On the Subject of Music (1000 Words)

I was originally going to write about music, and I still may. I’ve got iTunes on with an ecclectic playlist running through my headphones (I’ve no wish to keep Mickey up). Some songs just grab me and beg to be talked about, but then end before I can even really get started, and I don’t want to loop just one song for that. Then there are other songs that I really just have no wish to talk about. I enjoy them purely for the sake of enjoying them, and don’t feel compelled to say much at all, beyond perhaps “Tee hee. Whip it! Into shape!”

Okay, I’m going to at least go back to one that I want to write about. Let’s look at DJ Krush, Song 1 off “Zen”. I’ve listened to the other songs on the album, and none really fit quite as well as thing song. It has a simple beat, with some instrumentals laid over to give variety and flavor… very simple, and absolutely beautiful in my opinion. Complexity has its place, yes, but runs the risk of simply becoming “how much can I add?” That completely misses the point of creating music that uniquely and eloquently grasps a mood, a mode of thought, a viewpoint, a vibe, an aura, an energy, call it what you will. Some music “gets it” and some decidedly does NOT.

Having walked around on a drizzly, grey, but still warm day (like the occasional rainshower in late April, when the temperature has risen to 60, or maybe even 70), when you have nowhere to be per se, but are walking. The rhythm of the steps, breathing, your heartbeat, the quiet of a rainy day. It is a simple sensory experience, and has a certain remarkable beauty to it because of that. That is what I get out of this song.

I found DJ Krush through this person I met at UberCon. His name is Ben, and he needed to charge his iPod, so we got to talking about music while I let his iPod charge off my laptop. He seemed like an interesting guy (and would be more interesting if we’d both not been awake for two+ days at that point), and I have been QUITE impressed with his music suggestions.

One he didn’t suggest but remains an absolute classic for me just came on. “Love Reign o’er Me” by The Who, off Quadrophenia. This is a song that when it comes on, I turn up the volume, and sing along to, poorly but passionately. (I’m not now out of deference for sleepers.) There are other more technically precise songs even within that same album, but I don’t think they have the same vibrancy and passion that saturates this piece. Every note and word and chord resonates with pathos and dictation of an absolute truth. Which begs the observation that truth and reality are not necessarily (or even often) the same things. By truth, I mean that it speaks from the heart of SOMEONE. The lonely romantic is the person singing this song, and anyone with even a small amount of that person in them will identify with what he is saying, and, perhaps, even be moved. I believe that is why some songs, while not technically as great as some others, become immortal and stay at the forefront of people’s minds, while others simply fade away. Further, some songs hit that chord in some people and not in others… it’s like different songs tap our archetypal subconscious, and what archetypes are more prominent help dictate what songs hit us most. Heh, possible essay idea, though I doubt I’ll get to it ever. Any readers out there, feel free to run with it.

FLASH! Aaaaa! Savior of the Universe! Queen is an example of passionate music. “The candle that burns brightest burns fastest” is definitely applicable to a lot of these groups. Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison are all obvious examples of this. I’d also toss in Kurt Cobain, and Marvin Gaye, who didn’t necessarily burn out so much as got snuffed out (or snuffed themselves). Bob Marley. Given a moment to think about it, it’s not hard to think of dozens that fit this. Individuals that had pathos and passion and gave their all to their music (whether this came out in the writing or the performing or both varies from case to case).

You’ll notice that I moved on from Queen fairly quickly. This is not because I don’t think they deserve more writing, but because the nature of how I’m writing is very scattered, shifting with my attention as the songs change, and frankly the song that sparked my mention is fairly short. I promise, sometime I’ll sit down and write about them a bit more exclusively.

Now I’m listening to Badly Drawn Boy. In particular, “Once Around the Block” and “Stone On the Water”, both off “Hour of the Bewilderbeast”. This was another recommendation from this Ben fellow, and I am again QUITE pleased. I’ve listened to both of these songs half a dozen times at least, and I still can’t even begin to describe them. The vocalist sings earnestly, and is accompanied by a wah’d out guitar among other things… just very well done. The songs have an energy that I REALLY dig, one that makes me want to do things, and do them well. To have that feeling when you’re in the “zone” of anything. Like when you are skiing, and you find yourself noticing and valuing every turn as you dart through trees, and you are ultimately confident and self-aware. That’s what I’m pulling out of these songs. It’s such a remarkable feeling.

I’m on the Beatles right now. I thought about writing further about it, but it’s just too big, and I don’t have enough of their music. For another time, definitely.

I don’t know how many words I’ve written, and frankly I don’t care. The point of my writing “challenge” is to get WRITING again, not to hit a certain “quota” — I’ve yet to hit LESS than 1000, but I’ve also far exceeded it on several occasions. I know I’ve broken a thousand, so I’m not going to bother keeping track any further.

Back to music. There is a band called Explosions in the Sky that is an instrumental group (no or minimal vocals), and I’m listening to their song, “A Song For Our Fathers” which is rather good. I swear, I think it was used in some movie, or a segment of it anyway. It is an interesting mixture of mellow and… hmm, anger? There is a bassline that runs through the entire song, and then guitar and drums occasionally overlay, sometimes just adding texture, other times shaking things up and adding… hmm, passion?

I’m sure you’ve noticed a recurring theme, here. If not, I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader to identify the trend.

One more, and I’ll go to bed (I’m ready to go now, but I do so want to write about this group… I think I already have, even, but they deserve another shot). Flaming Lips! In particular, their album, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robot. Just such a great album, through and through. It is well crafted, yes, but there is something more to it as well. I wouldn’t precisely call it passion, but I would call it pathos. There is an underlying story that progresses over the course of the album, and I find the imagery interesting and moving in the same fashion as Mike in Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, or the replicants in Blade Runner, or the machine girl in Robot Carnival. The birthing pains of a new person, a new life (though not strictly speaking living), it’s just a very important thing to me. At the risk of entirely misrepresenting myself, it’s like the feeling of being involved in becoming something more, or (in this case) creating new life, a new concept of life, it’s like an act of redemption, something bigger than any one of us, and in some ways bigger than even mankind as a whole. I don’t know if that makes any sense, but… there is the nugget of something important there.


2 thoughts on “On the Subject of Music (1000 Words)

  1. One thing that I’ve found interesting is to sit and listen to music and feel where it resonates in my body. Quite fun actually. I can feel the yang/yin balance. If it’s more explosive it tends to move more towards my upper body and carry more yang energy. A lot of the more mellow tunes carry more yin and move lower in the body. Although it’s really fun because most songs will jump between the two so you get a sort of auric massage while listening in this kind of meditative state. Man it’s fun being weird! :)

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