Sunday, November 27, 2011

Hip hop as musical alchemy

After talking with sis about it, it seems I must articulate my thoughts on why hip hop is/was awesome musically speaking. In either case, I love hip hop.

Lyrically, I enjoy the individuals/groups that pour their soul into discussing issues both personal and social. While by definition, I am not a connoisseur of the genre, I am quite sensitive to the occurrence of this outpouring in hip hop songs. When combined with awesome music, these songs are taken to a new height and can never be forgotten. This isn't to say I shy away from songs with an awesome beat but lacking in substance lyrically (it makes me want to dance, I can't help it).

So is this if you ignore the words (not that I know them all)!

What makes these songs great on a musical level, and what made hip hop so cool in the beginning was the use of samples. When done well, sampling is an art form for which deejays are usually responsible. Listening to the source material of some notables says as much.

Songs produced in this manner reminds me of alchemy. When considering alchemy as the deconstructing and reconstructing of something in order to understand  it, it makes sense to think of the art of sampling in this way--which further elevates the individuals that are able to do this. It is likely they know and understand the music being used in some way or another--usually in a deep way (this goes for music from other corners of the world regardless of language).  The de and reconstruction that results in the tracks that envelop the songs they create is therefore usually incredible and very artistic. Though the resulting song is one in its own right because it is so different from its source material(s), the feel of the song is not that much different from its source material(s). Take for instance:

and it's de/reconstruction into this:

The theme connecting the two is that of love for another/others(?)--at least in my mind.

Because this art form is usually associated with hip hop, I have begun to theorize that the people--creators and consumers--associated have qualities that allow for this awesomeness to occur in ways that vary from music creation to the collection of music one has.

So far, I've come up with this list:

  • they exist (musically at least) in a perpetual state of great understanding. This means they are open to a variety of forms of music--even forms they generally dislike. Individuals are open to moments in a song  that catch their attention in profound ways (this is the stuff that gets sampled).  
  • they are usually  non-conformists when it comes to musical tastes--another reason why the samples themselves end up being so awesome! 
  • they see musical styles and genres as diverse, yet interconnected--which may be where the non-conformity comes into play
  • their music (created and/or collected) is a conduit through which they express themselves and communicate to others
For me people with these sorts of qualities are bound to be into deejaying, hip hop, and related genres. To be clear , there is a difference between sampling and reusing a song for the purpose of giving it that old school yet modern twist (the same goes for this recent trend in underground-ish scene, lame! And yes, I realize I am being rather close-minded about this). There is stuff out there that is new yet stylistically old and highly sample-able i.e. most of what's on the Daptone and Truth and Soul labels (not even close to lame. I mean have you heard SJDK's version of "What Have You Done for Me Lately?").

Any thoughts on this topic are welcome. I realize there are shortcomings to this pondering, especially when it comes to universalizing people and not knowing enough about hip hop and sampling and the people who do it. Still this is something I've noticed and pondered for a while now and had to establish some initial thoughts.

Until next time...

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Theorizing love and "we are one"

***The following is from a message I wrote to a friend with whom I am discussing the book The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm. I want to incorporate some of the ideas in this book into my research. Still figuring that out... Additions have been made to the original as continued pondering.***

The Holy Trinity and the meaning surrounding it...

Though we are familiar with biblical notions of the holy trinity being father son and holy ghost, there are other interpretations of this as well. For instance, there's father, mother, and child and body, mind, and spirit/soul. 

With each of these conceptions, I think about the role--or at least the potential for love to unify these entities which are often taken to be separate. 

This leads to my second thought,
When thinking about the notion that we are one, I think that this is the case because of the strong belief that we are God's creation. As such everything has an essence of God within, making us not that different from the people and things around us. We are all connected because of this. Understanding love to a fuller extent than we currently do should help us realize this connection and respond meaningfully to it. 

I think we do this on varying scales when we create through singing or making music, writing, doing art, playing (certain) sports.  I find that Catholicism and Nichiren Daishonin Buddhism through the practice of chanting are attempts at foraging this connection within ourselves with the intention of broadcasting this striving to other forces--all of which are inherently God-like. If we thought of ourselves as elements of God...hmmm...I just wonder about that. How would we act? Hopefully better... 

For now, we often think of ourselves and the components that make us who we are--mind, body, and spirit--as separate. Additionally, our characteristics are compartmentalized to the point where it can be difficult to think of the ways in which they are in fact unified within us. For instance, our positive and negative, masculine and feminine attributes, are often thought of as separate and often that one of each of these should be removed, ignored or simply eliminated.

The mistake in doing this is failure to recognize the value in each of these attributes and that these are what make us whole. The same goes for the connection between mind, body, and soul--as educated people we often are taught to neglect body and soul in favor of the mind, when it is important to view these facets of ourselves as valued and integral to our continued growth. Failure to do so creates the sense that something is missing and the longing to connect by accessing other faulty channels. 

What I continue to struggle with is accepting and making possible the unity between the positive and negative aspects of myself. I want so badly to do away with the negative side that plagues my being. I do not think it is good for me or others. It is difficult to imagine how this aspect and peacefully coincide with the other elements of myself. How can I think of my relationship with this brooding negative self differently than just being bad? I do want to be open to love yet cannot imagine how this can be done when so much negativity resides within...

In any case, our interaction with others is also affected by this paradigm of separation. We compartmentalize and thus marginalize and ignore others allowing for the potential to mistreat them to remain ever present. Fully actualized love allows us to think differently about this faulty separateness by demanding that we instead understand and perhaps embrace the other. This is the way toward loving one another. But we must be able to do this for ourselves as well.

By becoming competent in our understanding and practice of love for ourselves, we can then be able to comfortably practice with others effectively. It takes understanding, repetition, and practice--all of which takes time.

What do you think about all of this? 

Going on this journey of discovery, acceptance, and betterment is going to be difficult but it's about time I gave it an earnest try. It's still too easy to fall back on old ways of thought though...

Recommended reading:

The Art of Loving
Strength to Love
All About Love: New Visions

Well, until next time...