I hope to write many articles as an investigation into the world of modern music that I’ve grown up with, grown to love and evolved with over time.
So many songs – before, during and after my youth and right up to today – have different meanings for me and many of them have context within our new planetary realm and experience of Covid-19.
Over the coming weeks, I’ll dig into some of these stories, adding some of my own thoughts about the importance of these tunes, their significance for me and, occasionally, stretch their meaning to give comfort while we all ‘weather the storm’ of an unprecedented global lockdown that affects every person on this planet.
I would have liked to have started my series with this video, recently published and released posthumously by the late, great Neil Peart, the drummer and frequent writer and composer for the Canadian band RUSH.
In the short video, he speaks to the natural evolution of trees in context of music and how growth rings show so much about the life and history of those trees. Music, in his analogy, is a collaboration and spiraling progression of influence that contributes our growth as human beings.
If I could possibly be so bold as to expand on the ideas of ‘The Professor’, I would also suggest that ‘music’ has a certain ‘terroir’ to it. If you’re not familiar with the concept, people in the wine business use the term terroir to refer to a sense of place and how that place influences the final quality of the product being made. Air, water, worms in the soil, cultural influences and even historical requirements, temperatures and many more factors all play into the idea of ‘terroir’.
In keeping with Neil’s analogy, certain trees only grow in certain places.
Music is the same: different studios, locations and themes have generated an incredibly wide range of styles over the decades (and millennia, if you’re going to get picky). Blues and jazz seem to come from the south. Bluegrass comes from places like Kentucky, but with a heavy Irish influence. Acadian music seeps into parts of Louisiana, but also Quebec, New Brunswick, parts of the northeast US and then go back to France. Modern music might be affected by levels of education, marketing ideas, demographics of parents and – my favourite – the orphan’s struggle to survive in a hostile world.
Please note: this might get awkward. I’m aware that there are incredible risks in ‘stereotyping’ areas and people of different cultural backgrounds and racial influences. I don’t describe music in categories in order to ‘silo’ different people. Instead, I use the concept in order to try to classify influences and origins. With this in mind, I will make an apology in advance (ie. now and possibly later) and beg people to correct me if they think I overstep any descriptions.
Music terroir gives music geeks an excuse to dig deeper with their favourite composers, performers and singers. Music terroir leaps off the pages of liner notes (something you may not get with Shopify or playlists today), interviews, pauses during shows (beyond the ‘Hello Cleveland! You’re our favourite city!’) and so on. Band members, how they got their first pieces of gear, how they met, how they got nicknames all play into the story and over the next few years, I hope to explore this concept a little further all under the guise of a personal soundtrack with life stories added to the Covid soundtrack.
I’m happy to get feedback – post comments, sign up for my newsletter and follow me on social media once I get all of that shit straightened out (any programmers out there want to help me out?). Tell your stories in context with what I offer up and feel free to debate which song from a certain band might have more influence compared to another.
I look forward to hearing what we discover together.