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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Siren Songs

The only good thing about having a lack of statistics for extra-sensory qualities is that it still preserves the imagination. Curiosity breeds more curiosity, as Alice adeptly intoned.

Cue number one for the backdrop…

In the midst of listening to aural verse on the earbuds, looking around at the masses, generally quite confident that no one else in the vicinity is listening to the same song. But supposing in the rare event that they were, it would only be apropos for both of us to get up and righteously dance into the center of the auditorium. These visions keep coming, and I presume they are mine. Nevertheless, any logistical problems — a la finding ourselves at different parts within the song — are academic to the main idea. A song’s rhythm is not about one moment, is it? Each song a rhythm conglomerate, each album a rhythm de force. In speaking of rhythm, not the traditional meaning of a beat, but the underlying wave elements molding a song, as it sways in various directions. But my playlist en toto meanders in and out of obscura sans camera, to the point that a match with other passers-by would translate into only the serendipitest of occurrences. Like that would ever happen.

I set the player to stun, which is also shuffle.

Up next is mellower rock of a more classic era. Able to muse with confidence that nobody else in this city is simultaneously listening to Marillion’s erstwhile “Blind Curve” (circa 1985). The older your circa is, the less likely another is partaking from the same well.

Which then makes me wonder, how far away is the closest person who is listening to this same song? Someday they’ll have a universal web site that can perform this indispensible function of sorts, but in the meantime I have to postulate with the synapses intact.

The careful thinker would posit to set Marillion’s song to 381 miles, spanning parts of Canada all the way down to mid-California. A cult band in the progressive realm with a decent following, yet the radio pooh-poohs them like a three-year-old unadvisedly shuns cheesecake placed right in front of its nose.

A handful of people might be listening to the album from which it comes (Misplaced Childhood), but perhaps only one other is on the same track at the same time. You figure in a statistically responsible way that with a 9-minute song, you have about a 4½-minute window in which you and another listener will cross before one of you goes to another song. All in all, a good song to play when you need some space, to the tune of 90,000 square miles. I’ve got a monopoly on this song, increasing its wholesale intrinsic value.

On the other end of the spectrum, when feeling too isolated, one can all too easily hit the charts and imbibe in mass appeal, a veritable feeding frenzy obsessed with “what are they listening to?” as well as “at this exact moment on the chronograph.” I can go in that direction, but only in moderation before spiraling into a Lord Vader flight path. Instead of piranhas, I’ll take anchovies, please. Ultimately, I settle in nicely with Leona Lewis’ offering “Brave” from her latest album in 2009. A smart and savvy artist who knows the wisdom in staying within one’s limits (what a concept) and (who ever thought of that), and the non-diva can spin a nice melody. No fluke she, Lewis has begun her career with two intriguing albums (yes… gasp! … albums). I like the trajectory she’s on. In the mold of Alicia Keys, not selling out to the machine but putting heart into her craft, Lewis is going to make some noise before she’s done. Mark my earbuds.

So she brings me back to a 17-mile radius of concurrent listeners, making me feel a little cozier about the process. That’s pretty close to reaching my aura under certain weather conditions.

But that was all too easy. The serious distance listener requires more of a challenge. Not that it was Leona’s fault, per se. She just has wider appeal, and she has a newer sheen on her. In another ten years, her radius will extend into the 50-mile range. But I won’t be losing her signal.

In wishing for what’s coming up, there are many variables to consider. Is my mood pensive or jilted, floating or fixated? Where will the mind’s soundtrack venture next? Only the shadow shuffler knows… Let’s go with a mixture of melancholy with a pinch of vinegar in it. Something to keep the senses off kilter enough to cause them to pay some authentic attention. Next we come across Amorphis’ thoughtful rendition of its own “Alone” from 2001. Amorphis seems a tad angry at the world here, but it comes across as a controlled and justified anger, which garners more respect. I don’t know what the song is about, but it sounds like justice is somehow occurring, so that’s what we would term cool.

The track almost threatens a wild eruption of sound, while still keeping it streamlined within something meaningful. It makes you think it wants to get hard-edged, but it’s the anticipation of it, that quality that fills in for actual blasts, not tearing up your speakers while letting you get the effect all the same. The best of both worlds — portending a total rock-out without having to jump in the water. Sunbathers know the mist is often enough.

In retrospect, I figure this one has a 78-mile radius, which is far enough away that I’m not going to meet any of these people anytime soon. They remain in their world and I remain in mine. Were there any global conflicts brewing between our worlds, we would still be safe for the time being. But Amorphis did its part to settle our differences.

After that sojourn into pseudo-ragged territory, we wind it down a notch, and we’re ready to get a little beat going, but only subtly. We’ll let the melody drive it. Time for Clearlake’s piece de resistance, “Getting Light Outside” from 2006. At least it is to me, and this is my concert I’m conducting, so I’m going to give them a Grammy nomination for this one. Play on, band. Don’t really know if it ever made the charts, so it’s hard to gauge how closely it reaches. It feels like a 52-miler. This is nearness territory while still giving a fair portion of wandering room.

You can’t very well end with a song like that, because one good tune deserves another, begging for an encore of emotions. Well, you have to end somewhere eventually, but you can wrap it up with something more on the mellow side. Cue Godley & Crème’s 1985 offering “Cry,” which draws emotion out of you even if you resist. Being 25 years old, it’s surely less commonly played than it was in its heyday, so we’ll give it 11 miles, which makes us feel comfortable about our surroundings and we can end on a good note.

No, don’t skip it just because they opened with a cut from their 10cc days. Be quiet, they said. Requesting quiet…

Now this is where you could sink into the pavement as all your muscular tissue turns to jello — probably green, but not with carrots in it. Carrots only belong in food with pictures of them on it, like carrot cake.

The shadow shuffler gave me a decent cross-section of styles, as it is wont to do. Sometimes it might be heavier, but for our current situation it wanted to be nice to the readers, because four of the five of you go for the tamer variety. On a different day, there’s a different play. Pearl Jam will have to get in line like everyone else. Nobody died and made you guys king of hard rock, Mr. Jam. Now I start conversing with the characters within my playlist, even when they’re not present. I tell some of them to stop teasing Manilow. It rankles Metallica when I point out not only was Barry more well-received than they, but he was also more accomplished. Accomplished means you had lots of good songs. I didn’t say I had anything against Metallica and their clones, but they need not get carried away into visions of grandeur. They take up only a small portion of my songfest. It’s OK to like the Carpenters and Grand Funk Railroad at the same time. It won’t upset the Time/Life Music continuum. Meanwhile, I threaten to play “Looks Like We Made It,” and it puts them all in their place. Not that there’s anything wrong with that…

Occasionally I stumble across inadvertent tracks that provide a hiccup to the proceedings. When are the Michael Jackson tributes going to stop? Let the guy rest. Tom Waits ebulliently crooning “Beat It” just doesn’t seem right. Note to self: Justin Bieber’s got a real future ahead of him. May he have the good judgment not to mess it up with music.

Oh wait! There’s more! The son of encore! If you act now, we’ll throw in “Shine” by Martin Ansell as a bonus, from the Better Off Dead soundtrack, also of 1985. Shadow shuffler is on a nostalgic kick, this being the 25th anniversary of some year or another. But this song acts as one of my guilty pleasures which never hit a wide audience, with the movie deservedly garnering all the notice. Yet the song somehow manages to pose as near perfect pop once it gets moving. And it’s peppy beyond le pew. If I’m not mistaken, I believe the message is probably something feel-good too. This would be an ideal workout song for moms all around to be listening to. I’ll bet there’s still one of them about 134 miles away who is.

Listening to rock, you’re on a roll, so one can’t very well stop now. I wonder what’s next, and how far away it reaches…

Ah, the things that go on inside earbuds.


Jeff Crandall said...

As I fit in the 1,300 mile radius I think I'm safely beyond the blast zone. Though the ear buds may rock out, I think they are unable to reach me.

Audrey said...

Thanks for that insight into your teeming mind...All that music, no wonder you can't hear me tell you that dinner is ready!!

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