I’ve actually been struggling with this prompt. Live music has never been a big priority in my life. To be in the presence of the artist and hearing That Music played by Those Instruments held by Those Guys would be amazing, certainly. But, with all those other people around – all the shouting and shoving and smoking – it becomes less appealing. Though, then again, this prompt doesn’t say anything about a concert – just that I want to see them live. So, why not assume ideal conditions – a private concert, just for me and select other awesomepersons – and go from there?
As for a living and, well, together artist… my first thoughts lean toward the mashup artists I like and share with others. DJ Schmolli, Mashup-Germany, etc. I have the occasional daydream of renting out a big warehouse, inviting all my far-flung friends, and getting one of those guys to DJ the event. Although, given how many of my friends are musicians of some stripe anyway, just gathering them together would let me see a lot of artists I’d love to see live.
Of all the mashups I’ve ever played to those friends and others, I think the most consistently mindblowing one – and the one for which I’ve become most infamous – is probably DJ Schmolli’s “In The Mood For Some Killing.” So, how ’bout that.
Hm. Not exactly a deep and intriguing response so far. The prompt goes on to say that this band or artist can be “living, dead, together, broken-up, or fictional.” So, why not one of each?
As for more conventional concerts or bands… would it undermine my credibility too much if I were to say Jimmy Buffett? As the past entries have noted, that music was a big part of my childhood. Sure, there are bands I enjoy more deeply, concerts that might be a more artistic experience. I’ve heard that anyone who’s the least bit fond of Tool absolutely owes it to themselves to attend one of their shows, for example – and surely they’ll go on tour when they release that new album. You know, the one that will seriously finally come out this year hopefully, right? …Right? Sigh. Negativland just came out with a new album last year, as well, their first since 2008 – and I will forever kick myself for not having gone to see them perform when they were in town. At, of all places, the Alamo Drafthouse. So much kicking forever.
But, honestly. I really don’t go to many concerts, and I really don’t expect that to change, so if somebody offered me tickets to any show I wanted… I’d probably have to go with the concert I’d been wanting to go to since I was in third grade. Even if I don’t want to see him as badly now as I did then, the fact I’ve had at least some inclination for so dang long makes it a little more persuasive. It’s compound interest, you could say.
I also feel I owe it to that younger self to see Paul McCartney or Ringo in concert someday – but I couldn’t give that as my answer for the living band or artist. Not when there’s a “dead” category. I don’t care if it’s cliche, I’d love to see a Beatles concert. Their music has wallpapered my childhood as well, though John was gone before I was even born. So give me a time machine, give me some sort of wild gravitational lens. Let me peer through spacetime at the Cavern Club in February 1961. Let me peek at the Prince of Wales Theatre in November 1964, and hear John ask the nobs to rattle their jewelry. Hell, I’d even settle for watching the rooftop concert, knowing it was the end of it all.
Although, come to think of it… there must have been a first band. Even if it was just a bunch of Neanderthals slapping their knees and singing. Sometime in history, there was the first drumming, the first song, the first harmony. Now that would be a dead band to see. Not to mention the reactions of others. Was there panic? Confusion? Did they get their heads caved in by rocks, the survivors ignoring it, maybe even forgetting about it for a few more generations, until people happened to do it again? It would be beyond wonderful to hear the first “true” human (or hominid) song, for… whatever value of “true” that I don’t particularly feel like explicating right now. Heh.
As for bands that have broken up… perhaps Pink Floyd. They aren’t now anything like they’d been, and, again, I’m no die-hard fan. But I’ve long wondered what it would be like to hear some of these things live and in ear-blistering Marshall-stack sound. I honestly can’t think of any other defunct band I’d particularly like to see where most of the members are still… y’know, alive.
Fictional bands, though… good question. I have a deep and poetic fondness for the reification of fictional things. If just because it’s also a reminder that, no matter how real and famous and influential something cultural may be, it was fictional once.
It’s a bit of a tangent, but it’s a fascinating tangent: have you ever stepped back a moment and realized how all our cultural musical cues were, at some point, nonexistent? The “du nuh… du nuh… dunuh dunuh dunuh” of Jaws, now a shorthand for suspense, once denoted nothing. There was a time before the “dooDOOdoodoo” of The Twilight Zone’s theme became a wordless evocation of the eerie. Elevators existed long before anyone wrote “The Girl From Ipanema!” But now they’re in popular culture, propagating memetically even to people who’ve never seen the source. I’ve absolutely gone “dunuh dunuh dunuh” while jokingly sneaking up on someone – but I’ve never seen Jaws nor even that full scene. I bet there are kids now who use the Twilight Zone theme to code for spookiness, without even knowing what it’s from. What songs or themes will be hummed on schoolyards in a dozen years or so, and what meanings will they convey?
No matter how famous a song is, there was a time when it didn’t exist, and there was a time when it didn’t quite exist. When the artist had something, and knew it was going to be a song, but just didn’t have it finished yet. The meter wasn’t quite right yet, the lyrics not set. It didn’t even exist as itself yet, much less as a meme. For a time, then, you could say that finished song was fictional.
And then there are the songs inspired by dreams. Like when Paul played the melody he’d heard in the night before’s dream, giving it the placeholder lyrics of “Scrambled Eggs” before, eventually, fleshing it out into “Yesterday.” For weeks he played that melody to others in the industry, because he was sure he must have heard it before. It didn’t feel like a thing constructed, but like a thing that simply existed already.
There’s a sense in which all art is about taking the fictional – the imagined world – and making it exist in some way. Transmitting a concept, emotion, etc. from one brain into another brain by manipulating elements of the physical world. Which is absurd and wonderful.
So, out of all the fictional music, what would I most like to see or here in the real world?
I’m rather pleased that “Game of Thrones” is already giving sound to “The Rains of Castamere” and other such fictional songs. So that, delightfully, is rather less fictional than it used to be!
The first thing that comes to mind is just about anything performed by Kvothe from The Name of the Wind. The fictions within fictions make that book, and that world, so wonderful. Stories interwoven with other stories, references made to folk music and other languages and etymologies and, of course, the secret names of all things – names that bear actual power. Far from being overcomplicated, it’s just so natural to read of characters referring to other characters, other stories, other songs, as they’re powerful parts of their culture. It makes the world seem bigger, older, richer. So I’d love to hear “The Lay of Sir Savien Traliard” in all its complexity and lamentation. Or just to hear all the verses of “Tinker, Tanner,” including whatever ones Kvothe would be making up there and then.
Perhaps any of the bands from Terry Pratchett’s “Soul Music,” if just to make real another bit of the Discworld. (Though the Discworld Emporium does a painfully fantastic job of that in a non-musical way, as well, and if I had the disposable income, I’d surely buy at least one of everything.) I’ve heard there’s a somewhat wince-inducing animated version, but I haven’t seen it yet, and can’t find any of the songs in isolation. So.
While I might once have been interested in hearing The Weird Sisters from Harry Potter… based on the film depiction in Goblet of Fire, their lyrics stink on ice. You coulda done better than that, Jarvis; c’mon. Those are lyrics for kindergarteners.
Still, I might rather see them than Dragon Sound.