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Mitch SMith

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How have you been touched by the cultural thread of music?

Music is more than just a communication .. more than a commodity.

Music inspires and transcends .. it bears our reflection and our aspiration.

And it carries our traditions.

More than that, it is the doorway into reality for those who are lost.

Please share your story of how music has brought you home?

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    May 27 2013: Today is the fourth day of the Northwest Folklife Festival. What is striking in a festival that draws a couple hundred thousand people from all the cultural communities in the region is how people may see their own roots in what they hear but also form a giant community of myriad cultures for those four days.

    I have never been to Burning Man, but there is something about the collage or kaleidoscope of music, dance, art, and color that forms a certain kind of annual "home" that regular participants experience for four days each year decade after decade.

    I have attended each year for twenty-five years, but one performer I announced on Saturday on my emcee shift has played all 42 years the festival has run. And I recognize faces and performing groups I have seen for twenty-five years. I also announced the community coordinator for all the singer-song-writers at the festival (a Woodie Guthrie type), who has been there ten years, as well as a musician who cannot read music but played at least ten different sorts of wooden flutes with tunes from across his very multicultural heritage.

    For many people going each year for as many of the days as possible is very much like being sure to be home every year for Thanksgiving or another major family holiday.
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      Jun 2 2013: The festivals are a home coming for our true tribal hearts.

      I am not so sure about Burning Man .. tradition is one thing .. retrograde fantasy is not the same as tradition .. but I cannot judge, I've not been to Burning man.

      There are medieval fairs and historical society events .. these are not the living tradition, but the shadow of community still lies upon them.

      I find the intensity of community strongest in the folk music festivals. The mainstream pop festivals are totally devoid of community .. I'd rather go to a motor enthusiast festival.

      It is in these living traditions that we see what humanity actually is. The folk festivals draw stark contrast to the deviance of mainstream society .. and all the world holds its breath as the USA battles to recover its lost democracy.
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        Jun 2 2013: I have not been to Burning Man but I have read about it in the context of temporary cities and the bonding of people whose paths ordinarily do not cross. There is a great festival in India that might last as much as a month for which huge numbers of people gather perhaps every ten years. I cannot remember its name.

        But you are right that while there is music, they are not fundamentally about music.
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          Jun 3 2013: I think community and music are sides of the same thing.
          That is .. cohesive community.

          The folk fests seem to garner community a lot more strongly - in my experience.
          I have been to a lot of festivals, lots of different kinds of them, and they seem to range from being the most socially cohesive from the small folk fest at the high end and the pop-music fest at the low end.
          I can imagine Woodstock had a good deal of it in the beginning, but I can also see where the dynamic can explode into conflict if the organising principle is not right. There seems to be a need for an element of strong leadership - but that leadership should be motivated by passion, not power.
          I also note that, once a festival has been established, it attracts the attention of power-freaks who will attempt to wrest control of it for their own agendas. When such things happen, the festival either dies or becomes something else more aligned to the power-monger's personality. For instance, many folk festivals become middle-market entertainment events when their passionate leadership is overthrown.
          It is the desire of capitalism to dispossess community and monetize the social capital built-up in it. Not so much capitalism, but the psychopaths who thrive on it - the heart of the profit principle.
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        Jun 3 2013: I have been only to festivals that are free- donations only. All the performers perform for free. People who sell their wares at booths pay for their stalls, and I think the sound people are paid.
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          Jun 3 2013: The festivals I see that are most successful work like this:
          The artists are paid.
          The attendees bring their instruments and play sessions based on the traditional tunes all in the key of D.
          The artists join these sessions and provide coherence to the sessions as well as demonstration of the art - plus an element of tutorial.
          There are a few traditions that weave in and out, but mostly it's Celtic.
          Paying artists means that the festival has a fixed ticket price. But when compared to pop fests, the value for dollar is much greater - one gets entry to continuous concerts for an entire weekend. Many attendees don't get to the concerts and remain in the sessions for the duration - the artists end up there anyway.
          I was once a professional musician, so I can appreciate the importance of having the means to survive - but there has never been a great need for many professional artists .. if it is converted to industry, it becomes a glut populated by capitalists with instruments.
          I have also attended as a market stall holder. The "stallies" have a community all their own - it is a great example of peaceful tribal confluence - which I must record at some point.
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      May 27 2013: Your song pays honest tribute to the memory of those precious innocent victims. Thank you for sharing your God-given talent. Grace and peace to you sir.
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      Jun 2 2013: Thank you LaMar,

      You know exactly what I'm talking about in this thread.
      I note that there are other pointers to your outlook on your youtube channel - signs of an awake human.

      Your song reminds me of the union songs .. and the importance of the passage of tradition through song.

      I find it impressive that the tradition is unbroken and threads itself around the world.
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    Jun 25 2013: . .
    Music touches anybody because of:

    (1) It is the acoustic code of our physiology.
    (2) The elements of the code are heart beating, vocal cord vibrating, breathing, etc.
    (3) Hence, translation, education, etc. are not needed to be touched.
    (4) Human ultra-high accuracy or sensitivity.
    (5) ...

    Wrong?
  • Jun 9 2013: I think music is a medium that we, as an observer/listener, have very little control over. The act of music coming into your ear is far different from watching a film or reading a book, which I personally believe have more interaction with the viewer and more viewer control. I say this because just as smell can trigger a illustrious reconstruction of a bygone memory, I feel sound can do the same with bringing out strong feelings and senses of imagery where you don't have that luxury in film and the words of a novel must be read first before interpretation; there is this continuity about listening to music that is uniquely intimate.

    Under those regards, I find that my favorite pieces of music to listen to have a sense of a catharsis, one the brings out a plethora of emotions. As an individual struggling with general anxiety disorder, I find this to not just be fun but also therapeutic. I was happy to see music helping out Ji-Hae Park as well.
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      Jun 11 2013: Agree,

      It's deeper therapy when played or sung. This is why I respect the pennywhistle - it's cheap and easy to gain enough mastery for direct personal expression. Unlike singing, there is no expectation to have words.
  • Jun 6 2013: If words have no correlation with logic, then what you just wrote (or what anyone writes or says) cannot be logical.
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      Jun 11 2013: No,
      It is exactly because of the lack of correlation that words can have logic, or cannot.

      For instance: when is a kettle?

      The thing that words convey is perception - not logic.
      To be exact, words convey secondary perception - and consist of a subset of perceptional "packers" which we call "symbols".
      Symbols are of 2 types: intrinsic and extrinsic.
      The intrinsic symbol is construed from within primary perception and consist of direct sensual confirmation. Some examples would be hand, eye, rabbit, rock, happy, angry sick hot etc.
      The extrinsic symbol is construed from perception itself - Extrinsic examples: letters of the alphabet, numbers, titles, names etc. These have no confirmatory reality outside of words themselves.
      Spoken and written language has diminishing logic/reality as more extrinsic symbols are included.
      Intrinsic symbols can be easily confirmed by direct senses and to some extent by spoken/written confirmation, but will be less and less logical/real as more extrinsics are included in the communication.

      Words may convey logic, but there is no causal relationship in them. One must take words in context and test the information they convey before any logic can be discerned.
      Much of what is expressed in words is little more than territorial bird-noise, the little bit left over is mostly lies and manipulations .. then teeny bit of logic.
      Here on TED forums, one finds a bit more logic than elsewhere - it's kinda expected, but it's an exception to the rule.
  • Jun 6 2013: Music can express and discribe life when words can't.
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      Jun 6 2013: Exactly!

      And then you can ask - why is that?
      Why are words not enough?

      My belief is that words operate in the realm of secondary perception.
      Music operates in the realm of primary perception AND secondary perception.

      And then you can ask - what is perception?

      Then it gets *really* interesting :)
      • Jun 6 2013: I think that words are the domain of logic. We use words to pass on information and facts.
        Feelings and emotions usually lack logic, so words seem inefficient when describing them. But music.....
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          Jun 6 2013: I can't agree with any of that.

          Words and feelings have no correlation with logic at all.

          You need to look at expression - what it is for, what it does.

          Primary perception is mostly constrained to what you can sense - it organises your immediate senses into information relevant to keeping yourself alive.

          Secondary perception is what you sense second-hand from beyond the horizon, from beyond your lifetime - this is what words do.

          But music does both.
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          Jun 6 2013: I agree with Mitch on this one.

          Well put, Mitch. Clear. Concise. Right to the point, but w/a touch of artistry -- and a tease, that as-yet, there is still more to learn.

          I learned something here today: About Art.

          Thank you! JV
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    Jun 1 2013: Mitch, you wrote (music)...."more than that, it is the doorway into reality for those who are lost." Without listening to classical music I could have never written my novel. Strangely, I felt the "notes" were in essence "words" for me to write. When I re-read a paragraph, I would say to myself,"where did these words come from?" I was able to finally open the doors from my lost childhood and let the horrors, the fears, and the abuse float atop symphonic notes into the distant heavens, then return to me in the form of droplets of ink onto a blank page in my journel. I, like many, still search for the trueness of my own identity. I hope one day my story will inspire others in "words" just as Ji-Hae Park has in music.I self published last year - the beginning of what I hope will be a heartfelt journey for others to take as they read and cheer on a spunky little girl who lived in 36 families - abandoned and alone - yet, nature's little creatures (spiders, crickets,squirrels, etc. always provided survival lessons to draw upon.
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      Jun 2 2013: Hi Deborah,

      Thank you for sharing.

      From my point of view, humanity is mired in a sea of abuse. It travels through the generations in waves, concentrating here and there and sometimes erupting in tsunamis of war.
      No one is untouched by it - at the very least one begins life in the cultural background of apathy.

      What music does is to re-join those parts of us sundered by pain. I believe it works by each person expressing those parts of them that are not broken - this shows the path of healing for the listener that is broken at that point. The whole body of expression lays down a roadmap of wholeness for the community.
      Music is very special in this regard because it is a holistic expression - when we hear music, our mind resonates in such a way that we actually mimic the performance as if we were performing it, and because music is holistic, it engages the whole of the mind/feelings/body continuum - and we have no choice but to cross the ruptures caused by abuse and hurt. These ruptures are abandoned places where the hurt of the child is too great to acknowledge .. the music leads us there and the adult may heal as the abandoned memories present themselves for attention.
      This belief is not without some basis in fact - it has been discovered that we have "mirror neurons" that conduct both our own actions and reflect the actions of others as we perceive them. These are the basis of the thing we call empathy.
      The written word is more concentrated than music, but, unlike music, is constrained to the autobiographical self.. the links from the A-self are more tenuous than the links formed by music .. it takes a special form of literature to invoke the mind/feelings/body - thus we have drama and comedy as forms which do this. It is a special artistry to craft words to this intensity.
      I am glad you have found your journey! You will note that no human can take this journey alone - and I hope you show the way for many as you reveal the road by the light of your words.