The Art and Challenge of Redefining

My music has been categorized as many different genres and I’ve heard again and again that until one sees me perform live, can they fully understand what it is I do. The genres that my music often falls under are classical, contemporary classical, electronica, acoustic ambient… and Discmakers felt entitled to call Vol. I: Battle Cry new age (I have no idea what that means and find it upsetting – my warning to musicians who want to print CDs with Discmakers).

I have never fully-vibed with any of these categories. And recently, a friend and fan of my music called me a bluesman, and it made my heart explode. He articulated the reasons so well that the relief that his compliment presented brought me to tears. I felt for the first time someone got it right.

Here’s what he said:

“Your music really feels like the Blues, Christen. And I should clarify – when most people think of the blues, they are usually only talking about the standard 12-bar blues form that we all know and love. But often when I think about the Blues, it’s in a much larger context, one that is more of a state of mind that extends past that simple definition. Not just Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, but also, Bartok is the Blues, Jobim is the blues, Flamenco is definitely the blues (big time), the Ode To Joy… (!!!) Hank Williams. Miles. Jimi. Stravinsky. That sweet Gypsy (Roma) viola stuff… mmmmm. There’s so much poetry, art, film, literature that absolutely mine that Blues thang (usually all of the good stuff… Van Gogh!!!, Coppola, Joyce, freakin’ Shakespeare!!! – all the Blues).

Intrinsic to all of these is this quality of trueness and authenticity – and that involves a bit of dipping into the well of melancholy and sadness that underlies all existence (not in a big bad awful sense, but more from a kind of Buddhist perspective). It’s not all doom and gloom, because somewhere in there is a strong feeling that beauty, wonder, and hope do exist (otherwise, what would be the point of all that singing it out loud in the first place?). That’s the benchmark that humanity is always longing for. And that’s why all the best stuff has that ability to coax a tear, or make the little hairs stand straight up (check out the lyrics to the Supremes’ “Stop In The Name Of Love”!). Your song “The Crux and The Shadow” did that to me today as I was driving around in the car – and that, Christen, is why you’re a Blues-man.”

The only amendment I would make to this heartfelt statement is that some might say I’m more of a Blues-woman. :)

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