Wednesday, April 13, 2005

A Late Night Musing: Music

With a lack of something better to write about, thought I'd just share my thoughts on some new music I've been listening to lately. I'm a big fan of Pepsi and they've been having a promo with Apple to give away free Itunes with their bottled drinks. You're odds are 1/3 in winning, so you can really add them up quickly if you drink Pepsi steadily. The past few days, I decide to actually check underneath the cap to see if I won anything, and I did. So I checked more bottles, and won more.

I gathered up all the caps and headed off to the iTunes website to see what I could find. Downloaded the software, loaded it up, then flipped open the latest issue of Esquire to see what they're recommending to read. One of the bands they said was up-and-coming was Louis XIV. The other band I decided to check out was Beck, since I knew he had a new album out and I'm a fan of his earlier stuff.

Five Pepsi-iTune caps, five reviews. Here goes:

Beck - "Girl" - from Guero

Starts with this funky little beeping part, before Beck's voice kicks in with the acoustic guitars and slowly builds up. I like the sound of this song, has all the qualities of a good song. Catchy beat and not too over-bearing (ie the bass isn't loud, percussion in the background, vocals rule the song). Has your basic song structure of the verse and chorus repeating, etc. Reminds me a lot of his older music - well worth checking out.

Louis XIV - "Hey Teacher" - The Best Little Secrets...

I can't put my finger on how this track starts off, but it reminds me of another song. I can remember it's a song off of the HardCoreLogo soundtrack, but I digress. This song instantly puts you into a good mood, however. With the bouncy guitar and hand-clapping, to the falsetto voices contrast with the normal singing voice. Has a touch of The White Stripe's "Seven Nation Army" thrown in, along with a feeling of Coldplay when it breaks down. I think I could listen to this track on repeat forever and it wouldn't get old for me.

Beck - "Que' Onda Guero" - Guero

This song sounds like something off of his Odelay album. Has the same kind of beat to it, the rapping pattern, the trumpets coming in with a strange sound, or the scratching of a record, etc. Kind of a Spanish version of his "Devil Haircut," I think. I'm sure some people will disagree with me. Not quite the best of what I've heard from him, but still quite good.

Beck - "E-Pro" - Guero

Definitely a rock anthem for a new generation. I feel like this song could come on the radio while driving in the car and the teenagers reach over and crank up the volume and start belting out the words. Reminds me of a grungier version of... a song by the Wings/Paul Mc. Also reminds me of some tracks from Limp Bizkit back when he was cool and his "Chocolate Starfish" album came out. Has that same kind of entrancing beat behind it and masculinity that makes you want to mosh around - not that I would know anything about that.

Louis XIV - "All the Little Pieces" - The Best Little...

A very slow ballad song, similar to Coldplay. I'm usually not a major fan of this type of music, but I like the voices "flying" around in my head, followed by the violins and the drums building in the background. A lovely song, but not something I could listen to often, unlike the other song I listed above.

Bonus track:

Feist - "One Evening" - One Evening This was iTunes free track of the week, and I picked it up mainlyl because I wanted to get an idea of how fast/slow the transfer times were for iTunes (fast on my highspeed connection, by the way), and she's Canadian, like me. That sold me. Anyways, the track is slow, loungy, very hypnotic with the various smooth sounds tossed your way. I love her voice and will have to check out some of her other music sometime. Sounds like a good track to seduce a woman you like and it should be unforgettable because of the song title. Recommended.

I'll try doing this regularly if anyone does read this and finds it at all helpful.

Thought for the Day: Garbage

Lately, I've been subjecting myself to a lot of different kinds of music to see what else is out there besides the usual rock radio crap and the same bouncy dance anthems. What I've been discovering is some pretty interesting work, some addicting stuff, some bizarre but good stuff, and then stuff that should be classified as garbage. But I have a hard time of labeling something garbage because someone did make an effort in creating that piece of "music."

It takes a lot of time to create something, regardless of how we view it. Does our opinion matter when viewing something, or should we leave it up to the artist to decide what is good and what is bad? Would our opinion matter more when the artwork is thrust into our faces (graffiti, street musicians, etc.) rather than art that we had to search out (mp3s, blogs, art in a museum) ? Since the artist is putting it in front of us, I would think he/she's daring us to judge it. They're making us confront it and face our fears, question ourselves, look at what they're providing and find something of value for us. At that point, we can say something is garbage or very good.

But is by calling something garbage a way of us personally avoiding the real answer? Do we pass it off as crap because we're afraid of going to that place where the artist is asking us to go? Is that the root of the problem with public nudity (in art or in general), because so many people classify nudity as taboo or should only be viewed privately in a bedroom? If it is the problem, is it impossible to avoid this confrontation from within? Will humans ever open themselves up to go places where they normally wouldn't go?

Is art the garbage of life - the taking something bold and making the viewer look at themselves deeply and come to some conclusion of who they are, where they are, who they will become, who someone they know is or will be, etc?

If art is the crap of the artworld, how do we explain the popularity of some artistic styles and pieces (ie Mona Lisa, Water Lilies, statue of David)? Is that art just good design or beautiful in nature but not real art? Is it popular because it's safe, or because it's perceived to be underground and thus "cool"?

With apologies to David Garneau (Visual Arts Dept Head, University of Regina), I'm going to steal an idea he presented in his classes. He developed the model below based on a single question: What does it mean to be priviledged in our world? (Western, as opposed to Middle Eastern, Asian, etc). The classes came up with one list and he put down the opposite side, so it read like this:

White                     Other (black, Asian, etc)
Wealthy                  Poor
Judeo-Christian       Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist
Urban                     Rural
Educated                Un-educated

His premise was that anything that was popular in our culture came from the "other" side. Blues, jazz, rap/hip-hop, trance, the hippy culture, Asian martial arts films, and so on. The list is honestly endless, and almost everything passes through this filter. Yes, you have the white rappers like Eminem doing well- but he was pretending to be other: poor, trailer-trash, uneducated, etc. He's not an exception; he's playing by the rules of pop.

I would say that it is indeed true that most cool art/media comes from the other side, while the safe and good art comes from the left side (white). Society says that whites are cleaner than darks, so by extension so must our art - unless we're trying to play to the other side, like Eminem. I'm sure that's a reason why most people learning to paint turn towards the nature or still life pictures and not the abstract. They're not ready to question their artistic integrity and themselves, so paint a safe picture to boost their esteem and so forth.

But is this binary in art so black and white? Are you one or the other, or is it linear and you lie somewhere between good and garbage, favouring one side or the other? I think it does fluctuates, but it changes for the self, not a society as a whole. So, the reader may find my writings sliding towards the side of being "crap" but a society will simplify things and call me crap or good. Society needs to be simple so people don't get lost by the rules (we all think it is complex, but deeper analysis would show us a simple truth to it all). That is another topic for discussion later, though.

For now, the point is made: garbage exists on a societal level, but ultimately it is up to an individual to decide how crappy that garbage really is.

As a side thought, imagine if there was a catalogue of websites that are crap that people should avoid (like how people grade movies, books, music). The punchline would be something along the lines of "Who knew humans could create so much crap."

A Late Night Musing: Abstractions

How can a simple thing, like a piece of art, be called abstract?

Simple. Abstraction is merely a form of us seeing. It has nothing to do with what is being seen and how complex that image may be, but rather in how that form is being seen by the viewer. For some, a painting or dance piece could be called abstract because they are missing the underlying beauty that is simple in nature- ie lines of paint or the arcs of the body in space. Anything can be seen as abstract, and yet everything is simple. It all follws a pattern, a set of rules, is contained in a physical or metaphysical way. Abstraction is the rule of nature.

Nature is abstract? No. Nature is beauty.

But beauty is an abstraction, as well, or rather a confirmation of how simple and elegant something is to the mind. But if that same mind took that same object and started repeating the imagery in their mind or said that word over and over again, the object starts to abstract itself from its inherit beauty. The simplicity and beauty still exist but the word plays tricks on you and fools you. Abstraction is the jokester of life- making you believe in something as it isn't and ignoring the truth.

How do you get past the abstraction?

By learning how to see again- to learn how to discover again and experiment with your vision and your other senses. Expose yourself to a multiplicity of images, scents, sounds. Accustom yourself to the diversity of our world and how there is more than meets the eye. Draw objects by not how you see them but how they move or take up space. Don't only listen to music, but dance and move to it - and don't resist the urge to move a certain way if the music is telling you to move that way. By breaking things down into an essence, you'll start to see things as they are deep down and not just on their physical form.

Why is it important to understand abstractions?

Because you're missing out on a lot of great art, music, environments, and so forth, because you choose not to see everything and understand. If you can appreciate abstractions, then you'll appreciate other human beings and make this world a better place.

(to be continued, maybe)