November 16, 2014
All great music is country music. From Handles Water Music to Guy Clark’s Homeless, music that matters is music of landscape.
The landscape sings. Not metaphorical nor exacting music, rather the song of landscape rises from the mystical space of experiential and Déjà vu, from space known and unknown. Landscape singing tells stories, ancient and current, of creation; and great music, well, great music comes from those who listen well. This is why great music is genre-less. The best of the Blues or Native Folk, or Rap or Powwow or Western or Jazz or Native flute and whistle or Classical, comes from those who have tuned into the landscape, listened, and interpreted that song so the rest of us can hear—the nature of Creation, I think, is to hold on to her valuables until a caring ear or eye or hand comes along, gently leans in, and asks if they might interpret his voice so others might awaken.
Hearing the fullness of the landscape is to become whole. To sing well, in key or not, is to know the voice of place. The song of landscape is unique, but then, every landscape is uniquely its own. No other voice, no other sound can come out of her than that which is his own. Jazz, the Blues, ancient stick and drum, and Western sing of place. Classical does the same, but in human’s eagerness to classify, the songs of many landscapes have been bundled together and place of origin too often lost. Yet to think of Hip Hop or Bluegrass as place specific is a misnomer. When the musician pays attention to place, the music s/he creates is an interpretation of the landscape’s song. However, the place of the musician’s origin (if s/he is from another landscape) is not lost in the interpretation. Think of it this way, the song of the western Sierra Nevada’s is like no other. When a musician listens to the Sierra’s song, s/he will interpret the song so we might understand and enjoy. Yet, say, south-central Los Angeles is the musician’s landscape of birth. When she came and committed her life to the Sierra landscape, she also forever embedded a bit of her south-central tone into the landscape. The landscape sings the song of place, and it is a song of wholeness; the wholeness of what has long been and that which is new: the wandering wolf, the lost human, the meandering wind.
Great loss occurs though when other overwhelms the landscapes song. The landscapes song is never lost, but its song can go unnoticed. When folk of another landscape arrive to a new landscape, chose not to marry or embed themselves into the ancient richness of their new landscape, and instead sing songs only of the landscape of their origin, they mask the natural greatness of the land of their residence. The current reality of the south-central L.A. example is often opposite as spoken to above. The experience of the American landscape have folk arriving in the Sierra’s, believing the song of their origin is the correct song, and therefore choose not to listen to the Sierra song. Therefore, while the Sierra’s continue to sing, few listen, few interpret, and the great song is never sung.
The great song becomes attainable, though, when folk marry their landscape. To give themselves fully to the land in which they live. For some, this is accepting the land of their ancestors is their land. For others, who reside in a landscape not of their foreparent’s, marriage is unfastening self from the normal of another place and stepping into a life of richness and growth that comes from listening to birds, fish, mannerisms, and speech that are different. The song builds towards greatness as people join in their landscapes ancient heritage and contribute toward the developing heritage of their children seven generations into tomorrow.
Native American Heritage matters to the American people because the American people need a great song. The great song depends on the people of the America’s discerning the landscapes song and come alongside with a penchant for healing, wholeness, and renewal. Such discernment begs the people outside where the sky speaks, neighbor’s converse, and lovers dance. Outside in the landscape, Native American Heritage Month becomes more than a month endorsed by the government, more than attending a powwow, more than learning about and admitting to countless atrocities. Outside, with the people and the land, Native American Heritage Month becomes a time of connecting, reconnecting, and remembering. It becomes a time of honoring the landscape of all Americans and all Americas. It brings dignity to the ancient relationship between American Indians and their ancestors. It calls for non-American Indians to respect their ancient past of another soil and their developing and generational marriage to the American landscape. Native American Heritage Month should not be about superficial apologies and tributes, but rather about a gathering of the landscapes people who listen well to a landscapes matrimonial song. Attended to well, people become wedded to the land, harmony brings about new songs, and the folk of the Americas experience great country music.