I didn't like banjos when I was growing up. They felt clanky and happy and not in a satisfied way. I associated banjos with Deliverance or, perhaps Steve Martin. Banjos felt old, like musical mold. And, though I enjoyed the novelty of a neighbor who would bust out his banjo on occasion, I still saw it as a novelty instrument.
Then I heard Sufjan Stevens and he made the banjo cry. If George Harrison's guitar gently weeped, Sufjan's banjo wept in loud convulsions over his wispy voice. Then I heard The Avett Brothers and I realized that it was possible to totally shred it. Soon, I found myself listening to Mumford and Sons and the Lumineers.
I fell in love with the banjo.
I get it. Auto-tune is still popular. Fun is more fun than the Format was. And yet, I am amazed by the popularity of bands like Mumford and Sons or The Avett Brothers. Their songs are anti-pop, with deep, introspective lyrics, unapologetically literary and, yes, the banjo. Sometimes the most innovative sound comes from the most vintage instrument.
It has me thinking that there's a place for the vintage, not just in terms of tools, but in terms of meaning and philosophy. There is something buried under the pavement of our industrial culture. There's something we've been missing and it sounds great now that we're rediscovering it.
-A post that has both nothing and everything to do with education
And here's a sample of Sufjan and the banjo: