Thundercat and the Divine

I saw Thundercat perform in concert last night. He was spectacular and I really enjoyed the show.

Listening to somebody play music so fast and so complex instilled a sense that I was witnessing something on the edge of the divine. The playing is superhuman, and mostly inscrutable. You can tell something cosmic is going on, but you’re too slow to be able to comprehend exactly what. But you can still enjoy and appreciate it. In fact, being beyond human understanding is part of what makes the music feel divine.

Let’s add this: even Thundercat does not fully understand the music he is creating. Muscle memory probably accounts for most of his note-by-note creation. And at a higher level, improvisation springs in large part from the depths of the subconscious. Our best musical ideas are not rational in origin — overthinking what you’re doing is a surefire way to make boring music. Guitarist John Fahey said, “I never considered for a minute that I had talent. What I did have was divine inspiration and an open subconscious.”

What about this: if we really do understand the music, we get bored and move on to new, more difficult stuff. At the extreme, you get classical professors who exclusively write twelve-tone music, forever lost in the beautiful, infinite depths of musical unfathomability. This is definitely only partly true, but it’s an interesting thought.

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