Freedom & The Music Bug

Music as a (the?) path to Freedom?
Battle of Symbols / John Fraim

John Fraim

It’s not exactly a shift in the San Andreas Fault. But I can say that my personal muses are shifting again on me. I get my old interest in creating music back and start to  resurrect the digital instrument members of the Midnight Oil Band (MOB) from storage in our downstairs film studio amongst all the lights and backdrops. 

The old music bug has hit me again and I’ve moved the music instruments up from storage in the basement and gathered the gropu together again. Not sure if “hit” is the right word. Music comes and goes from my life in a cyclic manner. Usually, following my interest in writing or photography of filmmaking. 

Fooling around with interfacing a sampler, voice processor, two polyphonic synthesizers, a Korg music workstation. All Korg equipment. Have been playing Korg for years. The Korg sampler sounds are based much on hip-hop and I slow down and mix this hip-hop sound on the sampler with a more reflective piece on this song. The various sounds and voices in the background play against the modified program from the Korg. Recorded a hip-hop version of this writing my own lyrics after the main ones are put down. Used the voice processor but it didn’t sound right, and I went back to just the instrumental track at two-and-a-half minutes. Did write some words mixing the original lyrics from Oscar Hammerstein II with hip-hop. (See draft of the words below … the last three phases are meant to be hip-hop relating the song to a modern black father in the inner city trying to raise a family today ) 

Maybe my attempt to leave the computer screen for a while and concentrate on making sounds rather than words. Yet still a desire to tell others about these sounds with words, in addition to the sounds. Trying to merge a powerful historic American song about a forgotten era (with blessings of many) with what is happening today. Approach the problems we have from a different way. My sense of music from my generation (jazz and rock … my biography of Coltrane) with today’s music dominated by hip-hop. 

* * *

The beginning of perhaps a longer project. Friends ask me how long and what project. I never know. In fact, if I did know the timeline and “destination” of the project, this destination place could never be art or creativity for me. It would consist of something created by a mind of the present that can only see the present. There would be little creativity of exploration about it. This is what art should be. What it can be to offer another view of the world today in the face of the strong push to wipe out creativity in universities and push all towards that ability to create realities in the present that represents a type of collective unconsciousness of culture, as Jung might say. 

Many have their own views regarding divisions in the world and this nation. Various political labels not existing out in space but on a horizontal line. The contrast, contest, dynamics, is always the battle between Masculine and Feminine archetypes in culture. In America, as I’ve argued in various articles, was founded at the paradoxical intersection of the symbols of freedom (Republican, Conservative, Male) and equality (Democrat, Liberal and Female). The two grand symbols have battled it out in the two-party system of Republicans and Democrats. 

* * *

Yet, more is learned if one sees them in the context of two battling symbols. Perhaps the greatest battle is between the astrological symbols of leaving Pisces and entering Aquarius. The symbolic movement from fish (contained in the context of water) to the water carrier of Aquarius. This might be the grand symbolism that Jung saw in astrology, for those who believe in astrology. (As well as the philosophy of the iChing and ancient symbols of the past rather than the modern symbols of the present). 

For those who believe in the grand symbols of astrology.

But they are not just grand symbols existing above everything else. The symbols have come down to earth so to speak and I’m becoming more and more convinced that the true battle today is between the forces of equality and freedom outside the relationship of these concepts to political parties. 

Both symbols have their good qualities and bad qualities. Just as both symbols possessed parts of their opposite symbol inside themselves. As a Jeckle-and-Hyde type of type of story. Anyone who doesn’t believe their opposite symbol exists all the time within them have already given up on the two centered view of opposition. This person has taken the view there is no opposition but rather equality today. It certainly seems this way to me. 

When I was at UCLA and Loyola Law School, opposition to everything was in the air. Freedom was in the air in the 60s and 70s, front of the baby boomer generation. 

The Ancient Power of the Equality Symbol

Yet Equality is in the air today in 2021. The symbol has risen to dominance and one needs to accept the fact of this new ecology, new environment of equality rather than pretend it doesn’t exist. 

It surrounds everyone today. No one escapes its power. 

In this environment, there is still the belief and exercise of the power of freedom rather than equality. It exists in a narrow yet perhaps broad category of those who consider themselves artists more than anything else in their lives. 

True artists always show the way through their belief and practice of freedom in their creativity. Equality never enters into the mind of an artist possessed with the idea of individuality and Freedom. 

* * *

From a symbolic perspective, this is the great battle today. A showdown of the two great founding symbols of America: Freedom and Equality. The symbolism of these ideas expressed in all forms of culture and society. Particularly, the two parties in America. 

The battle and cause of the symbol of Freedom is carried forth into the world most powerfully in our artists. These are all who know they are artists and must create things in the world. Producers. Not necessarily movies or best-selling novels. But perhaps no more than simply a creative life. A life based on Freedom rather than Equality. 

If this continuing symbolic battle is viewed from the perspective of artists, there is little doubt that artists and all those living and producing a creative life might be on one side of any spectrum while all of those simply consuming the production of the producers. The ideas of production (artistic freedom) or producers against the vast equality of the mass consumers of mass culture. 

* * *

Perhaps all culture and society might be placed on that same type of spectrum we use for – say – autism. The same general concept. All of us are on this horizontal line. A spectrum. 

The creativity and freedom that comes with this is both a burden and a blessing. The burden is that you feel alone in a world populated by the vampires of cultural equality in our modern world. It is the dominant symbol. Its time in the cycle of things has come as expected. 

Once, the symbol of Freedom was in the collective mind of Americans. But now, in the collective mind of the nation created an ecology of Equality not Freedom. To be a symbol of Freedom you had to first understand you were in a world of equality. And then, wanted to escape from this world. 

Interestingly, a male symbol in the subject of river, reversed from the usual female symbolism of water and rivers. 

In addition to the song published at the top of this post, published below are some lyrics I came up with. for the singing for the piece but didn’t like when sung through the vocal processor so muting but not cutting out of the track. Mixing the original lyrics with mine below. There is a beat in the music that can provide background for a short modern (rap?) story it seems to me. Employing modern hip-hop programming of the sophisticated Korg Electribe Sampler. I mixed it against a reflective beat and many voices inhabiting space. Above recorded from our monitor speakers by a Zoom H6. The unmixed audio quality is amazingly good. The H6 is the ultimate device when recording anything today in a small, handheld, somewhat inexpensive, recording device. For all who need them today. 

Those Who Feel A (The?) Wizard is Controlling the Course of our History

The addition of the Novation MiniNova Synthesizer has been the biggest surprise although I have always loved the sound of it since buying it used from Music Go Round here in Columbus. It’s amazing how many famous musicians testified for the Novation brand. It was so different in many ways from the Korg brand. The MiniNova was brought upstairs to my office and put on the table with the other instruments. The MiniLogue. Polyphonic analogue synthesizer. The Electribe sampler. The Kross music workstation. The Zoom V3 vocal processor. 

Now it was no longer about just playing one of the instruments. It seemed that it was – ultimately – about was playing all of the connected digital instruments through my Tascam 24 tract PortaStudio. There was the danger of overplaying them when just the sound of one might be all that is needed. But again, playing all of them together as an instrument was always on my mind. And still is. Will keep you in the loop on the music.

A great feeling of freedom Ithrough the Korg and Novation interaction. It didn’t seem fair to say I created the above piece of music. More truthful would be to say that I “arranged for” a meet-up between two digital instruments to happen. After many sounds have been explored. It still is an unknown magic to me how certain programs and sounds are pulled together. Somewhere in the materials above. Somewhere in the materials that might follow.


Old Man River

Revised by J. Fraim

(Sang against the above music or above modified)

Old man river,
That old man river
Must know sumpin’
But he don’t say nuthin’,

He just keeps rollin’
Just keeps rollin’ along.

He don’t plant taters,
He don’t plant cotton,
And them that he plants

Is soon forgotten,

But old man river,
He just keeps rollin’ along.

You and me, we sweat and strain,
Body all achin’ and racked with pain,
Tote that barge! And lift that bale!
Get a little drunk
And you lands in jail

But old man river,
He just keeps rollin’ along.

No he don’t plant cotton

He’s not that type of guy

With a family to feed

There’s no money in the seed

He tried to make his mark in the in the bad part of town

But every time he tried 

Someone always push him down 

He tries so hard to be a good family man

But its not so easy when your dealt a bad hand

But old man river,

He just keeps rollin’ along.

He just keeps rollin’
Just keeps rollin’ along.

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