March 26, 2009
the other day i read a thing about how some journals barthes wrote on a trip to china and after the death of his mother were being published and there was some “controversy” about this (via). the combination of that and the feminine ecriture thing from yesterday reminded me of this song i wrote part of a while ago, so i finished it and recorded it today. the song basically envisions this sort of alternate universe where all these dead critical theorists are living today and in the first section they lead these sort of mundane, depressed lives because nobody cares about what they have to say and then, in the second section, i directly address them and chastise them gently but then tell them i love them anyway. it was originally about artists in general and not critical theorists and i do kind of regret that by changing it i had to lose my verse about michelangelo, which went: “michelangelo makes pieta pockets / cooks a lot of gyros, sells them for a euro / he sculpts souvlaki, crafts teppanyaki / he’s a real renaissance man with a cast iron pan.” in life, though, there’s loss, right? i’ll just have to deal with it. as rollie wrote, “time makes nothing happen; it only washes down the emotivity of bereavement.”
March 25, 2009
March 25, 2009
this is a song called “woke up.” i woke up this morning and i couldn’t think of anything to write about and so then i wrote a song about waking up in the morning and not being able to think of anything to write about. i think a repeated, programmatic structure (i’m sure there’s a musical term) like in this song is really helpful for writing something quickly and easily (it also helps that the verse and the chorus are just the same chords played differently). oulipian kind of restrictions on how/what you’re writing can also help — not only in terms of your productivity but also in helping you come up with nice things you might not have otherwise. for example, in the second verse of the song, all my feelings are the names of bands that have colors in their names (simply red, pink floyd, blue cheer, etc.). i think that’s kind of fun (i got help from this list). normally i would write a third verse but i couldn’t immediately think of one and i thought it was sort of appropriate to repeat a verse in a song about not knowing what to write about in a song. anyway, just a nice, quick song, both to write and listen to. there’s a short profile of the-dream in this month’s rolling stone and apparently he writes songs really fast, which is always something i aspire to, if not something i can always do.
“He’s some kind of musical savant – not just becaues he plays piano and most brass instruments but because he writes songs so fast it defies belief. “Umbrella,” 2007’s most culture-dominating smash, took just 15 minutes. Last year’s equivalent, “Single Ladies,” took 20. “He has an amazing gift, says Antonio “L.A.” Reid, chairman of Dream’s label, Island Def Jam. “He was here in the office a couple of days ago. There was a track playing down the hall from a producer who was visiting on of our A&R guys. Dream heard the track, stood in the door, and wrote a song to the track and walked out and got on the elevator. And the thing he wrote was amazing.”
in the first verse, i make a reference to the book the artist’s way. i haven’t read the artist’s way and i have no plan to do so any time soon. however, once i heard something about how one of the main parts of the artist’s way is that you write what is called morning pages, which is a certain number of pages that you have to every day before . this is basically the same advice every writing teacher gives you in college, but in college writing wasn’t that important to me and so i never did it daily. last fall, though, when i was really blocked and really depressed because of being blocked, i did daily pages for like a month, three every morning before i could get out of bed. it did kind of help, although i don’t think it actually helped me generate anything i could use; i think it just made me feel less angst and stress about not writing, which was what i really needed. at first doing morning pages had the excitement of new things, but after a few weeks it became like what i imagine morning sickness is like — something you just have to get through to get on with your day. most of the output from my morning pages was emo blather like this random page from one of the notebooks i used:
“i don’t know why it has to be so hard, living, what is it that makes it so hard, it’s hard for everybody but it seems especially hard for me. i guess that’s because i’m me and i’m not anybody else, that probably makes a pretty big difference. it’s a shitty difference, though, really. why is it so hard? i want to eat what i really want to eat is a pastry or a donut but i’m not going to eat one becuase of the calories. it sucks, thoguh (sic), because i really want one. i’m not going to drink coffee, either, i think, i’m doing a good job with the coffee, it’s been three days and that’s a pretty long time. i want some though, i want the sweetness of it, the hotness, too. la la la la la A A A A A why is this so hard, why am i such a sad, mean person? i want a brain transplant. i like my brain and all but sometimes it would certainly be nice to have another how are productive people so productive how do they do so much more than me? it boggles my mind, it boggles my brain, it boggles the rain. i just don’t understand it, i used to have ideas, real ideas, good ideas, holdable, touchable, thinkable ideas, and now i don’t have them anymore. what happened? nothing happened that i can think of but something had to happen. it’s like that surgical medicine they give you where you stay conscious but you don’t make memories, that’s how i feel about this notebook writing and…”
yeah, so, for obvious reasons, i don’t do morning pages anymore, which i think is better for me and the world and everyone
March 23, 2009
so i got the spring fashion issue of nylon the other day, the one with the girl from twilight on the cover, and, you know, i highly recommend it (they have a myspace fifth anniversary special where they ask cory kennedy what is the “most awesomely bad wallpaper” she’s ever seen!). there’s a lot of ridiculosity and quotatiousness in nylon but i think the most ridiculous part of nylon is the letters to the editor section, which in nylon is called “dear nylon.” letters to the editor sections in most magazines and newspapers are ridiculous in general but in nylon this is taken all to an absurd level. in the march issue, out of the twelve letters, eight have nothing at all to do with anything specifically related to the magazine; they don’t address, you know, issues from the issue. this is kind of weird — i guess you see a little of it in other mags (“dear maxim, I LOVE MAXIM — tim, oklahoma) but usually people are responding to something specific that they read or saw in a previous issue (“dear playboy, this is just to say that lorna love (december ’08) has some of the finest knockers i’ve ever seen in my life. — dave, minnesota”). but the nylon letters have nothing to do with the magazine besides the girls loving the magazine giving them the excuse to write them. they’re much more a platform for identity sculpting and self definition — it’s like the letter writers are posting on the facebook wall of their most popular BFF and they know a lot of people are going to read it so they have to get it just right, make the perfect references and quotes, toe the line between sincerity and irony, be sexyfunnycool instead of being just sexy or funny or cool, and it’s all just too good. so anyway, i had this rockish track i’ve been working on that i couldn’t write lyrics for (previously) and so i just decided to do readings of the letters from nylon as the lyrics.
March 22, 2009
big love is my third favorite show on television and i think this season has been the best yet and my favorite episode was the one where bill is kneeling on the ground at the end, destroyed, and the fake angel rises above him in the background, beautiful, and so overall because of all this i’m sad the show is ending tonight, so this is a midtempo piano ballad cover of the pixies’ “gigantic” to express this sadness. the only mormon i’ve ever known in real life was this kid who was my frenemy from sixth through part of the ninth grade. he was freakishly smart and belonged to this whole big cabal of freakishly smart mormons whose father was this famous mormon plastic surgeon and in the summer before eighth grade, they went to vietnam to do charity plastic surgery and mission work and my frenemy brought back small amounts of devalued vietnamese currency for everybody and passed it out in class and if you didn’t know the vietnamese currency is called “dong” and this went over with eight grade boys about as you can expect. my frenemy had two older brothers who were also freakishly smart and they were known throughout the school for both this and for being handsome, “ooooh,” the girls would say, although i always thought they were handsome in kind of a creepy and empty way, the way gavin newsom is handsome, but i was majorly biased so who really knows. i moved away in the middle of ninth grade but before i did there was the final broken bond in our relationship, which centered around the ninth grade PTA reflections writing contest. the theme was “anything can happen” and i took this theme extremely literally and so wrote a science fiction story about a student who kills his teacher. in ninth grade, we had this honors english teacher who was extremely anal and mean and for example gave us this insane summer reading assignment where we had to read like six books about the holocaust and then had to write character dossiers and chapter summaries and answer discussion questions in notebooks about all of them and this was PRE-SPARKNOTES, by the way. i put doing my summer reading assignment off until the very end of the summer until my family went on our annual beach trip and then i couldn’t enjoy this vacation a bit and was actually really depressed throughout because all i was doing was reading and writing about the holocaust but still i was a good student so i finished my assignment anyway and when i brought it in on the first day of school, the teacher said that i had written it in the wrong kind of notebooks and that i had to recopy it into the correct kind of notebooks or she would give me zeroes. bitch. and everybody hated this woman, not just me, and so for the PTA reflections contest, i wrote this very thinly veiled story about a boy who comes to realize his extremely anal and mean teacher is an alien and so ends up killing her with ink from his pen, which her alien skin is allergic to (this is why she always required her students to write in pencil), all of this culminating in him screaming triumphantly over her dissolving corpse the line, “the pen is mightier than the sword.” yeah, it ended with that line. and when i say “thinly veiled,” i mean that in the first draft of the story, the alien teacher who gets killed had the same name as my teacher and the hero of the story had the same name as me but then when i proudly showed the story to my parents, they said i had to either change the names to fake names or turn something else in. so then we had individual conferences with the teacher about our PTA reflections entries and when she sat down with me, my teacher told me that she knew the story was about her but that she thought it was really good and she liked it a lot, which was when i realized that she wasn’t a total bitch and maybe even a good teacher, even though i still think she was overly anal about the notebook thing, seriously. anyway, so we read our entries aloud in front of the class and mine was by far the favorite, the whole class loved it, feeding subconsciously or consciously on the reality-fiction overlap and also on the cheap but effective stephen king-y drama, they all gasped and laughed and clapped and cheered. after this amazing reaction. i thought i was a lock for the contest as a whole, especially considering most of the entries weren’t awesome fictional stories like mine and were instead clichéd hallmark shit about grandmothers or growing up to be a doctor or scientist, but then when all was said and done and they announced the winners over the intercom, my frenemy won for our whole grade with some clichéd hallmark shit about how with God anything is possible and after that i became really immature and petty and mostly just made fun of him for not being able to drink mountain dew or swear.
March 21, 2009
as with most things in my life, i came to music through reading. up until i was sixteen, i had a very limited interest in music (in a telling sign of early pretension, when i was maybe eight or nine i decided at one point that i only liked “classical music,” even though i had probably never heard “classical music” outside of a movie soundtrack or TV commercial, but i decided and so i was a little adorno for a few months and i only listened to talk radio for and stuck my fingers in my ears when my parents tried to play tom petty in the car). as a child i showed no aptitude for music at all and didn’t even play triangle or recorder or whatever you’re supposed to learn in elementary school. then when i was sixteen, i fell in love with classic rock and the story is very cliche after that, so cliche that it could be filmed by crowe or linklater with their eyes closed and hands tied behind their backs, scenes of me fetishizing my purchases from the used CD store in the same plaza as my first job and wearing my led zeppelin t-shirt to school and the buttons on my messenger bag and blah blah blah blah blah. today i have a vast sea of completely useless music knowledge which i don’t need, discographies clogging up my databanks and what have you. i started accumulating all this by reading music criticism and rock ephemera online (it was augmented later by checking out rock biographies from the library, which are almost without fail poorly written but also almost without fail really pleasing reads). my favorite rock critic will never be lester bangs (occasionally great but uneven and way too keyed up) or greil marcus (i like some of his stuff i’ve read but he’s too smart to really be a rock critic, way more critic than rock) or nick hornby (i mistyped his name as “nick horny” in an e-mail recently which made a funny if unintentional joke) because my favorite critic is this guy george starostin, who is a russian linguist who used to moonlight as a music critic online, who was the first real critic of anything i read with any regularity. on the internet back when i was first learning about music there wasn’t all there is now, there were no mp3 blogs or anything (god i feel old and i’m not even old). back then there was mostly allmusic which was a big site with lots of information but not much writing on it and then there were a few independent reviewers (like mark prindle (who was too EXTREME for me) and music junkies anonymous (uneven)) but the best one for me was this site only solitaire by george starostin, because it was huge and seemed to have everything. george would write long, detailed reviews of the entire discography of a band, record by record, and then move on to the next band and by the time i started reading it, i’m sure he had written like hundreds of thousands of words about this music. i gravitated to him because his site was on the one hand so big and full of knowledge and information and yet also full of personal revelation and opinion and feeling, which is really the stuff i come to criticism for. starostin, who quit reviewing music after his father died, wasn’t the greatest critic but the sheer force and amount of his writing deeply influenced my own early perspective on music — i thought the beatles were better than the stones and i thought the who were more unique than the beatles and i thought led zeppelin were crappier than the other three because he wrote all of these things and i internalized his thoughts. in many cases i carefully read his descriptions and representations of the albums before, you know, actually listening to the albums themselves. his viewpoint influenced mine so much that the first time i really and truly got high (there is a really good story here i won’t tell but i will tell this other part) we were listening to music and we had been listening to i don’t know the flaming lips or something and then we were going to put on a new album and somebody said “pink floyd” and i said that i hated pink floyd because they were “cold and detached, except for their early stuff with syd barret.” i don’t think i had ever really listened to pink floyd at that point, not DSOTM much less the madcap laughs, but i had this firm and prescriptive judgment which was entirely based on reading starostin’s reviews. it was totally like when the kid in that noah baumbach movie describes “the metamorphosis” as being kafkaesque. this same night i described nerds rope as being like DNA and said i could read auras, oh youth. i guess if i was turning sixteen today and music obsessed, i would have probably started with pitchfork or popmatters or some mp3 blog or something, which would have been fine, but i kind of like that i learned about music from this weird-ass russian linguist and his huge obsessive babble tower.
so this is all to say that here is a cover of the beatles song “love me do.” i listened to the beatles so much when i was sixteen and seventeen that i really would never choose to listen to them now and don’t have any of their music, although sometimes other people put them on or they’re in a movieand i enjoy it. i’d been playing around with the main rhythm guitar loop of this for a while on acoustic guitar when i thought to put “love me do” to it. one of my main problems with playing covers is that i have a terrible memory for lyrics so the fact that love me do has basically one line made it a natural choice for a cover! my favorite part of playing it is stretching out the drone of the “pleeeeaaaasseee” because what is happening on the rhythm guitar at that point is that i’m alternating between an open string and a fretted note playing the same tone and then my voice comes in also and i like the way the three voices doing the same thing interact. my second favorite part of the song is near the end when the toms come tumbling in with the distorted guitar, it feels very, i don’t know, gallop-y to me. my least favorite part is the vocals. i’m watching american idol for the first time this season and i love it and one thing i love is how an unwritten requirement of every song seems to be that it has to have the singer powerfully holding one note for a really long time. it’s really hard for me to hold the “pleeeaaaassee” parts, though, and this is yet another reason why i’m not on american idol.
March 19, 2009
this is a cover of “where you lead (i will follow)” by carole king, the theme song of gilmore girls. it was mostly inspired by the fact that i by chance watched a rerun of gilmore girls on ABC family this morning but was more pretentiously inspired by the fact that i remembered the original theme song for the pilot of gilmore girls wasn’t carole king’s “where you lead…” but was actually yo la tengo’s version of “my little corner of the world,” originally a hit for anita o’day in 1960. this switch seems kind of appropos since the essence of the gilmore girls might seem at first hip and clever but deep down and at heart is really a big smushy piano ballad, you make me feel like a natural _______ and et cetera. like, the gilmore girls was so cleverly written and sharp that the kind of boring and AOR-y carole king song on the surface seems wrong as their theme and creates this cognitive dissonance — like, it’s not hip and it’s not ironic and it’s not quasi-hip or pseudo-ironic or even tragically hip or post-ironic — but even though the yo la tengo “corner of the world” is not at all like pretentious or hipstery or faux-avant-dissonant but is actually a lovely georgia hubley power pop thing, it just wouldn’t be right as the theme, it would be the theme for a different show. i don’t know, i guess i’m being really vague here; i guess the the difference between the two is kind of the difference between when lane’s band has seth cohen in it and when it has sebastian bach in it? whatever, this tangent is stupid. sidebar: it’s seems kind of weird that amy sherman palladino wouldn’t have had rory and lane have a rapid fire discussion which namedropped carole king, especially during the super meta period when carole king was the surly owner of the town music store, but i don’t remember it happening and during my staycation in fall ’07 i watched a lot of these reruns so i would know.
anyway, to test out the new computer i got today (yay) and how it interacts with my recording interface and software and everything, i decided to recast the carole king song as a turned inside out kind of organ drone ballad. although, you know, minus the musicianship. i saw yo la tengo once and it was kind of disappointing, especially since for parts of college they were one of my favorite bands even so much that freshman year i had this really immature heartbreak experience with a girl where after the heartbreaking part i made her a copy of summer sun, which i was in love with at the time, and i very carefully sharpie-d the cover and then stalkily intercepted her at 8:30 AM outside her class with the CD and this horrible note which included a line about how “this album really means a lot to me right now” and god there are just so many things to cringe about when you have memories in your head it’s amazing anyone can even get anything done. anyway, the yo la tengo concert might have been disappointing because i drank too much rocketship gin (this was a name i made up for cheap gin mixed with Tang) but i think it was mostly disappointing because they didn’t really play any of their pop songs or ballads (although they did play “mr. tough”) and instead ira just jammed out on the rockers (which are my least favorite tengo numbers, personally) and the sound at the venue was really bad and the combination of sound and shredding and gin gave me a headache and also the sun ra arkestra was supposed to open for them but instead it was just some indie pop band. sophomore year i had this yo la tengo shirt which i liked but which was just like an inch too short and over time in the wash became more too short until i couldn’t wear it anymore. anyway, my cover is very rough but i think it’s fun. sorry if the screaming guitars at the end are the kind of things that are more fun to play than actually listen to — i think i was just excited, since i haven’t really been able to record electric guitar for like six months and this enthusiasm overwhelmed tunefulness and good taste in general. that’s a thing that happens most of the time, though.