Writing was done to communicate. From one to other. From one to a group. From one to even the next generation. Writers typically write out of necessity and compulsion. However, much of this writing was to entertain and inform. As the oral tradition passed ribald and adventurous tales from one tribe to another, one country to another, one continent to another, many stories transformed and absorbed the social changes within each group.
Sumerian Literature has a purpose. When they developed cuneiform as a means to communicate, they chose to then write about the most important aspects of their life, namely religion and history. Epic poems still had no rhyme and the entire purpose was to promote literacy in a Bronze Age civilization.
In China and the early countries taking roots in modern Asia, stories were carved into ceramic bowls and containers. As one faction took over another faction, the newly crowned "more powerful" one would destroy the history of the vanquished as a means of assimilation into theirs. So, the stories and culture were hidden upon these household items.
Roman and Greek Literature became the basis for all that followed in every square inch of the Earth. Military tales of Caesar were both history and promoting nationalism, Romantic episodes rose from their popularity and were interspersed. By the time the epic poetry of Homer arrives in the well-studied "The Iliad" and "The Odyssey," myths spread lessons, and even courtly love and chivalry come into their own.
And then there is the Literature of Africa, where the "call and response" elicited a reaction from those who listened, the griots added music and then they became songs. Animals and nature were subjects of great importance and could be instilled with the same mythological lessons as Greek and Roman Literature.
In Northumberland, a monk with no knowledge whatsoever of the song heard the others feasting, singing, and telling stories. He went to lay down with the animals to actually get away from it. While he slumbered that night, he was visited in a dream. In this fugue state, he learned how to compose a song. The song he composed would be a song of praise for the creator.
Unlike our dreams, he remembered his in its entirety. After telling his foreman, he was rushed to the abbess where he recited it for her. Upon the ruling that this was indeed a divine event, he was commissioned to write another song. The abbess declared that the others teach this man history and the sacred text. Again, he would compose these lessons into songs of praise. Caedmon fell asleep one night and created the modern English song. The genesis of all music, poetry, and prose that follow these other worldwide movements lives within those books on your shelves.
Mik Davis is the record store manager at T-Bones Records & Cafe in Hattiesburg.
NEW MUSIC THIS WEEK
NATHANIEL RATELIFF & THE NIGHT SWEATS - The Future
Denver's Nathaniel Rateliff is a bit of mystery in today's music. As a singer/songwriter whose side project became his primary source of admiration and adulation, Rateliff leads the big, brassy band like a classic Soul singer but still manages to squeeze in the inner workings of his intimate writing. Like his debut album (with the hit "S.O.B.,") Rateliff proves his fondness of spartan Sixties Soul is the best backdrop ("Survivor") for both grooves and brassy choruses. "Love Don't" revisits Motown, while "What If I" launches itself into a Colemine-ready single. Rateliff knows his Soul for sure and knows how to write a chorus that sticks, but still it is hard to shake how much "The Future" sounds like the past.
SNAIL MAIL - Valentine
Lindsey Jordan leads her band into a sparking new crystalline record that fulfills her potential. Where "Lush" found its sizzle in the immediacy of Jordan's songs, "Valentine" reflects far more craft on her part. The title cut sizes itself up quickly to be a new "female-wailer" in the tradition of Hole's "Live Through This." If she sounds a little meeker than her band on the verses, it only sets you up to be thoroughly taken by surprise from the release of her huge, anthemic chorus. Still, credit to producer Brad Cook for not making what is structured like a Nineties song into a Nineties-sounding record. "Ben Franklin" goes even farther mixing Jordan's listless, detached words with a girlish coo over what, in other hands, would be SynthPop. In addition, as the song evolves there is a unique reality about how Jordan seems to wake up in what lyrically is a dark track. The Liz Phair-ish "Madonna" dares to reframe lost love into relief through religion. Over a breezy, sweeping Pop song, Jordan intones "Divine intervention's just too much work/I don't need absolution - it just hurts" with both anguish and the relief of having lived through this. A heavy record in hit record clothing.
RADIOHEAD - Kid A Mnesia
When one of the most important records of the last twenty years is reissued, you have to find a way to apprise what is lost and where it stands. On their fourth album and follow-up to the hugely successful "OK Computer," Radiohead literally saw the future. It is appropriate today that one of the first new albums to be released to download and streaming is really a plethora of Electronics - but not necessarily Electronic Music.
The feeling that "Kid A" and its companion "Amnesiac" carry twenty years later is that they represent Radiohead in their full creative release. "Everything In Its Right Place," now a standard opens the record in a quiet, haunting mood before bursting into a panoply of manipulated sounds and voices. Everything that follows on both albums uses this rubric. "The National Anthem" remains a thunderous (but never overbearing) exploration of repetition with Jazz underpinnings. "Idioteque" and "Morning Bell" then manage to travel farther into chaos and despair surprisingly.
"Amnesiac," which quickly followed "Kid A," lives on as a more contiguous work with the songs on Side One fitting together often in pairs (the beat-heavy Electronics of "Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors" dissolves into huge build of "You and Whose Army?" "I Might Be Wrong," "Pyramid Song" and "Knives Out" all made dynamite singles on their own. From the album's standpoint, they maintain their stance as pillars of familiarity that guide you along - especially through the album's dream-state second side which on the best days all blur together into one.
Now, years later they have added lost tracks, B-sides, and alternate mixes to further emphasize the experience. These newer cuts seem to be drawn from the similar hypnotic textures they were creating ("If You Say The Word") and their haunting mixture of random electronic and emotional writing ("Fog," the other side of "Knives Out.") "Kid A Mnesia" continues to prove that Radiohead is without argument the most important band of the 21st Century.