Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Lewis & Clarke's new album Blasts of Holy Birth (about which I posted before it's release) is out now, on La Societe Expeditionaire. I recommend it highly.
As I have discussed before, Lewis & Clarke is the musical vehicle for the singer and writer named Lou Rogai, from Pennsylvania.
I have thought a lot about what makes his music so attractive to me, and last week, as I was walking home from work with the title song playing in my Ipod headphones, I realized that what I like best about the music is the fact that it swings. I hate that word, because it so directly references a type of music that I don't have any particular affinity for, but I figured out a long time ago that my love of music is very strongly related to my belief that there is a definite rhythm to the universe, and that if we can lock into that rhythm and live within it, it's like swimming with the current, and we can live harmoniously. And of course, if we fight the rhythm, as if we were trying to swim against the current, we are going to be exhausted, anxious and discontent.
I have found this applies to everything from physical activities like running to things a simple and basic as breathing. And, of course, it very much applies to music.
The sense of swing begins, superficially, in the rhythm section. Bass and drums. I can't explain technically what makes some musicians swing and others not swing, although I think there may be something about being just the slightest bit ahead of the beat. I do know that Charlie Watts could play the phone book and it would swing. And I remember seeing James McMurtrey at Mercury Lounge back in the 90's and thinking that he was very lucky that he had an Austin rhythm section backing him up, because without it his songs (at least in the arrangements he was then playing) would have been interminable.
However, I think there is a deeper kind of swing, which I hesitate to even try to define. It's one of those "I don't know what it is, but I know it when I hear (feel) it" things. I think there are musicians - artists - who innately and unconsciously swing. (For some reason, my paradigm for this is Duke Ellington. My image of being swingingly in sync is Duke Ellington in a tuxedo, conducting an orchestra as he floats down the river.)
Lewis and Clarke, and Lou Rogai, embody that type of swing.
What's interesting about Lewis and Clarke's music is the fact that there is something meditative - a melodic droning, a relaxed drawing out - that occurs simultaneously with its swing-ness. When I first noticed this, I thought that the two were antithetical, and that it didn't make sense that they were occurring at the same time. But the more I thought about it, the more it seemed to fit, in as much as one of the goals of meditation is to find that place in oneself where one is in sync with the universe.
So, in affect, the music is acting as a prod to help us find that place of harmony within ourselves, at the same time that it actually reflects that harmony.
Lewis and Clarke - Bare Bones and Branches (Live on WPRB)
All of Lewis and Clarke's albums are available at the Lewis and Clarke website.
Lewis and Clarke will be performing at a Ballroom Party to Benefit Common Ground
Friday June 15th at the Prince George Ballroom