Randy Granger

Randy Granger
In the Chihuahuan Desert near the Organ Mountains, New Mexico

Thursday, April 15, 2010

How to Shine - "Pura Vida"

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“An activity becomes creative when the doer cares about doing it right, or better” – John Updike

Calling yourself an artist of any kind can seem lofty, almost pretentious. So how do you? I have found that as a musician it is when you don’t settle or compromise in what you are recording or what you present in performance. In other words, someone hears you and knows you cared enough to craft something original and practice it enough that it appears effortless. With so many people able to record onto the laptop domain, burn, design and release a CD today the filter of learning the process of making a record free of mediocrity is gone forever. I receive a butt load of CD’s by flute players for instance with the same cover—some guy, or gal in silhouette and some name like Whispering Canyon Winds. Hey, good for them. But it has been done and done so much so that I don’t listen to a single one out of sheer time. This is not to dismiss anyone for wanting to express. The reason I make light is because you have to know your craft first, work it, test it, pay some dues and then, if you are lucky, create something original and lasting—something with legs as we say. Same is true for writers, poets, artists etc.

What usually accompanies new artists is a manifesto (used in the technical definition) that says something like I don’t create, I channel the art, it has nothing to do with me….I just get out of the way. Recently I heard an interview with Jakob Dylan and Neko Case about a new album. These are two of the best, by any definition, songwriters working today. The interviewer asked how they write songs. Dylan said it is hard, really hard work and that he never knows if another one is coming.  Case said she feels like damaged goods because it takes her so long. The question came up of songsters who channel etc. They both went on a rant about “that is the biggest load of crap” and more. Dylan said he maybe thought it was an excuse for people who didn’t want to take responsibility for their art. That if you don’t like it they had nothing to do with it…in fact they didn’t really like it either. He was being playful of course. His sentiment is one I share nonetheless. I get that many people in my genre have never been musicians before. Awesome. But we, who put in the hours, sacrifice a life of gentle comfort and pretty much put our blood, sweat and spirit into our music feel just as dismissed. But I’m not going to whine here.

What I’ll say instead is an artist cares very much about making what they do transcend. There is something that exists in the pauses of reflection that connects you with every artistic thing ever done. It’s no coincidence that pyramids went up in Egypt, Asia, Central America and other places at the same time. To think we are not connected by a shared experience is a lonely thought I don’t want to entertain. See, when someone tells me they are going a play a song on stage they didn’t practice because they never play the same song twice, they channel it, I am concerned for the audience. Andy Warhol took this idea and played with it. The idea that art is everywhere, on a soup can, in the color separation of prints, on the box of Brilo. Someone designed that. Someone probably Had to care about it.  As I’m recording my newest album I know that every song I’m doing is informed by my cumulative experience. Every lesson, rehearsal, practice and song, film, poem, book I’ve ingested is digested and distilled into a communication of notes and rhythm. And that is exciting. Because only I have my experience as do you your own. This album is a return journey to my roots as a percussionist and singer. I am so excited that I no longer care if I can perform the song live as a solo artist. I’m creating for the ears who will hear this now and eons to come. There is freedom in being unconcerned with genre or expectations. It is Pura Vida, Pure Life which is incidentally the title song. I’ve invited a Mariachi trumpeter to play, a poet to co-write a song, an overtone singer to teach me and so many instruments to support me that I am running out of tracks. I care very much about making this something my nieces and nephews and their grandchildren will be glad to play and say he is our relation, he was a musician, and he was an artist.

“Fly on Home”

1 comment:

Meandering Thoughts said...

Loved your writing.... The song was a beautiful tribute to lost lives........ you are a wonderful gift to the world.