Sonic Seducer: My Book Writing Career Ending On The Loudest Possible Volume
(The photos used here are just for the purpose of this blog. Sonic Seducer will be released in Fall 2023. Below is a rough draft of The Introduction.)
If I am really lucky, I have a few billion seconds left on this planet. That’s about 32 years. Statistically though, on the precipice of turning 60 really soon, I should expect to shave off a couple hundred million of them, right?
No matter. The key is that my happiest intervals of time are now seconds. I thankfully lost interest in measuring life in revolutions around the Sun many moons ago. And, over the last few years it has been, whenever possible, about moments, organically calibrated by seconds. It’s all that we ever have had. But music–specifically rock and roll–has wisely engineered us to live, love, and laugh through those fleeting seconds. It has also cradled and comforted our darkness, helping us to mourn, cry, and scream with soul-nourishing catharsis. Rock and roll’s alchemy of sound, ageless desire for connection, and appetite for fearless expression has created something that is, honestly, bigger than life itself.
We have all been consumed by its sorcery, but to the depth that it has been for me, could have only been revealed through the process of writing this book and how it was written. Namely, remembering, listening, and lusting over songs — in seconds.
Since music has been this sacred and seductive place of restorative energy, meditation, and soulful reflection for me and so many others, we might as well get comfy right away in some existentialist ideas about why and how those precious seconds–the lens of measurement that defines this book and my life — can be fully absorbed by us. Fully absorbed to be more present, patient, and passionate.
“Life exists only at this very moment, and in this moment it is infinite and eternal. For the present moment is infinitely small; before we can measure it, it has gone, and yet it persists forever.”
— Become What You Are, Alan Watts
Music also persists forever. And, the form of music which has consistently persisted in adding the highest amount of bliss — primal or philosophical — has been the realm of rock and roll. Not just the realm of the warm and familiar, but also the dark and mysterious. As this book has no boundaries, the sheer quantity of rock music in this book is massive, spanning well beyond the borders of what makes a conventional rock and roll book.
Sonic Seducer was never going to be conventional. It’s a sprawling story of seven decades of unbridled lust for every nook and cranny that rock and roll has left its emotional mark. Seconds lead to stories. Stories lead back to seconds. It’s a space of symbiotic flux that effortlessly recharges your soul to rock harder and louder and slower and quieter. This book bounces unpredictably between these poles. As such, you will too. Hold on.
It’s the first rock music book written by a mathematician. As such, the attention to detail with seconds of music came naturally. Mindfulness is the organic catalyst for curiosity. This book was written in a constant state of fermentation and exploration.
We–as in the whole world–began a heavy audit in early 2020 of what truly has meaning, purpose, and value to our wellness and health. The global pandemic created a crisis that was emotionally and mentally draining, even if we managed to escape the deadly virus. But, generally speaking, there was a toll taken on our mental health, which itself was a combination of various stresses on our mind, body, and soul. All establishments dealing with entertainment shut down, including live concerts. Music, unsurprisingly, in all its form, became an even more important balm for tending to our exhaustion and frailty, as its live element shuttered down.
As someone who has seen hundreds of shows–spanning six decades–this had the potential to numb a critical part of my soul and identity. That didn’t happen. Quite the opposite. The pandemic became an inflection point for recharging my whole life through the library of rock music. That is the short explanation. The long one? You’ve started reading it.
Music insulated me from succumbing to the depression that fell on so many. I didn’t even have to listen to it. I merely had to know that it was available 24/7. To the extent that what was truly available, was why I needed to write Sonic Seducer, and drill down to collect thousands of deposits of diamond, micro-memories of rock and roll. The mere action of doing that, to be in intellectual transit of searching–no coincidence that Searching is my favorite Lynyrd Skynyrd song–was enough to start releasing dopamine and oxytocin. In straight-forward rock vernacular, I was stoned out of my mind to not just the musical world that I had created, but the one that I was still purposefully and passionately creating. There is no book if it is just created. That means our own unique record store is closed.
Mine is still open, and it is far, far from vintage — which this Introduction seems to be drenched in. There is no contradiction. Trust me.
That is why 2022 became my favorite year of listening to music. Bold and audacious statement, right? Alas, the devil is always in the details. In this case, those details are slowly and carefully revealed for you as you read this book.
That intersection of music’s heightened currency the last few years with living in pointed moments is where there is this warming, glowing, and affirming spectrum of rock and roll’s colors. Our lifeblood for deep connection exists–has always existed–here. Bursts of human expression that warrant poetic and philosophical analysis. Each capturing a mood/feeling that colors our lives with either pointed precision or a hazy splatter. The beautiful part is we don’t know which one it will be until that moment happens. Regardless, these moments–these sonic flashes– are the ancient home of immeasurable bliss.
Paradise has never been about places. It exists in moments. In connection. It flashes across time.
I might be leaving my fifties next year, but I am not leaving my youth because of these seconds. Sacred seconds. I’m eighteen. Always now. And guess what? I like it….
Your first assignment. Bookmark “I like it”. It might be an ostensibly meek phrase in society, but in rock and roll it comes packed with punctuation marks. Better yet, go listen to I’m Eighteen by Alice Cooper.
Rock and roll is the fountain of youth. These divine seconds, that I just teased out above, have been available to everyone. Now you might be rightfully thinking that the absorption of listening to music and evaluating artists/bands in seconds is an odd, unrealistic measurement of time to absorb and appreciate rock and roll. Far from it. Seconds are where the magic lies. But, realizing that — and hence, the concept of this book — didn’t come to me at the age of 18. It also didn’t come to me at 28, 38, or 48. It came at 58, with most of my life behind me. It wasn’t late. It was right on fuckin’ time.
Why? One needs lots of time–and having an exhausting pandemic to act as a catalyst for a spiritual/existential reckoning didn’t hurt matters–to fully contemplate the transcending influence of rock music. I think there are two classic rock songs that sum up this reflection–Closer To The Edge by Yes and Closer To The Heart by Rush. You need both vectors–external and internal–pushing and probing you. You also need a pretty massive collection of music that soothes and slays. You need stories of seeing several hundred live shows — the best of which were in dingy bars on a Tuesday night. You need all this to marinate a long time with the truths and bullshit of life. You need to be old on the outside but young on the inside. And, maybe most critically of all, you need to be–or at least fantasizing about–listening to music on high volume as much as possible. Yeah. I am advocating for loudness. With zero subtlety, that was conveyed on the front cover of this book.
That’s a key point of assumption that needs to be front-loaded in Sonic Seducer–that rock music must be played loud whenever possible. This entire book was written with me listening to music on high volume most of the time. Right now, for example, my Mac Pro’s sound level is maxed out. What am I listening to? You would think I would come right out and share it, right? But, I am not going to. Well, and I apologize in advance for being annoyingly cryptic, but I simply cannot. The meandering story of Sonic Seducer, with a surprising and satisfying ending, lands at a distant shore of immense musical treasure. It is where you would find this gem of a song–and hundreds others like it.
Not only will you find out the actual song in the last chapter, but, more importantly as to the why of its delayed placement in this winding narrative. I can however offer a clue to this ostensible absurdity. The band is from Sweden and the song came out in 2015. It is a majestic piece that weaves in the most towering moments of Rainbow’s Stargazer, Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb, Rush’s La Villa Strangiato, and Metallica’s Fade To Black. I think I actually said more than I wanted to. Oh well, more seasoning to be thrown in the mystery stew of this book. So please, bookmark this paragraph. A long story has to be told, namely how did rock and roll’s American past migrate well beyond the British Invasion, so that a Swedish band could pen a song–a song that over 99% of the population have never heard of–that is epic as fuck. Sweden has been exporting some of the best rock and roll for over…50 years.
Hey, we all love ABBA, but what the Swedes have collectively delivered in rhythm and blues, rock, punk, and metal is equally important. If we wanted to talk about album sales and radio play–commercial metrics, arbiters, and gatekeepers of music–then many of the artists, bands, and stories would just never show up. The wealth of rock and roll is in its community and the organic movements that created them. This book is the story of connecting the magnified ones with the marginalized ones, where the only commonality is irrefutable seduction of rock and roll passion–especially when socially unacceptable levels of volume are involved. Nowhere is this better conveyed than the social media jabs at people who frown upon “cranking it up”.
I am listening to (fill in the blank), and so are my neighbours.
My neighbour called the police on my loud music. They arrested her/him.
Seriously though, we need to discard the humour. When rock music is played loud, it can often seem like the sound waves are having sex with you, a relentless pounding of the flesh and the mind. After all, sound is energy. More energy just ensures the stories of rock and roll leave you wholly satisfied, smoking, proverbially at least, a Marlboro of primal content.
So, all the music referenced in this book will need to be imagined with the volume knob turned up–rock concerts are loud for a reason, right! Led Zeppelin’s How Many More Times, for example, is a song I only listen to on high volume–or I don’t listen to it all. Bonham’s drums coming in at the 33-second mark to usher in the sexy strut that is the song’s riff, just bloody well demands loudness. Don’t even get me started on When The Levee Breaks, and the sonic boom of Bonzo’s kit that resulted from being recorded in the expansive hallway of Headley Grange. Music and Sex. Zero separation in terms of being indulgent and tethered to loudness.
A New Lust
Once this “need” list has been thoroughly attended to, only then did a natural writing process of distilling out my experiences begin, obviously uncertain to the worth of these words in this embryonic stage. However, once I began purposely framing them in the tiny window of seconds, yielding and pausing almost every time to this melancholic microscope that I was putting music and myself under, a new awareness, poignancy, and seduction blossomed. I quickly became enchanted with my new found lust. The writing l did the same.
Not to my surprise, I understood that my seduction with rock and roll was not capable of being over-romanticized. Lingering and mooning over every single detail of a song, album artist, and time period, trying to assemble them all like a massive jigsaw puzzle as one connected story of musical magic, would be the bar that needed to be set for such ambitious writing. Only then could I hope that a unique story was told to everyone–including the most seasoned audiophiles and music critics.
Savouring and welcoming this “density” of thought, only sharpens your love for music, which sharpens your thoughts–creating this endless, iterative loop of addictive detail. You feel like you are free-falling down a psychedelic rabbit hole of rock music, seeing more color and better resolution as you effortlessly descend deeper into musical memories and moments — deeper into yourself. Paradoxically, well maybe not, you feel a lightness/buoyancy that makes you feel like you are ascending as well to the clouds. Or maybe, it is a kind of music causing that spiritual elevation. More on that later. Way more…
But, let’s be honest, most of my life–and, I am guessing yours as well– rock and roll, as passionately absorbed by it I have been, was measured by the length of a song or a concert. Minutes and hours, hardly discussed and rather inert descriptors, were the generally unremarkable units of time. But, like a good scotch, a long fermentation period is required to capture the lasting essence of a song’s subtleties–a small but satisfying teaspoon of musical nectar. I think for rock and roll, the lush observations for its transcending musical notes takes much longer than even the best scotch, somewhat cruelly entangling with a time period when one is coming to grips with life’s fragility and their own mortality. And yet, this almost ridiculous acuity for micro-bursts of sound that has resulted–organically and affectionately–easily trumps the tardy deliverance of this, dare I say it, spiritual fragmentation of time. This philosophy was supposed to be delivered late. But, I couldn’t have known that. The lateness is not only the medium, but it is also the message.
Rock and roll’s value of seconds — seconds, dammit — is a gift that can really be only opened much later in life. And luck. You need luck. Lots of it. The best stories involve some ridiculous rolls of life’s dice. We wouldn’t have Black Sabbath if Tony Iommi hadn’t lost the tips of his fingers in an industrial accident at the age of 17. The limitations forced him to adjust and relearn how to play the guitar. The result was that signature heavy and fat Sabbath sound. A sound rightfully revered by millions and proudly plagiarized by hundreds of bands. What if he didn’t suffer that accident? Who knows? But, these kinds of stories add to the seductive nature of rock and roll–that its creativity and myth is often linked to rolling snake eyes…
I have had countless fortuitous meetings and conversations with people who added to my library at the right moment of this still wonderfully meandering journey. The only compass has been a love for things like riffs, screams, delicate acoustic plucks, and airy vocals. They guided me to musical terrains and landscapes that are both familiar and foreign. Without savouring both — the past and the present — I wouldn’t be the appreciative and grateful human I am today. Nowhere close. I didn’t set the controls for the heart of the sun. There are no controls or boundaries. As such I have been drifting and seeing many suns in rock and roll. Not just the ones that are the biggest or the brightest, but also with ones that are distant, shining modestly in their own galaxy — waiting to be cataloged for the rest of the world to take notice.
That has always been my comfort zone. Fearless and boundless curiosity to explore the edges of our world and ourselves. It has allowed me to write three math books. It has now given me permission to write a music one.
Making it your zone is the essence of Sonic Seducer. You won’t be just leaving with laundry list of new bands to listen to, you will leaving with hopefully a new mindset to explore music and, corny as it sounds, the hope and humanity that resides in each one of us.
Rock and roll is not just a form of music. Rock and roll is not just a culture relegated to its peak period of the 70’s. Rock and roll is charged, sexual energy–and that energy can never be destroyed. An always receding past, that is losing its rock icons sadly and steadily, but whose stories continue to be amplified and remembered by the bands of today.
Sonic Seducer transcends time and genres to illuminate the brightest moments and memories of rock and roll — old and new. The magic lies in looking back while always moving forward.
Allow me to be your guide…
We were born to go,
We’re never turning back
We were born to go,
And leave a burning track
We were born to go,
And leave no star unturned
We were born to grow,
We were born to learn
Born To Go, Hawkwind