Of Madness and Musicians

Of Madness and MusiciansI don’t understand how musicians work at peak level in two different creative forums. Nor do I understand how they survive their talent.

Music arouses a visceral tug in the gut, forcing hair on end, spilling chills down spines, and demanding every cell in between tune itself to the vibrations of another’s output.

And I’m only getting doused with the peripheral yield.

How do musicians handle the amperage? I don’t mean performers but the people who play, write, and refine until they bleed.

Perhaps I’m romanticizing the process—writing is often a high but sometimes it’s a tedious crawl through the semantics of thought and language.

That’s not the aspect of musicianship I’m referring to; I’m referring to the frantic energy rarely generated through careful preparation and slow, deliberate steps.

I’m talking about writing raw. Again.

It’s difficult to wrestle words and thoughts and feelings to a standstill some days. Ask me to do it while plugged into an electric field—a live animal—with that crazy-ass drug galvanizing my senses and completing the circuit, the needle in the only vein I might recognize?

Jesus Christ.

Words, consonance, rhythm—an irrational, metronomic pulsing of cadence and syllables juicing the nervous system and coursing through head and heart until the body is tuned to a series of notes and sounds, until nothing else matters but the next change, exchange, bridge…

Not words alone but progression, accentuation, reverberation, something more, something more, something so much more than one letter connected to another. A single whole tied with sound and bound by harmony.

Condensed thoughts—poetry made flesh through percussion and melody, disconnected from the stability of the page to pull us into its three dimensional madness. Breathe in electricity, breathe out music, keep the hair on your arm down, your saliva dry, your palms from sweating.

Forget it.

Forget it.

Words divorced from their music become peculiar amputees. They are no longer potent though potent they may be if never put to music in the first place.

Music is a legitimate language of its own. Was it ever a question?

I want to be reincarnated as Tom Waits or Leonard Cohen. Tom Waits because he’s so fucking precise; Leonard Cohen later because he’s so fucking holy. And Nick Cave, just because it’s Nick fucking Cave.

That amperage, that amperage…

That amperage seeping into my soul through my ears; that amperage cleansing the cobwebs of the days, the years, the scars—that amperage taking me everywhere I need to go and abandoning me in the places I desire/fear/am obligated to tread.

But only because I volunteered. Choose me. And the music did. Just not my own. I got the words without the chords. Better than nothing. Better than nothing at all.

Don’t get me wrong—I’m grateful. But…but…

Words seize, invade, evade, grope, undo, re-do and more. They transmogrify and leave lives permanently altered. Add music to that elixir and what the hell?

What would you ever need cocaine for except to numb your senses against a staccato flow beating through atom and vein?

Maybe it’s a silencer, a distraction, a dubious muzzle to quiet what’s happening inside, that relentless lack of slumber that occurs when the lights are on and everything is running at full fucking juice, when everything pulses full tilt and you’re trying not to get crucified by your own energy.

Swearing is necessary when discussing such things.

Fucking right.

This isn’t a discussion of where the fucking dessert fork goes. This is about music, and no church-words will ever contain or convey what happens when it happens, what happens to every artist whether they use words or paint or progress from a to b to d fucking minor.

I asked Helene Montpetit about this, she being a former singer/songwriter and wonderful writer-friend. She shrugged, non-plussed by the question. It made me laugh—not at her but at my own apparent weakness and susceptibility.

I write, therefore I depend on others for the rest of my fix.

Jesus Christ.

Chocolate Jesus perhaps.

And then, what next?

Not sure. Don’t care. As long as someone writes a fucking song about it…

9 thoughts on “Of Madness and Musicians

  1. It’s sex. The catch is we are not ourselves on stage but the sex god we wish we were. A song is a play, a play is a universe and as the creator it is ours. During that brief moment on stage we are naked emotionally looking down upon our minions. We are in control hiding behind a mask, but still naked and vulnerable. It is a drug if you wish, that leaves us with a sense of fleeting power. It’s a blend of being creator, lover and voyeur simultaneously. It is frightening before and after the crash lonely and exhausting. But we have to do it just as you have to write. And when we can no longer do it, life becomes unbearably dull.


    1. This makes sense David–both intellectually and on a gut level. “It’s a blend of being creator, lover and voyeur simultaneously.” There is a similar energy with writing sometimes but it’s also very different because you’re not in direct contact with people. You aren’t experiencing that flow or exchange of energy. Interesting, thank you for this!


  2. It’s sex. We create, caress and climax the whole experience. The catch is, on stage we are not ourselves but rather the sex god we wish we were. A song is a play, a play is a universe, ever so briefly during that moment we stand naked looking down from the stage upon our minions. In that moment they belong to us and we to them. It’s simultaneously intimate and personal and voyeuristic.


  3. “…an irrational, metronomic pulsing of cadence and syllables juicing the nervous system and coursing through head and heart until the body is tuned to a series of notes and sounds, until nothing else matters but the next change, exchange, bridge…” You write as if you know. It is that. At the best of times, one becomes it, just as a dancer’s body knows movement at a cellular level, a musician’s inner ear, the insturmentalist’s body, know the patterns of music – and as the dancer becomes the dance… well.

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    1. “A musician’s inner ear”–what an evocative phrase. Thank you . Seeing you pushed this post forward Helene! If I write like I know I think you pinpointed why –I danced for years. Still do. Hearing music on a functional level changes things, doesn’t it? More food for thought…

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