The OF Blog: Music, world influences, and reading

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Music, world influences, and reading

Right now, I'm experiencing a little bit of bliss. I've spent the past couple of weeks discovering just how powerful some of the tracks from the recent Robert Plant and Alison Krauss album, Raising Sand, really are. I've been a huge Led Zep fan for about half my lifetime (or almost 17 years, if you really are that nosy), but what I've really liked about that band is how each member didn't stay stuck in the 70s and after the band's demise in 1980, each went out and listened to all sorts of music from across the globe and incorporated elements of it into their music. Hearing music from my native region (born and raised just to the west of Nashville, TN) mixed in with North African rhythms, not to mention certain blues riffs that Led Zeppelin made (in)famous is something else.

In a way, such an effort reminds me of reading. A musician who sticks too close to his/her "comfort zone" is bound to become stagnant. Same holds true with writers and their stories. Why wouldn't the same hold try for readers? I know there have been many meme-like posts about "What are you listening to when you read ______?", but I can't help but to think it ought to go a bit deeper than that. Perhaps asking "Is your music full of as many influences and challenges as what you're reading?" might be a better question.

After listening to Plant and Krauss's cover of Townes van Zandt's "Nothin'" over and over again (and watching the YouTube clip below earlier tonight), I found myself wondering not just about Appalachian/Southern influences on writers and musicians alike, but also about the faint North African elements. What authors have listened to music from their native lands and have gone on to create masterpieces that are awaiting adventuresome readers from other lands to discover, to react to, to integrate, and to reinterpret for others in turn to be influenced by them? And while I wonder, waiting for a book by Egyptian writer Naguib Mahfouz to arrive in the mail next week, here's "Nothin'" for ya:


4 comments:

Mark C Newton said...

Worth saying that even in Zep, the guys always tried to push things forward. Each album was different, each one trying newer sounds and techniques. Never doing things just to constantly please fans. (The differences between Led Zep 3 and 2, for example.)

Larry said...

Good point. When I was 18/19, back in the mid-1990s, I didn't really appreciate III. Now that I'm older and have listened to a lot more music than metal-influenced bands, songs like "Gallows Poles" just resonate much better with me.

Brian said...

I will say this about Raising Sand. I have found that I have to be in the right mood for it. If I'm not in the right frame of mind then it has to come out.

In other words it's not one of those universal mood cd's.

Larry said...

I'll grant you that. For myself, I'm generally in this sort of mood and it utilizes so many elements of my native region's musical and songwriting history that it just feels "right" whenever I hear it.

 
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