Letter #46

Good morning / afternoon / evening,

I hope you’re well, and I hope you’ve had a lovely week. This week, I’d like to start the letter with an apology. I was a bit unnecessarily grumpy about Record Store Day last week, and I shouldn’t have been. There’s enough cynicism in this world without me adding to it. Sorry, I’ll keep it in check ❤️ .

Now, onto this week. This week has been really busy with work, so the music I’ve been listening to is pure POWER music. You’ll see. It’s a belter, and has some twists and turns in it (latin vibes, Talking Heads, classic dubstep, Prince – what’s not to love). Also, this letter is coming to you all the way from NYC, so there’s a CBGB’s influence too (hat tip, Richard!).

🌪 TL;DR section 🌪
Stuff to do: get excited about the prospect of a new album of previously unheard Prince music; read this related Carl Crag interview on Prince’s enduring appeal and influence; pre-order Questlove’s new book on creativity (the man has 16 jobs); read about the influence Miles Davis had on these artists; listen along with Hunter S. Thompson, turns out he was down with funk; the New Yorker has a good piece on Jon Hopkins (who I think might end up being our generation’s Eno); there’s a great piece on Noisey about the soundtrack to Aronofsky’s Pi, one of my favourite films (and soundtracks); some of the best Guardian writers did a tour of UK record shops to celebrate RSD; and finally, watch this documentary on the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop.
📚 The notes 📚

As I mentioned above, it’s been really busy at work so this has shaped my listening habits. I’ve also had something playing on my mind for ages now, and it intensified this week. I read an interview with Tenderlonious (of 22a fame) a few months ago, where he spoke about another jazz player (a mentor) explaining to him that for him to make progress and make the impact he desires, ‘commitment has to be on extreme’. At the time, I wrote it down on a scrap of paper and taped it to my laptop, it’s pretty basic phrase, but for some reason it felt powerful. I’ve been looking at that scrap of paper for weeks now. I know it must sound like a sort of affirmation etched into some pine and hung above a kitchen door (and bought from Not on the High Street), but it’s really stuck with me.

The thought has come up a few times in the Funk book I mentioned last week (specifically in relation to James Brown and Sly Stone, too artists renowned for insanely high standards and commitment to their art). Then, after having a bunch of different people recommend it, I watched The Defiant Ones on Netflix last weekend, and I was struck by the sheer forces of nature that are Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre. If you haven’t seen it before, I’d highly recommend it (especially if you enjoy these rambling notes). I’m only a few episodes in, but it’s an excellent breakdown of how people can achieve so much, if they have an insane level of commitment, a deep understanding of culture, and an unrelenting drive to create something of value. They seem to embody this idea of extreme commitment. Watching the first episode, reading about James Brown and Sly Stone, seeing that scrap of paper, and listening to some really punchy music this week… It was like spinach for Popeye. Although commitment must surely always come with sacrifice…

It’s always interesting to see what sacrifices people make in pursuit of culture though, and there was a great piece on Peter Bowles in the New Yorker last week (I’d never heard of him before either, but trust me). Bowles was a writer, well, I suppose he could be described as a polymath, and I’d definitely describe him as a man in pursuit of understanding culture. He made a decision to live a life everywhere but his home town, and this made me think about travel and being exposed to different types of people, and different ideas. Some people spend their whole life travelling, exploring both physically and mentally, trying to find who they are. For me, finding purpose in life is about finding where we want to belong, how we want to live, what we want to contribute, and who we want to surround ourselves with. It’s about culture. Everything comes back to culture.

The author, Amanda Petrusich, calls him a nihilist, but I think his view aligns more with that of Western Buddhism; “The only thing that makes life worth living is the possibility of experiencing now and then a perfect moment.” When culture is constantly evolving, developing beyond the contribution of just a few people, but being the sum of everyone’s constantly changing ideas and thoughts, that Western Buddhist philosophy feels like an interesting place to be… Bowles ended up in Morocco, charting Moroccan culture through recordings of local artists and musicians, and I suppose that’s one of his biggest contributions to his culture. In many ways, he was part cultural explorer, part DJ. His story isn’t all that dissimilar to that of Larry Heard, who’s interviewed in WIRE this month. It’s great interview, and definitely worth finding a copy. One part that stuck me in particular was Heard talking about slowly realising he’s an introvert, who needed to cut most the clutter from his life and process in order to work at a better pace. This is a man who, between 94’ and 04’ published ten albums. Commitment on extreme for sure. In the interview, he also talks about submerging himself in music and his work in order to create something truly representative of what his vision was. This sense of submerging, almost gorging yourself, is interesting. The sacrifices you have to make, to turn commitment to extreme, must involve cutting as much brain clutter away as possible, in order to submerge in something. This needs work and thinking, but I think there’s something interesting in there…

Anyway, I’m writing this on my way to New York, and I really should have a little nap before I land.

As always, if you’ve read to here, thanks for indulging me ♥️.

See you on the dance floor.
Love Will Save the Day

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