Posts tagged with "music" - Faerye Net 2010-10-26T17:29:24+00:00 Felicity Shoulders Word envy 2010-10-26T17:29:24+00:00 2010-10-26T17:30:26+00:00 <p>Every time I listen to the <a href="" target="links">Franz Ferdinand</a> song &#8220;What You Meant,&#8221; I am struck by the opening line: &#8220;As I took step number four/ Into the close of your tenement&#8221;. It&#8217;s obviously not American English. The band is Scottish, so this isn&#8217;t simply the matter of, as George Bernard Shaw* had it, England and America being separated by a common language. Scotland has its own English as well as its own Gaelic.</p> <p>In Scottish, the word &#8220;tenement&#8221; is, according to the <a href="" target="links"><span class="caps">OED</span></a>, used primarily for a single edifice subdivided for multiple tenants. Each subdivision is a &#8220;house&#8221;, even if it&#8217;s quite small (In England, the <span class="caps">OED</span> informs, this is precisely reversed.) A little different from our American sense of the word, which falls under the OED&#8217;s more general denotation &#8220;A building or house to dwell in&#8221;, but in my experience of modern usage has a connotation of being run-down or slummy.</p> <p>But that&#8217;s not the part of this phrase that appeals to me, while it is part of its strangeness to my ear. The word is <strong>close</strong>. The first definition is &#8220;<strong>1.</strong> <em>gen.</em> An enclosed place, an enclosure.&#8221; and it&#8217;s interesting to see all the other definitions depart from this in a series of semantic narrowings, or as the <span class="caps">OED</span> puts it: &#8220;<strong>2.</strong> In many senses more or less specific&#8230;&#8221; You can almost see the lines of the enclosure jump around as you run down the several meanings and shades of meaning for this one, now largely marked with the shameful &#8220;<em>Obs.</em>&#8221; for obsolescence or confined to local shadings: the continuation of #2, &#8220;An enclosed field (now chiefly local, in the English midlands)&#8221;; #3b, &#8220;A farm-yard&#8221; in Kent, Sussex, and Scotland.</p> <p>But it&#8217;s #4 that fits snugly with our tenement: <br /> <blockquote>4. An entry or passage. Now, in Scotland, esp. one leading from the street to dwelling houses, out-houses, or stables, at the back, or to a common stair communicating with the different floors or ‘flats’ of the building. Also variously extended to include the common stair, the open lane or alley, or the court, to which such an entry leads.</blockquote></p> <p>This is what I wish we had: a word for an entryway that sounds this cozy, that seems to emphasize by its sound and its accidental neighbors in etymology, nearness. And I don&#8217;t think we do, for all my maundering about the OED&#8217;s captured language <a href="" target="links">as birthright</a>. I don&#8217;t think this use of &#8220;close&#8221; is at all active in my part of America, or that you could rationally expect any random conversational partner or reader to grasp this meaning. It&#8217;s too bad. I reached for &#8220;close&#8221; today as I worked on my novel, took it down, looked it over, and found that its plug was not adopted for American sockets.</p> <p>*Apparently: this is one of those quotes attributed to almost everyone witty who has lived in the last few centuries.</p> Zeitgeist in the machine 2010-06-13T00:04:57+00:00 2010-06-13T00:48:55+00:00 <p>You know how you&#8217;ve never heard of something, and then you hear about it seven times in one week? I used to think it was largely psychological &#8212; you wouldn&#8217;t have noticed the extra instances until you had a context and a reason to remark them. (In fact, there&#8217;s a psychological term for this impression: the <a href="" target="links">Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon</a>, a learned psychologist informs me.) But I think it&#8217;s also partly real, an effect of zeitgeist, critical mass of relevance. Or as we now say, of something being <a href="" target="links">&#8220;trending&#8221;</a>.</p> <p>I had an interesting experience along these lines recently. I had seen the cover of <a href="" target="links">Janelle Monáe</a>&#8216;s first album <a href="" target="links"><em>The ArchAndroid</em></a>, but I hadn&#8217;t really registered it until I saw a link round-up on <a href="" target="links">Racialicious</a> with two links to blog posts about her, one of which had an embedded video. Long story short, I ended up buying both <em>ArchAndroid</em> and her earlier mini-album and loving both. (While I mostly use this as an example, I do recommend checking her out: her voice is as versatile as her songwriting talent, and her album is catchy but smart, eclectic but cohesive.) I <a href="">tweeted about it</a>. This was June 7.</p> <p>On June 9, I noticed her <a href="" target="links">uh, imprint</a> had retweeted my tweet, as they do most mentions of her, and that their most recent retweets mentioned that her name was trending. And now <a href="" target="links">she&#8217;s showing up other places</a> I wouldn&#8217;t have expected. The weird part here is that her album came out <strong>May 18</strong>, and it&#8217;s getting this body of attention now. One of the original two articles I read was complaining that no one was noticing her album &#8212; that it didn&#8217;t have &#8216;buzz&#8217;. A week later, I think that&#8217;s no longer the case. And that&#8217;s what is so odd about trending topics. There is now a metric for buzz.</p> <p>It used to be that zeitgeist lived up to its ethereal name (&#8216;geist&#8217; is literally &#8216;spirit&#8217;), but now we have to some extent bottled that genie. As we analyze, capture, track and archive more and more about our lives &#8212; where we go, who we like, what we watch and listen to &#8212; there will probably be other moments like this, when the intangible becomes suddenly concrete. Perhaps some of them will make us nostalgic, but perhaps it&#8217;s a good thing. That blogger complaining that Janelle Monáe didn&#8217;t have buzz was creating buzz. She was one (big) rock hitting more pebbles, and the hillside moved. We can measure this buzz because all of our voices contribute. There&#8217;s something charmingly democratic about it, even if it means the world is that much more mechanical.</p> Music brings people together. Especially acoustic guitar. 2010-01-11T14:42:22+00:00 2010-01-11T14:44:56+00:00 <p><a href="" target="links">Ryan</a> posted <a href="" target="links">this link</a>. Apparently one of the people stuck in the Newark airport during the security-breach scare last week was a guitarist, and he rallied the strangers around him to sing &#8220;Hey Jude&#8221;. It&#8217;s a short video, but it&#8217;s hard to deny its feel-good potency. Partly that&#8217;s the power of the Beatles, but I think it&#8217;s also just people singing together, one person bringing out an instrument and trying to make the situation better.</p> <p>I used to work at&#8230;what did I call it here? Oh yes, <a href="" target="links">Queequeg&#8217;s Qoffee Qasa</a>. One night I was filling in away from my home Queequeg&#8217;s, at one of the busiest QQs in the district. This store wasn&#8217;t as matey as my usual store, due to size, location, and existence of a drive-through. A few hours into my shift, we got a call from my home store. Did we have power? Why yes, we did. Because they didn&#8217;t. Okay, they&#8217;ll send customers there. Call waiting &#8212; the next furthest store. Did we have power?</p> <p>The power continued to fail across town, as if it were herding all the customers toward us and the biggest Queequeg&#8217;s, the 24-hour behemoth to the West. Customers came in swells. The drive-through Qrewmember reported power had gone out across the street, in all the apartment complexes up the block. Our logo was shining out like a lighthouse of warmth and comfort, and they were coming. Then the phone rang again. The 24-hour store had lost power.</p> <p>I don&#8217;t remember those hours in great detail. I was on the register, trying to serve the mob as quickly and kindly as possible. I know we had a line that filled the entire store, that we ran out of white chocolate sauce, that all the power outlets were taken and people were setting up camp in our lobby until their own power came back on. What I remember most clearly is the spirit that emerged. Usually, if there were five people in front of a customer in line, that customer would get anxious, check his watch, fret and bark a little when he finally got to the front. Now, with fifty people in line, everyone was friendly and understanding. They took normal chocolate instead of white chocolate. They bought the next person in line&#8217;s drink. They left epic tips. And when I tell this story with more brevity &#8212; say, in three sentences or less &#8212; this is the detail I always mention: someone brought a guitar and played quietly in the corner for hours. We turned off the stereo and worked as hard as we could. We made fussy employee drinks for the 24-hour store&#8217;s six chilly Qrewmembers, who had to sit on the sidewalk outside their store, waiting for light. We worked past closing time.</p> <p>No one sang, that I remember, but that dude in the corner with his guitar made it official: that wasn&#8217;t just a Queequeg&#8217;s, that night. That was a community. Music does that, Beatles or no.</p> Neko Case 2008-06-12T20:52:43+00:00 2010-03-26T14:02:46+00:00 <p>One of the reasons I like iTunes, despite its habit of freezing if it encounters an ogg vorbis file, is the data it collects on how often I&#8217;ve played a song, and the convenient opportunity to rate songs so that my favorites pop up in the &#8216;My Top Rated&#8217; smart playlist. Accordingly, I try to remember to rate songs when I notice they aren&#8217;t rated yet. The other day I noticed a few songs weren&#8217;t rated on Neko Case&#8217;s <em>Blacklisted</em>. So as I listened, I rated them all. Then I realized I had not rated a single song on that album below four stars. The entire album makes the cut for &#8216;My Top Rated&#8217;.</p> <p>I must admit, I only have two albums by Neko Case, <em>Blacklisted</em> and <em>Fox Confessor Brings the Flood</em>, although I sincerely wonder why I haven&#8217;t tracked down the others, and checked out her work with Canadian bands. Neko Case is a singer/songwriter from Washington. She has a voice that can operate on levels from &#8216;smoky&#8217; to &#8216;pure&#8217;, and quite possibly inhabit both extremes at once. She has impressive power, a good range, and a beautiful, distinctive timbre. If I had to have someone else&#8217;s voice instead of my own, I would choose Neko Case.</p> <p>Her songs tend towards a lush, filled-in sound marked with big echoing Hazlewood-Eddy style guitar work. I see her most often described as alt-country, but there are obvious soul influences in her work as well as the folksy and blue-grass elements you might expect. I love the sense of space in her songs, the way her voice and her guitar just expand like the air over the badlands. There&#8217;s a real Westernness to her music that, for me, is independent of the &#8216;country&#8217; touches. There&#8217;s a menace and beauty that coexist in many of her lyrics and songs. In my ear this evokes the intersection between the world of humans and the natural world, the way forces co-mingle in the big empty places between our cities.</p> <p>Neko Case&#8217;s music is smart, beautiful and haunting. If you haven&#8217;t given her a listen yet, why are you sittin&#8217; here reading me?</p> Musick hath Charms to sooth a savage Breast 2006-09-14T21:46:41+00:00 2008-06-08T13:20:41+00:00 <p>Here in our house, one of us amuses herself by captioning the <a href="" target="links">small furry inhabitants</a>. Often this goes something like this: </p><p><blockquote>T: Someday, I will defeat you, Old Master! I will master your Ear Fang Grasp Technique and use it to bring the world to heel!<br /> Q: You are confident but foolish, young one! No one can stand against my sleeping wrath!</blockquote></p> <p>Sometimes it is less dramatic, and more like this:</p> <p><blockquote>T: Whatcha doooin&#8217;?<br /> Q: Eating your food. Leave me alone.<br /> T: Will you be my frieeeeend?<br /> Q: No! You smell bad! Learn to wash!</blockquote></p> <p>As you can tell, Qubit is grumpy a lot of late.</p> <p>But today, the dynamic was different, for today there was a soundtrack. I took out my <a href="">hautboy</a> and decided, rather than playing in my messy playspace, to play out on the landing &mdash; if not <em>en plein air</em>, then, optimistically speaking, <em>en demi-plein air</em> (half full air! I kill me.) The response from the felines was immediate. Whilst we of the double reed are more used to being told we sound like snake charmers &mdash; and, indeed, to emulating them in some pieces &mdash; the mammalian audience was fascinated. They paced back and forth looking curiously at the instrument. Each of them in turn climbed a nearby desk and put out the super-tentative &#8216;is it alive?&#8217; paw to touch the bell of the instrument. Neither seemed particularly to trust the sound, but neither was particularly inclined to leave, either.</p> <p>That was while I was warming up and playing exercises. When I broke out my adored Mozart Concerto (K 314), things changed. Soon, Tazendra started circling me and mewing in a desolate tone little befitting a warrior. Just as I was beginning to think the mewing meant something was actually amiss, Qubit charged the kitten and&#8230;started washing her face. For the rest of the oboe practice, Tazendra continued to stare at me in a disturbed manner and occasionally mew plaintively, and Qubit continued to snuggle up against her, wash her reassuringly, and generally act as if she actually liked her. She also wreathed my calves appreciatively.</p> <p>It was simply bizarre. Odder yet, Qubit looked at me longingly after I stopped playing, and haunted the site where the music stand had been until at last she concluded I wasn&#8217;t going to play anymore. At that point, she ran across the room and started a fight with Tazendra. So apparently Qubit likes Mozart to the point of personality change&#8230;. That&#8217;s actually kind of creepy.</p> Things I've learned of late 2005-10-05T21:53:47+00:00 2010-02-01T15:41:24+00:00 <ul> <li><a href="" target="links">Summer Glau</a> was born in the same year as I. This makes me feel pleasantly young.</li> <li>What <a href="" target="links">metonymy</a> means (yes, I may have known it before, but I didn&#8217;t remember.)</li> <li>Apparently if I were a rock star, I&#8217;d be either Siouxsie Sioux, Kate Bush, or Fernanda Takai, none of whose music I&#8217;d listened to until so informed. (Two down, Kate Bush to go.)</li> <li>Someone who&#8217;s <em>never been a judge</em> is &#8216;qualified&#8217; for the Supreme Court.</li> <li>If a worker bee lays an egg, the other worker bees turn on her and devour her for her crimes.</li> <li>A pin can go really, really far into your foot and not produce a lot of blood.</li></ul> <p>I hope you are duly edified.</p>