Thursday, January 12, 2006

Musical Musings

  • Keane grows on me more everytime I listen to their music. A friend from work introduced me to them last summer and I thought they were kind of annoying at first, but they're not so bad after repeated listenings. I would like the song, Bedshaped, more if they didn't use that horrible Game-Boy-sounding choir sample in the middle of the song (207KB MP3) -- it's more unfortunate than the tubular bells in Natalie Imbruglia's Counting Down the Days. That choir sample turns an otherwise good pop song into a tape I might have brought to one of my undergrad composition lessons recorded on my Ensoniq Soundscape.

  • I haven't talked about contemporary composition in years. I haven't had any deep epiphanies in that arena to talk about. Does this make you sad? It makes me kind of relieved. I've been rereading Muse that Sings (because I would go into cardiac arrest if I ever actually bought a new book), and I can't get over how much all the composers have to sell themselves twenty-four hours a day to be successful. Had I become a full time composer, I probably would have sold myself short, and not just because of my height.

  • In normal songs, there's that point right after the first verse where the music builds up as if it's going to the chorus next, but then fakes you out and does a second verse or some other interesting maneuver. This builds up the tension on later listenings, because if you like the chorus, you'll want to hear it, and denying that the first time through is an expected way to prolong the resolution. Nowadays, I hear more and more songs omitting the tension-building and jumping straight to the chorus (see also, pretty much every song brayed by TATU). Take, for example, Daniel Bedingfield's The Way (378KB MP3). He only sings two couplets before jumping straight to the long and repetitive chorus. Doesn't it feel like the song would improve if he had played around a little bit more before showing us his whole package? Even a false chorus that falls into a few more couplets would have worked so well there, but I guess when you're on commercial radio, you have to be more concerned with people getting the chorus stuck in their heads so they can request the song later.

  • I think I would be a good test audience for pop songs. There are so many songs out there that could be improved with just a few minor changes. I would be the guy that says, "You don't need to repeat the chorus fourteen times without change", or "We get that you're Hiiiiiiigh and that's the hiiiiigh note in the song, so you don't need to hammer that note into oblivion (257KB MP3) -- that is not The Waaaay!"

  • I would also like to write a pop song this year. Anyone got any lyrics? Or wheat?

  • This is the only arrangement of Twelve Days of Christmas I've ever heard that was not annoying (337KB MP3, by Roger Whittaker). Break the monotony by going into a minor key on Day Seven -- brilliant! Then don't repeat any of those lame-ass presents in the remaining days so the song is over in three minutes rather than fifteen minutes. Why anyone needs five golden rings unless they're big pimpin', I have no idea.

  • The Hives have no redeeming musical qualities. Listening them on the radio is like listening to a nonstop version of Steriogram's Walkie Talkie Man (150KB MP3) but louder, more grating, and without any inherent toe-tappiness.

  • Santa Maria by the Gotan Project is far too long and repetitive, but I love the chord crunches on the downbeats (260KB MP3). Someday I would like to write a tango -- then I could feature it in my one-act off-Broadway musical where I dance with myself. After all, it takes BU to tango.

  • Continuing with the Spanish titles, I like Morcheeba's vocal timbre in Sao Paolo (275KB MP3). It reminds me of listening to hot jazz vocalists at Virginia Tech. It also reminds me of one of my sightsinging students at FSU who was always very quiet and polite in class and sang like a choir girl. Then at the end of the term, I went to a jazz vocalist concert where she busted out with a ridiculously honey-dewed blues solo which, when translated into non-music, said, "I've been toying with your sightsinging class like a cat with a crippled mouse for eight months now and I've been secretly laughing at you when you try to get me to sing louder and project more".

  • I realize this song is now two years old, which probably reinforces everyone's perception that I live in a cave and only leave when Kim drags me out to Ruby Tuesday for chicken fingers with mild buffalo sauce, mushrooms instead of coleslaw, and no seasoning on the fries, but I think Sick Wit Da Flip by Miri Ben Ari (409KB MP3) is very well-produced. Throw a violin player behind some rapping -- brilliant! I bet Kanye West took careful notes back in the day.

  • Oompa Loompa Girl was going through some notes we took for Symphonic Literature listening exams in 2001 where I'd apparently written "Just learn all the others and this one will be the one you don't recognize". That's pretty much the same attitude I adopted to get through the million-song listening exam at FSU too. Luckily, I never actually failed a listening exam even when I came sorely unprepared. Maybe I should have failed one, just to build character. After all, without an F, life is just a lie.

  • David Gray of Babylon fame irritates the poop out of me. I couldn't figure out why, because I used to like him, but then I realized it's because he sounds like a Muppet and refuses to sing one pitch, choosing to be a human slide whistle at all times instead. Is the latest song on the radio, Alibi, even coherent? It sounds like he's just chanting nouns at the beginning of the song (94KB MP3).

  • This particular David Gray song inspired me to write and record my own version in his unmatchable style -- I call it Pizza Pie. I know I'll never have as much fame as David Gray, but here is a rough cut of my music video -- I'm not sure how it's going to end yet but I'm toying with a few different B sections. I hope you think it's Federlicious! (2MB WMV).

  • If you liked Planet of the Apes, you'll love Martin Luther King Jr.
    Naked News: The Program with Nothing to Hide
    Spider nests in woman's ear for 27 days

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