It Is Free

26 March 2001

"It's so funny hearing this Napster debate about free music. It is free! Go make some!" -- Ani di Franco

Mark and I have been having a debate about popular music. I've been thinking about what people need to know to be "educated." And I think that a brief history of popular music is important. I think you should recognize, for example, Elvis upon hearing him. I don't like most Elvis songs, but they were important enough that I think they should be something you recognize. Same goes for the Beatles. Ella Fitzgerald. Nirvana. Lots of important parts of our history are related to the music we make. And I don't think that wars and treaties and kings and presidents are the only important parts of history, either. (Neither does Mark, by the way. I don't want to imply that just because we're arguing on this topic, anything I think is the opposite of what he thinks.)

My theory about music is that classical, folk, and jazz are different in some very important ways. Classical and jazz are both performance arts, whereas folk is a participation art. And I think both types are important. Arlo always talks at the end of his concerts about how music isn't just about performance, and how folk music is our music, too. Ani di Franco evidently agrees with him. So do I. (Incidentally, I think the focus on interpretation vs. improvisation is obviously the distinction between classical and jazz.) There are slightly different standards for what's good to sing along with and what's good to listen to.

Unfortunately, there are lots of rock musicians out there who don't have a good idea of what they're doing in this respect. Rock music takes from performance and participation traditions, and from interpretive and improvisational traditions. But most rock bands can be categorized. Blues Traveler, for example, does some awesome rock improv. But lots of rock musicians don't have the chops to be impressive performance artists. What they are, mostly, is participation artists: they lead songs that the rest of us can sing along with.

This hardly seems grounds for all the misbehavior. But then, I don't think we should excuse genius from decency, and civility, either.

Timprov has a new theory, too. He thinks my parents are rabid enough baseball fans that my name is Marissa after Maris. But I don't hit enough home runs, so if he was supposed to be my patron whatever, well, that was a failure.

Huh. If my great grandfather had been allowed to name his first-born grandchild, this may have explained why Daddy's oldest sister was named Ruth. But probably not.

I'm not sure what I'm doing with the rest of my day. Mark had his conference presentation, and it went well, so I'm waiting for him to get home and decompress. I did a good amount of work on The Chinese Americans and went for a walk in the hills with Timprov in the nice weather. (Gorgeous!) I'd like to work on my new novel, but I may end up working on my newer-than-new novel. Thing is, I need to figure out a few more structure things quick on the new one, before I go any further. I've got all kinds of relationship development and internal conflict, but there are also exciting things happening with external conflict. I need to make sure the underpinnings are showing up soon enough and often enough so that those make sense.

But I'm fiddling with the characters on the next novel. (Yes, I think that's how we're going to do this: the new novel and the next novel. Even if I don't write the next novel next. Because the other option for what I write next is The Tides Between the Worlds, and that [obviously] already has a working title.) From the characters, the plot is emerging quite nicely. Having a group of diplomats that's supposed to be working together but really represents an assortment of factions...and then having them not be quite as good at it as they think they are, except for the ones who are better than they think they are...oh, I like this. This is going to be fun. Secrets and lies and disbelieved truths and much, much machination. Woohoo.

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