Possibly the biggest factor that keeps many listeners from appreciating many forms of modern music is ignorance of the process. Most music listeners are not skilled musicians, and that has always been the case, but up until recently there were very few barriers between a person perceiving a musical performance and those creating it. Before electronic instruments and recorded music, you were always in the presence of whoever was making the music you were listening to, and you could watch them perform it. Even if you’ve never touched a violin or an accordion or a piano or a sitar before, witnessing someone who’s put a lot of time, effort, and feeling into a performance can provide a lot of interesting insight into the process and it’s easier to gain an appreciation for it. Whether you’re impressed by technique and virtuosity, emotion and commitment, excitement and rapture, or some combination of these things, you can find something to clue you in to how much of that is going on in a performance even if you don’t know how to play the instruments involved.
But in today’s world, people hear music all the time that’s created on instruments they’ve never even seen before, much less watched someone manipulate masterfully. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched people approach me while DJing with a completely mystified look on their faces as to what I’m doing back there. “So which record is playing right now?” “What are the headphones for then?” “Do you really use all those knobs?” And that’s with a relatively simple, even analog instrument. So much music that’s being made right now is made using digital synthesizers, samplers, effects, and mixing techniques that the average listener knows absolutely nothing about. But I think if people were given the chance to at least see someone who is comfortable with these kinds of devices use them skillfully, they may not fully understand what is happening, but I think they would be one step closer to appreciating what goes into the process of making music with these tools. If you had never been explained how a tuba worked, but had a chance to watch a tuba player do what they do, you could still gain some appreciation for the effort and skill it takes to make that instrument do what it does. You could see the big breaths the performer has to make between notes. You could watch how their fingers move on the valves. You could watch how their body moves in relation to how a particular note speaks; perhaps a steady forward lean on a long note. I wish people were exposed to at least videos if not real life experiences of people making music on the instruments common in today’s music. In a lot of ways, a turntable isn’t much more complicated than a guitar, it’s just less obvious what’s going on. A little education could go a long way.
Another helpful element is just witnessing the excitement and elation of someone who is really in their zone musically. Seeing a person unable to contain his or her pure joy at creating a thing is a very moving thing to witness, and I think that’s one thing that makes this video compelling. There aren’t many technical details revealed or explained here, but you get to see everyone involved in making the music that you’re hearing become overtaken with the joy of creating, and you get to see a little bit of the more mysterious motions of contemporary music making as Lee Perry flips switches, pushes and pulls sliders, and spin tape machines with every bit of practice and intention as anyone in that booth is. It’s a shame there isn’t a wealth of footage like this from all different kinds of musicians who use these more esoteric tools to create, I think people would be much more open to appreciating and even loving these newer forms of music.
If you want to see the documentary this is lifted from, it’s on YouTube in parts right now. Check it.