6/14/2009

What would I do without Dan Deacon?

(note to Facebook friends: This post is better seen on my blog, where the YouTube embeds work)

As I type this, my friend is at the Dan Deacon show in Baltimore. I had hoped to go, but this is my night with the kids and nothing is more important than them. I wish him well and hope he has one of the best times of his life.

He just texted me to tell me the show's underway, and I wish so much I could just teleport there for a few minutes. Dan Deacon is a master of showmanship, something that can be evidenced in all of the reports I've read about how he can transform crowds into dancing machines. I first heard about him thanks to a track played on NPR's All Songs Considered that I heard while at the gym. Bob Boilen sang his praises, and then I heard this track which definitely piqued my interest as I did my leg exercises.



You have to understand. I have been interested in the composition of electronic music since learning that Raymond Scott, who directed the CBS Orchestra in the 1930's, pioneered the use of electronic music after he retired from that position. Scott also is responsible for some of the best music of the 20th century in my opinion. I first learned of that music after learning that Carl Stalling, who scored the Looney Tunes cartoons, had based many of his compositions on Scott's work. I mean, we've all heard Powerhouse, right? (you'll have to click on the link to hear this - strongly recommended)

Scott's jazz work was all about juxtaposing segments within a song. In Powerhouse, for instance, there's an A section and a B section. Both are more or less independent of each other, but complement each other. B is usually a little more contemplative. Both together fuse into something quite amazing. In my mind, this has always appealed to me. After all, the music that caught my attention the most when I was 15 was the Pixies, who applied the same formula to their version of rock music.



The B part is less distinct from the rest in the track I'm using as an example. But, I'm using Debaser here because the common thread so far among all three artists is the fact they convey motion so well through music. The Pixies stopped being any good, of course, because Black Francis became such a control freak. That's similar to what happened to Raymond Scott, whose s jazz work frustrated him because he had to work with other musicians, who were keen to improv. In his mind, he couldn't rely on them, and so he began to build machines to make music for him. One day I'll write a little more about that. But for now...

Dan Deacon builds not only on Scott's compositional style, but is the living embodiment of a composer who no longer needs an ensemble. Yet, Deacon's not been content with being a mere musician and took the whole thing full circle when he brought a live ensemble on tour with him this spring, as documented in this fantastic offering by NPR's All Songs Considered.

Go listen, or at least watch the video there. Listen to him talk, listen to what he does with the crowd, and fall in love with the guy. It's hard not to. His music is so far the perfect embodiment of hope and lunacy and brilliance. At least, it was for me when I first heard one of his live show's thanks to National Public Radio. I heard it only days after moving back into my home after being in exile for five months. When I did, in the early morning hours of May 19th, 2009, my life kind of changed. I began to let hope back into my own life. I couldn't figure, it out, but writing this, I realize that he's the heir to at two of my musical favorites, completing the circle in some way for me. After all, I've dabbled in both electronic music and punk rock, but yet I've always been way too scared to actually to do. Now, I feel a bit more enabled, but even if I don't pursue that avenue, I have the knowledge that someone else felt inspired in the same way I was.

And now, my friend is up there dancing in a crazy manner while listening to Mr. Deacon play his music while he exhorts the crowds to fully join in. So I conclude this post (and my night) with this live track from Chicago so you can have an idea of what he's capable of doing:



What would I do without Dan Deacon?

I don't want to know.





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