Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Try to Follow Along

Just Yes. 
I feel like I had a pretty eclectic musical upbringing. I started out being heavily influenced by the founders of Rock n Roll and Pop Rock (AKA the oldies station my parents liked). Then, the 80s digitized my fancy into the age of electronica, and the 90s, while destroying Rock N Roll forever, will always have a special place in my heart. Never mind the fact that I just listened to the oldies, The Monkees, and EVERYTHING NKOTB up until about eighth grade when I heard Rubber Soul for the first time.

I used my allowance a few months earlier to buy The Cranberries Everybody Else is Doing it So Why Can’t We? on tape, received The Smashing Pumpkins’ Siamese Dream and Pearl Jam’s Ten for Christmas on tape as well, but Rubber Soul was the first compact disc that I bought. Many more Beatles CDs would drain me of my allowance, including my all time favorite: Revolver that I originally had on tape from my parent’s collection along with the glorious White Album. Ugh, and that epic roundup of songs at the end of Abbey Road, the last album The Beatles every recorded (not released, look it up), makes me feel everything I've ever felt (The Beatles became available on Spotify for Christmas, and it's the only thing I'll ever need).

Much Better. 
An ocean of music would touch my life between then and now, but one thing always remained the same. I was always searching for a connection to a part of myself that wasn't always easy to find on the radio.

I am not a music critic. I am not a professional musician. I studied the piano a harsh total of two years and quit because I never played a recital. I kept fighting with my parents about practicing because I failed to see the point. Then, I played the flute from the seventh grade through my senior year in high school because I was considerably good at it and able to prove it on occasion. I continued lessons a few years beyond in college, where I also took voice lessons. Then, I played flute with a couple of garage bands in Memphis in the early 2000s, helped found and direct a musical improvisation team in Atlanta around 2010, and now I play mostly guitar for myself while I occasionally bust out the flute. And I sing Karaoke. I love Karaoke.

Yeah. That's me down there. 
I am an enjoyer of music. I appreciate music, not only for the color it brings to my life but also for the skill and effort that it requires to create. I am struck repeatedly with the quality of the effort The Beatles as a unit produced in the 60s. Just as Shakespeare is always relevant because of his appeal to the larger part of humanity, The Beatles have made a place for themselves in the annals of music history by blending effort with ingenuity to create something that connects everyone (I first spelled "annals" as "anals" which was clearly wrong but fun to write).

It takes a great deal out of a person to connect on a universal level. Art that speaks to everyone reflects the heart of humanity. Music expresses that which cannot be expressed entirely through words. Don’t take any part of that for granted. Music is the language we all understand (you can’t say math is that because I don’t understand a damn thing about math), even if...especially if we cannot find words to fully express how much it affects us. 

As I continued my search (and as Pandora and Spotify became a thing that made music more accessible), I began to be struck with the music I would find, and the way it would affect me. I was looking for, you probably guessed it, women's voices.

Damn right. 
One might argue that women’s voices do not represent the whole of humanity, and I would rebuttal that jerk in the face with the back of my hand. I wouldn’t do that. I try not to be violent. I would, however, remind him or her (him) that the same is true of men’s voices. Yet, look through history and you will find more male voices than female voices. Why? I’ll be honest. Probably because of the patriarchy and how men, especially white european men (sorry dad) have used it to subjugate anyone they deemed “other.”

I bet I know what you’re thinking. It sounds like I hate men. I don't, entirely. Not every man is voluntarily a soldier for patriarchy because a majority of men are not even aware of its effect on the way they see the world. Neither is every woman a soldier of feminism. Many women are unwittingly...and some very wittingly...patriarchal in their own views of the rest of humanity.

Weren’t we talking about music….and The Beatles? Yes, we were, but I want to travel back to the magical world of “I am paying for this Master’s degree, and I intend to use it.” I’ll begin with a question.

Case in point. 
What does it mean to be a man? Yes, that is a loaded question. The answer is much more than I could fit into the pages of a book. Literature and art have done a decent job of asking and answering. Patriarchy has been the guiding philosophy for millennia. There are countless books, poems, paintings, plays, films, and historical accounts to witness to the experience of man.

Ever heard of a little work called “Hamlet?” Shakespeare, like a resounding symbol, casts the most repeated question that has ever been posed, “What a piece of work is a man!” Then, he kills everyone. I think it speaks for itself.  

The world of art and literature could have stopped there, but it continued to pose and attempt to answer the same age-old query. Despite this, there are still many men who feel as though they don’t fit into the stratification of their own gender. It’s important to remember that Patriarchy is not about specifically male domination. In the words of Buffy Summers as “the first” in the epic feminist final season of the cult classic Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “It’s about power,” and I don’t think every man in America is obsessed with power. The Patriarchy works in mysterious ways.

Feminism, on the other hand, is about equality. Don’t be afraid of the term because it shares with the word “feminine.” Equality cannot exist until the scales are balanced, and that feat can only be accomplished if and when women (and men, to be honest) are allowed to discover for themselves what femininity (and masculinity) truly means outside of the confines of the patriarchal world view. You know what I mean........Vern?

At the moment, what we know of the female experience is limited to what our society will allow, and our society is still very much under the guise of the patriarchy. Things are changing. That is clear. Women of different shapes, sizes, ethnicities, economic backgrounds, and abilities are beginning to speak loud enough to be heard over the din of popular culture. Their voices represent a larger picture of humanity that has rarely been allowed to make it to the surface.

Patriarchy promotes the subjugation of those who do not fall in line with the reigning power structure and are, therefore, considered to be the weaker parties. Feminism, on the other hand, champions diversity. Equality demands diversity, and in our diverse world, democracy cannot exist without equality.

So, yeah, let’s talk about America...but Next time.

I'm struggling with my sad brain this week, folks, but this post makes me happy, and the next one will too, I hope.

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