I Can't Be The Only One Hearing This
A Lifetime of Music Through Eclectic Ears
By: Cedric Hendrix
Publisher: Global Publishing Group L.L.C.
Text: Robin Boer
A Lifetime of Music Through Eclectic Ears
By: Cedric Hendrix
Publisher: Global Publishing Group L.L.C.
Text: Robin Boer
When it comes to music, there is always a lot of room for discussion. Especially when it comes to the point where music actually needs to be considered 'good' or 'bad'. An argument that is given mostly, is that 'all depends on personal taste.' To a certain level, that might be correct. However, something which is quite hard to explain to those who are not relating, is that it doesn't always work that way. There is a way to judge music on absolute quality, and within that quality, there lies a certain level of taste. Taste is subject to development though, and many people tend to argue about that. I strongly believe the human soul is capable of experiencing music on many levels, and that same soul needs to learn in order to appreciate the more complex structures. This requires interest, effort and patience. For that, I use my listening ear. But I also learned that not everyone is using their ears as such. And maybe a lot of people somehow do not know (or do not want to) how to listen 'that' way. The question arises: is there both a right and a wrong way of listening to music? Maybe... maybe not, but certainly the way of listening has a direct effect on the way how people experience music and, in the end, how we judge it and how it enlightens our life.
The Only One?
During my years of growing up, I slowly found out that my way of listening to music differs to the way many people from my generation do. The music that was played at home by my parents might have something to do with that, but I dare to believe that your sensibility for certain music is being given by birth. In the end, it is about what you do with it, and how you develop your listening and how you colour your musical journey.
For years, I was dissapointed, thinking that I am one of the very few that hear 'this'. Many might say that 'this' is just my own personal taste. But I do believe there is more to it than just that. And luckily, it turns out that (of course) I am not the only one. Thanks to the internet, forums and social media, I found out that there are many more people in the world that experience music the same way as I do, with a surprisingly big overlap when it comes to specific artists, bands, and albums of interest. I am not talking about two or three genres, or about ten bands or albums here. My taste became more versatile than many within my line of friends, family and colleagues can, or wish, to contain, let alone understand. Despite all this, I was looking (online) for people that are able to describe the experiences (like discovering certain artists/bands, albums and visiting concerts) misunderstandings, incomprehension and even ignorance that comes with it. Unfortunately without any success. Even the people with more sophisticated tastes I met turned out to have a very limited point of view compared to my own knowledge and range of taste.
Luckily, this year, someone knocked on my digital door all by himself, inviting me to like his Facebook page and to befriend his profile. His name is Cedric Hendrix and his Facebook page is called 'I Can't Be The Only One Hearing This': a title that grabbed my attention immediately. This quote says it all. I read reviews and articles on his website cirdecsongs.com and found out we have a big overlap in musical interests. Something I found out a while later, is that this man wrote a complete book about music and how it affected his life. This 449 paged book with the same title I mentioned above, turns out to be a collection of thoughts, opinions and experiences that gave me a big smile multiple times, shouting out: “Yes, THAT's what I mean!!!” But enough about my personal experiences. From now on, I stick to what this wonderful book has to offer.
After a strong foreword by American session guitarist, keyboardist, vocalist and composer Mike Keneally (who played in both Frank and Dweezil Zappa's band, and later on in touring bands of Steve Vai and Joe Satriani) who shares the same vision, I found out the book is being divided into sections comparable with those from a record. There is a 'Side One', 'Side Two', 'Side Three' and 'Side Four', which splits up the book into four sections. Hendrix' love for music really took off with the discovery of David Bowie's music and the better 'underground' radio stations from the late 70's and 80's. The evolution of both underground and commercial radio is being described very detailed, and Hendrix makes himself very clear about the demise of worthwile (FM) radio during the 90's up until today. The same goes for the good old (independent) record stores, from which he visited quite a lot during both his youth in 1977 (with his dad) and adult life, mostly in St. Louis (still his hometown where he works as a cop). A fun aspect is the different types of sellers he is profiling, all competent in their own music genres, and how they played an important role in his discovery of a lot of older and newer music, like 'Soul Brother', 'Pop Guy' 'Professor Classical' and 'Jazz Guy', for example. As many of us might know, the amount of specialised record stores decreased immensly during the years and today, only a few worthwile are left.
Jazz, classical music and progressive rock
Specific chapters contain detailed descriptions of discovery and admiration of certain artists and bands, like Miles Davis, which brought Hendrix more into the world of Jazz music, and his enormous love for the British rock bands Genesis and King Crimson, which were very progressive during their careers. He considers the latter being the most important musical discovery of his life: the big game changer that developed his taste and vision more than anything else. (I surely can relate!) The enthousiasm and passion in the way these journeys are described are more than recognisable and entertaining for the real music enthousiasts, and for admirers of these particular names even more. Hendrix mentiones specific era's, line-up changes, album- and songtitles and his personal, sharp opinions on them. A very moving second chapter on King Crimson tells the story about a very close friend of Hendrix, who played an important role during his journey through the 90's period of the band, and the special moments they shared together. A must-read for sure. Miles Davis and Frank Zappa are getting their own interesting chapters as well, and there are words to read on his slowly increasing collection of classical music. Each chapter in the book ends with a description of (numbered) foot notes earlier in the chapter, which add some nice additional thoughts and facts.
Alternative rock and Adrian Belew
During the 80's and 90's, Hendrix found his way through different radio stations, leading to dig deep into catalogues of bands like R.E.M., Living Colour, U2, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, B-52's, 10.000 Maniacs, and XTC. Radiohead, Jack White and Aimee Mann also belong to the list of high regarded musicians on Hendrix' list. It is interesting to find out that all those names, like the heavy, industrial music of producer Trent Reznor's Nine Inch Nails, although they all contain their own unique dialect within the big language of music, they share one thing: creativity, draft and craft.
Adrian Belew, the innovative guitar player from King Crimson, which started in bands of Frank Zappa, David Bowie and The Talking Heads during the late 70's and early 80's, turns out to be Hendrix' big musical hero and inspirator. They even met each other a few times and it's a treat to read why and how Belew is playing such an important role into Hendrix' musical life. The strong part is that, even for those who never heard of Belew (which, unfortunately, are many), can't escape getting interested in his music, just because the special skills and unique character of this man are being written down so colourful and passionate, from a true fan perspective, rather than from a 'distant' writer. Other meets and greets with artists are mentioned, and even personal live concert experiences are being described in detail, like different types of venues and how Hendrix is relating to them. Personally, I couldn't agree more on these observations. Hendrix also played guitar in his own band called 'The Sheltering Sky' (named after the King Crimson instrumental from 1981), a trial that truly had its pitfalls that turn out very familiar when I look at my own life being an amateur musician.
Women and music of today
A small chapter is dedicated to female artists, from which Hendrix' found out he gave too little attention too. A really fair thought I might say, since there are a lot of very creative, important women in music, like Joni Mitchell, Kate Bush, P.J. Harvey, Linda Ronstadt, Madonna, Björk, Sinead O'Connor and many, many more that deserve way more attention because of their creative and musical efforts. To a certain level, Hendrix' caught up pretty well and one of his most worthy discoveries is the band Bent Knee from Boston: a band that won't get itself trapped into a defined genre. Worth checking out. Where it concerns music, one needs to agree that one shouldn't speak of 'male' and 'female' in the first place. Why is the gender of the musician or performer important? In the end, it is about the music itself, right? Humanity still has a long way to go at this point.
I agree with Hendrix that times have changed and the way people discover new music is quite different than during earlier times, where one could 'trust' on the quality of radio shows. Since record companies and related companies within the music business fell too much into hands of business men instead of real music enthousiasts, things changed a lot and money became the main goal, instead of music. Instead of serving the people with new music to discover, they play mostly music people already know. A lot of people don't know what they want anymore, they just want what they know, and that's a main concern in both our and the writer's perspective. Because of this, a lot of people are missing out unique, deep experiences from music they never knew existed.
Although Hendrix delivers no sympathy to today's streaming services like Spotify, Tidal and Apple Music, he points out the service Bandcamp, where artists choose which part of their recorded music they make available for stream, with the option to buy digital files or physical media like CD's or vinyl directly from them. Bandcamp proves to be a very handy and effective tool to make the perfect combination of checking out new music and supporting the artists.
Love for music
Main point is that Cedric Hendrix has a deep love for music. And where for most people the 'love' for music comes with specific genres, one of the key points within Hendrix' sharp and urgent vision is that music shouldn't be divided into genres in order to appreciate. Claiming to have a 'broad taste' can't just mean you only like a few genres in pop music. Music is universal and that means all types are part of that: old music, middle-aged, classical, world, jazz, folk, and all facets within pop. The true explorer is able to find something to his/her liking within every part of music history. Then again, people can potentially open an interesting new world of deep experiences by increasing their curiosity and go into the big world of music out there by themselves. One may be surprised what to find there. In the end, the listener with the open ear is able to separate only two types of music: good and bad. Robert Fripp once said: “Music is for anyone brave enough to give it ears.” One can wonder why not more people are willing to try. Fortunately, I am not the only one hearing this and I doubt there is a more multifaceted way to put these thoughts into words the way Hendrix did.
This book has been one big joy of recognition to me and I enjoyed it very much, especially because we share a lot of the opinions, visions and types of musical experiences described. The whole story breathes an unlimited profound love for (good and worthwile) music and it even provided me a few very interesting musical discoveries as well. An essential read I highly recommend.
You can find more about Cedric Hendrix on his website and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: Cedric Hendrix / I Can't Be The Only One Hearing This.
The book is available via Amazon.com.