Friday, May 24, 2013

Band Abandonment – When A Loyal Fan Drops His Favorite Music Groups

There was a feature on NPR’s Morning Edition earlier this week about Show Abandonment – when viewers lose interest in popular TV programs when they start to go downhill.  For example, many people parted ways with NBC’s The Office at some point along the way.  When I heard the NPR piece it made me think of all the band abandonment, or better yet, musical genre abandonment, that I have done over the last few years.

The transition from being a non-music playing fan of jambands, indie rock, bluegrass and Americana, to a player and listener of traditional Irish jigs, reels and oldtime fiddle tunes, has changed my whole relationship with music.  For the first time in my life, I'm not searching for another band to listen to, at least not in the way I used to.  Instead of being a passive listener seeking entertainment - someone who is performed at - music is now something I can provide for myself.  I'm not dependent on others to provide music for me.  What I need from it and what I get from it is different now. 
When I revisit the classic albums that used to provide my musical enjoyment, such as Ween's The Mollusk, Dr. Dog's Easy Beat and My Morning Jacket's It Still Moves, it often feels like a distraction...like eating a Big Mac when you're on a diet.  Whereas listening to some of the Irish session and oldtime jam field recordings I've made feels like I'm consuming a delicious, salad.  Musical nutrition.  Even within the world of trad and oldtime music, it's not always the "big name" performers/recording artists that I want to listen to.  It's the regular folks who get together with friends to play this music for the sake of the music, rather than for an audience.

All music is connected and listening to any music is good practice at some level.  When I exhaust my desire to hear another jig or fiddle tune, I tend to seek out additional roots music genres just outside my comfort zone - early jazz and ragtime, jug bands, Norwegian polkas, French Waltzes, contra dance tunes, Jamaican and Latin American folk music.  Occasionally it does trickle down to the organic music of The Grateful Dead, Phish and Medeski, Martin and Wood - I value these bands for their sense of improvisation and musical adventure - but I don't have to start there any more. 



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