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.


Friday, May 25, 2012

33 1/3: Real Books About Music

Hopefully, a lot of you are thinking about the future of paper books these days. Books are objects. E-Books aren't (although the iPad and the Kindle reader, and many other electronic tablet type thingies, are pretty amazing pieces of technology).

There's just no question that digital text is going to have a massive impact on the publishing world's business planning for the next decade. It seems pretty clear that paper-based books are going to shift in significance for people. By that I mean they're going to become more valuable and more meaningful -- although, it's likely that sales will be dwarfed by e-books.

I predict that you're not going to be able to find 1st-Run books in paper form at bookstores and libraries by 2020, but once a book "proves" itself in the marketplace (electronically), you're going to be able to buy it as a hard copy in real space. 

You're going to have two options: 

1) a print-on-demand (POD) edition that may or may not be high quality (click here to read an article on a POD system called "The Espresso Book Machine") 

2) a limited edition, special run of a book. Pricing for these efforts will be easier and more predictable if the book shows it can sell. 

My guess is people will be willing to pay more than the $9.99 standard e-book price for stuff they really love. More importantly, buying a $35 hard copy book as a gift seems to me a very powerful trend opportunity. Yes, I know we already do that, but pretty soon it could be a much stronger statement of friendship and love and esteem. "Oh, my God, you bought me a hardback copy of 50 Shades of Grey? Oh, my God! You are going to get lucky tonight...after I finish reading again." See what I mean?).

There are also going to be lots of niche paperbound book offerings, without doubt -- from poetry to anthologies to classics (like James Frazer's The Golden Bough). In addition, the shift in value of paper-based books could very likely spawn new and creative offerings from entrepreneurial new publishers who understand that books are art again.

The most interesting enterprise I've come across recently is 33 1/3 (originally run by Continuum and recently purchased by Bloomsbury). 33 1/3 is a publishing venture that produces monograph/creative books about great vinyl music albums of the past. One of their latest efforts is penned by Jonathan Lethem about the Talking Heads' revolutionary album "Fear of Music." Check out an intriguing review of this book at The Millions here.

33 1/3 is working on their 87th book in the series now.  They cover everything from Pink Floyd's "Piper at the Gates of Dawn" to "Zaareika" by The Flaming Lips, and U2's "Achtung Baby." These books are each printed in lots of a few thousand and possess all the valence of the albums they represent. Typically, they sell for $15. Personally, I think they could jack the price another $10 and more people would buy them. They're artifacts. Very soon we will see them as works of art again. Won't that be a wonderful world? 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Global illage: Music to Drift into the Wilderness With

Sometimes you are blessed with good friends who have so much artistic talent they inspire the hell out of you. As I work through final edits and publication formatting for Beyond the Will of God, I have the privilege of listening to some of the most interesting music I've heard in a long time. My good friend Jim Hamilton, percussionist extraordinaire (a big-time student of Brazilian rhythm of all kinds), has provided me with a rough cut of extended compositions by an iteration (or something) of his electro-trip-jazz band GLOBAL iLLAGE.

Rest assured, if you pay attention, the most amazing music you will ever hear is yet to come.

I have no idea when these tracks will find their way into finished form, but you really need to be on the lookout for this album. It's establishing one helluva supreme manifestation in my head. My novel Beyond the Will of God, is all about the transformative, transcendent power of music. It is a murder mystery wrapped up in a music mystery wrapped up in a set of cosmic questions. (And, yes, you forgot about those questions, I know, but they still require an answer!) That's what this music is all about (except the murder).

So, I'm listening right now to some of the best free-form, swirling, groove beat, wilderness-inducing music I've heard since their first album, "SushiLove Sessions." I'm kind of afraid to put on headphones and crank this stuff. Our house might float away.... 

The SushiLove Sessions was my go-to CD (a double disc tour de force) back in the early Naughts as I finished the second round of revisions to Beyond the Will of God and a teaser story called "The Significance of Music: The Egg Journals." Sushi has an "ill side" and a "chill side." They're both right up there with my favorite intelligent music of all time. 

What comes to mind listening to the Global dudes is Weather Report, Miles Davis, Don Cherry, and Mahavishnu Orchestra all squeezed into a 21st Century Zip-Lock Baggie full of sparkling Brazilian and African World Rhythm served up through very loving, gentle melodic riffs that are actually surprisingly soulful and inventive all at once. This is dance music as tripped-out and far-fetched as anything you've ever heard, but joyous, full spirited and extremely touching in parts -- and insanely wild in others. 

You can find out more about SushiLove Sessions, here. You can also track it down on either CD Baby, or iTunes. Buy it and listen to it when the sun goes down...or just before the sun comes up. I will try to keep you posted on when this next album is coming out. It's amazing.


Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Conspiracy Theory and The Near Future

A book announcement.

The 1970s were the pinnacle years for conspiracy theories in America. Uncertainties about JFK's assassination got things rolling in the 1960s, but the stories got weirder and weirder the more we watched our great cultural heroes pass on into death well before their time -- Kerouac, Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, MLK, Jr., even Elvis -- to name just a few.

For years it was said that no one ever saw The Doors' Jim Morrison's body after he died and that his grave in Paris was empty. 

Conspiracy theorists had a field day when evidence of CIA misdeeds came to light during the Church Committee Hearings. No one had ever heard of Remote Viewing. The experiments performed by various military and CIA intelligence units on unwitting citizens using psychedelic drugs seemed like proof that the mysteries of LSD, mescaline, and psilocybin were more than psychological fancy. 

As the 1970s gave way to the 1980s & 1990s, abandoned missile silos throughout the prairie belt of the US became decommissioned and old school Cold War paranoids became convinced the military was up to something far more dangerous than nuclear missiles. And then there were all the stories about secret "black helicopters" and paramilitary militia groups, bolstered by the realities of the Reverend Jim Jones, David Koresh, and other fanatic cult groups. 

My new novel, Beyond the Will of God, playfully links a good portion of these tantalizing "theories" together. Imagine as well that something far more important is at the root of what's really been going on. Somewhere in the heart of central Missouri in the near future, mysterious music will filter through night darkened farmland. The dead body of an Amish teenager will launch a police investigation that leads to a great deal more than a simple homicide. Elvis will be seen roaming the countryside. A young, drug-addled clairvoyant will arrive in the area, confused about some odd power that improvisational psychedelic music has over human consciousness. The Sumter brothers and their unofficial militia group are also somehow involved.

Police Sergeant Jill Simpson teams up with Philadelphia tabloid reporter Franklin Harris to tie all of these issues together. These mysteries play out amidst the dense heat of rural central Missouri and on the edges of the almost forgotten city of Columbia. Secrets are revealed about the supposed doors of perception and the limits of expanded consciousness.

If you are looking for summer reading that is fun and thought provoking and far beyond the usual, this book is worth the read. I think of Beyond the Will of God as sort of a fairytale for Baby Boomers and other people who "get it." It's part thriller, part mystery, part science fiction, part paranormal speculation.

Publication is scheduled for June 15 at Amazon's Kindle Store. Contact me if you'd like an advance digital copy (available by June 1). Just email me and I will forward you a digital copy for your iPad, Kindle, Nook or most anything else.

See the top of the page to sign up for email updates regarding Beyond the Will of God and other stuff I'm working on.

And, lastly, for what it's worth, please forward the link for this announcement to those who might be interested. Believe it or not, all the marketing studies out there say that word-of-mouth is the most effective way to sell books. I'm an independent writer. I need your help. Post the link on your FaceBook Page, email it to friends, Tweet it, whatever makes sense. I am Grateful!