Something New

We live in a world saturated with stories and music. We have hundreds of television networks selling their stories, every sporting event is an "epic clash," every advertisement has a narrative to grease the consumer's attention, as does every political position. And there's a musical soundtrack to every tv story and every video advertisement; we have phones with playlists and Pandora, but hey, there's Muzak in the doctor's office, in any and every waiting room. 

Story and music.

Over and over and over again an odd protagonist confronts an unforeseen problem, and we watch her near disastrous experiences that somehow still result in true love and the discovery of who she really is as the whole business is scored with full orchestra. We can't get Beyonce's latest anything without the story of Beyonce's life enmeshed in it. There was a time before rap, but now rap sells sandwiches or enables performers to drop the mic. 

Music and story.

But---there was a time in the past when stories and song were rarer. Can you imagine the potency of those times---before broadcasts and podcasts, before the soft buffer of earbuds, and Sirius playing relentless song song songs to sweeten the context for your every drive, ski run, homework session, shopping run? Before stories on screens were our constant companions causing us to need, to react, to vote, to lust. Big screen, tiny screen. Story story story.

Imagine those long ago days when the tribe gathered at the fire, morning and evening and, because to be human is to love stories, we invented stories in half-trances; we were listening for the gods or our dreams or what we recalled of our grandparents... to tell us what to say ... what to say to entertain and engage and reveal ourselves to one another. And we listened to one another for bits of experience and image that weren't yet our own, but by listening would be.

And then, after we told our godly tribal personal visions, the tribe would lean together; comforted and inspired. We'd listen to the grandmother sing her single note and then each of us would find that note or a harmony in our own voice and in our bodies, and breathing together, we lifted  voices as one and we sang the songs we knew and loved that made us vibrate together, and that too, was love. 

And for tens of thousands of years, this was the shape of love in the tribe, this telling, this singing, this invention of ourselves together.

Today, all our contemporary selling and telling and the musical saturation of nearly every waking minute, this is all a yearning for those feelings of intimacy and sharing. Yet, it's rare that we ever have an moment of listening when those most primal feelings are profoundly stirred. 

Sometimes, it happens. 

I had that experience a few days ago when my friend Gregg insisted we put a Jacob Collier video on the TV with, of all things, Youtube. 

It blew me away.

And I hope I'm not encroaching on your pleasure by this elaborate set-up, but I've never seen a mind, a talent, an imagination like this before, and I hope you'll be moved as well. Jacob sees sounds as colors, and he's making colors as he sings harmonies. With himself....

I think the vids explain it all. Jacob is fresh, dynamic, creative and such fun.

First video: check out the arrangement, the video production, and the harmonies. It's all Jacob, except of course, the original material.

Now, for a fuller explanation, here's a longer dive into his mind and methods at MIT: 

And for a kicker, here's Jacob's explanation of an eleven beat groove. Elevens are tricky:

There's more. Youtube will help you.

Two things about Jacob. 

One: He seems to wear his gifts so lightly, yet he understands so deeply. His humility makes me more humble. Perhaps a little awestruck. That's a good feeling. A feeling of possibility.

Two: Despite his natural gifts, his technical expertise, I would say, despite his genius, Jacob is coming from emotional depths, from joy and love and generosity. He understands from an emotional foundation. He's much clearer than I am about how art---sound, music, rhythm, harmony---proceeds from that generous feeling, but I learn by watching him, by listening. I've heard sounds combine in ways I've never heard before. So I'm inspired. That's what we, as artists, aspire to. Wallace Stevens said, "Music is feeling then, not sound..." and I never really understood until now.