Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Lessons from the Boss

I am enamored by Bruce Springsteen... and I've put a lot of time into figuring out why. Few other artists have made me cry so many times, laugh so many times, and inspired me as much as he has. I think part of the key to this ability is that for Bruce, its not a one-trick game. Its not just the songwriting, not just the showmanship, not just the craft, not just the sound. Music is a confluence of all of the emotions, talents, and abilities of his mind, body, and soul as well as those of the musicians he plays with. And it appears as though he approaches his music the same way he approaches his life-- there isn't an "on" switch he flicks when he goes on stage or into the studio. He's just Bruce Springsteen, all the time, which lends his craft authenticity.

But tactics aside, it is the result of this process that is what has captured me and countless others: When the man goes on stage, he exudes energy, appearing to be bursting out of his own skin ignited by the Holy Spirit of all things musical, emotional, powerful; and everyone around him-- the musicians and audience alike-- can't help but get caught up in that same spirit. For those moments of ecstasy I experience listening to the Boss, I am at once free of the things that bring me down, and intimately in touch with the things that I love.

The feeling I come away with, after the ecstasy, on the drive home from the concert or at the end of the album, is one of admiration, especially as a guitarist, songwriter, and performer; and a nagging question of "how can I become more like this man that I admire me so?" But lets look at the facts: what I like so much about Bruce is the way he approaches what he does with every ounce of his body and soul. Throw your heart and soul into it. This is something I can do. Now, there tends to be a notion of intangibility when you look at celebrities and admire them. But its important to remember that celebrities are just samplings of people, and that there are people who aren't celebrities that have these same qualities. There is nothing about being a "celebrity" that implies that their qualities are intangible.

I think when we allow ourselves to become so absorbed by a celebrity, we have the tendency to let ourselves down. I'm not saying there is anything wrong with celebrities, or admiring them, but its important to keep our heads in reality, looking out for those qualities we admire in the stars, in real people that we see on the streets, at school, or in our groups of friends. Its people that we admire, celebrities and those around us alike, that inspire us and allow us to grow.

This video clip is from his second appearance on Spectacle: Elvis Costello with... and is a great example of how his energy fuels the band and audience alike. As much as I love the E Street Band, I like how this isn't the E Street Band-- it's Elvis's band-- because it shows how Bruce can fuel any band to play with that kind of energy. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Piano in Washington Square

Has anyone ever noticed the acoustics in Washington Square Park?

The other night, my brother and his girlfriend came up for a visit. We walked around the city all day, taking advantage of the recent change in weather. By evening, we found ourselves strolling into Washington Square, where we decided to just sit and listen for a little while. Some young musician had rolled his upright piano out into the middle of the park, and, for whatever change was dropped in the bucket, provided the most incredible atmosphere for a beautiful night.

He was playing Debussy's "Suite Bergamasque." Its a beautiful piece, that always captures me when I hear it, yet there was something more to it that night. Somehow the acoustics of Washington Square added a bit of magic to the mix. I think the way that the circular piazza is situated-- just far enough from any real traffic, and large enough for it never to seem crowded-- mixes the transient noise of young families, couples old and young, and college students into an intimate atmosphere that puts the musician and passersby in conversation. The acoustics of the circle morph the outdoor park into a grand space defined by music-- music of the streets, music of people, and music of a piano.

But very simply, it represented to me what life in the city can be at its best. People coming together in a public space, enjoying and appreciating those around us. It was a peaceful as a night under the stars... which will likely be the topic of my next post.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Three fifty degree days in a row after a long cold winter... Its no wonder George Harrison ever wrote Here Comes the Sun.