Archive for May, 2011

It’s amazing how bogged down we can get with our own anxiety and self doubt. I woke up this morning and mentally ran through all the possible failure scenarios for my show tomorrow night at the Hotel Utah.  Just a month ago I was impressed by my ability to do what I’m doing and eager to share it with an audience.  This morning I’m wondering what the hell I was thinking when I decided to do this show.  Do you really think you can pull this off, asks that nagging little voice in my head. And the truth is, I don’t know.  It will be what it will be.  But I do know that running failure scenarios serves no purpose, or does it?

My oldest son is starting junior high next fall.  Diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome in kindergarten, his early school years were rocky to say the least, but at the transitional IEP (Individual Education Plan) meeting I attended this week, the teachers and administrators declared him a success story.  Later that same day he and I attended an orientation meeting at the junior high for all incoming students.  As we walked out of the meeting I knew that look on his face.  He was worried.

 “What’s wrong,” I asked.

 “I think I’m going to get bad grades and detention.  It sounds like it’s going to be hard,” he said.

 I know my son pretty well, and while my impulse was to give him a big ol’ “Oh, you’ll do fine!” I knew that a blanket of soft, fluffy platitudes wouldn’t even begin to cover his anxieties. Instead I decided to break it down. What if he did get a bad grade, what could he do? He could work harder on his homework; he could ask for help from his teacher or his parents. He could make sure he understood what was expected of him, even if he had to ask a lot of questions.  Why did he think he would get detention?  Which school rules seemed hard to understand or follow?  And so it went all the way home.  At the end of the talk I told him about the IEP meeting and how his teachers spoke highly of him; he’s been getting good grades, seems to excel at math and has even developed a few friendships.   He seemed pleased to know his teachers liked him and he even gave himself a pat on the back for being a good math student.  Did this dispel his anxiety?  Not completely, but it seemed to assuage his fears in that moment.

Getting through a short set at Hotel Utah is about a zillion times easier than navigating junior high (and I’ve already done that, so there’s a whole different perspective on the situation).  Still, I’m nervous and so I’m going to follow my own lead and run some of those failure scenarios and figure out what I might do should any of them come to pass.   

As far as I can tell, rock and roll is all about swagger, getting your super ego blotto and taping directly into your inner wild child, the id.   There’s not a lot of swagger to my plan.  But then, my inner wild child is 42.  Perhaps creative problem solving is the new Jack Daniels of the middle aged synth pop set.

Or not.

I’ll let you know.

I’ve been putting my music “out there” for many years now and I’ll be honest – I have no fans (insert heavy sigh here).  Well, I do have some very supportive friends who assure me my music is good and I once had a person contact me after I played a show on Second Life and ask for mp3’s of my songs, which I gladly obliged, but beyond that I have yet to find an audience.  Sometimes when I’m in the car listening to Top 40 radio I compare  my music to what’s getting a lot of airplay.  Then I try to quantify what makes music good music. 

The strange thing is you can listen to a song objectively, evaluate all the pieces, declare it pretty good, and then have no desire to hear it ever again. That’s the big mystery.  What’s the special secret ingredient that makes a “pretty good” song into the song you have on repeat for two days straight and still gets you excited when it comes on the radio at work?

For a little while I had formulated a quick and dirty response to this question.  If it makes me want to dance, fight or f**k, it’s good.

Makes me wanna dance:

Makes me wanna fight:

Makes me wanna  f**k :

Makes me wanna dance, fight and f**k, but only if it’s 1994:

But my simple little checklist of music appreciation doesn’t even begin to cover the rest of my music collection.  Mozart’s Requiem, Barber’s Adagio for Strings and Satie’s Gymnopedies, all come to mind.  Obviously there is music that is technically beyond reproach, and I won’t even attempt to address that aspect of music.  Whatever I learned in my three semesters of college as a music major has been all but forgotten, and most pop music isn’t attempting to compete on that playing field.  

Still the emotional response elicited from a piece like Barber’s Adagio for Strings is undeniable; it puts you in touch with the human condition in such a way that you feel both humbled and elevated by the experience.  Popular music can do this too.  Peter Gabriel, Arcade Fire and Death Cab for Cutie have all created music that is emotionally charged and cathartic for me.

So obviously there’s an emotional component to good music beyond the fighting and . . . that other thing I mentioned.    Sometimes the emotion comes through solely in the delivery.  Perhaps it’s the singer and not the song, as the old adage goes.  Certainly there are performers whose voices are so evocative and/or unique that they could sing their weekly grocery list and have the audience hanging on every word.

But sometimes it’s in the lyrics.  A strong message that can be applied liberally, like a musical disinfectant, to many situations seems to work well, as evidenced in pop standards like “Wind Beneath My Wings”, “Greatest Love of All”, and “Unchained Melody”.  However, I think some of the best tunes have messages that are vague or difficult to decode, and by connecting the dots as a listener the song becomes very personal.

“I never listen to the lyrics,” many folks will tell you.  For these music fans, it’s all about groove and energy.  They don’t really care what’s being said; they let the rhythm do the talking.  I guess this brings us back to “makes you want to dance,” but sometimes popular songs work because you’ll be hearing them on the radio in your office, a place where  you can’t or shouldn’t dance, so there’s this mid-tempo upbeat tune that raises your energy without getting your groove on.

For the record, “I’m bluffin’ with my muffin” isn’t too far removed from “Yesterday was Thursday, today is Friday, We so excited . . .” in my book.  And yes, I am just bitter, thanks for asking.

If you’ve made it this far, I would love to hear about your favorite song or what you think makes a good song tick.  Heck, I could really go for a guest blogger on this subject right about now, so don’t be shy.    Drop me a line if you’re interested – paula@phaseslikethemoon.com

FanFic

Posted: May 9, 2011 in Light Phases, music
Tags: ,

This is my first live performance video on YouTube so naturally I’m a bit nervous presenting it.   As for the song, it’s the product of watching too much television.  Five seasons of Dexter in three months, capped off with a viewing of  Gamer, because my friend said I should watch it  because I am the target audience, being both a Michael C. Hall fan and a “resident” on Second Life; I guess it all made an impression, though writing it down now makes me sound a bit . . . well, geeky.  Ahem.

 Let me know what you think.  Extra points if you can tell me where I pulled the sound byte!

I was waiting tables on the east side

He came in , kind of hard not to recognize

I played it cool until closing time

Hey there, whatcha doing tonight?

There was a frisson, a charisma

He was an actor, there was an aura of fame about him

You could feel it from across the room

The way he moved his eyes and used his hands

His whole body, it was transmitting

Whatever he was feeling he could make you feel it too

Later on, over drinks at a bar

I said, “I must confess, I know exactly who you are

I love all your work, but your roles are so dark.”

He said, “I’ve got a secret for playing the part”

There was a frisson, a charisma

He was an actor, there was an aura of fame about him

You could feel it from across the room

The way he moved his eyes and used his hands

His whole body, it was transmitting

Whatever he was feeling he could make you feel it too

In no time at all he had me tied up and screaming

If you know what I mean

When it was said and done he said he had fun and he’d call me

But I never saw him again, except on TV

There was a frisson, a charisma

He was an actor, there was an aura of fame about him

You could feel it from across the room

The way he moved his eyes and used his hands

His whole body, it was transmitting

Whatever he was feeling he could make you feel it too