Sunday, 15 July 2012

Mindful Rainbow "hippie" vs awful folkie part 2

(The pic is actually Sarah Adams, an Australian musical comedy performer, as "Jade the Folk Singer," a highly successful piss-take. 'Nuff said...)

(and the "hippy" and the folkie are only versus each other in their effect on me.)

I like the very baggy genre known as "folk," or "singer-songwriter." I try to stay open to new sounds. But.

The same evening I chatted to the Rainbow people, I went to a local gig, in a lovely little village hall up in the hills. The gig was put on by a local female folkie/singer-song writer. The headliners were very good. All through the folkie's preceding set I was trying to look neutral, and thoughtful. It was a local thing, lovely atmosphere, kids charging round rearranging chairs, all nice. Didn't want to look like a grumpy old bag.

She was dire. She wrote her own material, and I think she probably has something, but she manages to throw it away because she doesn't know how to communicate with her audience. She doesn't so much work for her audience as expect them to love her. Muttered, inaudible introductions. Waves and hellos to people she knew (most of them - she lives there) in a way that made it feel like a private function we'd drifted in to by mistake. Her guitar playing, although it did strengthen as she progressed, sounded like "A Tune a Day," about page 10. She has adopted a highly mannered way of singing, perhaps because she wanted to sound like someone well-known (possibly not well-known to me.) She needs, I thought, to sing much more straight out and directly, until she finds her own distinctive voice. And when she ended a song, she said "thank you" before we'd applauded, which for me harks back to the very worst of the folk-club singers from my distant youth.

OK, she was probably feeling nervous and self-conscious, but if you put on a gig, and if you want to communicate with an audience which is not just composed of your mates...

My word, was I feeling judgemental, full of ancient knowledge and experience, highly critical...

A quick look at part of my background (this post is eventually about mindfulness, honest): In the 60s we could be a very choosy, sarcy lot. I remember a gig with a Merseybeat trio The Big Three. No dis to them now or since, but they were dire, too. They tried "What'd I Say," the Ray Charles song that was a classic even then. In the song there's a call and response bit, you'll remember.  He sang out "hey..." Long silence, then a very loud raspberry echoed round the university hall. Not kind. But maybe that's partly why the music in the sixties was (some of it) so sharp. We took the stuff seriously, we were looking for music to live by, not sonic wall-paper, we listened a lot and were critical as well as sometimes adulatory, and we knew a lot.

So here am I in the village hall suffering this self-indulgent non-performance, and I'm thinking about mindfulness.

Should I simply accept what she was offering? (The gig was very cheap, excellent value over all) Should I refrain from judgement, comparison and criticicism? I wondered what my mindful Rainbow person would have thought. Music has different purposes. Trance and rave-type music seems, to my ears, often to have very little happening, very little change to it. Presumably, that's the point, for the state of mind it seeks to encourage. Fine. Saying "this has a monotonous harmonic structure" merely = "This lettuce doesn't taste of leeks."

But the folkie wanted us to listen to her songs, and she'd written them with some designs on our attention and our emotions. I can't just switch off the bit of me that makes judgements when I listen to music. I have to distinguish between what suits me and what doesn't, or I'll drown in a sonic tsunami.

So I conclude rather lamely that sometimes we have to compare and distinguish, judge and decide, and that isn't the time for a totally mindful sort of acceptance.

Being totally in the moment whilst listening to that singer was beyond me, so was being non-judgemental. But I could have been more compassionate, and maybe I was, a bit. I didn't stalk out of there, I applauded politely. And she didn't get the raspberry.

I fear one day she might.

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