The problem with having a really long work-day on a Sunday when your friends J and K have their DJ nights at the bar a block away is that when this combines with an extremely hot and humid Monday, very little creative work actually gets done. I’ve found that when I need to focus my mind on a difficult day, my musical soundtrack helps.
I’ve never been able to read in perfect silence. I need something trying to distract me from my reading so I don’t distract myself with my own chains of thought. So I play music. And I play all kinds of music, usually just according to my mood, my general sense of enjoyment, whatever I’m listening to at the time, whatever new record I’ve just discovered. But on days when my brain needs a solid stimulation to get its machinery working at a reasonable efficiency again, I play Dilla.
It isn’t just the powerful sense of rhythm that comes from Dilla’s instrumentals, or the artistry with which he renders a sound collage from samples that takes the original sonic texts into a different realm. It isn’t just that Dilla’s work is the only music that genuinely follows through on the promise of Paul’s Boutique, a promise that was largely destroyed by the litigations of music publishing corporations. I’ll let ?uestlove make the point, in a passage from Mo’ Meta Blues.
“There’s a radical rethinking of the relationship between artist and work: the album’s credited to Dilla, but what does that even really mean, given how he builds his house from other people’s bricks while at the same time decoupling the snippets of song, the bits of music, the loops, from their original source? . . . Where are these sounds coming from? Where are they going? . . . They go back to the beginning of recorded music, where the first break was made between performer and performed.”
I’m a writer. One of the reasons I’m a writer is because I have a deep need to control my product, to create without the need to rely on others who would make me waste my time and effort when they drop the ball. When I fail, I have no one to blame but myself. When I succeed, no one can take that victory away from me. Yet here are these assemblies of sounds gathered from all of history to create what has never been heard before. Dilla the artist relies on others for the very material of his art. His method of creation needs history to work, and so can only function embedded within the material of history. Yet his inspiration begins a whole new history.
The artist as a conduit for the transformation of history into the present. A fruitful idea.
A logistical note. I think in the future, I’ll only make this a weekdays-updating blog. I’ll try weekend updates for a few more weeks, but I get declining numbers. I may be the only person I know who has the same morning internet browsing routine no matter what day of the week it is. I’ll decide for sure in the next month or so.