Google randomly displays the masters of fine art on my screen, switching every ten seconds or so. A Monet just flashed by, now its someone named Joseph Léon Righini.
All of this is staggeringly good art. None of it is given much attention by me during the day. But it is there for me to see whenever I want it. A mountain peak – an Everest – of fine art to aim for every 10 seconds. This would have been unthinkable a couple of decades ago. I remember growing up we had a massive Encyclopaedia Brittanica in our house for reference.
Why does this matter? I think it matters because it means that the problem of our time – the problem of this revolution we are experiencing – is not one of scarcity or of access to information, or to inspiration. The internet has given us access to more information than we could possibly want – be it art, science, history or cat videos.
Instead the problem is one of contribution. The nagging question in our heads should be “When am I going to show up?”
I don’t mean show up in Google’s algorithm, I mean show up to the party and contribute. Care enough to try, to fail and to show your work.
This wasn’t always a dining room. In fact, like a pimply-faced teenager this room is not quite sure of what it is yet. The dinner table gives some structure and purpose, but there are also bedside tables in the corners, a bean bag at one end, and what was designed to be an office cabinet along the wall. My fish in his tank greets me each morning for food. I assume he is a he, and not a she. More confusion in an adolescent room.
The light in here is lovely in the mornings. While the air is still cool, the sun pours in to light up the dining table for breakfast time. Strangely we never take advantage of this as we are generally in too much of a rush to sit down and eat in the morning.
There is also a door in one of the walls, next to the bean bag. This leads straight onto a flight of stairs and is remarkable for not having a landing. Instead one has to step up into the open door at a different level to the room. Perhaps not the best design, and apparently illegal for health and safety reasons. Oh well. The teenager stumbles through life until it figures out what it wants to be.
When we first moved in, this was my music room. My favorite room at the time, I filled it with jazz, rock, blues. There were movies and computer games. Speakers and amplifiers. A turntable and cds littered the floor. These days my beautiful children turn it into something different every day. Sometimes it is a race track for scooters, sometimes a camp site, a beach, a mountain top for epic adventures. Sometimes we even eat at the table. I’m just glad my amps and speakers are not in here.
The fine polished grains of the oak desk – sand coloured – it looks like a flat desert beneath me. At ten thousand feet I see a lone ant navigates the expanse. An elephant looking for water in the Kalahari.
Cables from electronic stuff – computer chargers, headphones, amps – they tangle and take over all space. My laptop ekes out position for writing among the snakes.
Swing my view right. A picture of love. A window into the past, a Me and a Her sitting next to the ocean. In the background a lighthouse looks over us.
Underneath in a little nook is the man’s best friend. Hairy, warm and ticklish on the feet, a fine addition to a cold hard desk. Four more legs which stay as long as i do.
I just spent an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out who is the number 1 streaming artist on Spotify. (FYI it’s Justin Bieber). Spotify doesn’t make it very easy to find this out – I ended up getting the figure from Wikipedia. This search led me to the below chart showing how the music industry is making money again through streaming. (link)
What these figures point to is a very complex formula for ever declaring an album as “Number 1”. Gone are the straightforward days of measuring LPs sold. It is a weighted calculation, subject to bias and change over time.
Spotify itself is not making much money. For now the Company is beholden to the record companies (link) for their back catalogues (and to a lesser extent, their A&R and recording infrastructure). But one day perhaps it will break free from this like Netflix has from Hollywood.
The garden waste piles up each week in the corner of the property. Each time the gardener cuts the grass, sweeps up the leaves, or cuts down a branch he puts the waste into bags, and these bags pile up until a truck is organized to cart it off for composting. As the owner of the property this system can stress me out. Watching the relentless growing piles of waste sometimes feels like one of those awkward “white lie” situations – you know the one – you’ve told a little lie or made a transgression which is never confessed. The lie gets bigger and bigger, worse and worse until there is inevitably a release. Either you and your lie are found out, or you tell the truth. The pickup truck taking the waste away feels like eventually telling the truth.
Great music is just like my home’s waste management system. When a song is well written, a tension builds for the listener. The verse builds up to the chorus. The verse places bags of musical notes and dead ends in the corner of the listener’s head. Repeated phrases and hooks. A story in need of some resolution. Eventually the tension is too great and a switch to the chorus is like a clearing out of all the accumulated rubbish. The verse is the lie and the chorus is the truth.
This is most obvious for me in blues music. Think of Muddy Waters’ “Hoochie Coochie Man”. The verse is simple and repetitive to the point of ridicule. The harmonica’s five notes over and over moaning and groaning that Something huge is coming. Trust me he’s coming. Gypsy woman told my momma. Muddy is coming. Just now……Wait for it. It’s almost unbearable until Muddy grants us sweet relief with “But you know I’m here!” The chorus plays and all the rubbish in our mind is cleared away. Then the cycle starts again with verse 2. What a song.
If you poke an ant’s nest and pierce the shell, all of the soldier ants come pouring out to see what is happening and protect the nest, while the worker ants stream to the problem area to fix the breach.
Are you the one poking the nest? Or the soldier? Or the worker?