Disclaimer: I’m not quite sure how to get this project off the ground. There needs to be somewhat of a hook to bring people into it. I have no expertise in music in general. I don’t play an instrument [well], and I don’t know much about bass-lines or chords. I only know the names of different instruments used in Prince’s music, not so much their signifiance. Besides finding a way to do something nobody else has done when talking about Prince’s career, my dilemma boils down to putting myself in the work. It’s obvious I need to limit my personal involvement unless I want to, as a friend once told me, buy a one-way ticket to “nutbar city.” I also can’t come off in a way that’s so modest that it discredits me altogether. I’m nothing more than a music lover and take in the thrill of that artform. I have no knowledge of the musical past so no comparisons can really be made. I have no creditentals to back me up, so I need to come up with a way to sell myself as someone who reports on music and what it is that Prince has done differently with it. That something that sets him apart.
Music had always been a major part of who I am. When I was barely a year old, I was exposed to MTV, which would captive me for hours at a time. At age 8, my dad bought me a Casio. Once or twice, he’d tried to teach me how to play keyboard. In his youth, he played accordion and took his skills to competition. Given his career, you could never picture that. Unlike your typical “musician in the making” biography, the lessons never sunk in because there weren’t enough repetition. Lackof a better phrase, there was no joy in repetition through the few lessons I had. Being very family-oriented, I spent years trying to find an upcoming artist that I could enjoy with my folks, but the feeling was never returned.
Meanwhile, my connection with music grew as I did with age. My generation began where you could hear the newest artists on the radio and you would buy their album after hearing the singles so many times. The case with many of those artists involved the album following short of my expectations based on the singles. It was rare where in an album, every song was a good song. The few songs I did connect with began inspiring my work around the time my dreams were. Aside from that, music was my anti-drug, my escape from reality, my sanctuary.
After indulging exclusively in a single group from an independant label for a year, I returned to the process of listening to the radio to find my next artist. The year was 2002 and as far as I heard, the resevoir had run dry. There were no artists I could get excited about because my type of music came and went with the 90’s. Rap and Hip-Hop was in and Pop/Rock was out. Needless to say, I was patronized by the music industry, which I could barely call music anymore.
For a moment, I’ll pause to ask myself a question. What is music?
Aside from [fill in the blank later], it is one of the hardest things to describe. I don’t know whether I can say music is something I hear or something I can feel. Is music what your ears pick up or is it what transcends once the notes hit you?
Throughout high school, I went through more than 10 different artists. Some suited me better than others. Some stayed with me longer because of the things I went through at the time. A handful of those artists came around at an opportune time because they either rang true for the more difficult times or they explained some of the things I was feeling in a form that I could understand. I took a class in my freshman year of college where I learned that we interpreted literature using our own personal experiences. Why not the same thing for music?
Mind you, I didn’t check into Prince until 3 semesters after taking that class.
During that time when I tried to find an artist I could enjoy with my family, I drew closer to those who wrote their own work because my dad put me under the impression that those were the ones he put more stock in. Having what happened next in mind, perhaps I was on my own journey while I was browsing through those many singer/songwriters.
To answer my previous question, my idea of music stems from the following idea: when you listen to good music, it makes you feel something. Not just that it makes you happy or sad, but it taps into your soul and from the inside out, it appeals to you as a person.
Years ago, I paid more attention to the music than the person behind the music.
For me, the reversal of that began with Prince.
I won’t say that he’s the only one, but of my many artists, he is the only one who makes me see music in a whole new way.
Music is an artform as much as paintings, sculptures, literature and poetry. The only difference is that music can be understood by people from all walks of life. With the exception of math (which I don’t know if you can call an artform), it is the only language that anyone can understand. Songs can be in any language and even if you don’t know the language, you can understand it in the way it makes you feel. It is not something you have to explain to a person and very much may be something you can’t explain to another person. Everyone is different, therefore the view on the same song vary among individuals.
Regarding Prince, it’s difficult to know where to begin to explain his place in this picture. Seeing his semi-autobiographical film in fragments one random summer day seems like a good place to start. Where my views of “music” began to broaden. It became clear that at its inception, music is the extension of the artist himself whether its a feeling or an experience he wishes to express in a form that can be understood by him and others around to hear his work. Writing a song is a process that begins with a feeling. Prince is a genius in the fact that he can take a feeling and hold onto it long enough to construct basslines, percussion and keyboards around, not to mention finding the right words to go with it. There was one occasion where he was asked to write a song and managed to construct it within 12 hours (see the “Purple Rain” section).
[more to come later… lost train of thought at present]
This still needs work of course, but any feedback would be appreciated. Up until I tried to bring Prince into it, I felt I was really on to something.