so I was at the keynote interview yesterday with young and jonathan demme, which was ok, but I have to make a confession: I have major issues with the big boomer dinosaurs of song. I guess it’s mainly because I think they never accepted the teaching responsibility that naturally belongs to leading artists. teaching is a necessity for artists who work in less financially remunerative forms, and I say that’s a good thing. it’s good for the artists and the students/future artists, and it’s good for the art. it creates a scene, community, etc (however insular and backstabbing it might be).
it always bugs me to think that people like neil young never really came down off their rock star mountaintop to teach and share what they do. that’s some selfishness right there. that’s entitlement. but it goes even further, because not only didn’t they teach, but in some vague way they still to this day imply that what they do can’t be taught. they characterize themselves as the chosen vessels of the muse, as if they never worked or tried to figure out how to do it. I guarantee you that when neil young was in his teens and twenties, that all he did was try to figure out how it’s done. but in the keynote, young trotted out his worn-out old notion that says you have to treat creativity like a wild animal, approach it cautiously, make little noises to get it to come out of its hole, and then carefully try to engage with it for a while before it runs away.
ok, first of all, there is something profound about this notion, don’t misunderstand me. it’s quite true, and it’s inspiring. but coming from someone like neil young, there’s an antique, sixties, almost cheesy whiff of anti-intellectualism about it that I find both kind of funny and also really really irrelevant. maybe it’s some kind of dusty, kerouac-lite romanticism? I don’t know, but I’ve experienced this at bob dylan shows too in the last 5 or 10 years, and I’m a HUGE dylan fan. it reminds me of easy rider, like these guys have a little dude inside themselves cruising around on a chopper, wearing an american flag helmet and thinking “right on man, I’m free out here where no one can touch me, talk to me or tell me what to do.” listening to young yesterday, I was thinking: “it’s a different world now, neil. you can park the bike and get involved. it’s ok.”
ok, maybe we all have that little chopper dude inside us, if we’re really trying to be honest here. fine. and you can’t think your way into making good art, everyone knows that. but come on, any aesthetic approach that systematically amputates a human ability, especially one as central to our nature as reflecting, considering, imagining, thinking, is just wack. call me crazy, but I’m into the whole person making music. use what you’ve got however you feel you need to, and make sure what you produce is good. that’s the game. oh, and it’s something everyone can do. that’s important.
ok, let the angry replies begin. I know it’s probably going to take some back and forth to clarify…. but before the real flames start up, please remember that I know that mr young is a definitive, titanic genius. I have no problem whatsoever with the work he’s done over many many years. I lurve his songs and records. I just can’t relate to some of the things he says. and I don’t think it’s crazy to think that superstardom might have distorted his perspective about some things.
just a thought,