feel the joy of letting our emotions take us over and we began to sing.

Joy is a strong emotion and we do many things in order to feel it. I get it from writing and performing and feel it from others when they perform. Even when I don't like the style of music, I can still appreciate it if I can feel the joy.

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7/20/2013 12:57:31 PM

This is all so real and on point Steve. Your study of 60’s music is a great statement about the quality of spirit you require from the music you listen to. My PTSD therapist would say: “Your feelings are valid”. For you at least! The emotion that you express when talking about this music shows a deep and abiding love. Yes, there is much joy in the music of that era. What you probably don’t know is that even though the music was filled with joyful spirit, it was born out of sadness, poverty, racism, and the pain of constant struggle. The music was an escape from awfully hard times. I know this because I lived it. Motown gave Black people a voice in a nation that demanded us to be voiceless. So, we sang, danced, did routines, wore the flashy garb with suits, ties, hats and shoes that sparkled like they were sprinkled by the Sun. It was made primarily for us but we watched as the entire nation was enveloped by this hybrid sound that came directly from the Black church. All that was done was the changing of the lyrics and the themes. The joy was there because it could not be separated from its original roots. The Dells, The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, James Brown, The Supremes, Martha and The Vandellas (Martha was a casual acquaintance of mine) Aretha Franklyn and the list goes on and on and on. Almost every single one of those artists came out of the Black church and merged the sound that they grew up on into this new thing that people called soul. Did you ever wonder? How do you suppose that people who were once treated like live stock and property coped with the dire situation of slavery? Music was the key to our survival. In the midst of rotting flesh hanging from a tree, babies being snatched from their mothers arms and sold, beatings, lynchings, torture and pain, we found a way to sooth ourselves by singing, dancing and playing music. It became our spiritual healing. Our Joy! It still is even today.

After slavery there was this great migration to the North and West where we thought the joy of freedom would be waiting. But once there we found the stigma of being Black was still pervasive and poverty became the expected way of life for us. Even though many people in Detroit, Chicago, Philadelphia, New York and Los Angeles found jobs, they were paid far less than their White co-workers. So, just like the slaves use to have prayer meetings in the cotton fields where they rejoiced through music, so, was the Motown sound born. Barry Gordy’s idea was to take this music and market it the way Whites were marketing their music. His focus was on a depressed Black population that needed to be uplifted even after they left church. He put together one really good band and then added a variety of groups and songwriters. At first, Black church groups were thoroughly appalled. They felt that he was taking a sacred music and making it sinful. Ministers were upset to see their best singers leaving church to sing and tour for Motown, Vee-Jay, Philadelphia International (Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff), T-Neck, Sussex (Clarance Avant), Tabu (Clarance Avant), Gamble (Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff), Polydor, Curtom, (Curtis Mayfield) Philly Groove, staxx and so many other Black recording companies that sprang up over night. Most of those companies (including Motown) were eventually gobbled up by big corporate entities like MCA and RCA. The spirit of this music spread like wild fire though. Even groups like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones paid great homage and respect to the pioneers of what has become the legendary music of the 60’s and 70’s. But the real credit should be given to the Black church. It was there that so many great musicians and songwriters were mentored and exposed to “Light” music. Music that was uplifting and magical. But you seldom hear the Black church being given any credit for this music. Now do they want it because it was and often still is considered to be sinful and blasphemous.

Last week my wife and I went to one of our favorite restaurants to have breakfast. This restaurant happens to play nothing but 60’s music. As we sat there eating and listening, we played a game that we play often when we are there. We play name that tune and artist. We both know all those songs. For us it is not just the spirit of the music. It is the nostalgia of hearing the music of our youth. We sat there laughing and singing under our breath so as not to disturb other customers. But it was so joyful and the memories of my youth came flooding back as if I was right back there in South Central Los Angeles doing the Twine, the four corners, the swim, the jerk, the monkey, the gator, the watusi, the skate and the hullgully. Yes, that music brings me so much joy.

I guess the only difference in me and you is that I can identify the DNA of that music in many more modern songs. My wife and I love to listen to today’s Hip-Hop, R&B and Rock because in many ways, it reminds us of the music of our youth. I like to think that my own music has been heavily influenced by the music of my youth. Sure, my instrumentation and chord structures may be arranged differently, but the sound of the past is certainly woven in there and I am moved by the spirit contained just as I was moved by the spirit contained in 60’s and 70’s music. But I have a much different perspective than you. I was there making music in the 60’s. I recognize its spirit even in much of today’s recordings because I was a part (although a very small part) of that musical movement. Sure, corporate entities have bastardized much of today’s music with technology and all. But I believe that you cannot engineer the spirit of the music out. It will always be there. The magic that you speak of did not die after the 60’s and 70’s. An open heart will listen and hear it even in some of the most mundane tracks being forced on our ears. That magic cannot die unless the people who invented it die. We are not dead and we are passing the torch on to the next generation just as our ancestors passed it on to us. The magic is not the music. It is the spirit of the people who create the music. That spirit is as American as Apple Pie. No, they don’t promote the best of the music but it is there. You just have to know where to look for it. I love the past as it is what made me who I am today. But I also love the present and I look forward to hearing the music of the future. I can't wait to hear what comes next. What will be the next hybrid sound out of the sounds of the past? I get excited just thinking about it. I never ever liked being stuck in one thing, one style, one decade, one genre or even one spirit. I correlate that to some of the inmates I once ministered to who were caught up in a time warp. They had been locked up so long that they knew nothing about the world of the present. They were stuck in the past forever. I encourage my students to study the past but to also keep bringing forth their own creations for the future, based on what they have learned from the past. That is what I do. I embrace the past, present and future because it all has its negative's and positives. Such is the universal law. The Yen and Yang of it all. For me, music did not die after the 60’s. For me 60’s music is quite evident in much of today’s music. I am sure that my PTSD therapist would say that “My feelings are valid”. Well, at least they are for me and so many others like me. The real magic is that the magic and joy can never die. Not as long as we keep making it live song after song after song. I find much joy in your music also Steve!

Much Respect

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Steve Ison

7/24/2013 1:31:44 PM

Bryon..I definitely agree with you about the fact music reflects the age we live in..
As we've discussed before -Its a time of worshipping the $$$$ above all else..

Incredibly psychologically skilful corporate capitalism rules the roost - and our lives - making an art form out of exploiting and manipulating our least honourable human traits-Our greed,fear,envy.lust n,love of gossip and titilating triviality..

They get super-rich by cheapening n trashifying our lives !

Music has no place any more for the vast majority in opening their imagination,their hearts and inner life- or liberating them from being slaves to the mundane n meaningless

So yeh,music definitely reflects the age we live in..

Was crying laughing with my mate Harper Stephens in the pub yesterday imagining McDonalds
carving a big "M" "I'm Lovin' It" right across the moon that could be seen big on Earth

Sadly,as ridiculous as it seems -the way things are going -that could actuallly become a reality..

BTW..60s Northern Soul/Motown etc ARN'T the influences i grew up listening to at all..I'm actually too young for that !
Have got into it really seriously over the last couple of years..

"Joy is a strong emotion and we do many things in order to feel it. I get it from writing and performing and feel it from others when they perform. Even when I don't like the style of music, I can still appreciate it if I can feel the joy. "

Yeh Tom..I'm totally the same...Anything that wakes me up abit i'll appreciate -regardless of the style..

Stoneman..Thanx alot for such a great History lesson about the origins of Motown and that the
intensity of feeling and expression that everyone loves in that music comes out of so much pain and suffering cathartically transformed into joy..

Like you, i can recognise the DNA of so much older music in the music of today - but i guess i feel very very differently about it..
Its like in nearly every genre you can think of - they'll take the basic 'sound' of something - lose the 'spirit' of it -or at least water it down massively -polish it up and re-sell it..


So you'll get alot of motown -influenced pop nowadays -but no-ones gonna convince me those songs are as
great as Holland -Dozier-Holland classics like Reach Out I'll Be There or 7 Rooms Of Gloom..

Jimi Hendrix and Peter Green imho are the pinnacle of what could be acheived expressively,soulfully and creatively with the blues...No ones matched that since...

Oasis were huge in the UK in the 90s with an unashamed love and worship of The Beatles -but their music was formulaic n leaden next to the fluidity n inventiveness of the Fab Four..

The cynical cookie-cutter wasteland of modern corporate country was built on the backs of legends like Hank Williams and Johnny Cash -both of whoom i'm sure would be turning in their graves if they could hear how their legacy's been abused..

The worst example i can think of was the way Nickleback stole the basic sound of a great rock band like NIrvana,got rid of all the genuine magic,creativity n spirit- and by thus turdifying n mediocritizing the music, spat it out to make themselves corporate millions

Listening to the old music i love has got absoloutly nothing to do with nostalgia for me..
Its about finding music thats got vitality,magic n presence and feeling the way that wakes me up and make me feel more creative..

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