As today is the first day of September, I’m re-posting a link to “September Night” by Van Morrison. It’s one of my favourite September pieces of music, one of my favourite of all autumnal pieces of music (ancient seasonal ragas aside). It’s an instrumental piece, with lots of (abstract) vocalizing used as instrumentation, but with no lyrics or singing of actual words.
For the most part I tend to prefer musical pieces that also have lyrics. Hey, I’m a wordy kinda guy. Love words. Love poetry. Literature. Love reading and writing. Love conversation. Love exchanging personal letters (and Love-letters?—just one of the best things in the world!). Love the lyrical dimension to music. But instrumental music (the purely musical part of music, after all), is so wonderful also! And sometimes is best on its own, without benefit, or distraction, of lyrics.
With “pop” music, of broadly-termed rock and related genres, I often find that I tend to assess the true musicality/musical-attunement of various bands/groups and individual “singer-songwriters,” in part, by whether they include in their repertoire at least a few word-less pieces (like one or two per album, or concert) they’ve composed and/or at least pieces they cover by others, pieces that are instrumental-only, without lyrics.
Typically I don’t much care for pop/rock singers who don’t also write their own songs. To me, that’s mostly like a bar-mitzvah/wedding cover band or lounge singer. I’d rather hear from a poet who tries to sing mostly her or his own words, and a singer-songerwriter who also sometimes tries writing & playing her or his own instrumental-only numbers.
Somewhat sadly, to my taste, such instrumental-only pieces are fairly rare in the repertoire of musicians performing/composing in most of the categories I tend to listen to the most: rock/folk/folk-rock/pop/blues/r’n’b/soul, etc. But often I feel such rare instrumental numbers are among such musicians’ best pieces, or perhaps more often that such pieces sometimes could be among their best, with a little more work (&/or talent).
I sometimes get so tired/bored hearing the same old words, or range of thoughts-in-word-form, the same old trite story lines/narratives/ subject plots, sung over and over even by the lyrical writers/performers I like best. Sometimes I just want to hear what they may have to “say” instrumentally-only, what they might have to “say” without words, just with instrumental composition and performance. Just one of my little rants. And one reason I sometimes turn to jazz and classical music.
I love me some good jazz and (good) classical music (and not just Western, European/American classical, but also, most of all, classical Indian music). Love these genres for various reasons, but one reason is their “abstract,” “non-objective,” largely lyric-free, story-free content. With notable exceptions, I typically don’t so much care for vocal jazz or vocal (Western) classical music. There are certainly beautiful exceptions, and you just can’t beat really good operatic arias and jazz skat-singing, and even more so the amazing extensive Indian classical tradition of wordless tonal singing, an ancient mostly spiritual equivalent both of arias and skat. But otherwise, generally for my listening tastes, I like both Indian classical, Western classical, and jazz for their non-wordy intellectually-complex instrumental music, their “pure (word-free) music.” I’d like to see a little more of that incorporated into rock. Some rock. And while we’re at it, I’d love to see much better rock lyrics as well! More literary/poetic intelligence and sophistication, more psychological and spiritual intelligence, insight, sensitivity, and depth.
Meanwhile, there’s Van Morrison. Whatever his limitations, at his best, for what he does, there’s no one better.
Similar dream-wishes I sometimes have regarding many representational visual artists: I often find myself bored with looking at “the same old” representational objective contents: portraits, figures, landscapes, buildings, still-lifes, etc, as painted by certain representational-only artists. And I sometimes wish many of these same artists also had painted (or, if contemporary, will yet go on to paint), a few purely non-representational, abstract, non-objective pieces. Can you imagine what such non-representational pieces might look like if painted by such historic artists as: Blake, Durer, Chagall, Samuel Palmer, Edward Calvert, Whistler, Van Gogh, Manet, the two Rousseaus (Théodore and Henri)? And so many others—Michelangelo, Leonardo, Raphael, Ingres, Brueghel, Hieronymus Bosch, Constable, Caspar David Friedrich, Philipp Otto Runge? The list is endless.
But then, I also sometimes dream how fascinating it would be to see seriously-endeavoured, sustained examples of landscape, figural pieces, portraits, and other representational works by purely abstract artists. Sadly, in many cases such examples do exist and are fairly pathetic. But then, I suppose most novelist are not such good poets, and vice versa. Many creative artists of various arts and genres have a strong suit and maybe not so very often an also fairly edifying less-strong suit. So be it. I’m grateful for what music and painting and other art there is. One simply always wants more.
Bonus tracks: Enjoy these ancient classical India night ragas!