Thursday, May 31, 2012

A Thinking Person's Music: The Mystery of the Loud Guitar

My new novel, Beyond the Will of God, is intended to remind readers of, or introduce them to, the playful, exotic, and mysterious elements of loud music that I believe we've forgotten. Beyond the Will of God seeks to thread the needle between serious mystery and quirky cosmic thriller. It is funky, humorous, and pathetically romantic -- the way we used to be back in the day.  

The book gets its title from a line in the Jimi Hendrix song, "1983...(A Merman I Should Turn to Be),":

...And you know good and well
It would be beyond the will of God
And the grace of a king.

In many ways, this story is a murder mystery...but it's wrapped in the magic of music...and then rolled up into cosmic questions that we used to ask ourselves all the time. What is the relationship between mind and body? What is telepathy? Why is the truth about altered states of consciousness so delicate and hard to understand? Where is the communal power of music coming from? And what about the psychedelic experience and music? Is that magic real? Or just mental dust?

A few weeks before he died, Jimi Hendrix gave an interview in which he talked about his aspirations for the music he wanted to write in the future. He said he wanted his music to change, that it should be about healing and peace, and that music was first and foremost a spiritual tool. 

I've been struck by that statement ever since I heard it nearly 30 years ago. Back in the 1960s and 1970s the combination of blues, soul, funk, melody, and poetic lyrics were an enormous force of liberation in The Americas (and Great Britain). Whether you listened to Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On?," an Allman Brothers instrumental like "Hot 'Lanta," "Riders on the Storm" by The Doors, or, say, Jimi's "Power to Love," you were moved, you were freed, and you knew you were part of something gargantuan. That gargantuan-ness was best exemplified by the loud guitar. 

I don't want to sound like an old-school prig, but most people don't feel that way anymore about what they listen to. There's no question that the music of today is just as good as the music of that bygone era (I love everyone from Global Illage and Citizen Cope to Honey Watts and The Roots). But music used to be at the center of what was once a powerful cultural shift on multiple levels all happening at once -- we were waking up to how profoundly powerful the magic of the human mind is. Listening to Marvin Gaye or Pink Floyd or Santana took the heart and the mind of the listener on a trip that was both oddly spiritual and physically alluring. The link between emotion, language, and the body was something we were all really truly committed to understanding...and Experiencing. [Don't get me wrong here: musicians are still working at this level; trust me, I know many amazing artists. It's never been about anything but getting to the spinning heart of the magic of the human soul...I'm talking about the rest of us.]

Can you dramatize all of these issues? Can you make a story up that calls the reader to the back fence when everything almost seemed to make sense? Are there still mysteries here worth exploring? How does a writer delve into all of this and leave the mythologies of the past open-ended in a way that still lets the reader bring their own intuitions to the dance?

The only way to find out is to read Beyond the Will of God. Stay tuned and consider buying this e-book when it comes out on June 15. If you don't have an e-reader, you can download Kindle for the Mac and Kindle for Windows. Just go here: Kindle Apps

Or use this as your excuse to buy a new iPad or Kindle. You know you want one.

Remember, June 15 is the release date at the Kindle Store. It will be interesting summer reading.

And for those who know what they're doing, if you send me your Kindle email address (found in your Amazon account in the "Manage Your Kindle" then "Manage Your Devices" section), I will forward you an advance copy of Beyond the Will of God at no charge. This offer is good through June 14. All I ask is that you let people know about this book, and/or that you review it at Amazon after June 15th.


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