Play

Like popular music, at its core a form of theater, blogs and websites are little “plays in a box”. For example, the internet’s threat to television is likely what terrifies the PRC’s totalitarian government. China could literally disintegrate into democratic regions—an outcome greatly wished. Apparently, Iran has a huge and increasing number of blogs and websites; their development is hastening the slippage of the religious death-grip its government has on Iranian society. Seeing these events play out makes one wish he were thirty years younger. Autocratic regimes have always feared widespread literacy, and the web promises a great future for the dissemination of not only knowledge but culture generally, especially in the form of story, comedy and drama. The internet promises great social and cultural exposition and interaction.

Aside from certain avant-garde symphonic and chamber works, virtually all music is based on either dance or theater. Its origins are religious—the “big theater”—and with the decline of religion in the modern world, music has moved into prominence as a surrogate for telling stories and conveying a sense of alternative realities, much as religions used to do, especially for the young. This subject came up recently in a conversation with Bob Koester, the founder of Delmark Records and a legend in the music business. He produces jazz and blues records, mainly in the Chicago area. Business has been a bit shaky lately, so I floated the idea that he branch into folk music of England, Ireland and Scotland. He calmly replied, “Oh, no, that’s not the same as jazz or blues—it’s theater music.” Startled, I discussed with him the pros and cons of his assertion. But he convinced me that African American, slavery-based music is a unique art form, quite distinct from other forms of ethnic and folk music. He also pointed out that virtually all other popular music—from easy listening to rock ‘n’ roll—is derived entirely from either theater or movies, and I was stunned to realize that he was correct. Even the serious classical music of Europe had long ago originated from the tunes and melodies of theater, festivals and musical shows and plays. He also pointed out that much white teenage music derives from marching bands and nursery rhymes.

In the 1800s, theater buildings in American cities and towns became music halls. In poor neighborhoods, saloons and dance halls would have a small stage that existed primarily for the musical plays, whose songs would be excerpts to which patrons would dance into the early hours of Saturday night. When people stopped dancing, they sat and watched the stage, which is what nearly everyone does now, except the most adventuresome youth. Thus, the internet seems like a little theater-in-a-box.

I walked away from this conversation with my old music mentor a changed man. I hadn’t noticed before that I rarely play the guitar or piano by myself (unless practicing chords and scales). Even an audience of one is sufficient, and I play not only songs, but also stories, and even a few tunes put together in a theatrical “stage” theme.

Indeed, music is theater. And the overwhelming majority of popular music is based on children’s theater. I shall never forget the first time I traveled through the cities of Central America, and stopped into “record stores”. Invariably, they were small sections of neighborhood toy stores. No adult took recorded music seriously, unless it was for an after-work dance party.

Later, when my parents became ill, I returned to playing and singing Baptist hymns for them, and singing in church to clean out my pipes. I realized what I’d never been taught—that when I play music, I’m creating a sort of “love story” in rhythm and melody. These insights over the last few years have resulted in a strengthening of my perception of music in all its forms. I understand the stories, theatrical performances, “shows”, “audiences”, and “players”. And that’s all the internet is.

Here are some gardenesque blogs:

In addition to the great ones I mentioned last week

Cincinnati Cape Cod – Although infrequent “CCC” offers a sidelong glance at Kasmira and her goofy world.

Country Doctor’s Wife – Rural families are very misunderstood. This blog is a small step toward a cure.

Old Garden Roses and Beyond – Contains an excellent, concise overview of rose breeding by Ralph S. Moore.

Renegade Gardener – Takes staunch positions with a charming and folksy manner. I wish he’d blog more frequently.

Seedhead – Well written, cultivar-oriented blog.

What tha. . .? – An amusing horticulturist from Oregon. Also called, “Fer Crying Out Loud“.

Food Blogs

Unless the author writes well, he can ruin the last meal on earth. However, I’ve found a few folks so enthusiastic that they make up for content or style shortcomings.

Deep End Dining – As opposed to “high end” . . . oddball food blog.

Food On the Brain – Gourmet home cooking.

Fortune Cookie Chronicles – Hot and spicy Chinese food related.

A Guy In New York – Couple of urban foodies.

Southern Foodway Alliance – Home of the “Tennessee hog killing”, and a whole archive on gravy.

Tommy: eats – “New Jersey-centric thoughts and opinions on food, wine, dining and cooking.” Tommy is great – a candid, tasteful style.

Miscellaneous Blogs

Meet Me In Ataxia, Baby – Curious journal about photography and the travails of a library scholar.

New Rambler – Another fascinating library science scholar blog.

The Other Side of the Ocean – Nothing works my stuff like a Polish immigrant’s sensibility.

Photowalking.org – New hobby, which I needed.

This entry was posted on Friday, January 4th, 2008 at 10:16 pm and is filed under Original Posts. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
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