So, after yesterday’s post accidentally slipped into a maudlin meditation on my musical needs. I ended up sending an e-mail that carried on talking about music even more. I’m just reposting a chunk of what I said there here. Then I’m going to carry on talking about music.
That Okay with you crazy kids?
It just came into my head as I was talking about music. I wanted to explain how much music can mean, how you can share it with someone and it can be a powerful linking force…especially how now I find music brings me closer to a lost loved one. I don’t know if it came across in the post…but basically when I’m listening to music, I quite often feel like Will is with me listening to it. It’s hard to explain. Its not even a religious thing…its just…well..My Mum told me (she’s very down to earth and stoic and pragmatic and all those things…I love her dearly of course) that everyone we meet leaves a mark upon us. We pick up bits of them…everything people do or say affects us, and this means that when they are gone, they are still with us. Not in some hokey way…but literally they are in us. Like, I occasionally notice when I’m reacting to a certain piece of music, that its what Will would love…I can picture him playing along on the piano…or getting excited about a certain bit. Do you know any Radiohead? There’s a song called How to Disappear Completely that we listened to together. Both of us loved it deeply, especially this section near the end where it all falls apart and seems to go discordant..then suddenly resolves all the off tones and rhythms and puts them back together in an even better harmonised order than it was before.
Basically we once had a massive argument about which bit was better. Literally, we could both pin point our favourite bit to within a second. His bit was just before mine…the bit where it’s most fallen apart…mine was the first full note where its back together again..literally the instant that you realise that its all worked out and the harmony releases. We argued (playfully) for ages…and eventually decided that we were both right (secretly believing the other to be wrong).
I think we both knew that in fact neither moments were any good without the other.
I guess that’s what I love about music. This almost narrative but not really narrative element. It’s temporal. You can’t appreciate it without listening to the whole…little bits aren’t the same (a demonstration of this is ‘my favourite drum beat’, which comes approximately 15 minutes into a Godspeed You Black Emperor track…that isn’t anywhere near as good unless you listen to the 15 minutes that seem to build up to that drum beat finally slamming in….I have a true flash bulb memory of the first time I heard that piece of music…have I mentioned that already? Memory confusing me).
Anyway, I’ve just realised this probably belongs in a post on music and not an e-mail to you.
So that’s what I said then…so now I’m posting it and carrying on from where I left off. Thanks to V for sending that back to me, also for allowing me to get it out in the first place.
Just so you know, I’m in one of my experimental moods, so I’ve cued up a few tracks so that soon I get interrupted by the drum beat mentioned above (its on track 1 of Disc 2 of Lift your Skinny Fists like Antennae to heaven). I may well suddenly start ranting about it..then I’ll try to wrap up. Its like an audio time bomb that’ll blow up whatever I’m saying at the time. It does give me plenty of time though.
Anyway, yeah…music. I really like music. I like all different kinds of music. I’m going to try and delve into this idea of music as being special because of its non-narrative narrative nature. And its temporality.
Its related to something that me and Significant discussed recently..which was about how she spent weeks on end thinking about Lost, but barely ever thought about pieces of Visual Art that she loved. Like, A is really into art, but she finds more time to think about a fairly trashy piece of television than she does to think about even some of her favourite paintings and stuff.
She reckons it is to do with the slow trickle of information. You get everything to look at in one go in a painting. Its hard to make yourself think about it, because its all there. You can sit and stare at it and new things will come to you…but essentially they’re coming out of something that was there already. Hang with me on this. With Lost, each week you get a tiny bit more of the picture, and that adds to what you’ve been thinking about before. Its like only getting to see a tiny bit of the picture at a time, and seeing how it relates to the bits you’ve already seen. I might try doing that with the next piece of art I find…just covering it up, and slowly revealing more and more scraps of it. Not seeing the whole piece until weeks later.
Does that make sense? Probably not. But lets get back to music.
You see, with music, you’re forced to pick up on the clues as to what might happen next. The first time you listen to something, you slowly build up a picture of what’s happening. But because the rules of music are so fluid, and there’s no need for a comprehensible narrative (i’m ignoring lyrics here…I normally do…which is probably bad). Certain songs will constantly juxtapose different bits of ideas, you could never guess what comes next. Most good music, you can’t guess, but when it comes you expect it.
Grr…I’m finding this really hard to explain.
Because I’ve listened to a lot of music..I find, especially when listening to less experimental stuff…that I’ve become aware of the traditional cycles and patterns of music. You know when to expect an upstroke or a down stroke…you know when the next phrase is going to kick in. You know when something might break down. These are patterns you recognise, they’re what allows you to dance and get excited by the music…even if you haven’t necessarily heard it before.
I’m a little up on music theory, but often you’ll notice these effects before you can work out why that is.
As an example…I really liked Hey Ya by Outkast…most people did…its a damn catchy song.
Anyway, I always sensed there was something odd in the rhythm. That bit with the claps…you always know when its due…but it seems odd. I described this to my friend K one time. That I felt like the rhythm was always catching up with itself…so you had need to dance but had to do it in a rather confused manner.
Anyway, K put the track on…and we sat and listened to it for a bit. K counted out the beat (he always had a better instinct for these things) and we established its in 11/4 time. Meaning it’s bars last 11 beats and its phrases last 22. This is very odd (normally you’re talking 4/4 time) for a pop song. It’s also crazy how well it works and how it just adds this layer of oddness to what would actually be quite a standard song. (For another example of the effect of time signature…for the Radiohead fans at least, is to listen to Morning bell on Kid A and Amnesiac. Now..there are a lot of changes in instrumentation and mood between the two…but I think the most important change is the one from 5/4 on the Kid A version (my favourite) and 4/4 on the Amnesiac version).
Anyway, the point is that there is lots going on in music. Lots of expectations and movements, and surprises. I love it when you are, for example, dancing to some soul or summat, and you get all worked up building up to a drop, then it drops…and just as you relax the dancing..the bas line goes so nuts and funky that you yelp in excitement (this happens to me a lot).
Its like…when I went to see Subtle the other week. There was such a build up of emotion that I was constantly getting close to crying. It was really hard to vent (I kept on biting my hand to try and focus it). The energy was so extreme…during one particular quiet bit, I actually let out a tiny little yelp, from being so overwhelmed. Loads of people turned around..I think maybe they thought a cat had died in the middle of the audience…it sounded odd.
Anyway, its crazy that just sequences of noises can have that kind of impact. It can make you want to fall into a hole and never get back out..then moments later it’ll make you claw your way out and fly to the moon. (Godspeed is on now..the clock is ticking..the track is called Sleep by the way…but there’s lots of movements in it. I just hope I picked the right track).
I don’t know…music gives me such a drive. So much energy. I can’t believe it sometimes just how exciting even the simplest of drum beats and melodies can get me going a bit nuts.
Many people say that music that means a lot to them is all about memories that they associate with it. I think that is only a tiny part of it. I mean, it really is incredible just how much music can become associated with music. Certain songs make me think incredibly vividly of certain situations..some specific, some more general. Specific like the flash bulb memory of playing Chess with Will in Abbot’s Park whilst listening to Godspeed for the first time. General like Pablo Honey by Radiohead, which reminds me of playing Settler’s 2 on my computer…all those many years ago.
Then you can have loads of layers of memory. Like My Sound by Squarepusher, which reminds me most of crying in the snow, walking over the railway bridge in St Albans, andjust as much of sitting in a park with Guido, watching the most amazing sunrise you could ever imagine just as the Mushrooms were wearing off. We’d been up all night. We just had out arms around each other and marvelled at the beauty of the morning light streaking through the clouds. Beautiful times.
But memory is only so much of it. I get so excited hearing new music. Great music just grabs you, it just throws you to the floor and tries to break your back. It picks you up and makes you dance like a maniac. It stops you in your tracks and makes you think. Sometracks just remind me of how beautiful the world really is. Sometimes music can scare you its so intense. A couple of Mr Bungle tracks have really left an impact on me. Music can hurt. I’ve got some truly painful tracks by aphex…just agressive high pitched noise. Music can heal, I find my mood being restored better by certain tracks than by anything else. Music can make you laugh and cringe. The Power of Love by Huey Lewis and the News remains one of my favourite all time tracks…not matter what people say.
There’s just so much great music out there. Its all worth a listen. Toxic by Britney…great damn hook yeah…great song. There’s no need to be snobbish about this…but then…that doesn’t mean that Opera and classical aren’t amazing too….just look at Debussy…that guy could rock my world forever. Fuck yeah man. Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum….so fucking intense to watch play well (sorry for the swearing…Godspeed are really building up to something now..oh yeah baby).
Seriously though…try listening to something you’ve never heard before with a totally open heart, and an open mind. Let it in and see what it does. Its fu
Here we go
Oh yeah baby.
About 18 minutes and 27 seconds into the track.
Its such a simple drum beat…but its so incredibly tight. I think it might actually be two drummers…which is almost cheating…but its so simple and gorgeous.
I can barely bring myself to type.
It jsut builds really gently…slow rolls around the kit.
tears coming now
Its a beat I could listen to forever…it really is so rich in its simplicity…and they just keep on going.
So damn tight.
Thank you very much Godspeed.
Apologies for the rant..and the scattered head…I’m feeling a bit funny again today.
Hope that helped some of you to know mroe about what I’m about.
Sorry if it just wasted your time.
Go and Buy this Godspeed album.
You won’t regret it.