Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Song To Aging Children Come

The melodic variations of Blues, Jazz, and Rock ‘n’ Roll are nascent music styles developing from the refrains of slave songs. Each genre shares a common nativity with the despondent outcries of the plantation fieldworkers, and a common heredity to the notes once used to distract their consciousness from the toils of arduous labor. Over the years the distinct musical styles sprouted as an elan of separate individuality; graduating with a detached fortitude of confident declarations. For over a hundred years the music evolved from the genesis like the stages of a developing flower. Then, while in full bloom, an infusion took place, creating a hybrid of sounds and a melody supporting the songs of freedom.

This is the first paragraph of the 23 chapter of Benson's House. A hundred years had progressed throughout the story, and the songs of freedom- once separate genres of music- had blended together to create a new metamorphosis of sound. The words still spoke to the common sense of everyman- the lesson unrestricted by race or religion- with the songs speaking to a youthful expression of individuality and of unified independence. Rock 'n' Rollers had electrified the Blues. They had initiated jams, influenced by improvisational Jazz artists- like saxophonist John Coltrane- creating a hybrid of sound that was celebrated for an extended weekend at a place called The Woodstock Music and Art Fair.

Justin Benson's great, great grandson was there. Christopher Benson was the head of what had become Chariot Records, and was considered to be a formative influence on top forty entertainment. He arrived on the Sunday of the final full day.

“You boys buckled up?” Christopher heard the helicopter pilot say over the head set he was placing over his ears. The cones muffled the drone of the whirling copter blades.
“You know where you’re going?” Christopher said into the mouthpiece.
“Hell, I’ve been running folks to the festival all week end long. You boys are gett’n’ here a little late ain’t ya?” The pilot asked as the engine began to whine, lifting the aircraft from the tarmac.
Within a few minutes the outer reaches of the gathering took shape below them. Cars were seen abandoned on the sides of roads, as hordes of the children of God were walking down the road, following in a mass attempt to loss the smog of their conventional existence at a Rock ‘n’ Roll haven of epic proportions. Soon campers, trailers, and camping tents appeared in fields spotted beneath the haze of smoldering camp fires. They flew just above the pine trees lining the bank of a lake, where Christopher could detect the splashing of bathers off the shoreline. Several larger tents passed rapidly below them before the back of monolithic stage appeared.
Then- in a flash- they were revealed; a blotch upon the earth of a half a million kids, sitting on a sloped field in congregation before the stage. The helicopter banked at left intervals, flying around the parameter, as the eye of the sun shone down upon the Woodstock Nation. Christopher was stricken by the multitudes. The group was three times the size of those attending The Songs of Freedom Concert in DC. He felt magnetically drawn to the gathering, as the helicopter began its decent and landed on a heliport about a quarter mile from the right rear side of the stage.
“Don’t take any of the brown acid.” The pilot laughingly warned, as Christopher and Michael climbed out of the helicopter.
“Don’t worry.” Christopher shouted in response, stooping to move clear of the revolving blades.

Forty one years have lapsed since that weekend. Today some will certainly consider a memorial to the legacy as a reverence to hedonism. Yet, for many of my generation, it was a moment in time that represented our generations unity and individual values. Many a Baby Boomer came into being that summer, aspiring to change the world with civil disobedience.

In many ways the festival celebrated the end of a decade that changed the course of America's social behavior. Woman's accepted use of the pill challenged institutional tenets on sex; the Civil Rights Movement altered the segregationist restrictions on race; the Anti War Movement stood up against the proliferation of the military industrial complex, and the lyrics of the music kept reminding our common sense that the changes were necessary and correct.

When Christopher awoke he was alone in the dark tent. He felt for his jeans, and placed them on while arching his back against the blanket beneath him. He found Sarah just outside the tent. Her form was barely noticeable in the dark light. She was covered in a Sioux star quilt, sitting on a mound of pine needles, cradling herself as she rocked to the music, with her arms wrapped around her legs, and her chin placed firmly against her knees. David Crosby and Graham Nash’s voices were united in the song: Guinevere. Their harmonic intonations sounded like the trills of gliding eagles stalking the night sky.
“Ya know what makes this event so monumental? She stated as he approached.
“What?” Christopher asked.
“It occurred spontaneously under the guidance of conciliation. There was no condemnation; no willful attempt to wage authority with bellicose intent. There was no power struggle. People were not commanded. They were merely warned about bad drugs, or were asked to lookout for their neighbors.”
“Everything was offered to the guidance of the common sense.” Christopher interjected.
“Well, yeah- right on!” Sarah agreed while shaking her head. “It empowered the people because they all share the common sense.”

In the days to follow I will offer a description of the final act on the final day of the festival. It was a performance that artistically modified America's psyche by altering the traditional rendition of our nation's national anthem.

Through the windless wells of wonder
By the throbbing light machine
In a tea leaf trace or under
Orders from the king and queen
Songs to aging children come
Aging children, I am one.

Joni Mitchell

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