Changing The Tone

Last week, I introduced a guitar playing friend to the Mahavishnu Orchestra.  They had been on my mind recently due to my new favorite online music platform putting them on heavy rotation.  I had done all the prerequisite talking up of the band to my friend, explaining how John McLaughlin was one of the greatest jazz guitarists in history, including his collaborations with Miles Davis and his broad reach into world music via Shakti.

Here is the song I recommended–Bird Of Fire.

I went to him the next day, prepared to hear him declare what a revolution it had been, how it had opened his eyes, how he listened to it like 25 times.  However, his response kind of blew me away.

“Yeah, it was…alright.”

He was supposed to be gushing.  Instead, he was kind of wishy-washy about it.  Like he…gasp…hadn’t actually enjoyed it.

“You did listen to ‘Bird Of Fire’?”

“Yeah, just a little too atonal for me.”

Thing is–he’s right.  Atonal music (defined by Google) “in it’s broadest sense is music that lacks a tonal center or key.”  It was a favorite of some classical composers like Bartok and Stravinski.  It also filtered over to the jazz world thanks to Miles Davis’s early experimentation with fusion to the Mahavishnu Orchestra, becoming “free jazz” that became associated John Coltrane’s solos, Charles Mingus’s compositions, and Pharoah Sanders.  Not to mention this guy.

Atonal music allowed a bit of freedom in artistic expression that traditional music didn’t.  But the sacrifice was that not all would be able to receive the message.  This isn’t because some lack intelligence or taste–it’s just that every person has a different ability to interpret music.  A different ability to grasp messages and meaning.  A different point of view on everything.

The point for you writers out there is this–nobody writes something that touches all who read it.  Not one single author has ever written a book that was interpreted or loved by everyone.  So quit trying!  Find your voice.

Maybe you write like others do, and maybe your messages are best conveyed in that way.  It reaches the largest number of people it can, and affects the largest number of those people.  Great.  But what if your voice, what if your abilities and your imagination and your style makes something that falls outside the norm?  That’s okay too–there is an audience for that.

You create the art.  All you have to do is keep trying until you find the right audience.  It’s out there just waiting for you.

Ain’t that grand?

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