Thursday, February 26, 2009

Escaping the Rain by Hiding in the Subways

Normally I am elated to see clouds that do anything other than snow or just sit there, looking putrid, stale and disgruntled. Basically, I like clouds that rain. Or clouds that are hanging off in the corners puffing up and reflecting the light, attempting to make this world a little more epic. I appreciate those clouds.

But, monsieur rahn clood, nut toodey. I feel lethargic, depressed, and hungry. My perfectly concocted hair has imploded, my joints are achey, and the "I'm Not Wearing Boots Today" clogs are...well...soggy. I have soggy clogs. :o(

On a more stream-of-consciousness note, I am currently listening to the Subways, and they are divine. Post-grunge, I-could-have-been-on-the-OC-but-I-want-more-from-this-world, guy with chick vocals in the background kind of divine. The first listening wasn't too impressive, but when music grows on me, it's delicious.

Highlight of the week: Gina Torres carries out a tacky Messiah metaphor on Angel, as viewed while on my elliptical trainer.
Dollhouse tomorrow night. Fingers still crossed for The Joss Man.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

So Little Time

There is a great mother buttload of music out there. Everything exists. And because of our lovely friend Inter Net, we can find it all, listen to it all, download it all and love it all. Literally, millions of songs at our fingertips. If not billions. From the highly ranked iTunes toppers to the crappy Garage Band upload on your cousin's music MySpace, music is being heard, interpreted, reinvented and produced at a rate so rapid there is no guarantee any artist will survive more than a few weeks, or months if they are lucky. And if you miss an artist, too bad, they're lost forever into the void of "Once Was Popular."

With so many options, it's daunting to go fishing for anything new. We cling to iTunes charts and The Radio to tell us what's good, because we haven't got a snowball's chance in Miami at finding it ourselves. At least, this is the thought of the music muggle. This means that even though the indie artist is free to write, record and produce their own full album, if they haven't got a way to market it to the masses their music is moot. It takes the music geek, the guru, to fish out new music, and then popularize it through blogs, file sharing, mixes and word of mouth. Then, radios begin to pick it up and the ears at Spin perk up to catch it minutes before it bursts onto the scene. They get one to three hits on iTunes, perhaps a full album of popularity, some placement in ads and Gossip Girl, and then begin to be dubbed "Known Music." This is the kiss of death. No one really wants to listen to Known Music. It isn't popular enough to be Taylor Swifting its way into the hands and iPods of the muggles, but it is no longer indie-chic, and therefore the music geeks and uber nerds won't touch it. And then three years later it gets dumped on Rolling Stone. Every so often a band fished from the obscurity of its music MySpace will strike a real chord (or at least one that sounds different) and it will gain a true following of Diehards. These are the bands that have staying power, the ones that, in the end, really matter.

The corporate system plucks unsuspecting youngsters from their festering musical obscurity, dresses them up, tells them they're rock stars and spoon feeds them to the music muggles through movies, TV and The Radio. They play huge release concerts at Virgin and are begged to deign to put their name on a fashion label. The muggles eat it up. The gurus scoff.

The point is, there is way too much music out there for it all to matter. Even for most of it to matter. Music has one major flaw: it requires time. You need three minutes to listen to a song. You need forty-five minutes to appreciate an album. The only way to find music is to listen to it. We simply cannot love that much music. There is a limit to what can be popular, because we can't listen to everything that Should Be Popular. Even if every radio station everywhere never repeated a song, we wouldn't be able to get through it all. No one would go for that anyway, because the beauty of music is falling in love with it, and a lot of times it isn't love at first sight. We need to sit with music, to live with it, to associate memories with it in order to claim it. And in the end, that's all we really want to do. Muggle or guru. We want music that's our own.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Monteverdi & Doughnuts

I’m hitting a brick wall, here. I am supposed to be studying for an exam on Baroque music history, high points including Monteverdi versus Artuzi as to codified rules of counterpoint and…man, this stuff really bites. But I’m sitting here listening to The Duke Spirit (look ‘em up, kid) and all I can think of is, I want to move to London and be in a blues-tinged indie punk band and make predictable music with half-assed lyrics and appear on Jay Leno. It would be so EASY to just drop everything and make music. Anyone can become famous if you spin the music the right way (and I’m not talking about spinning records, here).

There are a million choices as to what to do with this life in front of me, rolling by like slices of cake on a conveyor belt behind a wall of glass, and I really want to reach out and eat one. It’s like being at a Krispy Kremes. I really, really want a doughnut but they’re all behind a glass wall and I’m not to the front of the line yet.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Follow the Music

I was walking around work, innocently bouncing the Dollhouse-premieres-tonight happy bubbles up and down, when I heard lo from the depths of the building a group of violins going at it. Immediately all thoughts of The Joss Man were purged from my head as I was full-force drawn to the source of the sound. I figured out it was just a video (why do we still use the word video? Isn't it all digital and DVD's now?) advertisement for a string quartet. My curiosity was quelled, at least for the moment.

This brings up and interesting phenomenon. I have a physical, visceral reaction to music. When I hear it, it's not just in my ears. I feel it with every atom of my body. I will freeze up or relax or shift footing or slouch or sit up according to what music is playing, and I've just started noticing it. Music overwhelmingly determines how I feel, and it has it's most potent effects when I'm not expecting it. Every single type of music carries with it a multitude of emotions that it exudes, and I have different auditory receptors open at different times. Sometimes classical music draws me straight to it in my quest to discover who wrote it, when they were writing, what styles the were using and generally place it in a genre. Sometimes classical music makes me want to chuck my keyboard out the window. (Have you ever noticed that dropping the preposition "of" is very Shakespearian? It could read, "out of the window," which is proper grammar, but instead it reads "out the window," which begs a sort of cockney Second Guard type lilt.)

The truth of the matter, though, is that I feel music, often before I hear it. I'll tense up or relax and then wonder what changed only to discover that there is music playing. I have an ear for it even when I'm tuned out. Most music causes a reaction depending on the state in which I greet it. Most music can either be good or bad, depending. But the one song that never ever in a million years fails to center me is "Colors/Dance" by My Man George (George Winston). God bless George, he figured it out.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Art of Obsession

I am an obsessor. I take my loves very seriously, throwing myself full-force into whatever world I stumble into. This can be anything from Middle Earth to vintage albums of The Police. This I've learned: never love anything half way. Love it all the way.

When I was in the seventh grade, I went to see Fellowship of the Ring. It rocked my world. Two years later I saw Return of the King with a couple of people, and they turned out to be my best friends. A lot of this centered on the fact that we all became obsessed with LOTR together, went through stages of excitement and creeper internet fan stalking together, attempted to learn Elvish together and eventually grew up together. Our obsession fed our friendship. We had much more in common, but we always had LOTR as a base, as some thing we could make inside jokes about or reference with a wry smile. There are a million stories like this, especially involving LOTR I'm sure, around the world. Obsessions bring people together.

Other things I've been obsessed with: Finish metal bands (chiefly Nightwish, who I followed to a show at the House of Blues in one of the most exciting/life threatening experiences of my life, what with the lights and the screaming and the being right up close and the dear-jesus-please-don't-mosh-me-ness of it all), Firefly (which led to all-encompassing love of The Joss Man, see below), The Police (who announced a world tour just when I'd gotten over the fact that I'd never get to see them live, which, eleven tickets and $2,000, later turned out to be gloriously untrue), (btw, I'm still paying people back for those tickets), Ryan Spilborghs (plays left field and is the DH for the Rockies, looks like a dream, who knows where he'll end up this season, but as long as I can ogle him from the third base line I'm good), Ralphie (Vaughan Williams, for you plebeians, writer of the song voted best ever by the citizens of the UK, "The Lark Ascending"), and many more...

Here's the "art" part. You can't say you obsess over just anything. I have a friend who has picked up the nasty habit of saying things like "I am obsessed with these fries" or "I am obsessed with those windows" (i.e., I think these fries/windows are really cool and have my full attention at this moment). But this is just not true, because you cannot be obsessed with something unless you love it with your whole heart and live it with your whole life. There should be posters on your walls, bookmarked websites with obscure facts, and songs on repeat that drive those living in close quarters with you crazy. You should be able to connect everything you encounter in your day to day life back to it. ("Oh hey! Those spires on that building look like the helmet the third orc from the left of the second shot of the battle at Osgiliath was wearing!")

You see, one must truly, deeply find devotion to the obsession a rewarding experience. It’s not about outward appearances, or being able to recite more facts about Sting than anyone else (which can be cool, I warrant you), but enjoying the new realm into which you have entered because it fulfills you in ways “normal” things don’t. It helps you discover things about yourself and reveal truths about humanity. (Pardon my lofty language, but show me a Ringer who says Lord of the Rings hasn’t changed their life.)

It is also a great connector. When you find people who are obsessed with your loves, it’s truly a kindred spirit experience. No matter who the other person is, where they are from or their economic background, when you both realize the line, “I am a leaf on the wind, watch me soar” makes you both want to cry, there is a deep connection that is felt. It doesn’t mean that you have to become best friends, but it does mean that your love has been affirmed, that someone else out there gets it.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Being Late

I am petrified of being late. I think this stems from the fact that I spent my parental-control childhood being late to everything from sports practice to Church. Since I have gone up & away, I have lived my life in perpetual fear of arriving late to anything. Class, work, movies (especially movies, but I have the odd habit of desiring to spak up the aura of a theater long before the previews begin), I will arrive early for everything. I plan to be at least ten minutes early to get a good seat or just settle in. I hate walking in late; I think it's just bad form. I have a friend who is late to everything, especially class, though I often cover for her. That utterly PETRIFIES me!

Another theory: I am early to everything because I will probably leave in the middle of it to go to the bathroom. Perhaps the constant presence of my petrified state in the face of lateness damnation shocks my bladder into the size of a peanut. But this is another topic entirely.

I have another friend who is chronically late and everyone who knows him has gotten in the habit of telling him things start 45 minutes earlier than they actually do. He usually ends up being pretty on time for the main event.

My mother does not understand "We need to leave now." It inevitably becomes, "GET IN THE CAR RIGHT NOW OR I AM DISOWNING MYSELF." My dad's usually pretty good, unless I tell him we need to go somewhere and he forgets, and then it, of course, is my fault that I didn't remind him.

And as I sit and write this, I get nervous that I should start heading out because I have a class in 20 minues in a building 5 minutes away. Thus the fear descends.

Joss Man in the 'house

Dollhouse premiers this Friday. I have to say, it takes a lot to convince me to stay home on a Friday night, but this is one man I'm willing to do it for. I've been in love with The Joss Man ever since I was introduced to Firefly this time last year. Interesting to look back on the year and see how far I've come. In exactly one year, I have gone from knowing nothing about The Joss Man or any of his work to having seen all seven seasons of Buffy, owning copies of Firefly and Serenity, attending the annual nationwide screening of Serenity (in costume) last June, attending a large-screen viewing of Dr. Horrible & commentary sing-alone (in costume), and I am currently on the fifth disk of the fourth season of Angel.

And what lovely timing, because now I get to experience all The Joss Man has to offer first-hand, with the rest of the television community. I am, in an understatment, excited. The Joss Man constantly renues my faith in television as a story-telling medium and I have quite enjoyed our previous tristes through the worlds of sci-fi. And of course, the geek-compulstive within me is ever greatful for the opportunity to barnacle on to such a fantastic ride.

The Joss Man According to The Golden Music Guru:
Best Show: Firefly
Funnest Character to Watch: Lorne (though Jayne is a close second)
Greatest Moment: When Buffy revieves the Class Protector award at prom at the end of the third season. I love it, I absolutely love it. (First runner up goes to pretty much any Mal/Jayne tet-a-tet)
Worst Moment: Cordelia & Connor. I mean, really?
Favorite Couple: Zoe & Wash
Funnest Character to Dress Up As: Buffy. Black leather and FBK boots make anyone feel like a slayer.
Easiest Character to Dress Up As: Captain Hammer. T-shirt, khakis, boots & snow gloves.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Way I Hear It (or so I hear...)

Most people who read music read the notes. They see the pitches and match them to their instrument. People with perfect pitch can see the note and immediately hear it in their head. (They are a strange, radical race. I happen to have a faction of friends who want to find all those with perfect pitch and breed them into a super-race, like Uruk-hai, but less tone-deaf. Speaking of Uruk-hai, apparently in between takes during the long night shoots all the extras in costume at Helm's Deep would break into song. So perhaps Uruk-hai are not as tone-deaf as first supposed. Has Tolkien given us any hard evidence to the contrary?) I've even heard of one perfect pitcher (no, not talking about Sandy Koufax) who actually passed out when Sara Brightman was singing at the Opening Ceremonies in Beijing because she was so off key. The point being, most musicians see, hear and learn music based off of the printed source.

There are also people who learn by ear. Call it the "suzuki" method. I happen to think using this as a basic teaching technique is bollocks, but it is a helpful method to enhance music memorization. (I can't knock it too much - the first thing I do when I need to learn a new song is find it on Rhapsody or YouTube.) I have friends in a choir who lean all their music by ear, and are given CD's of songs and told to hear and memorize the parts. Musicianship-wise, this isn't very quality, but it gets the job done and they do sound great at concerts.

They way I hear it, I believe, is in sections of "should's" and "shouldn'ts" (Shoulds for how this sections "should" sound, "shouldn'ts" for what wouldn't make sense in the section.) After hearing a song about three times, the song partitions itself into section of shoulds and shouldn'ts, branches of the song that look/sound one way or another and piece together to form a song as a whole, with modulation, variation and so forth. I see/hear these sections with a quasi-photographic memory. (It wants to be photographic oh so much, but then I get to tests and think I know EXACTLY where the answer to that question is in the book, the page, the sentance...I just can't remember what the sentance SAYS!) Then the sections order themselves like an album, one track moving seamlessly into the next.