Derek Franz: No choice but love or war |

Derek Franz: No choice but love or war

Do you feel the rumbling, ancient drums under your feet? I do, all the time. The primal vibration haunts me as I stare through the windshield of my car; when I brush my teeth; when I stare at myself in the mirror. Music is a funny thing, another phenomenon sprouting with humans evolution. Or did it exist before us, I wonder.

Wednesday night was dark and rain splattered Aspen’s empty streets as we made our way to the Belly Up for a free concert. An energy was tangible inside the dim concert hall as more people converged into the venue like a procession of zombies trickling in from shadows of pre-winter wetness. Indeed, we were hungry for a special kind of sustenance. Many of us were tapping feet and bobbing heads to the DJ before drinks were even ordered. Live music is what we craved and we waited in anticipation for it to pour into our bodies like life itself.

It wasn’t long before the reggae band, DubSkin, came out and we all started squiggling, each in his or her our own way but together as one rhythmic mass. I laughed to myself as I looked around at all my friends and strangers. We are hilarious creatures! And mysterious ones at that. Some of the stranger individuals couldn’t seem to move. They stood in the middle of the dancers like stones, as if worried they wouldn’t fit in. The irony!

Sometimes it seems irony is embodied by humanity. People go to a peace rally and end up lighting Dumpsters on fire. They preach love and acceptance, and then condemn homosexuals. Government cuts school budgets and pays for jails and bombs. The list goes on. When one thing is expected and another happens – that is irony. For instance, when the band came onstage my back was turned. All I heard was a Jamaican accent: “Yah, man, you ready for some reggae tonight?” I looked and was startled to see a short, bald white man at the mic, who turned out to be the drummer. More white guys came onstage and started to play some rippin’ reggae. Who cared? They were legit.

That’s another thing about music — it is only seen by what we perceive. We see it in terms of the style and culture, and we see it in terms of dancing or playing an instrument. But where does it come from, really? Why did I have this innate urge to move my arms, beat my chest and bob my head to the vibes? I wanted to say so many words at once, all I could do was thump my chest and stomp my foot. And the pulsing emotion grew in power as more people partook. What are we paying tribute to, what calls us to act so irrationally, what’s the point of burning so much energy for nothing more tangible than sweat? Ancient ones would sing and dance for things like rain, love and war. We don’t consciously apply all those meanings to contemporary music, but it seems the emotions are the same. Perhaps “music” sprang from emotions confronted by forces beyond human control.

I think music takes us to our roots, which come from the earth like all the rest of the living cells. Even the ocean has rhythms and moods, as does the wind. The land, water and air all come together in a kind of shifting dance, why wouldn’t the life growing from it do the same? I think our music and dancing comes from the place where all the elements meet and become one, a soul meeting the body.

The message the band stressed throughout the night was “love” – “Love yourself and those around you today because none of us is promised tomorrow.” Indeed – one moment, this one, is all we have with which to do anything. Why should I spend it unmoved, bored, even removed from it? Bullocks. “Dance, man! Dance!” I can hear the beatniks chant from their graves, their voices overlaid on the ancient drums and cries. This is life – unexplainable, sure – but here it is all the same, here We Are, and we don’t know what else to do with ourselves. We make love or we make war, but we certainly make one or the other. There is no choice but to move in some way, because that’s what life does – it moves and so do we. We are life itself, the voice of the universe. Welcome to the trip! Are you gonna stand there all night?

Derek Franz can be reached at

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