Music Is as Where Music Does.

Do you know the name Joshua Bell? Considering my Facebook feed, this cat cropped up yesterday pulling station in the metro stunts, but Google (previously that numerical Googol until that big check happened*) says this one occurred back in January of 2007.

It would appear that a renowned cat on the violin sat amongst the multitudes and played his heart out, calling upon the monstrous notes of the maestros, and nobody paid him any attention. I’m more surprised to the response to the response than the response, really; knowing the Ninth is nothing to calling the Hammerklavier Suites. It’s cool and I fault no one for it (it’s worth noting that I’m currently listening to Jane’s Addiction’s Nothing Shocking and not Schubert or any one considered of worth in such a classical field).

Should you be lost at this point, numerous folks walked by, ignored, and even pulled their children past what was an accomplished musician in a railway playing the positioned notes of celebrated composers on a very expensive expanse of wood with taut strings attached. And we’re surprised. Did you vote on The Mona Lisa being one of the greatest art pieces of the world? I missed that call, personally. La Gioconda doesn’t really represent any certain sentiment to me, when you get right down to it. I’m a bit lost in the whole argument, truth be told. Maybe you love it. That’s cool. I’ll not take it away from you. Nor Van Gogh’s cubism period. Dear Herzog leaves me in the lurch and I like to think that I’m a cat with some things on the ball. I’m baffled at people telling me to fear for humanity for not noticing some other cat acting the derelict and playing classics in the hallways of places never designated for the classics.

There are studies citing that situation is everything for appreciation. I don’t cite them here as I can’t remember where I read them and I like to keep my readers (both of them) guessing and searching; nothing too easy here. There’s a matter of the human brain that expects lofty ideals out of lofty places. Subway stations just need not apply. Relax, it’s not that you don’t know art, just that you don’t recognize it when it plays the Prince and the Pauper. Clothes, it would appear, do make the man.

Shudder less. There’s nothing wrong with this. Your brain is constantly thwarting you as to the realms that you’d love to inhabit. It’s what brains do. It’s their job. We are what we want to believe and bad cheeses in posh bars and good music in bad venues just don’t pan in that belief.

Don’t sweat it.

If I first heard Summertime Rolls by dear old Jane’s Addiction in the wrong venue at the wrong time, chances are, it wouldn’t have made quite the imprint on me; resolving, to this day, into a song of release and leisure. There are numerous rues and could-have-beens and would-have-beens over my relatively short life. I regret none (well, few) of them.

Your life, thus far, has been postured and formed in those structures of that was awesome, this matters now, and this will pan later; all according to where you were, what your appreciations might have been, and what your expectations of those appreciations are. We like to be guided by the majority when it matters. No shame in that. It’s hard to stand against a crowd; few of us will ever be good at that. (Don’t look at me; I’m an abettor of peace, of comfort, at all costs {except, maybe, music}).

So, some cat stands on a street corner with a Strad, bowing his heart out and I’m supposed to feel ashamed for not noticing? I saw a guy dance with an umbrella and pursed lips on Bourbon St. once and I thought he was bat-shit crazy (it’s kind of a default for that situation). If I’m to look for genius on street corners, alleyways, and subway stations, I’m gonna’ need a stronger platform to build on. Don’t mock my human brain for building on what’s it’s seen and known prior to this moment. And don’t you dare make feel bad for appreciating more Janis Joplin’s version of Summertime over some faux bum of Bell playing Prokofiev. Romeo and Juliet has its place, as does classic rock or Delta blues. I don’t appreciate anyone making me feel less than because I didn’t recognize the classics out of classic performance realm.

Robert Johnson, I’ve little doubt, if he sold his soul at those cross-roads, did so with the certainty that little cared less where Me and the Devil came from, only that those that would be touched were. And so we are. Look it up. If you don’t know it, I’d weep for you, but am not given to such. So, you don’t know a song? It happens. How many of us know any Fugue, in G minor or otherwise? These things happen. We’re not all welcome to the Opera House, after all. We’re relegated, all, to our experience. I fail as much as anyone else.

Once again, fret not. Screaming Jay Hawkings is immediately less discernible than Jimi Hendrix at this time, but there they are, all the same.

And it begs the question; would we know Jimi in the subway? We think we would, but, more than likely, he’d be some cat that is not too strong on the social abilities and maybe worthy of a bit of pity. Jimi, after all, could do well on his own. Regardless of any drug appreciation, he would ping on the radar of folks who readily acknowledge people of intrigue. Hendrix doesn’t play on the stoop of platform 5, he’s at Wembley Stadium. We know this to be true, because we’ve noted it before and continuously seen it happen and not happen otherwise.

Joshua Bell can play anywhere he wants. Until that cat doesn’t have the crazy guy with the umbrella and pursed lips dancing alongside him on Bourbon St., I’ll figure him to be a rehash of anything else. My brain works that way. Maybe if I hear him in the right way at the right time in the right venue (like Jody Grind at The Roxy on that night that suited), but, more, than likely, I’ll not know the dude from anyone and I’ll think, maybe, that that’s pretty and okay sounding.

Sadly, we’re not prepped to know what we’ll love before we’re prepped for what we love. It’s less a Catch-22 than you think, if you think about it. Relax. It’s the way we work. I wouldn’t be writing this if I had a very decent version of him performing Tosca on a train, after all (if, of course, it stood up to my measure of decency: which is surprisingly lax, all said and done). We are resigned to seeking art in the places that we seek art. It’s why artists surprise us in finding it in places that we never thought to look (mock op-art and pop-art all you want; they looked, they found).

All my faith in the written word will never equal my love of the tone (or the placement of venue for that tone). We’re built this way. Fret not. We get by. There’s nothing wrong with us watching some cat pouring some nice notes we love in the parlor whilst we walk by another purring the same notes in the kitchen. It’s who we are. Time, place, understanding; that’s art to us; it’s all we need to define. Or not. Maybe it doesn’t need definition. I’m fine with that, too.

*Great story, you should look it up. If it’s true, it’s awesome.

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