Celebrate International Strange Music Day [24 August]

Truly, there is a “day” for everything, and Josephmooon certainly appreciates the existence of International Strange Music Day [24 August], which encourages us to “switch up our regular playlist for something eccentric and unusual.”

My relationship to strange music likely began with traditional artists, specifically the Beatles and Frank Zappa. Fascinated with John Lennon’s relationship with Yoko Ono, an avant-garde multimedia artist, I acquired all of her solo recordings as well as the albums she made with Lennon. Around the same time, Zappa was name-dropping artists like Eric Satie and John Cage as influences, so I journeyed to their camps as well. Phillip Glass. Steve Reich. Igor Stravinsky. Ditto.

Harry Partch was a genuine eye-opener, and it took a very long time for me to return a recording of his play, Delusion of the Fury, that I had “borrowed” from our local library, in Arlington Heights, IL. Of course, I had a library card, but I did not use it to remove the Partch album from the premises. I suspected I might need it for more than three weeks, and indeed that was the case. Forty years later, however, I finally returned the album to the library, as a publicity stunt to promote the 2017 release of Everything I Know I Learned From Rock Stars. There is no link to the fine Daily Herald story by Eileen O. Daday because it is behind a paywall, and that’s irritating.

Allow me to excerpt:

Nearly 40 years have passed since a vinyl record album by experimental musician Harry Partch was “borrowed” from the Arlington Heights Memorial Library. On Thursday, it returned and library officials accepted it with no questions asked.

“We understand things happen,” said Executive Director Jason Kuhl. “We try to be welcoming and want people to know there’s not some thousand-dollar fine waiting for them.

“We look at returns on a case-by-case basis,” he added. “If patrons have something like this, we encourage them to bring it back. We’re always willing to work with customers.”

In this case, the patron was Arlington Heights native Bill Paige, who said he wanted to come clean and return the collectible to its rightful place.

“It’s an artifact and in mint condition. I wanted to clear the slate,” said Paige, a lifelong music buff, who worked as a writer in the entertainment industry before serving as communications director of Oakton Community College in Des Plaines. While working for magazines that covered the entertainment industry and ultimately for United Press International, Paige had the opportunity to meet and interview artists ranging from Roy Orbison, Fleetwood Mac and Van Halen, to Boy George, Journey and B.B. King.

He chronicled some of those conversations in his first book — Everything I Know I Learned from Rock Stars — which was published this month by Eckhartz Press and includes a reference to the Arlington Heights library.

Partch is not in the book but he continues to fascinate Paige, with his ability to invent instruments and push the boundaries of Western music.

Kuhl said the library has not had a vinyl record in its collection since 1994. He likely will turn the album over to the Friends of the Library, whose quarterly used book sales generate funds for items such as special programs, equipment and art work.

Ever since those early days of music discovery, I’ve been interested in the fringes. I cannot recall the number of times I’d be listening to music with someone whose reaction to a certain jarring selection might be, “What the hell is that?” I don’t know. I don’t listen to it ALL THE TIME. But sometimes it doesn’t hurt to make your ears work a little bit to understand the cacophony. To try and put yourself in the place of the ARTIST who created a piece that might be unlistenable. What was he thinking? How does he gain satisfaction from its creation, if that is a goal at all?

Perhaps the best example of weird music is the collection I recently downloaded entitled, Excavated Shellac, music that existed only on 78 RPM records. When you go back that far in the history of recorded music, you can begin to recognize the origins of many moderns sounds and motifs. Everything old is new again.

There’s plenty weird music on my shuffle. I could be here all day making a list, but a short sampling would include Odd Nostrum, Juana Molina, NIN, Prefuse 73, Bill Callahan, Nadine Shah, the Shins, Ibeyi, Joel Ross, and Juliana Hatfield, who even titled a recent album, Weird.

So, do yourself a big favor, and find something really different to listen to today.

Be strange.

Published by billpaige

Interested parties are first directed to my memoir, “Everything I Know I Learned From Rock Stars” (Eckhartz Press). While I have taken music therapy classes and read extensively about music’s effect on the brain, I am NOT professionally trained -- just a music lover who recognizes that everyone benefits from music. Giving that gift to special needs youth is highly rewarding, but again, my process is intuitive, not academic. I draw largely on personal experience. I’ve spent most of my 67 years observing a wide world of music, from working as a music critic professionally for 20 years, and holding positions in music companies in the 1970s and 1990s. Since 1990, however, I have focused on learning more about music and improving as a singer, guitarist, and performer, both solo and in ensemble settings.

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