Learning The Musician Code

Image credit: A. Rothman

That Green Hen is a two-person project. The “Hen” half is a music pro, with decades of experience in the world of chords and cords, gigs and rhythm, and the secret language and feelings of those who love music so much they are compelled to make it with their own hands, breath, and voice.

I’m the other half. I like music–a lot! And I’ve played musical instruments. I sing in the car, and have even sung a few times on stage–but rarely on my own, and always in settings that can politely be called “amateur.”  I don’t like crowds, don’t like to stay up at night, and don’t like loud noises. In spite of these handicaps, I’ve decided to broaden my world to include the local music scene (I think that’s the jargon of the music world).

Why? I’m also a small businessperson. I prefer to buy from family-run businesses, from small companies where the business represents the integrity of an individual, or a family. So when I looked at the music I enjoy, I realized too much of it was pre-packaged. Perhaps very well done, but not made by people I could ever know in person.

Then I started stumbling over musicians everywhere. In my business, in my friendships, in conversations–the guy serving my coffee has a band, the girl at work grew up in a musical family, a client is a saxophone player–I have been wandering around in a world full of music I know nothing about. So Green joined Hen, and now we’re adding our words to promoting local music. First in our respective towns (San Diego, CA, and Richmond VA, with Austin thrown in because we both want to visit), and later spreading across the country and hopefully beyond.

I’m learning I’ve slipped down quite the rabbit hole. To learn about music groups quickly, I’m researching online. I start with one group, then search everyone associated with that band. Musicians are an incestuous lot. After a few clicks, I find one name connects to another, and to another, in an ever-widening circle of associates. With Hen right in the thick of things most of the time. I almost think I could pick one local musician and follow the degrees of separation until I find every musician around the world!

I’m also learning some of the trials of the local musician. The money is rarely good, and the wonders of the internet hurt as much as help the local guy playing his heart out. Yes, internet exposure means you can take your music directly to anyone without needing a record deal from some big recording company, but it also means you are probably selling 99 cent downloads of your songs and trying to compete with sites like Pandora and Spotify offering nearly unlimited music for free. You are looking for places to play that too often don’t want to pay you for your time and effort. And you are encountering people like me–who don’t know you and are as likely to think of you as the background music to my dinner as to recognize you pouring your heart into something you love, that I will only miss when it’s gone.

So one of the things I will write about on That Green Hen is how to appreciate local music, for those who do not go out every night to a new place. We’ll also cover information aimed at the local musicians, to help them best share their talents in a world that needs them more than we sometimes realize.

For the love of music–and food!


guitarist stockexchange
photo courtesy of freeimages.com

I once had a professor in college who was also a musician. He took his music seriously, and used to lecture us on the disrespect he felt it showed to listen to music “as background music.” If you listened to music, especially his favorite, classical music, you should listen. Set aside your work, don’t do laundry, or work out–listen. “For thousands of years,” he sagely said, “only the very wealthy got to hear music. No one else could afford to hire musicians.”

I disagree. I believe music should fill our lives. As something to enjoy on its own, and as the backdrop to everything around us–our meals, our important events, even our housecleaning. And I especially think we should include musicians in our lives–by searching out places that bring music together with that ancient group activity–sharing a meal. Because I do not believe only the wealthy hired musicians in ancient times. I think people found ways to have music in their community. From singing in beer halls to sitting in the finest auditorium for opera,  the desire for sound and rhythm, melody and harmony, is universal.

Today, we are blessed with the chance to hear talented men and women share their skills in concert halls, coffee shops, restaurants, and even on a busy street. That Green Hen wants to bring musician and listener together by sharing great places to hear great performers making music. Stay tuned for band interviews, venue reviews, and ideas for the best music experience–for both the listener and the musician. If there’s a topic you particularly want addressed, or a group you want spotlighted, please leave us a comment!