Believe it or not, it’s time to discuss music again!
As this subject really has little to do with apologetics-the main focus of my blog (but see my last paragraph) I’ll try to keep this post short…
I’ve played in many bands over the years-none of them famous-and in professionally produced musicals, such as the Rocky Horror Show. However, the point of this post is not to produce a musical resume/CV by listing them all, but to express the thrill I’ve experienced in certain situations, hence this particular experience taking third place in my list of lifetime greatest (to date).
Probably more than half of the thrill came from playing in bands with my best mate of all time, Terence Ruffle. Terry always had an ear for exciting music. His tastes in music were to me sometimes questionable in terms of philosophy behind the lyrics, the character of the people involved, and their musicianship, but they were always the complete antithesis of boring.
Being the central driving force of the band’s morale and musical direction that Terry normally was, his intense passion for it all rubbed off onto others including myself, and at times produced incredible results. I don’t mean we all got rich and sold millions of recordings-it was quite the opposite. I mean that the main aims of producing energetic sounds and sheer playing pleasure were most certainly achieved.
The Accidents, a punky/new wave band I joined with Terry who was one of the founding members, didn’t really pop my cork. It was first of all the “Flying Heroes”, led by Carl Seager, and ultimately the “Surf Rats”, who caused me to hit the highest heights of natural euphoria while plucking, twanging and pounding on my bass.
The Surf Rats perfected playing fun. We took raw, well-known surf instrumentals such as “Pipeline”, plus some winning old songs, and cranked up the tempo and the energy, so that we were attacking them with as much vigor as we could muster. I don’t know if I can adequately describe the sensation I felt at times, when all five of us were giving our all-if only in the rehearsal room; when all five of us-a team, a club, a family, an army- were playing such exciting creations as fast as we could play them, as artfully as we could play them, and with as much expression and passion as we were able. I don’t believe any drug could produce the same feeling… it was a feeling of extreme happiness, levity, joy, madness…and there really is nothing like it that I know of.
At the bottom of my “About” page there’s a link to a video of the Surf Rats while I was in the band. It’s a poor recording made in a noisy pub, with hardly any bass frequencies, but you can get an idea of what we were about.
Switching musical styles radically, I bring to your eager attention a totally different musical sound I was involved in. Below is a sample, recorded badly, live but alive…
At the age of fifteen I was roped into a group of musicians who were virtually in avowed opposition to the kinds of sound the Accidents and similar bands produced. Two brothers were at the centre of this: Colin and Ian Woolway. Their influences were mainly from jazz and “jazz-rock Fusion”, an altogether more technical and challenging playing style. I found myself struggling to meet the demands of musicians who thought that men like Jaco Pastorius, and not Bill Wyman, were the measure of a bass player. It took me many years to figure out what people like Jaco were actually playing, let alone how they played it, but nonetheless, we really did hit the heights of playing pleasure as surely as the Rats did.
Ian and Colin, both super-talented for their age, were not only technicians but were close to mastering the art of climax in musical expression. Along with very competent keyboard player and joke-teller extraordinaire Jerry Saltmarsh, Ian composed some pieces which stretched our abilities and imagination, and which also challenged the ears and the relatively pedestrian tastes of most of our listeners. For example, we routinely played and jammed in time signatures such as eleven-eight.
We, later named “Inversion”, were not polished by any means, and we were far from professional in our presentation and sound quality. But most significantly in relation to this post, we hit the same kinds of emotional highs as the Rats later hit, by means of stretching our musical minds to the fullest extent, and by playing as one, in some kind of sublime unity and communion not possible when playing alone. It’s that sense of oneness with other musicians, and playing music you love to the maximum extent in your power, which creates the buzz and the euphoria. It’s the creation of some never-before heard sounds emanating from brains, fingers and instruments, which sparks the light of inner ecstasy.
Once again I have to thank my God for the pleasure he’s allowed me to have and still allows: these days I play with my fifteen year-old son who’s a budding jazz trumpeter and already matching what I can achieve musically. God created music. He created sound and our ability to hear it and create it. He created our imagination, our fingers, our dexterity and all that’s required to produce an amazingly diverse array of sounds, and he created our ability to enjoy it, sometimes to the point of reaching a feeling of indescribable joy.
Of course the ultimate expression of the gift of music is in praise of our creator. I would love to say that I’ve had that feeling of euphoria while playing or listening to contemporary Christian music, but I personally cannot. Some of the greatest old hymns do it for me. I’m sure the music of heaven is and will be far beyond what we know now in terms of creativity and joy-giving qualities, most of all because of the great God that we will be worshipping with it.