An open-source song.Posted: July 12, 2012
I think we amateur musicians are, as a rule, a bit too precious about our music. We take criticism way too hard, guard our work jealously and convince ourselves that the world is waiting to rip us to shreds.
Perhaps it’s to do with how we grew up. For our entire lives, the music we listen to has mostly been controlled by a worldwide industry and social pressures. This isn’t so bad for the average person, because as long as there’s good music out there to listen to (and there is), they’re fairly content. We who are in love with the thought of being a musician, however, are very confused and a little bit crazy.
Before the music industry and the appreciation thereof became such a dominating global force, music outside of the artistic sphere was a form of entertainment and treated as such. Songs were mostly performed based on how enjoyable they were. Bands toured, playing to audiences who were looking for a good time, and they played songs that would lead to a good time. There are still hundreds of bands like this. Ever been to a smaller festival? I guarantee you that, on average, the band that gets the greatest response will be the slick funk/mariachi/whatever band that plays music you’ve heard a million times before, but with such gusto that it’s impossible to stand still. A bunch of sour-faced young men with guitars rarely goes down so well, and these sour-faced young men will dance with everyone else before adding that old caveat: well, they’re a festival band, aren’t they? Of course they’re going to go down well.
When the blues aesthetic spread, however, the average musician became much more interested in self-expression. This was a positive influence for a while, but I believe we’ve come out the other side. We’re a generation raised on the ideal of the tortured, ‘real’ musician.
Nowadays, you’re either a pure artist, or you’re little more than a function band, peddling tepid covers for background noise. Not the most destructive distinction, to be sure, but for a musician who’s still learning, it leads to all sorts of problems and a tremendous amount of pressure. We all want to be taken seriously, damn it. But generally you have to get to a certain level of competence before people will take you seriously. Again, in times past, this wasn’t such a big deal: you could be a band that played old standards to appreciative audiences for years before you decided to start writing your own stuff. Now, we’ve convinced ourselves we have to be original and authentic from the start, because that’s how the music we loved growing up was sold to us. And it’s nigh-on impossible to be original and authentic when you’re 18 and have no fucking clue what you’re doing.
I think I’ve come to terms with what being a musician is, and what it requires. Music shouldn’t have to be so precious and bound up in how I view myself. So I’m going to start giving songs away for anyone to take what good from them they can.
This is a song called Will o’ the Wisp that I wrote about four months ago as a travis picking exercise. It’s about how worked up you get when you think someone’s interested in you, and how the resulting fantasies can play havoc with your self-esteem and sense of reality. Since it’s not going to become part of my canon, I’m officially releasing it under a Creative Commons license, which means that it’s free to listen to, share and perform. Under this license, anyone who uses it technically has to attribute it to the author, but that attribution is defined by the author, so as far as I’m concerned, you don’t have to say I wrote it at all.
If you’re looking for a simple song to practice fingerpicking, everything you need is here. If you’re looking for an acoustic song to bulk out your set, go for it. You don’t have to say it’s a cover. You can record your own version, put it on a CD and sell it if you want. If you like the lyrics but hate the music, use them elsewhere. Take a line or two, if that’s all you want. If you like one passage, you can take it and incorporate it into your probably-superior song. You don’t have to feel bad about it, the same way you don’t have to feel bad if you take inspiration from an 18th century nursery rhyme. You don’t have to tell me or ask me. It belongs to the world now.
I think it’d be nice to have a new collection of standards, don’t you?
Will o’ the Wisp is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.