Wednesday, November 06, 2013

So what's it about?

That's the question I failed to answer.

I know, I know--I keep writing about Tim's album. It's kind of a big deal for us here--lots of work and sacrifice has gone into this project, and I really like how it's turned out. And I'm anxious to share it, but I want people to go in prepared for what they're going to hear. So far, when we've tried to share Tim's music with people, it doesn't go well because people's expectations for what they're going to hear don't jive with what they experience. So we get comments like, "I can't dance to this." Or "You really can't sing along to this." (We hear that one a lot).  I think those are the reactions we hear because I say, "This is really cool," and the person I'm talking to (rightly) translates that to "Oh, it must be the same kind of music I think is really cool," and then they're disappointed. Because often it's not that, whatever "that" is.

You would never pick up a Andrea Bocelli album and say, "Well, I can't dance to that."  Of course you can't, but you go in not expecting to. Or, likewise, you wouldn't pick up a dubstep album and say, "But there's not really a singable melody here." That's not what dubstep is for.

Setting appropriate expectations for Tim's music, so you can evaluate it on its own merits for what it is (instead of what it isn't), is particularly tricky because if I say, "It's classical music," you expect a different instrumentation and might be offended by the fact that Tim used pop and rock sounds and styles to write art songs. And if I say, "pop" or "rock," you would be expecting different content, different song structure.

Anyway, I've written about what the music is about musically (combining modern, contemporary sounds, instruments, musical idiom with classical vocal song structure and aims). But I haven't talked about what the album is about thematically.

Like any good poetry collection, "The Funky Introvert" is full of layers and has many meanings and layers of meanings. And Tim is usually fairly tight-lipped about what he intended when he wrote the songs. He says if he tells you what it means to him, you might not be able to find your own meanings in the songs. He wants to express things, but he also wants to leave it open to you to own the songs and have them speak to your heart what you need to hear. And he wants you to discover the meanings--and he trusts you can. (Obviously it's not wide open, but he keeps from listing out the meanings on purpose).

But I like a little direction going into a poem or collection of poetry. I like a framework to hang meaning on. So I'm telling you what it is about, to me. Obviously you can find your own meanings once you hear it. To me, "The Funky Introvert" is a collection of art songs about all the voices and experiences in life that compete to give meaning to life. There are songs about discovering that intellectualism is actually quite shallow, and songs about how consumerism actually makes you feel like you're locked out of life instead of giving it deep, satisfying meaning.  There are songs that delve into love, heroism, money, secrets, tradition...all the things that claim they are the way to have a valuable, meaningful life. The centerpiece of the album's meaning, to me, is track 4, "Monument". Everyone in life is seeking to make their lives a monument to something, to find satisfaction and solid meaning.

And, like in real life, the answer is there but it is hidden--not because we don't want you to have it, but because in life, the wrong answers are louder, more prominent, easier to access.

And, like in real life, you go through a bunch of ideas--including the one that has the secret right answer in it--before you even get to the question the songs are answering. At some point, everyone stops and says, "There must be something more to this...." And that question song is in the middle of the album, after you've committed to and tried many things and found they aren't the answer. The album starts with someone stepping back and noticing that the intellectual "nonconformity" that is actually alternate-conformity is really quite shallow and just a different face on the same old story everyone is telling. It ends with what I see as Las Vegas (and, by extension, the idea that money is the key) promoting its approach to life.

And, if you find the secret...the hidden verse (hidden in plain sight, but like a still, small voice instead of a big flashy show number) that is the key to everything--you'll see the album is about the journey a man takes in trying to become a Son of God, and everything that tries to stop him from getting there. It is about the experience of being a man in this world, about making this world into something important and making yourself into something valuable against all odds. It's about monuments and about altars and where you choose to sacrifice yourself (since we all sacrifice ourselves to one god or another--it's inevitable that the sacrifice is made; the altar upon which its made is the choice you have, not whether you participate) and what kind of monument you hope to become, and all the things that try to entice you into their camps.

And because all the songs are also poems, you can find all kinds of wonderful, specific meaning in them beyond this.

We're trying to work out how much more it would cost to include all the lyrics in the liner notes because these songs really beg to be listened to with the lyrics available because, like other poetry, the words beg to be analyzed, re-read, digested rather than just heard.

So, what's it about? You'll have to listen and find out, I guess. But now you know what it's about to me.

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