Tag Archives: music

You’re not finished: not at 18, 19, 21, 30, 40….

11 Jun

Seeing a couple of poignant videos (scattered below) got me thinking about age and it’s perception. Whether it’s the young buck who thinks they’ve been through the social life equivalent of the apocalypse at the tender age of 18, or the same buck who thinks their young age is a decent excuse to act childish and shirk responsibility, our age and perception of it can swing wildly from one end of the scale to the other.

“Frankie kicked a mine the day that mankind, kicked the moon”

When I was nineteen I was (as best I can remember) already working like a dog, in a fierce attempt to grow up. I figured that a hundred years ago I would have been married, had five kids (thank you very much, catholic Ireland) and been working for ten years already by that age, so I took great offense to my peers who sat back to piss about in college. The fact that I was still as immature as they were, smoking my brains out and ignoring a life of virtue and principle as much as possible didn’t make a difference to me: in my own twisted narrative, I had the moral highground.

For some reason we put so much emphasis on landmark years that when they’re reached, a little switch goes off in the subconscious; “Great, I’ve hit 18/21/30; I am the definition of maturity incarnate”. It doesn’t matter if we’ve actually achieved the virtues that those landmarks signify, all that matters is the number. And, naturally, you can’t go asking those questions of yourself…that wouldn’t be befitting of a dignified 18/21/30 year old, and it’d be socially unwise too; others might take offense.

The rise of shows like ‘My super sweet sixteen’ and the like, further compound the problem. Parents feel they have to shower their offspring with ridiculously lavish presents because that’s what’s expected. This is becoming the ‘done thing’ so much that the gifts and celebrations are almost taken as essential signs of respect, pride and love that parents should show their children. Without these physical signs, the children don’t quite believe their parents love them. Sure, they know in their hearts that they do, but there’s still a voice in the backround saying “Well…if they really loved me…”

If and when I eventually have kids and they hit those magical numbers, they’ll get nothing special. A pat on the back and a kick up the ass. “You’ve done well, but keep going kid; this is just the start”.

But, depressingly, it’s not just the young that take a meaningless number as the finish line. I knew an intelligent twenty eight year old woman once, someone who could talk about anything and have a pretty good opinion on it. The disapointing part of her was that, over the course of a few months, I realised that she thought herself the ‘Grand old Dame’, because she was so close to hitting thirty. She had been through quite a bit, so had experience to speak from, but the attitude still grated on me: quite a few times in a conversation she would fall back on the “Well, in my long years on this planet…” argument.

(if that one reminds you of Herbie Hancock; we’re on the same level;)

Those long years on the planet can easily count for nothing: a nineteen year old kid in the inner city, with junkies for parents and thugs for friends, can easily have been through more in their life than a forty year old. A forty year old can be wiser, calmer and less judgemental than an eighty year old. An innocent five year old can have a better outlook on life than a bitter thirty five year old.

Your life and learning is not finished at eighteen. Nor at twenty one, thirty, forty, fifty or any other random marker in time. You’re never finished. Never. Sure, you’ve probably been through some things at those ages; but there’ll always be someone out there who’s been through more, and someone who’s been through less. Remember that, and keep working on yourself.

Journey, Heroes, Dilla and the donuts.

10 Jun

Seeing as it’s Friday (don’t sing it…for the love of god, please don’t sing it) and I’m feeling extra good from training like a demon this morning, I’m going to go a little bit heavy-handed inspirational on you with this one. Relish it; It’s not gonna be often, hopefully.

I can’t tell you how good the first coffee and smoke after training is. Just beautiful. Anyway…

After hearing the now classic Journey song “Don’t stop believing” The other day I started wondering about it’s interpretation and appreciation. Nearly as soon as it was revived it was taken as a club pounder, used whenever the dancefloor was emptying to entice people back on to the floor. It’s incredible just how much it hooked people, but understandable seeing as every girl who stumbles through a club with a drink in one hand and her shoes in the other likes to consider herself a “small town girl”.

The infamous “Don’t stop believing” chorus, while used by the drunken patrons to reassure their desire to improve upon their jimmy choos and get that pay rise they thought they deserved, is quite an effective anthem. On it’s own it can be a simple inspirational lift, encouraging you to continue pushing for whatever you’re striving for. Taken with the verse lyrics though and, for me, it holds on a completely different aesthetic.

To be honest though; as much as the lyrics are great, they’re not the reason I love the song. The backing section is.

Being an (ex) drummer, I fall in love with beats. Jay Dilla gets me hard (read the second comment on that link; it’s just genius),  Billy Cobham is a legend, and I’ve dreamt about playing with Buddy Rich . I love a good beat. I know that doesn’t mark me out as anything special within the larger population of music heads but I find the slightest tap of a cymbal or an off beat on the hi-hats can send shivers up my spine. Anyone can play drums reasonably well, it takes a master to know which beats to hit and which to not.

The integral break in the song, “on and on and on and on…” is nothing without that drum build, and even less without the fat rhythm that goes straight after. Think of it: would the build up sound as good if the drums and bass straight after didn’t sound like a clutch of volleys shot from a cannon? After that, the extra tap on the ride cymbal and hi hats in the bridge sections at two minutes and during the solo, coupled with that super sweet bass in the ending section just makes me go masmndffemfhurrrrr…..

Yeah…that’s some good bass.

Next time you listen to it, focus on the rhythm section. Solid. Damn solid. The funny thing is; it doesn’t need a dance type remix…that rhythm track is perfectly balanced as it is. ( that is, unless you’ve already appreciated it…I could easily be way off the mark here).

The reason I’m rambling on like a gleek (oh god…it’s   happened…it’s finally happened) is that while many songs have  inspirational leanings (and some downright set out with that aim in mind; something which actually sets the truly inspirational ones apart from the crowd), the writers/performers can’t influence how it’s appreciated too much.

Take David Bowies’ Heroes. About the Berlin Wall, and written a long time before it came down, it’s a darkly uplifting song. I love it, but for a very particular reason.

Yep, I absolutely love it. It’s a great song. There’s one thing that never fails to strike a fire with me though; that “I” sung at 1:15. After the relentless but restrained steam-train run of the song up until then, it shatters the conformity of it and manages to sum up everything about the struggle to define or assert yourself, the desire to connect with someone and could possibly be interpreted as the moment when a person realises themselves. In one letter. One simple letter. Sung incredibly.

So, seeing as there’s a few people reading these blogs now (thank you all;) I’m wondering (and hoping you’ll comment)…

what kicks off your shivers in a song? is it the content? the execution? the rhythm? the subject? or is it that certain, inexplicable moment when an instrument just strikes a note or a chord, and you think “…oh.”

leave a comment or a link if you fancy. Ahem…first person to say Rebecca Black’s friday will be ridiculed (Unless, of course, they can prove the theological importance of “Friday” in influencing the end of the cold war and the resulting cultural change from a libertarian perspective).

Here’s a personal favourite to kick start your weekend. Hope it does you good. The song itself is a goodun, but that piano is simply divine.

Stuff’s stuff

All the best; have a goodun. Don’t stop believing, good people…don’t stop believin’.

Waiting for the payoff: dance music and the ‘now now now’ culture

1 Jun

There’s something frustrating going on with dance music at the moment…

I love dance music. Absolutely love it. I’m well aware that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, so if this doesn’t interest you then no worries at all. If you do find yourself curious about what I’m trying to say though, try and listen to one or two of the links I’ll probably put up to get a decent idea.

The classic dance formula is build-build-build until the listener is salivating for a break. Start off nice and gentle with some beats and effects before stoking the atmosphere high and bright. The reason for this is probably the fact that the creation of dance music and the common use of drugs like ecstasy and speed went hand in hand (time is notoriously slippy when you’re dancing with soundwaves rippling inbetween your fingers), but trust me; if you start off with enough confidence and an open mind you don’t need drugs to understand or engage with a good dance track.

It’s an absolutely euphoric thing to leave yourself at the mercy of a ten minute build up before exploding with a well timed uplift in the music. The first time I went to a DJ I wasn’t much into it: I had raised myself on a steady diet of rock, blues, jazz and fusion, so I wasn’t expecting much. I had a drink, stood somewhere with a decent view of the stage and relaxed into a mild head-bop. After a little while the DJ dropped a hi-hat on top of the original beat, and my shoulders started to move. “Fair enough” I thought “…I’ll go with this, see where it takes me”. Twenty minutes later he was still playing that one song, with that one rhythm, melody and arrangement but had transformed it into something that had me dancing like a lunatic. I was hooked, hypnotised and happy.

Unfortunately the classic formula has been replaced with the musical equivalent of tourettes. Where once a DJ would seduce and tease the audience with carefully crafted moods and atmospheres, nowadays more and more of them are simply slapping a new song on the decks every two minutes so the crowd can deliriously enjoy the euphoric break again and again…without having put any effort into the build up.*

*(and, of course, most dance music nowadays sounds like someone humping your ear with a syncopated chainsaw…god help us, what happened to the beautiful stuff? what happened to the orchestral samples, the carefully crafted arrangements…don’t get me wrong there are still a few great pioneers out there, but they’re a lot rarer than they were)

A classic example of this is the fashionable pretty young thing who marches through the club and arrives on the dance floor already throwing their hands in the air and screaming that it’s the best night of their lives. The fact that they’ve just arrived, are barely two shades past sober and have done nothing more than awkwardly stumble out of a taxi doesn’t seem to matter to them. They want the break, that delicious break, and they want it now now now so they won’t feel so awkward about themselves.

The awkwardness is all part of it. It’s an essential part of it. Stepping onto the dancefloor, painfully aware that the music is calm and subtle for a reason: so you can invest in the build up. Trying to find some comfort in yourself during those first few minutes when there’s not much to dance to. Learning how to relax and forget about the crowd surrounding you while you explore what way your body wants to move with the rhythms.

But no, the fashionable little things want to dance like they’re having the time of their lives, so that days later when the pics are put up on facebook they’ll look back on them and think “god I look, like, so good there…these pics look like they belong in a magazine; we had SUCH a good time!!”.*

*On a hopefully brief sidenote; it doesn’t matter anymore whether it actually was a good night or not, does it? all that matters is if the pictures tell a good story. It doesn’t matter if you spent half the night talking to some idiot about the weather, or wasted two hours on a hot piece of ass that was actually pretty dull and boring, or lost your friends for half the night while you went for a smoke outside as long as the pictures tell a good story. “hey wow: there’s like, tonnes of pictures where you’re all, like, looking at the camera and posing! you must have had such an amazing time!!…

“…but wait; there’s another one!! good times, good times…”

(It doesn’t matter that between the photos, they all just stood around and bored each other to death by talking about themselves and their latest drama…god no)

It’s a horrible indication of the way our culture is warping itself. We want the payoff: we want it now now now, one after the other in quick succession but have no time to invest in the build up; the essential, enjoyable build up. Without really knowing the investment, you can’t appreciate the profit. And obviously that goes for personal development too…how satisfying is it to achieve something, knowing what you had to go through to get it?

Here’s an example of the good stuff. It’s not going to be the same seeing as your sitting infront of a computer (the atmosphere of a good club with good music and mixing makes all the difference), but have a look if you feel like it.