Thursday, March 24, 2011

Convening with Sterling Witt: subconscious accidents

Last Thursday at the Brick, I heard Sterling Witt’s music. Artist and musician, Allan Winkler played drums. Sterling sang and played his acoustic guitar upside down, strung conventionally but adapted to his left-handed view of the world. Yesterday, Sterling and I met at Mildred’s Coffeehouse in the Crossroads. Right now, while writing this, I’m listening to a CD demo, a gift from Sterling with 6 new songs, recorded using his hand-held digital recorder in his bathroom. He recorded our conversation as well.

Sterling draws. He’s done this since before he can remember. His inexplicable passion for creating visual art continues. Yesterday, he visited Kansas City from his home in Harrisonville Missouri to purchase art supplies. Lately, he’s creating watercolors and it’s becoming more about the paper than the paint; how the paper reacts to the paint, drinks it in or not. Accidents become art and subconsciously, without a great deal of over-analyzed self-awareness, Sterling understands this.

This was a conversation full of metaphors. Artists use metaphor to create as well as explain. Their art consists of metaphor, suggestions, comparisons. Here’s a good one: music is like an animal. When he said that, I pictured various types of wildlife. Does the music industry sometimes wish to “cage” the animal, tame it somehow? In scoring, documenting, recording music, do the conventions crush the unconventional nature of music? Does music need a genre branding stamp? Do local clubs (literal clubs a la the Mickey Mouse, sorority, fraternal order of sounds) try to place flying pigeons in pigeon holes? Some pigeons long for a cozy roost with like minded pigeons. Some pigeons may look like pigeons but they’re destined to fly or die. Music dies when it cannot be its wild self. Music becomes prosaic when we try to tame it.

Accidents and animals…

As a writer when I crave a cool drink of clear writing I re-read Chekhov. When Sterling sips he sips Nirvana. I get that. My son’s music brain blossomed at the age of 7 when he smelled their teen spirit and danced on the coffee table which broke when he and his sister jumped. Sterling was a pre-teen at 12, when he smelled it, heard it. Three years later he picked up a bass guitar. Sounds like cliché, right? Musical roots are real. You have yours. You dust-off stuff all the time and savor it again. But in the present tense, it’s cool to think about the art that is, the art Sterling creates visually and in performance. It makes me wonder what it would be like to scatter this creativity to fresh aching young minds, too young to even have a fake ID to infiltrate a club, to inspire some young people to break a coffee table, paint, sing, play something, make something.

Accidents, animals, roots…

Sometimes you fit in because you fit. Often we break out the psychological sandpaper and smooth our rough edges to fit-in. Sometimes we carve big chunks of ourselves away, throwing away the pieces or saving them in a box, hidden, to gain acceptance. Then there’s people who grow, change, morph, evolve with mysterious metamorphosis. Mysterious blossoms of color and sound. Not different for the sake of being so, just different because it happens that way.

Accidents, animals, roots, change…

If music is an animal, the animal needs to roam, move, forage, fly, and sing. This Spring, Sterling’s going to the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania to hang out and play his music in the area for a while. He’s been there before and they want him back. His friend there is Harry Snodgrass, the program director for the local college radio station, WXLV 90.3 FM “the Edge” at Carbon Community College in Schnecksville. Next stop Philly? Maybe. Just a short way down the turnpike. From the Heartland, east to the edge.

Accidents, animals, roots, change, fly, Sterling, fly.

…thanks for convening and roosting with me on your flight to who knows where…safe journey.

have a listen...sounds of the future, today.

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