A Sort of Soundtrack

Felix Mendelssohn- Midsummer Night’s Dream Overture

The Triffids- Lonely Stretch (from “Born Sandy Devotional”)

Reading about the latest Nick Cave album (which isn’t bad, by the way, though a little spotty) a few weeks ago led me to a reference to this band, who were apparently much beloved in Australia, but of whom I’d never heard before- being shown a bunch of pictures from a friend’s recent biking trip from Melbourne to Tasmania (it’s a long ferry, it seems) brought it to mind again. Did Australia just have an endless supply of badass noir-ish pop in the 80s? Was it something in the Eucalyptus?

Sibelius: Symphony No.5 - Vänskä/LPO(2010Live):

A long walk the weekend before last at Afton state park by the Saint Croix river, with the tops of the birch trees just touched with the first green- we saw gophers and any number of deer, eagles and hawks, turkey vultures and turkeys, and, in one case, heard a minutes-long clamor of geese from over a nearby ridge, startlingly loud and unexpectedly musical. Eventually it became evident that the noises were ones of alarm (Anna thought they’d likely seen a predator), but for the first couple of minutes I kept expecting to see them breaking over the ridge any second, and couldn’t help but thinking of the flight of swans that purportedly inspired the climactic melody of Sibelius’ Fifth.

Hugh of Saint Victor, quoted in Evelyn Underhill’s “Mysticism”

"There are three kinds of music: the music of the worlds, the music of humanity, the music of instruments. Of the music of the worlds, one is of the elements, another of the planets, another of Time. Of that which is of the elements, one is of number, another of weights, another of measure. Of that which is of the planets, one is of place, another of motion, another of nature. Of that which is of Time, one is of the days and the vicissitudes of light and darkness; another of the months and the waxing and waning of the moon; another of the years and the changes of spring, summer, autumn and winter. Of the music of humanity, one is of the body, another of the soul, another in the connexion that is between them.”

As a small child, there was nothing I hated or resented more than the very existence of Disney, which I vaguely assumed was part of some vast conspiarcy to patronize and ridicule me (and, by extension, all other children). I never watched a lot of cartoons as a kid, beyond a fondness for Ninja Turtles and a brief but very intense Transformers phase, and to this day animation as a medium usually leaves me rather cold, buch to the annoyance and dismay of my comic-art-major wife. I was quite surpirsed, thefefore, after finally watching Fantasia, at just how gorgeous and artful a lot of it was, and in such a delightfully serious & self-important, irony-free, Pop High Modernist sort of way. Of course, I did still passionately hate some of it (the Bach was clumsy, the Pastoral Symphony was just awful, and the I’m afraid the dancing hippos left me a bit cold), but the good parts were so much more awesome than I ever would have imagined that they left me obscurely disappointed that I’d never seen anything produced since that looked anything quite like this.

Future Bible Heroes - All I Care About Is You

Future Bible Heroes- All I Care About is You (from “Partygoing”),


New Records by Old Favorites, Part 1

I avoided listening for more than a year out of trepadation, unfortunately justified- though it has a couple of pretty songs, and any number of good lines, on balance the latest Magnetic Fields album does remarkably little for me- while it pains me somewhat to join the chorus, the universal complaint seems pretty true: there’s not a single song on the whole record that feels quite heartfelt- there’s not even much of a cactus in its place. It all feels clever, well-constructed (and while these are things I very much value, they’re also things I take for granted in a Stephin Merritt song), and more than a little rote- never more than satisfying. Luckily, and somewhat unexpectedly, the new Future Bible Heroes album is quite a bit more likeable- the melodies are stronger, the jokes funnier, and everyone seems to be having *fun*, something I don’t think a proper Magnetic Fields album has managed for two albums running at least. Not perfect, but enjoyable and listenable most all the way through (and fun to hear on stage last night, despite the unfortunate lack of Mr. Merritt himself) (the song above isn’t necessarily the best, or the most typical, but it’s one of the ones least dependent on a punchline, and it’s good to hear the man in fine and classic form again)

I just found out the other day, through a very peculiar manner, that my ex-girlfriend from college has died at the age of 33 from a rare form of lung cancer. The news from the college alumni office, in a message sent to the shared email address of the band I’m in- apparently it was the only link to my name easily findable on google, which surprises me a bit- her mother had asked them to contact me and two of her favorite professors to see if we could come to the memorial (which, by a strange irony, I cannot do, because I’m preparing for my wedding)- I saw her name in the email, along with a man’s name I hadn’t recognized, and thought she’d somehow found my music online, and that she herself had perhaps gotten married- I certainly wasn’t expecting what I read. She was the first person I was in any sort of serious or long-term relationship with, and I did love her, though we hadn’t been in any sort of contact for the last five years or more, she seems owed some sort of mention. Writing this, I’m still not certain whether or not to use the past tense, as I remain uncertain whether it was more respectful to mention her name, or to have leave it unsaid. She was born in North Carolina, but when I knew her, she lived in the suburbs of Washington DC, where she lived again after graduating, and I first found out about the Magnetic Fields, possibly my favorite band, from her- she’d gave me a CD she’d been lent by a friend, saying she that most of it was a bit too weird for her, but that she thought I’d like it. This song has always reminded me of her, for obvious reasons, ever since that first day I heard it, when she was still my baby, and memories of visiting her there in the springtime were still fresh. Later, we were to make each other very unhappy. I always assumed I’d never see her again, and this didn’t particularly bother me. Knowing that she’s not in the world anymore, I miss her more than I would have thought- funny how such things work. As long as I knew her, she was more than usually afraid of death for someone comparatively young. She was fascinated by ancient Sumerian culture, and thought about studying it professionally, and in particular she found their bleak view of the afterlife moving and fascinating. And now she’s found out whatever it is that happens next.

On a possibly more self-involved note, it struck me with a bit more force than I’d expected that this is the first time in my life that someone roughly my own age who I was close to has died, and that this will continue to happen to me throughout my life, over and over again. It’s not something you think about when you’re young. Perhaps this is one more way in which I no longer quite am.

Low- The Last Snowstorm of the Year (from “Trust”)

Too thematically appropriate to resist posting, given that I’m about to go out into the heavy April snow to write songs. Also, it had damned well better be the last!

Suede - Picnic By The Motorway

Suede- Picnic By the Motorway (from “Coming Up”)- (“If it’s a single, I’ll call it ‘lovely day’- if not, I’ll think of something clever)

Despite, or perhaps because of the fact that “Dog Man Star” ranks so high in my pantheon of favorite albums, I never really listened to anything later- partly from repuation, partly from pique at the poor taste of an ex-girlfriend who ex-girlfriend very much preferring “Coming Up”, partly from not much caring for the cover art- in any case, I always figured I wouldn’t much care for it. Still, not having listened to much pop music over the winter and being in the mood for such things, I pulled it out a month or so ago, and was more pleasantly surprised than not. It’s distinctly spotty, and still not quite my cup of tea- the worse songs play like bad self-parody, while the better ones come of as rather good, guilty-pleasure self-parody, while a few, like the one listed above, are unexpecedly gorgeous and weird, and have been played over and over again on repeat pretty often after lousy days this past few weeks of absent spring.

Galaxie 500 - Isn't It a Pity

Galaxie 500- Isn’t it a Pity (George Harrison Cover)

Probably my favorite Galaxie 500 song, though it isn’t even theirs (and one last post of songs I was reminded of how much I loved hearing on last months road trip on bsabo.tumblr.com’s old ipod). We place a bit too much value on irony and subtlety are generally overrated- nothing can top a cliche done perfectly and with a pure heart.