From Aural Innovations #38 (January 2008)
In the West African country of Ghana there is no word for performance. The act of sharing music is instead called play. Children spend their days crafting elaborate clapping and singing games, and their nights watching adults offer traditional songs to each other. Drumming is common. Singing accompanies most daily activities. Music generates togetherness.
Not so in our modern society, where many people have grown up feeling that they can't carry a tune or keep time to a beat. They feel that music is something for the gifted to make, while they pay to take in its mystery.
The truth is that music making and exploring movement is for everyone. It's not about performance; it's about expression, celebration, growth, fun, emotional honesty, and community.
Excerpted from Chronogram - August 2007 (taken from Utne Reader, January-February 2008)
Ten years ago this month I was distributing copies of the first 8 page issue of Aural Innovations around the Ohio State University campus here in Columbus, Ohio. I printed up a few hundred of them and I think I was contacted by one person. I did, however, receive an enthusiastic response to my internet posting offering free copies to interested Space Rock fans. Over the next two years 9 printed issues of Aural Innovations were published. But the cost and insanity of actually printing and putting it together at home took its toll, along with the realization that my web site, which only provided subscription information about the zine and a bunch of links, was getting thousands of hits, while I only had about 100 paid subscribers. So in 2000 I went purely web based and it all took off from there.
Why start a Space Rock publication? I was a child of the 70s and there really weren't all these detailed genre labels at that time. For me it was all Progressive Rock - King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Gong, Amon Düül II, Van der Graaf Generator, Tangerine Dream… even Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple… it was all Progressive Rock. (Hawkwind was a much later discovery for me.). But through communicating with music fans on the internet I became aware of a more detailed distinction between genres. Quarkspace was a local Columbus band I became friendly with who were prominent among the contemporary crop of Space Rock bands. My enthusiasm for their music, plus the realization that these Space Rock bands were rooted in all the spacey psychedelic progressive bands I loved in the 70s resulted in a lot of serious investigation into bands that were currently playing this music. Add to this a very project oriented nature and being in serious need of something to throw myself into and… voila!
Now let me tell you what Aural Innovations is REALLY about. I have fond memories of my youth, sitting alone in my room for hours on end, listening to all kinds of rock music, glaring at the album covers and reading the credits. I was a fanatic. But the people in the bands were represented by the music, the pictures on the album jackets, or figures on a stage if you got to see them in concert. They weren't people you actually communicated with. But in 1992 I got an internet account and everything about being a music fan changed forever. I was active on a Usenet newsgroup called alt.music.progressive. And there were lots of musicians on the list, many selling their music themselves. I often responded, buying cassettes (soon to become CDRs) and CDs from these bands, and discovered that there was a lot of really incredible music that I would have never otherwise known about. And after hearing the music I could ask the musicians questions or email them my feedback. And not only did they respond… they loved it!
This completely changed music fandom for me. There was a seemingly limitless range of music types out there, much of which was only being made available because the musicians were making not only the music but the cassettes and CDRs themselves. And I could engage in personal communication with the musicians. These artists were, and are, enthusiastic and positive thinking people who just want someone to listen to and enjoy their work. I also discovered lots of small, truly independent and truly music loving labels around the world, run by people with passion, dedication and sincerity.
The creative spirit is alive and well my friends. And THAT has been my inspiration and motivation this past decade. Aural Innovations is about being a bullhorn for those who create music, sound… any audio recordings of creative works. I've made friends all over the globe, bonded together by our passion for music. The United States of America sometimes seems to have gone insane and my hope and outlook for the future is challenged each day I read the newspaper. Kids going on shooting rampages in their schools, the Bush administration and its criminal activity… it's all a bit disheartening. But the continual reminders I receive every day in the form of submissions of creative works from PEOPLE, and personal communications with PEOPLE, are what fuels my eternal, and perhaps naive, OPTIMISM. What a wonderful feeling it is to actually make a difference in somebody's life, however small the contribution may be. It makes my day to receive an email from a reader or listener to the radio shows saying how thrilled they are to have discovered a new band. And it makes my week to receive an email from an artist who says they sold a CD, or were simply contacted by someone, because they had read about them or heard them from Aural Innovations. I don't have what it takes to stop the war in Iraq or cure cancer. But I can give exposure to deserving artists. And in our small way at Aural Innovations... that's making a difference in the world.
No reflection on the past decade of Aural Innovations would be complete without making clear that it is by no means done by me alone. I won't even try to mention all the people that have contributed to Aural Innovations because I'd be doomed to leaving someone out (but do please click the Contributor Credits link on the index page to this and every issue you read). All our VOLUNTEER contributors have collectively made Aural Innovations the great publication that it is. There are, however, a few people I'd like to mention who in the beginning helped get this thing off the ground.
When I was planning the first issue I wanted a very specific piece of artwork. And an internet posting quickly got the attention of Christian Mumford, an immensely talented artist who gave me exactly what I needed, which further fueled my excitement and drive. Christian contributed more artwork to subsequent print issues and I'll always be grateful to him for that.
Keith Henderson is a music lover who, as it turned out, lived less than a mile from me here in Columbus. Small world, huh? Though Keith has been less active in recent years, I can say with confidence that if we had not met you wouldn't be reading this today. Keith's contributions were equal in volume to mine throughout the printed issues, and his more critical and academic approach to the music was the perfect contrast and companion to my "gee wiz isn't that amazing" style. We had many an editorial meeting at the Thirsty Ear Tavern, where we would pile CDs on the bar and talk music and plot the next issue. It was this collaboration that, to a large extent, kept the fire burning in me and built a momentum that couldn't be stopped.
Scott Heller has been with Aural Innovations since issue #2 and has the longest and most continuous tenure of anyone. In the early years Scott helped keep things on a Space Rock oriented track while I branched out and wrote about any kind of music I felt like covering. Scott has also been the editor of Aural Innovations for the past few issues while I work on another project. I was ready to let the zine portion of the site go for a while, but he picked up the reigns and for that I am truly grateful.
I could go on but instead I'll just send out a big hearty THANK YOU to EVERYONE who contributes, and has ever contributed, to Aural Innovations. I couldn't do it without you.
Happy Holidays everyone. Here's to the next decade. Always remember to support artists who are alive and well... or they won't be for long. And as the late great Doug Walker said… NETWORK NETWORK NETWORK!!!