Thursday, January 25, 2007

Musician, Heal Thyself

from today's local paper's special section Healthy, Wealthy & Wise (the prodigal son returns...)

When I Get That Feeling, I Want Musical Healing
Michael O’Shaughnessy

“You know her life was saved by rock and roll.”
– Velvet Underground

(Note: The author is in no way to be confused with a certified psychologist or anyone else with the least bit of mental health qualifications. Those individuals typically offer sound advice, not advice on sound.)

Maybe your life was saved by rock and roll. Or baroque chamber songs. Or Tuvan throat singing. Or even the sound of a guy banging a frozen cod against a wheelbarrow. Who’s to say what music is anyway? Regardless, you may be one of us human beings, of such tender emotional receptors, for whom music seemingly offers salvation. Or at least, salvation of the moment.

Can music “save” your “life”? What do I mean “save”? What do I mean “life”? What do I mean “mean”?

I don’t really know. But you know what I mean. All these questions! Can we get started? I’m dying to hear some music!

Instead of a primer on the healing properties of music (a subject I believe long researched, preached and practiced), let this serve as a bibliography of musical therapy, or a Suggested Listening List for both the moods you are in and those you wish to trigger.

These are songs for times when your “heart” tells your “brain”: I’M IN A FUNK! PLEASE SEND FUNK! (I couldn’t find any funk songs listed here – ed.)

Because sometimes when you’re sad, you want to stay sad for a while, and listen to sad music. Or else you’re tired of being down and need some happy songs to get you out of bed to eat something and rinse out those wine bottles.

Part I:
“Nothing’s gonna happen. Nothing’s gonna change.” – Randy Newman

Ah, sad songs say so much! So let’s wallow. What’s worse than someone telling you to cheer up? Please leave me for a minute in my deep rut of hopeless despair! Right? Lost love, a change in weather, or the sudden and inevitable realization that mankind is a flea on the universe’s scruffy withers may be culprits of your present lowery emotions. I think the reasons are less important than the willingness to overcome them. Once you’re alone in your room, where the solitude too can be such a healer, spin these solemn singles for the morose topping on your pity pie.

I’ll not comment on these songs, short of offering a lyric. These are weighty, depressing songs. You think you’re in a bad mood?

1. Living Without You – Randy Newman
“Time to face the dawning gray of another lonely day”
2. My Curse – Afghan Whigs
“Temptation comes not from hell but from above”
3. Chorus 8 – The Feebs
“Love comes in many forms that you may find so distasteful”
4. I Don’t Want to Hear It Anymore – Dusty Springfield
“The talk is so loud and the walls are much too thin.”
5. Trouble – Cat Stevens
“Trouble, oh trouble can't you see, you have made me a wreck, now won't you leave me in my misery”

Part II:
“Get me away from here I’m dying.” – Belle & Sebastian

And then there are those times when you feel you’ve mined the core of sadness of all its wealth and need to cheer up already (yeah, that’s right, what about it?). Positivity! Unbridled jubilation! Release the hounds of adrenal! Escort your endorphins to the surface in the chariots of rock! Dance, all right? If you can’t dance, dance anyway. But please stay where you are – dance alone, behind closed doors. You don’t need to bring anyone else down with your rhythmless jerking and that thing you’re doing with your arms! Herewith, odes to joy! Loud, lively songs of unstoppable momentum!

1. Move On Up – Curtis Mayfield
“Remember your dreams are your only schemes, so keep on pushing”
Two knocks on the snare, then POW! The horns burst to life! The performance is so strong, the message isn’t even necessary, but Mayfield doesn’t care, and his commanding falsetto overwhelms all resistance!
2. What is Life? – George Harrison
“I’ll try my best to make everything succeed”
From George’s first solo album, loud and moving, with Phil Spector’s signature production sounding more like a “ball” of sound as it rolls your heart from hell to heaven.
3. You Are the Light – Jens Lekman
“Yeah, I got busted, so I used my one phone call to dedicate a song to you on the radio.”
Lekman throws this vehicle straight into gear! The trumpets bleat and punch, with a Funk Brothers steady beat pulsing under handclaps and terrific reverb!
4. Mo Money Mo Problems – Notorious B.I.G.
“I’m bigger than the city lights down in Times Square”
For the purpose of positive soul-jarring, I require songs that tear the silence. This song accomplishes the task with an immediate crashing wave of cymbal, bass and piano, courtesy of a remixed sample of Diana Ross’ “I’m Coming Out.” Rushing to the shore with Nile Rodger’s choppy guitar, Mace, Puff Daddy and B.I.G. swallow the world for the next four minutes. Take a deep breath!
5. Birdhouse in Your Soul – They Might Be Giants
“My story’s infinite, like the Longines Symphonette, it doesn’t rest”
Epic, majestic! With lyrics that very well might contain the history of mankind, “Birdhouse” tickles as it rockets you on a journey through the comet’s tail, before dropping you into the sweet midnight of a satisfied dream. Try it – this is an over-the-record-store-counter medication.

“Despite all the computations / You could just dance to that rock 'n' roll station.”
– Velvet Underground

Music: An aural aspirin. We run to our radios in our frustrations, knowing the salve of moody vibrations is some mighty juju. And we utilize it subconsciously as well, turning on the stereo as a diversion while we seek ways to examine our momentary predicament. But the diversion seeps into our thinking and indeed “soothes the savage breast.” The petty irritants of our day-to-day lives are lost in the music. The tunes, the lyrics, the performances, even the idea of music can heal our wounded psyches.

“All clear, wail the sirens / Sunshine on the wasteland.” – David Bowie

My emotional altitude of choice, when the soft mallet of ennui descends, coasts between the former choices of musical healing. Between the wallow and the wound-up, I find comfort in the ironic and the absurd, in the songs that celebrate the doom and hopeless of it all, or better, live beyond it.

1. Subspace Biographies – Robert Pollard
“I am quail and quasar, I pick you up on radar”
That’ll jar you from reality for a few minutes. Darn right I’m a quail!
2. Little Private Angel – Jack Logan and Bob Kimbell
“My little private angel says ‘Don’t take it so seriously’”
OK, I won’t. At least, until the song ends. Hit repeat!
3. New York City Rhythm – Barry Manilow
“[S]omehow I survive / It's got to be the New York City rhythm in my life”
An ex-patriate from the Empire State, I get all nostalgic while this song distracts my attention from my current blues period.
4. Wonderland – Big Country
“I am a working man / I feel the winter too”
I love any kind of “I am” song. They fit me with an armor of confidence, not to be confused with a suit of greater-than-thou, which will win no hip fashion show.
5. So What’cha Want – Beastie Boys
“I’m as cool as a cucumber in a bowl of hot sauce”
Mike D., MCA and the King Ad-Rock will not fail you in your climb to a higher mood. Unless you hate rap, which so many do. Hey, your loss. But how can you resist Hammond organ, Bonham bass drum, and grinding horns cranked to aim “the beat” at enemies of life? The words pour from their mouths like pool water rushing past the curbs of defeat.

Flow on.

And keep the music at your fingertips. Or fresh in your memories. The weight descends without warning, but we can find strength and healing in song.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

White Stuff in the Valley

No, I'm not talking about a new Radley Metzger opus, but rather the Winter Storm of 07 that hit the other day. Tuesday, actually, and I did not go to work. Nor did Urn or our other neighborhood friends. So we had a little coffee in the morning, watched "Young Frankenstein," and then went sledding on a ginormous tube meant for water sports. Which would later account for its ***SPOILER*** bursting on what would therefore be our last run of the day. Still, before than disappointing moment, we had quite a good time. But it was fucking cold, and I'm like 50, so that bramble tear happened at just the right time. Look what I did while you woked, you poor bastards!

Elsewhere, the city seemed to be plagued by sled-related injuries and death. We survived, although, looking back, we could have reconsidered choosing a hill that lead to the train tracks. And beyond that, the river. And between those two, more brambles.

Here, snow fallen gently on the nautical-themed strip club. I can't recall it's actual name, but I've dubbed it "Snatch o' the Day."

Here I slip downhill for some bottoms-up photography. I swear this has nothing to do with Henry Paris!

Finally, here's J. getting totally douched on his run.

Good times.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Non-Expository Writer

I've never been able to describe the book I've read or decipher the song I've heard. As such, while excelling almost heroically in English at school, I was decidedly a failure at book reports or my impressions of a story. But neither do I wish to exclude myself from the envious province of the critics' suggested reading list. So, briefly, ever so vaguely, are two recommendations from the music & literature sections of my home library:

Hip: the history by John leland. And that is what it clamins to be, as Leland sees it. Tracing the origins of "hip" from the early american slave trade, through the transmogrifications of blues to jazz to beat to hip-hop, and all manner of hipness in between, Leland touches on all my faves in music and lit. Buy it, borrow it or buy it!

Well, what a surprise! Me suggesting you listen to a Tom Waits album. Actually, it's a triple album: Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards. Most of you pricks I know are all three (except for brawlers -- you pussies...), so you will enjoy this collection of unreleased, b-sides and film work by Waits. Unless you don't like Tom Waits, in which case you can all go screw!

Well, that's all I got for you now. Come back soon.

You bastards.

Monster in the Box of Wine

I was eating my Mac & Cheese Spirals, drinking wine (WAWA, twist-off, tasty yield) and caught the end of "Monster in the Box", the filmed monologue of Spalding Gray's wherein he discusses, among other things, his role as the Stage Manage in Thornton Wilder's "Our Town," a play that I also performed in, with the Pius Players in the late 80s (I was Howie the Milkman, or something). Anyway, Spalding Gray, dead these last few years (and still so), is fascinating to watch. And while it's him I'm watching, he's so skillful in speech that it is his imagination that engages me. I've been watching his movies for years and they so perfectly scratch that proud intellectual humorly itch of mine, like Woody Allen's films, but in an even friendlier way. I'm almost tempted to refer to him simply as "Spalding," a practice I typically find repulsive where celebrities and other strangers are involved.

But what is a stranger? I'm prompted to contemplate this issue when considering artists with whose work I am so familiar. And by extension, am I so familiar with the artist as well?

Yep, there's that wine, one glass away from empty...

When I came across the film on IFC, I was like, "Excellent, Spalding Gray...", and then, "Ah, Jeez, he's dead now." But now, that's Spalding Gray: another favored writer of mine whose work is done but whose influence remains.

I think then of those most influential artists in my life: Lenny Bruce, Charles Bukowski, Philip K. Dick, William S. Burroughs, Spalding Gray, Robert Anton Wilson. All dead. There are others, of course, some dead too, others, not so much...

I find Spalding Gray the most pleasant of the bunch, though I hesistate to even gather them all into a "bunch". Outside of my "favorites" list, I would certainly spare them the indignity.

Indignity? Have I ever written that word before? Is it even a word? What word am I thinking of?

It's 8:45pm. Urn's asleep on the couch. I'll have a headache in the morning. But perhaps I'll be a little lighter in my view of the day. Because when I freshly read my favorite authors or watch them on TV or DVD, I'm lifted slightly and I see over the pettiness of humanity into the possibility of people, and then see them as persons. The world becomes a bigger place, as crowds are dispersed to groups, and groups to individuals. I prefer this as I believe I can explain things better to you than them...

Wednesday Wine. What? Anyway, I don't think I even had a point to make. I just needed to take my fingers for a walk. And Spalding looked like a perfect path tonight.

Monday, January 15, 2007

A Monastic Goodbye

Alice Coltrane, wife of John Coltrane, has died at the age of 69. I bought "Journey to Satchidananda" a couple of years ago. To oversimplify the importance of her life and contributions, let me just comment that it is far-out!

Are You Havin' a Laugh?

Holy shit, yeah! Extras Season 2 began last night. That's all. Best show ever right now.

"Willy Wonka? Johnny Wanker."

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Cosmic Trigger Pulled

I believe Robert Anton Wilson has passed away after a long illness stemming from post-polio complications. I just happened to visit his website after a long time and there was a message stating:

Robert Anton Wilson Defies Medical Experts and leaves his body @4:50 AM on binary date 01/11.
All Hail Eris!
On behalf of his children and those who cared for him, deepest love and gratitude for the tremendous support and lovingness bestowed upon us.
(that's it from Bob's bedside at his fnord by the sea)
RAW Memorial February 07 date to be announced

What a coincidance!

While perhaps not a sad day, it is a day to be sad. I can't even begin to explain the influence of his thinking on my interest in exploring some far-out topics and how they relate to everyday living. Coo-coo!

Anyway, he's terrific! You should read all his books. Slowly. He often cites a quote about how dangerous it is to learn new things too quickly. A difficult task in a post-modern world.

A Lily for Lily

Yvonne DeCarlo, Lily of "The Munsters", died on Monday at the age of 84.
She was preceded in death by Herman.