On Music And style

In talking about “one’s musical style”, one fears sounding like someone talking about himself at a dinner party. Who sees themselves as they really are? I hate talking about myself—“What a bore I must sound like!” In general, I don’t care to hear performers talk about themselves, either, preferring music over words. In a multitude of words is often confusion and diminishing returns. Frequently, the more adjectives one hears in a review, the more disappointing it is when one finally hears the performance.

So, what about labels regarding musical style? Everyone wants labels. There’s the label, “Roots,” which probably says more about what the music isn’t rather than what it actually is. When we hear the term, “Roots,” we think we know what it will sound like: maybe blues, old-time, old-school country. Some people might think of  “Roots” music as utilizing only acoustic instruments, while others would include electric instruments as well. Or should “Roots” mean only human voice and percussion, as in so-called “primitive” church music?

It’s skating on thin ice for a performer to self-categorize. Often, he can be wildly wrong. On occasion, I’ve been surprised when people told me they heard “blues” in a particular song, or another as a “love song”, when I’d thought of them very differently. Labels really limit one’s thinking: They’re a construct of what Zen teaching calls “small mind.” I’ve come to the opinion that behind all styles, the qualities that make music effective—reaching the listener— are that of Heart and Soul and Honesty (besides lots of practice!).
I’d rather simply listen and let the music speak for itself. Likewise regarding my listeners: They have ears; they can hear for themselves and find in the music what they will. All the influences will make themselves known, like the spices and flavorings in a well-seasoned meal. I hope you enjoy.

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