bptm-morocco

Last week I opened up my blog by boasting about a Tinder date that I went on. I truly meant this only to be an attention grabber before I launched into an exploration of the decline of melody in music. Yet it appears that people were much more intrigued by my date than my musical musings. The overwhelming response to my blog post about the disappearance of melody in music was this: “how was the Tinder date though?” Well much like Fauzio, I aim to please, and so I’m going to indulge your thirst for a vicarious experience of NYC Tinder life and tell you about my date.

I had an incredibly pleasant time with a beautiful young Irish woman who was charming, upbeat, humorous, and delightfully outspoken. Our plan was to meet up at The MoMA, view some art, chat over coffee, and then part ways. Yet after the MoMA we had dinner together, and after dinner we went to a bar, and after the bar we went for a walk, and after the walk we met up with a friend of mine and chatted at a cafe, and after the cafe, we took the subway to my house and watched some Game of Thrones. And no, this was not a “Netflix and chill” kind of situation— get your mind out of the gutter people. It was just wonderful evening filled with really good conversation, laughter, and flirtation.

The truth is I’m not actually telling you all of that because I want to grant you your wish of peaking into my romantic life— (as usual) I have a larger point to make. Believe it or not, me going on that Tinder date, has everything to do with me fighting for the presence of melody in music. That’s right fools! I’m not abandoning my discussion of the decline of melody in music. Stay with me now…

What is melody? The technical definition of melody (per dictionary.com) is “The succession of single tones in musical compositions, as distinguished from harmony and rhythm.” But more generally what is melody? It is an active statement; it is the part you can sing; it is the part you remember. If you think of a musical composition as a story, as many composers throughout history have, melody is the dialogue and action that propels the plot. Harmony and Rhythm would be more like the setting and pace of the story. And yet if it is such an important part of the musical story, why then are more and more composers in jazz, film, and popular music abandoning clear melodies?

The simplest answer is that it is easier to not write a melody than to write a melody. While the simplest answer is often the correct one, I believe that there is also something more poisonous at play: on some level most everyone wants to be cool, and at some point melody became uncool. I can express this easier with a musical example. Listen to any or all of both of these pieces of instrumental music: Serenade no. 13 in G Major by Mozart and Lizard Point by Brian Eno. One has a very distinct memorable melody throughout, and the other doesn’t really have a melody. Which do you think is cooler (not better, just cooler)? Because it is much more mysterious and abstract I am going to guess that most people think that the Eno tune is cooler. A melody is a clear statement, and a clear statement is rarely going to be perceived as cooler than something more oblique.

We could think of it like this: a melody is like looking up and saying “I love how the sun beams through the trees in Central Park.” As nice and true as that statement may be, it is simply not as cool as just staring off at the trees, silent and expressionless as you smoke a cigarette. Certainly the latter is cooler, but is it better? No way. First of all, smoking is bad for your health. Secondly, you are not communicating anything to anyone else by staring off into space. You’re just living in your own cool, insular, lonely world. And yet we are all victims under the oppressive tyranny of the cool— nobody wants to be considered uncool, and yet nobody knows exactly what it is to be cool, thus many people simply avoid making statements (verbally or musically) for fear of being uncool.

So what the hell does going on a Tinder date have to do with writing a melody or being cool? Well, on Tinder I’m a perfectly cultivated cool guy. I have pictures of me holding a guitar, laying on a raft with sunglasses on, effortlessly posing with a real live butterfly on my shoulder, and an equally cool “about me” write-up to boot. Given the extra time to think up responses I’m also far more clever and witty in Tinder text message conversation than I am in real life. Thus, I could have contented myself to stay at home and just be a cool idea of a person, but I chose (as did she) to actually go meet up with someone and expose myself as a real, flawed human. In person, you hear my goofy laugh, you witness me fumble with words sometimes, and you sense my subtle nervousness and excitement about being on a date. I’m not as cool in person, but I am much more real— I’m someone you can actually connect to. It doesn’t matter how cool someone is on paper, the only thing that matters in romance is how well you connect with someone face to face, and the only way to do that is to get out of the house, go on a date, and put yourself at risk of being uncool. Thus, the acts of writing a melody and going on a Tinder date are both mini rebellions against the tyranny of the cool.

And even the coolest people can rebel against the tyranny of the cool. My friend Epiphany Morrow (musical artist, rapper, public speaker, philanthropist, and entrepreneur) is by all measures a very cool dude. This week Epiphany released his long awaited Legacy Project. Billed as the world’s first “living album,” The Legacy Project is a smartphone app offering an interactive music and video experience which draws users into a unique world of Piph’s creation. You most certainly should download it (just search “big piph” or “the legacy project” in your app store). Despite the fact that many would undoubtedly consider Epiphany a cool dude, the best part about him is that in The Legacy Project and in so many of his other endeavors he too routinely and unapologetically puts himself at risk of being uncool. For it is not because I think that he is cool that I respect and admire Piph (in fact I know him well enough to know that he is actually a closet-nerd)— no, I respect and admire him because he is incredibly genuine, disciplined, and creates art that has true perspective and substance behind it.

You may not see it, but I do: the acts of going on a date, releasing an app, and writing a melody are all important rebellions against the tyranny of the cool. Certainly nobody wants to be uncool, and yet the only actions or statements that have any meaning or weight behind them are those that do put us at risk of being uncool. And here’s the liberating truth: there is really no such thing as cool. When Miles Davis gave birth to the cool back in 1957— he gave birth to a phantom. Cool is simply a figment of our collective imagination. Love is real, beauty is real, laughter is real, and cool is not real. The sooner we all realize that, the sooner we’ll being to really live.

Three months ago, I told myself and the public that I would release one blog post and one song every week for nine months. So far I’ve been able to stick to my guns because, as I’ve stated before, this project is not about quality— it is simply about quantity. It is a personal quest to get better at the crafts of blog writing, songwriting, and recording simply by putting in some work. However, I’ve run into a problem this week. I had a song to record, and have been working on it all week, but I had no idea what I would write my blog-post about. I casually assumed that I would eventually think of something to write and would be able to knock it out in time, yet each day passed, and I still had no idea what I would write. Even today, the day that I will post this entry, and even now as I am writing this sentence, I still don’t fully know what I am going to write in this blog post.

Yet I’ve got a start. I took a creative writing class my freshman year of college in which we had to write poetry, and my professor told the class that if you don’t have an idea for a full poem, just use fragments of other poems. I was the only one in class who took his advice and I got an A on the poem. It pays to listen to your teachers kids. Well there are no teachers to grade this, but I am hoping that if I just piece together some of my current thoughts on musical things (the phrase “some of my current thoughts on musical things” is best read with a southern accent), it will make for a passable blog post, and we’ll all feel good about Lucas continuing his outpouring of quantity work. Let’s begin with some confessions.

These are my confessions:

  • I haven’t listened to Beyonce’s Lemonade. Why not?! No reason, I just haven’t gotten around to it yet. I’ve been told it’s “a masterpiece,” that it’s full of juicy references to Beyonce and Jay-Z’s marital turmoil, that it’s the “best album of the last two years,” and that she’s not only going to win the Grammy for best album this year, but the Grammy committee is also going to go back in time and give her Beck’s Grammy from 2015 as Kanye tried to do at the time. But yeah, I just haven’t gotten around to it. Perhaps I’ll celebrate the fourth of July with some Lemonade.
  • I’m fairly certain I started playing guitar to impress girls. Now, granted my memory is hazy on this. I’ve always loved music, and I took piano lessons from age 8 to 10, but right around the time I became aware of girls, I insisted on switching from piano to guitar. Coincidence? I think not. I know that by the time I was in high school, I definitely thought it would help me “get girls.” It didn’t, but I stubbornly continued to play, and practice until, by the time college rolled around, I just fell in love with learning the instrument. I’m now (mostly) free from my early ulterior motive, but if it weren’t for my naive misconception that girls would automatically fall in love with me because I played guitar, I might not be the guitarist you see today.
  • Guitar is not my favorite instrument to listen to. When I listen to music, I tend to prefer the timbres of the voice, or an organ, or a horn section, or a nice flute, or even the humble oboe. I play guitar simply because it is the instrument that feels the most natural and comfortable to me. If I am going to contribute to the creation of beautiful music, it’s going to be with a guitar. I do love the guitar, I just like the sound of some other instruments a bit more.

Brief announcements:

  • I have a couple of Rev Room shows coming up soon. The first is with Jamaal Lee on July 3rd for the Drummers in the House event. I don’t know why, but I’m pretty sure Little Rock has the highest dope drummers per capita of anywhere in the world. This Sunday is a showcase of some of these guys including Paul Campbell, Jonathan Burks, Stephen Bailey, and Jamaal Lee, with whom I am playing a short set. I don’t want to give anything away, but we are going to play a song that is going to make you say out loud “what the duck just happened?!” Except remove that auto correct from the word duck. The second show is July 9th, with Big Piph and Tomorrow Maybe for The Legacy Project release show. It’s going to Blow. Your. Mind.
  • I’m going to go in the studio and record an album at the end of July with some of the best songs I’ve written during these past few months. There, I said it. Now I have to do it.

The last album I listened to in full was:

Mr. wonderful by Action Bronson. I got this recommendation yesterday from a special someone— thank you, you know who you are! This album is so incredibly enjoyable. The samples are amazing, the production is great, and Action Bronson’s voice is perfect for his humorous, feel good, braggadocious lyrics. Any album that open’s up with a Billy Joel sample and ends with someone riding “the harley into the sunset” is alright with me.

Something Deep:

Throughout the inevitable ups and downs of a long life, it helps an individual to be at peace and content if he or she is connected to an eternal principle. I am comforted that I get to play, teach, learn and listen to music, because Music is eternal. I’m not talking about any one piece of music, I’m talking about the big, abstract, capital “M” Music that holds all of the various musical works and activities throughout the universe in its embrace. Music is forever waiting and willing for us to touch it’s surface, and is always open to letting us pry it’s depths.

Next time you listen to something, don’t think “I’m listening to Taylor Swift.” Just turn something on, and think “I’m listening to Music,” and then stop thinking, and just let it hit you. As much as we like to glorify our favorite artists, they are not the point— the point is Music itself. No one invented Music, we’re all just channeling it.

Something Shallow:

It helps to be hot.

BeyonceyoungelvisNow listen to my new song. Peace!

TheLegacyProjectFor the second straight week, I have the honor of contributing to Big Piph’s The Legacy Project. For those who haven’t heard about it, go check out the first paragraph of my blog post last week (I don’t have time to be repeating myself). Piph has already released the album portion (it’s great, go get a copy), yet the truly unprecedented part of this project will be released later this month in app form. Suffice it to say, that there is a whole world of characters in this project, and just like you or me, they each have a rich web of personal history, personality traits, and influences that make them unique. Today I’m giving you a special sneak peak into the world of one such character. Meet Eric Smith.

boom2Eric Smith lead something of a charmed life. He was an orphan before he could even crawl, yet he was quickly adopted by a wealthy, loving couple, who nurtured, guided, and bonded with Eric as much as any biological parent ever could. Growing up, he went to the finest schools, was treated to European vacations in the summer, and was never lacking in emotional or material support from his parents. Athletic, intelligent, light-hearted, and friendly, Eric was well liked and had many friends. By the time he was a teenager, it was apparent that Eric had a world of opportunities before him; he could have been a professional athlete, a doctor, a lawyer, an entrepreneur, or anything else he set his mind to. Yet Eric’s singular flaw was that he did not set his mind to anything. Indeed from Eric’s perspective, he could not set his mind to anything. For despite having all the comfort and security a young man could hope for, he always had a restless sense that there was something missing and a higher path that he needed to discover for himself.

As a senior in high school, his restlessness turned to despair. He became reclusive and uninterested in schoolwork, sports, or friends. Witnessing their son’s stagnation and desperate to help him, his parents decided to tell Eric about his adoption. Far from being shocked, sad, or confused, Eric was inspired by the news of his adoption. He felt he finally had a direction he could follow— he needed to find out who his real parents were. He hoped his past would hold the key to his future, his higher path.

It wasn’t difficult for him to find out the names of his biological parents— just a matter of contacting the orphanage. Unfortunately, once he started looking in the public records, he saw that the most recent appearances of his parents’ names were on death certificates. Yet Eric also discovered that before they died, both of his parents were registered members and proponents of The Class, a now defunct self-help organization that was notorious for pushing it’s members to the peak of intellectual achievement and beyond the limits of psychological and physical pain in an attempt to make them super-human. Eric wanted to take The Class. He knew that it’s practitioners must still be around somewhere and he vowed to find them. After a year long search, Eric finally found what he was looking for… within the walls of L.E.S. headquarters.

That was six years ago, and Eric has since proven the most distinguished member of The Class to date. Yet even an Übermensch has a soul. Eric Smith may have achieved supreme intellectual, physical, and psychological strength, but he still likes to kick back and listen to some tunes. Here’s a candid look into Eric’s musical life.

1. You are at an amazing, lush house party at a Venice Beach mansion. Everyone there seems to be friendly, attractive, intelligent, and having the time of their life drinking, dancing, and socializing. Mos Def and Penelope Cruz are among the guests that are casually enjoying this party. This is the best party you’ve ever been to. You must pick one song that will play every time you walk into a new room at this party. What song do you pick?

Eric: My House— Flo Rida

2. What is the one song you wish you had written? Note: You are not necessarily the performer of this song, but you will receive royalties from it, and everyone who knows and loves this song will know that you were the brilliant person who wrote it.

Eric: Started From The Bottom— Drake

3. What was the last song that played in your car?

Eric: Outro— M83

4. You are an Olympic boxer in Rio this summer about to compete for the gold medal. What song do you play in your headphones beforehand to get you ready to fight?

Eric: BLKKK SKKKN HEAD— Kanye West

5. You are 76 years old telling your teenage grand kids that their music is crap, and how much better your musical taste was during your teenage years. What is the first song you play for them to prove this point?

Eric: The Pursuit of Happiness— Kid Cudi

Finally, you’ll remember from last week’s blog post (or you won’t because you didn’t read it) that another Legacy Project character is a recording artist in her spare time. For your listening pleasure, we have another dark masterpiece from Ellie V. Enjoy.

PiphpicThis week at Lucas Murray Music, I’m doing something a little bit different: I am entering into world of Big Piph (aka Epiphany Morrow). I’m not talking about just hanging out with him— I’ve had the pleasure of performing and hanging with Piph countless times. I’m talking about taking a step into the vast universe that he has created for The Legacy Project, the world’s first “living album,” which he is releasing tomorrow. This is Piph’s magnum opus, tying together an album of new music, enough videos to rival Beyonce, and an interactive app for your smart phone. For the past four years I’ve witnessed Piph grow this ambitious little pipe dream into a full blown reality. He has likened executing this project to trying to jump the grand canyon on a moped, and if that is the case, I’ve been a captive audience member eating popcorn on the sidelines, waiting to see either a miraculous landing or a terrible crash. Well everyone, it appears that he is going to make it, and because of that I get to give you a tip of the iceberg peak into the project. Today we are going to take a musical look at one of the characters in The Legacy Project. Enjoy.

Ellie V BackgroundEllie Evans was an extremely gifted student and athlete. In spring of 2006 she graduated salutatorian of historic Little Rock Central High School at age 16; that fall she began attending Princeton University and maintained a perfect 4.0 GPA during her stay; at the end of 2007 she qualified for the Beijing Olympics in gymnastics. Yet after a string of personal tragedies, Ellie inexplicably left school and Olympic glory behind, moved back to Little Rock, and began a transformation into the mysterious woman we see today. Ellie V (as she chooses to be called now) is a modern renaissance woman: one part martial artist, one part computer programmer (or hacker as some have claimed), and one part punk rock icon. She granted me this rare interview on the terms that it would only be about music. It seems she does not want to address the rumors that she has become a consultant for L.E.S. in their “special outreach” division. So, ok. on to the music. Here is Ellie V in five songs:

1. You are at an amazing, lush house party at a Venice Beach mansion. Everyone there seems to be friendly, attractive, intelligent, and having the time of their life drinking, dancing, and socializing. Mos Def and Penelope Cruz are among the guests that are casually enjoying this party. This is the best party you’ve ever been to. You must pick one song that will play every time you walk into a new room at this party. What song do you pick?

Ellie: Let’s Get it On— Marvin Gaye

2. What is the one song you wish you had written? Note: You are not necessarily the performer of this song, but you will receive royalties from it, and everyone who knows and loves this song will know that you were the brilliant person who wrote it.

Ellie: Nothing Compares 2 U— Prince

3. What was the last song that played in your car?

Ellie: You’re With the Wrong One— Fried

4. You are an olympic boxer in Rio this summer about to compete for the gold medal. What song do you play in your headphones beforehand to get you ready to fight?

Ellie: Bring Your Whole Crew— DMX

5. You are 76 years old telling your teenage grand kids that their music is crap, and how much better your musical taste was during your teenage years. What is the first song you play for them to prove this point?

Ellie: Bull in the Heather— Sonic Youth

Finally, Ellie has also granted me the exclusive privilege of pre-releasing her brand new single “eat your heart.” You heard it here first kids. Thanks Ellie!