When the shelter in place orders came down in California, everyone settled in and immediately started looking for a distraction.  Binge watching Netflix was an obvious choice.  So was drinking.  Baking bread became an unexpected trend that had the power to unite  and, in some cases, unhinge people.   But I did not want my time spent sheltering in place to be a wine-fueled, free-for-all of sensationalized docudramas and lurid Netflix originals (because that’s my life when I’m not sheltering in place) – I needed purpose, I needed direction, I needed a quest.  I needed to . . . watch every film ever made featuring Jeremy Irons.

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I realize the title of the piece says “film” and this picture is a promo for a TV show , but I like it for the dramatic effect.

Sure, I could have just looked for sourdough starter and taken to the kitchen like a lot of my Facebook friends, but I failed home-ec and lying on the couch watching movies sounded way more doable.

Just like everyone else at the time,  I was looking for an escape and Jeremy Irons movies seemed like a decent option.  And unlike my second choice, the films of Keanu Reeves,  the films of Jeremy Irons seemed more reputable,  even scholarly in a very loose and possibly inaccurate definition of the word. It’s just something about the richness of his voice, the  intensity of his gaze . . . Perhaps I would find some greater meaning; perhaps I would  synthesize the entirety of Jeremy Irons’ acting career into an amazing thesis about life, cinema, celebrity and the Covid-19 pandemic.

I am better than you

I did have my preconceived notions of what I would be watching.  Dead Ringers,M. Butterfly, The Borgias and Watchmen are my favorite Jeremy Irons vehicles so I expected lots of uneasy narratives full of weirdness and ambiguity;  dark psychological dramas dripping with sexual tension and in some cases, outright sex.  Turns out I had already covered most of this territory.

On the first night of shelter in place I jumped right in with Brideshead Revisited.  I expected to hate it because the Amazon Prime Video synopsis made it sound dry and stuffy.  Instead I was immediately sucked in to the fabulous friendship of Charles Ryder and Sebastian Flyte, a relationship steeped in the excess of the 1920s and yes – dripping with sexual tension.  Although told in flashback from the 1940’s,  parts of it  reminded me a bit of The Great Gatsby (side note: Jeremy Irons plays F. Scott Fitzgerald in a made for TV movie, Last Call) . But as the story moves forward we see Sebastian’s excesses become his downfall. Charles Ryder finds a more suitable love interest in Sebastian’s sister, and then pitches a fit over Catholicism. Laurence Olivier gets some screen time, World War II happens and, after losing the thing that matters most, Charles Ryder decides Catholicism isn’t so bad after all. The end.

That was my viewing during the first week of shelter in place.

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I felt rather accomplished;  with Brideshead Revisited  under my belt and the movies I’d seen prior to taking on my quest I was certain I was already close to reaching my goal.   I decided to officially track my progress.  That’s how The Spreadsheet came to be. Using Jeremy Irons’filmography from IMDB as the source of truth, I imported all his credited roles into my spreadsheet and began to fill out what I had seen.  All told, there were 109 or so entries of which I had seen just a few shy of 30.  Not exactly the count I had expected. Granted, there were a lot of TV episodes early on in his career, and a fair amount of documentary narration which I chose to ignore.  Instead I decided to focus on films and TV movies.

I also decided I needed to categorize certain aspects of each film – really important things like: Are there sex scenes? Does he get naked?  Is he especially nice to look at in this film?  You know,  things that are at the very heart of a good film critique.  A few other categories arose as I continued my viewing : Is he trying to pull off an accent?  Did he do this just for the money?  What the hell were they thinking when they made this thing –  did no one read the script before filming?  Again, very valid criteria to consider for  someone like myself;  I did after all study film for two semesters at a community college back in the 90’s.  I kept changing the categories as I watched, vacillating between serious attempts to analyze his career and ways to keep myself amused.

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Eye Candy

The days went by.   I kept my son on track with his school work.  I checked in with my job.  I made an extra effort in my typical household duties to justify my time spent at home.  When the evening came I would plunk myself down on the couch, spin up the Jeremy Irons search on Amazon Prime and see what was next on my list.

I watched his big Hollywood movies like Man in the Iron Mask (awful) and Die Hard with a Vengeance (Is he trying to pull off an accent?  Check.  But otherwise a lot of fun). I watched small indie films like Better Start Running (surprisingly charming in parts… Jeremy Irons doesn’t quite fit the role of a disabled Vietnam vet from the South, but he committed to the part and made it work).  I watched movies I’d never heard of, like Chinese Box (a love story set in the time of Britain returning Hong Kong to China) and Waterland (an uncomfortable film about a high school history teacher and his wife (played by Jeremy Irons’ real wife) trying to move past old traumas.  Ninety five minutes has never felt so long).  I watched  films that taught me a little bit about history, including Elizabeth I  and The Mission (possibly the best film on the entire list –you really must see this is you haven’t already).  I watched films that introduced me to famous people like artist, Georgia O’Keefe; opera star, Marie Callas;  and Srinivasa Ramanujan, a math genius who was most likely forgotten until The Man Who Knew Infinity came out.

The Mission_

When I got to Lolita I felt too uneducated to properly critique it. Even worse,  I was uncertain if I should check any of the columns on my spreadsheet. It’s based on a famous novel but is it a good adaptation?  Should I like it?  I decided to go to the source material and that’s how I ended up reading Lolita.  For those who may not be familiar, Lolita reads as the confession of  a middle aged man passionately recalling his relationship with a 12 year old girl. ( They bump the girl’s age up to 14 in the movie to make it slightly more palatable.) It’s incredibly well-written; Nabokov’s use of the English language makes me realize I should return  my BA in English and get a refund.  The book feels more satirical than the movie, but Jeremy Irons portrayal of Humbert Humbert feels true to me. Side note- you can download the audio book and have it read to you by Jeremy Irons.

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Sometime after Lolita I watched Dungeons & DragonsDid he do this just for the money?  Check.  What the hell were they thinking when they made this thing?  Check.  This film features Jeremy Irons as an evil wizard or something like that;  he is  acting, with a capital “A”, while wearing a costume most likely purchased from the Spirit Halloween store.  Poor Thora Birch plays the young empress,  think Walmart’s answer to  Queen Amidala, and for whatever reason, she looks as if the make up artist had to  leave for another job right before he got to work on her eyes. This production also managed to drag Richard O’Brien (Riff Raff from the Rocky Horror Picture Show) and Tom Baker (the best doctor from Dr. Who) into this mess. Definitely the worst film on the list and should be avoided at all costs.

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Avoid at all costs!

How it Ends

When I began my “quest” to watch all the films of Jeremy Irons while sheltering in place I thought it would be a fun diversion to pass the time until life returned to “normal”.  As of this writing, Memorial Day weekend, there are still shelter in place orders in effect for my county, although the guidelines have loosened up a bit.  I don’t know if or when “normal” will return. It seems more likely that someday in the future we will simply be past the pandemic but what life will look like then I cannot say.

As for  my “quest”, I am putting it on pause.  I have not watched all the films ever made featuring Jeremy Irons while sheltering in place, but that’s okay.   I may return to complete the list later on but for now I need a break from Jeremy Irons; his voice has taken over my inner monologue and every now and then it narrates my life like it’s the beginning of a movie . . .  also my bathrobe gives me flashbacks to Dungeons & Dragons.  Like I said, I need a break. I need to go outside and get some fresh air.  Our local park is open again.

I’ll leave you with two things: First,  this link to  a letter penned by French physicist and philosopher, Aurélien Barrau, and actor, Juliette Binoche (who co-starred with Jeremy Irons in Damage – a movie I watched before the “quest” but definitely allowed me to check some columns on the spreadsheet).  Signed by 200 celebrities and scientists, including Jeremy Irons,  the letter requests the world not return to the pre-pandemic normal. “The pursuit of consumerism and an obsession with productivity have led us to deny the value of life itself: that of plants, that of animals, and that of a great number of human beings.”   It is definitely food for thought.

Finally, just because ultimately my “quest” turned out to be an exercise in data collection, I present this (not exhaustive) list of the movies I’ve watched and haven’t watched, categorized by genre.  Also, feel free to check out the spreadsheet.  It’s open to comments if you’re so inclined.

Histories/Based on true events/real people

The Borgias

Elizabeth I

The Mission

Georgia O’Keefe

Marie Callas

Man Who Knew Infinity

Reversal of Fortune

Last Call

Comic Books and Video Games

Assassin’s Creed

Justice League/Batman

Watchmen

Fantasy

Dungeons and Dragons

The Color of Magic

Eragon

Based on a Novel

Lolita

Waterland

Beautiful Creatures

The Dream

Brideshead Revisited

Night Train to Lisbon

The French Lieutenant’s Woman

The Color of Magic

Eragon

The Good

Dead Ringers

M. Butterfly

Brideshead Revisited

The Borgias

The Lion King

The Mission

The Bad

High Rise

An Actor Prepares

Damage

Dungeons and Dragons

It’s a Movie

Inland Empire

Better Start Running

And Now Ladies and Gentlemen

Margin Call

Chinese Box

Kafka

The Unavailable

Swann in Love

Australia

Danny Champion of the World

Still on the list to see

Stealing Beauty

Moonlighting

The Fourth Angel

Longitude

The House of the Spirits

The Time Machine

Heaven and Earth

Race

Appaloosa

Pink Panther 2

 

My  shelter in place breakdown has become an existential crisis.  I’ve been creative and producing and releasing and it’s like screaming into the void.  If I make art and no one is there to receive it, is it art?  Actually, if I make art and there are people there to receive it, the question will resound even greater – is it art?

So, it is in this state of mind that I bring you my latest concept, inspired by Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs:

The 9 Levels of Artistic Success (as conceived by someone who never made it past level 3)

(ps. The art I’m referring to refers to a number of disciplines including music, visual arts, writing, etc. so don’t feel excluded.  We can all fail together.)

9 levels of artistic success

Level 1  – Polite encouragement from friends and family: Your initial attempts aren’t groundbreaking or breathtaking, but you might get better . . .  so friends and family may encourage you with delicately fashioned compliments like: “Wow, you’re so creative!”  and  “I like this one better than your last one.”

Level 2 – Absolute silence and avoidance from everyone:  You haven’t gotten better and you haven’t stopped.  Hopefully you’ll figure it out soon but until then friends and family will give polite acknowledgement only under pressure and total strangers will put you on ignore.

Level 3 – Light derision from fellow artists of similar talent or position:  They’ve gone through levels one and two as well and who do you think you are?  Maybe you keep bumping into each other on the same bill or have mutual friends, but they want you to know they admire your tenacity but they’d be lying if they said they’re into what you do.

Level 4 – Casual encouragement from lower level achievers with slightly more success than you and nothing to lose by encouraging you:   They’re not much further up the ladder than you, but it’s a big step – like going from elementary school to middle school.  Maybe they’re genuinely like what you’re doing or maybe it’s a sympathy nod – but they make an effort of encouragement and it means something.

Level 5 – Emphatic praise from people with less success than you hoping to receive similar encouragement from the lower level achievers:  It’s called networking.

Level 6 – Acknowledgement from higher level achievers based on the emphatic praise from the people with less success: They’ve heard of you, they think . . . they’re pretty sure they’ve heard of you.  Cool.

Level 7 – Positive interest from a general audience (not artists) based on the acknowledgement from a higher level achiever:  If those really cool people have heard of you, you must be worthwhile! (Things can go terribly wrong here.  You actually have to have a little something going on at this point otherwise, return to Level 3 and regroup).

Level 8 – Acclaim based on the positive interest from the general audience:  Cool people have heard of you, regular people have heard of you – it may take a little while for people to like what you do, but it’s supposed to be good and people will look for the good in something that is supposed to be good.

Level 9  -Wide spread derision as a backlash to acclaim:  Who the hell do you think you are?  Why are people even giving you any attention?  Lots of people can do what you do and do it better.  Congratulations – you suck!

So there you have it, my take on artistic success in 9 levels.  Am I on to something? Let me know.

And check out my latest Soundcloud track : Undivided Attention   Don’t let me languish at level 2!

At first I thought  with all this free time on my hands getting an entry together for this year’s Tiny Desk Contest would be easy, a welcome distraction. But I was wrong  and you may understand why better than I did.  I hadn’t come to terms with  the exhaustion of the sameness of each day, or the underlying anxiety of the situation which feels like a grounding hum I can’t stop or tune out.  It wears a person out after a while.  And I do feel worn out – and also shut out.  I’m sure I’m not the only one.

During the first couple of weeks of Shelter in Place I turned to Facebook to feel more connected.   It did help for a while, but in time my news feed seemed to consist of a lot of  “big idea” posts – personal philosophies, positive affirmations, and  memes – the same memes over and over again.  I began to think about how weird it is we’ve all gotten used to broadcasting to an online audience.  I started to wonder if the people who post frequently are lonely – if this is their way of reaching out? Or maybe they just like to be “liked”.

Either way, I now make it a point to reach out to people individually – ask how they are doing and let them know I’m still here for them.  I’ve been lucky to have a good friend who texts me on a regular basis just to check in.   It’s always good to hear from her and  knowing she’s still thinking about me  lifts my spirits. I want to pass that good will on.   And that’s where this song came from – my desire to connect on a more personal level with some of my online friends.

So here is the 2020 NPR Tiny Desk Contest entry I pulled together yesterday, two days before the deadline.  The song is called “Undivided Attention”.  Thanks for listening!

Undivided Attention

Tell me something real
Something only you would say
Don’t need to be clever or wise
Don’t let ego get in the way

You have so much to share
And you’re reaching out again
I’m never sure if you’re looking for
An audience or a friend

And what I have to give
Is something very small and something very big
Don’t need to sell me on your higher intentions
Just speak to me
Speak to me
Speak just to me
You have my undivided attention

I know what it’s like
When you’re longing to be heard
You shout your lofty aspirations to the world
And time swallows every word

So come down from your tower
And speak to me direct
One on one we’ll find common ground
Maybe we can reconnect

And what I have to give
Is something very small and something very big
Don’t need to sell me on your higher intentions
Just speak to me
Speak to me
Speak just to me
You have my undivided attention

copyright 2020 Paula Boyd Sutor

 

Clearly this is going to be a sad story, and I hope it will quickly become a period piece of “how things were” during the pandemic of 2020.  But right now it’s just a bit of catharsis.

It was the week before California’s shelter in place order and my cat was dying.

In truth,  my cat had been dying for much longer than that.  She had turned 14 in July of 2019 and in that same month she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of lymphoma of the intestinal tract.  The veterinarian oncologist explained, during a very expensive consultation, that this was not a cancer from which cats recover.  Chemotherapy was an option and it could extend her life up to a year, but eventually it would lose effectiveness and I, as her owner, should take that time to get used to the idea of losing her.

My cat hated car rides, she hated vet techs, and she hated veterinarians (my cat had actually acquired a long list of things and people she hated throughout her life, so she wasn’t specifically targeting care providers).  With all this in mind, I couldn’t imagine putting her through the stress and discomfort the chemo treatments would bring so I opted for palliative care.  In that case, the vet told me, four to six weeks was the best I could hope for.

I took my cat home, cancelled an upcoming vacation with my family and waited.

I feel I should tell you more about the cat now.  She came into my life on Saturday,  September 10th  2005 at the Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA.  She and her litter mates were just old enough to be adopted and she was the last kitten spoken for.  When the adoption counselor brought her to us in to the “meet and greet” room she looked around nervously and then made a beeline for my lap, quickly tucking herself inside my jean jacket.  And that was it –  I was hers.  My son, 5 years old at the time, named her Furokey or Farokey (the correct spelling was not decided upon).

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Furokey/Farokey as a kitten

And so Furokey/Farokey,  lived with us and grew up to be what a friend of the family affectionately called “a spiky ball of hate”.   We added more cats to the household and Furokey kept them in line, letting them know who was really in charge.  She demanded attention, she demanded food, she kept the refrigerator door free of magnets  below the  3 foot mark.  In short, she was a cat – a very good cat.  A cat with a strong sense of self.

And there in her illness, that same force of will that had given her the reputation of being a cat you should not make eye contact with, kept her alive much longer than 6 weeks.  Summer passed and she was still with us.  When Thanksgiving rolled around I fretted about taking our annual family trip to Arizona but ultimately left detailed instructions on how to handle the body in the event of her death.  When it was time for our Christmas trip to the east coast, I quietly made room in the freezer for her body just in case the pet sitter found her on Christmas day and could not take her to veterinarian’s for cremation right away.  And then it was the new year and there she was, still demanding food, still demanding attention, but no longer using the litter box consistently.  I papered the laundry room with puppy training pads.

In February I took her to our local vet (not the oncologist) to make sure I was doing everything I could for her.  The vet was amazed she was still hanging in there and offered a course of vitamins and steroids to perhaps ease some of her symptoms.  I asked her if she thought Furokey was in pain, and the vet said probably not, she probably felt hungry and tired most of the time and maybe a little nauseous.

The week of March 9th I had a headache and tightness in my chest.  The headache would not go away.  Pain medication made it slightly better, but it was there when I went to bed and it was there when I woke up and sometimes it woke me up during the night.  I definitely had a headache.  The tightness in my chest I was less sure of. It felt like pressure, but it wasn’t causing a cough or shortness of breath.  By this time in the timeline of world news and COVID-19,  the headlines were almost exclusively virus related and I considered the possibility my chest pain might be psychosomatic.

I work as an aide in an elementary school and most of that week was spent in the copy room making thick packets of worksheets to send home with the kids in case the school closed.  Knowing how important it was to be prepared for a closure, I continued to go to work even though I felt lousy.  On Saturday morning, March 14,  I took my temperature and it was 100.  Now I felt worried and also irresponsible.  What if I somehow did have the virus and I had just exposed the 48 kids I work with?  I could barely entertain the possibility.

The next day, Sunday,  I noticed Furokey’s condition had changed.  She held her body differently, she couldn’t get comfortable anywhere, and the tone of her meow had changed; it was higher pitched and more distressed.  It suddenly occurred to me that it was time to say good bye.

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One of my final pictures of Furokey

Because she hated the vet so much I had already decided I was going to contact a service that makes house calls.  I wanted her to pass peacefully on my lap in the living room. I called the service but didn’t have the heart to make the appointment for that day, instead I made it for Tuesday, March 17th.  I also harbored the secret fear that I might be contagious, although I did note my symptoms weren’t getting worse, they remained about the same with the headache, low grade fever,  random chest pressure and low energy.

On Monday I called my healthcare provider.  My doctor was out of town until mid-April, but after navigating through the call center, I was given an appointment at a respiratory clinic in a nearby town for that afternoon.  I was going to get tested for COVID – 19 and then I would know for certain.  That alone felt like a relief.

The respiratory clinic was set up in a parking garage and I never left my car.  After parking in a waiting area I was directed to park in an examination bay where a fully protected doctor examined me through the open car window.  She told me my symptoms did not sound like the virus, but she understood I wanted to know based on the number of students I worked with during the week.  She agreed to test me.  After shoving a swab way up my nose a (which turned the pain volume up on my headache from a 6 to a 10), she told me my family and I should stay completely quarantined until the results came back in 3 to 5 days.

That very same day, Monday, March 16th, the county I live in issued a shelter in place order for all non-essential personnel.  The state of California would reinforce this with a state wide order on Thursday, March 19th.

I went home and called the euthanasia service and cancelled Furokey’s appointment. It felt good – like I was somehow cancelling her illness and death as well.  All there was left to do was wait for the test results.

My plan had been to notify the school district in the event of my test being positive so the students’ families could be contacted and make informed choices.  During the first week of sheltering in place not everyone stayed inside.  I knew from local reports that people were still going to the beach, going to parks and playgrounds, going shopping.  I thought about how many people could be infected if just a quarter of the kids I worked with were out there in public spaces.  The potential number of cases caused by me could be considerable, but I couldn’t dwell on it just yet. I was grateful I’d had the opportunity to be tested.  I heard from several people in my social media circle that they were being denied testing despite having more severe symptoms than mine.

As the week wore on I began feeling better but Furokey was obviously getting worse.  Every day I obsessively checked my e-mail for for test results.  Until then I could neither make arrangements to end her suffering or make peace with the idea she would die a natural death.  I thought a lot about how and why we choose euthanasia for our pets, often long before they come to the critical part of an illness.  In some ways it seems like convenience, because death, like birth, makes us wait; it is a hands-off process that requires us to be present and patient and recognize we have no control.

But it wasn’t just for convenience’s sake; Furokey was struggling with her daily routine and she had no understanding why – why she could no longer jump up to the sink to drink from the faucet even though she continued to try, why she felt so tired she had to lay down on the stairs on her way to the litter box.  She really had no understanding;  she was confused and bewildered by her diminished abilities and it was heartbreaking.

That Saturday evening, now 5 days after my test, I still had no results but my symptoms were gone.  I went down stairs to the laundry room to find Furokey sprawled out on the clean, white puppy pads spread across the area like a pristine carpet.  I winced, but secretly hoped it had happened.  It had not. She was hanging in there.

I carried her upstairs and made an area for her in the hallway outside my bedroom and the bathroom – litter box and puppy pads in the bathroom, water dish, kitty bed.  I didn’t want her to have to move around too much.  Once placed in the area she stood up in her kitty bed and peed.  It occurred to me she was disoriented and may have mistaken the bed for a litter box.  Then she wandered into my son’s room and laid down in a way that suggested she would not get back up again.  Our other two cats came and sat in the hall and just watched her for a long time.  It felt like a good bye.

But it was not a good bye. Around midnight she got up again and was very thirsty and still very confused.  She made it out to the kitchen and meowed for food.  After eating she relieved herself in the corner.  I placed puppy pads everywhere. I didn’t sleep much either, worried she might try to go back downstairs, fall and injure herself.

Finally, on Sunday I got the call – my test was negative!  If I needed groceries I could go out and get them.  We could have pizza delivered.  And I did not have to contact the school district to inform families!  With the amount of time lapsed between testing and results I felt the information was not as pertinent as it could have been anyway.

Most importantly, I could help Furokey pass peacefully and quickly.

But I couldn’t call that day. I just couldn’t. I was so happy with the negative test results I just wanted a moment to pretend everything was going to go back to normal.

The next morning I called the euthanasia service and they sent their vet over in the early afternoon.  I sat with Furokey until the time came.  She mostly slept now.  The vet arrived in full protective gear; she apologized for her appearance.  We told her we were grateful she was willing to make the trip.

Furokey passed peacefully in the living room surrounded by her human family, including the boy, now 20, who had named her.  As we prepared a grave for her in the backyard it was decided her name was officially spelled F-u-r-o-k-e-y.

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You can be a patron of the arts! Doesn’t that sound sophisticated?

During this time of social distancing and shelter-in-place orders (which I heartily endorse) musicians are losing out on income because bars and clubs have closed down. Bandcamp is trying to help out by waiving their revenue fee tomorrow – Friday, March 20th. That means 100% of the money you pay for the music goes to the artist. You can read all about it here:https://daily.bandcamp.com/fea…/bandcamp-covid-19-fundraiser

Now is a great time to discover new music and support artists who may be struggling financially. Here’s some recommendations to get you started. Feel free to add your own in the comments!

Karina Denike
https://karinadenike.bandcamp.com/

About: Karina Denike is a S.F. songstress, chanteuse, arranger and songwriter who sings her way across many genres of music. Her original tunes are a haunting combo of 30’s seaside shanties, 60’s girl group harmony and noir soundtracks. You may also know her voice from her other groups: Dance Hall Crashers, The Cottontails, Mr. Lonesome & The Bluebelles, Ralph Carney’s serious jass Project and many more.

My take: You will fall in love with Karina’s voice the first time you hear it. “Golden Kimonos” is my favorite track off her album, Under Glass.

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Lily Taylor
https://lilytaylor.bandcamp.com/

My take: I discovered Lily Taylor through her work with Karina Denike. Her music is beautiful and experimental and showcases her lush vocals.

Deborah Crooks
https://deborahcrooks.bandcamp.com/

About: California-based songwriter Deborah Crooks’ music draws on folk, rock, and the Blues. Her diverse, ever-evolving artistic path has included studying writing and poetics at The Naropa Institute, voice in India, co-founding the band Bay Station, and gigging throughout the Western US.

My take: Poignant Americana, reminiscent of Lucinda Williams

Eki Shola
https://ekishola.bandcamp.com/

About: A talented vocalist and pianist, Eki Shola’s music transcends genre, as she seamlessly draws from jazz, electronica, and world to create her own sonic landscape. Her music has been described as “…sound art to be used to trigger thought and encourage love and beauty through rhythm and unique composition.”
Her personal story was featured in a PBS TV special, “The New Normal: Visions of Healing”

My take: Beautiful, genre-defying music that blends jazz and electronica.

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Little Spiral
https://littlespiral.bandcamp.com/

About: a.k.a. Suzanne Yada, is a piano-pop singer-songwriter who writes at the intersection of technology and heart. She mixes her indie pop, classical, blues and electronic influences with her background in poetry, media and the internet to create clever little piano pop songs for the digital age. Fans of Tori Amos, Mary Lambert, Fiona Apple & Regina Spektor will feel right at home.

My take: Thought provoking lyrics and mad piano skills.

Eu4ic
https://eu4ic.bandcamp.com/

About: In the 2010’s, a post-religion woman muses over our day and age to deep, hypnotic soundscapes, beats and big basslines.

My take: Shimmering beats, lovely vocals and introspective lyrics.

Raven State
https://ravenstate.bandcamp.com/

About: Raven State is a guitar-driven rock band from the San Francisco Bay Area with the spirit of The Stooges and patience of Pink Floyd. At times haunting and atmospheric, pop hooks combined with soulful harmonies keep the dark, hopeless melodies from destroying the future in the hearts of mankind. Their self-titled debut EP is available now. Enjoy.

My take: The Pink Floyd influence is strong in this band!

Shrove Tuesday/Fat Tuesday seemed like the perfect time for this song although I no longer observe the tradition. Fun fact: where I’m from (Pennsylvania Dutch country) it’s called Fastnacht Day.

The song is about saying good bye to something that was fun but probably not good for you, and convincing yourself you’re fine with that.

I got extra fancy for the video by breaking out the glitter eye make up and let me tell you – that stuff is not easily removed! I will be dazzling my co-workers for the rest of the week despite all my best efforts

As always, thanks for watching!

 

 

Good Time

I don’t think about you that much anymore

I just don’t think about you that much anymore

Though we had such good times

Everybody likes good times

I know you always hoped it might be something more

But I am certain there is nothing to explore

Though we had such good times

Everybody likes good times

Every day is a parade

And every night is a celebration

But when the party’s over tell me

Where is our foundation?

There’ll be good times

There’ll be bad times

You don’t get to pick or choose

If you can’t hold me through the sad times

Baby, we’re gonna lose

So I don’t think about you that much anymore

I just don’t think about you – no

Though we had such good times

Everybody likes good times

We had such good times

Everybody likes good times

We had such good times

But they were just good times

And now they’re through

I’m over you

 

copyright Paula Sutor 2018

worldview changing

I came across this short article on HuffPost last night: Finneas Reveals Hidden Sounds In ‘Bad Guy’ And Our Worldview Is Changed and I could not resist writing a response.

The gist of the article is that Billie Eillish’s brother, Finneas, who produced her Grammy award winning album, revealed he subtly incorporated sound recordings of every day occurrences/items into the music. Examples given in the article include the sound of dental equipment and a crosswalk warning signal.

My first thought was – what has journalism come to? This is an article summarizing a TV interview that’s been given a sensationalized headline (Worldview changing?!?! Really?!?) just to entice people to click on it. (And I did!) But then the author declared Finneas’ method of using these every day recordings as genius and I thought: “Damn! I must be a genius too!”

Now, it’s true I never swept the Grammys so I guess I’m not quite on the same level as Finneas and his sister, but I have been using recordings of everyday items in my music for a long time and I’m pretty sure I’m not the first or last musician/producer to do that. In fact a quick web search will turn up many articles like this one giving details on unlikely sounds that have been used in pop songs in recent years.

I want to make it clear I’m not dissing Billie Eillish and her brother at all. I really liked “Bury a Friend” and “Bad Guy” the first 100 or so times I heard them and I also appreciate that she has achieved this level of success by bringing a whole new style to the table and not showing off her body. No, I just think the framing of the article was ridiculous and I’m using that ridiculousness as a jumping off point to make it about me – because I’m pretty sure that’s how the internet works these days.

So without further ado, here are three times I was a “genius” and used everyday recordings in my music.

“So Bad” – a copy machine

I found volunteering at my son’s school highly creative work and here’s proof: around 0:08, there’s two claps followed  by a sound like a phased drum; that’s the copy machine at my son’s elementary school recorded while making copies for the book fair.

“Body”  – a washing machine

The song begins with a drum roll and rhythm beneath the drum roll that continues throughout the song.  That rhythm is the sound of the washing machine at my friend Gina’s house.   Lucky for me, Gina does a lot of laundry even when she has house guests – had she not I probably would not have been inspired to write this song about David Bowie’s passing.

“Fan Fic” – a breast pump

 

Ah – my old Roland SP-555 sampler!  I loved that thing and I sold it thinking I was trading up to a better piece of equipment and I wasn’t.  I miss it so much!

Anyway – this song is at least ten years old and I had just come through a  year or so of occasionally pumping breast milk for my son.  The sound the pump made was unique and I started hearing voices in it – like singing voices, not like voices telling me to do things.  In this clip at the 30 second mark (after I finish pushing the “I play a sexy serial killer” button far too  many times) I hit the drums and a loop of the breast pump sound.  To me it sounds like voices singing “usha-may   usha-may  usha-may”.  Sadly this sound loop did not make it to the final recording of the song years later.

So there you have it, my favorite moments of “genius” from my songs.  If you have your own to add or know of other songs that use interesting sounds feel free to leave a reply!