Doodling and Noise Making

Good afternoon, from my office with a sunny view of the blue ridge mountains and a bird feeder that has been half emptied in less than a day. I sit in appreciative awe of all that is in front of me.

We have spent this month mostly writing, recording, listening, and doing some paper work and business tasks. I dwelled upon the latter too much, perhaps because there is a certain shame in admitting that my work is mostly made up of doodling, noise making and listening to music.

I read this morning that Hugh Masekela had died. I spent a short while listening to his jazz-infused trumpet playing mesh with his unaffected voice of protest. He said that music was the language of South Africa and that a protest never occurred there that did not have music at its center. I recall an interview with him about ten years ago in which he expressed some guilt about leaving South Africa during apartheid. The interviewer kindly pointed out that Mr. Masekela could do and say things outside of the country to bring attention to their cause, that those who stayed and those who left had different roles and different things to contribute.

On Saturday we were at the women’s rally in our small conservative southern city. As people led songs, we lent our voices to the back of the crowd singing loudly to offer some cover to those less accustom to singing out in public. It has been a while since I sang not in the front of a crowd. I stood in appreciative awe of all that was in front of me.

Earlier in the week I read about the first swing concert at Carnegie Hall decades ago. The New York Times reviewed the show noting the obvious physical reaction of an audience unable to remain still. The writer observed “If the individual has his unhampered say in music, he may have it in other fields. Dictators should be suspicious of swing.”

There was a story back in the 80’s about a Vietnam war vet, Anthony Herbert. He was a major in 1968 listening to a Joan Baez album in his bachelors officers quarters. She was singing Dylan’s “With God On Our Side”A superior officer leaned in and told him, after some conversation, to get rid of the record or leave the building. Major Herbert was shocked and asked if he couldn’t listen to the music that he wanted that was made in the USA. His superior felt the music was anti-military. Again Major Herbert protested saying that he was not anti military and he agreed with the lyrics. Again he was told to get rid of the music or leave the building. He left, got a transfer, remained in the military, remained a fan of Ms. Baez.

In a couple of weeks we will hit the road armed with songs and voices loud enough and strong enough to make them heard. We will do our best to open our arms to an audience of varied listeners, rally their hopes into actions and encourage them to be unhampered in their music. Dictators should be suspicious of folk music.

Leave a Reply