Archive for the ‘Pop Culture’ Category

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!

 

 

I am kicking off my summer with a cover of Gordon Lightfoot’s “If You Could Read My Mind.”  I’ve always loved this song’s easy listening vibe paired with the bleak imagery and the palpable longing for what is already lost.  I hope I’ve done it some justice, but if you need to check out the real deal you can find it here.

I have plans in the works to record new material, but I must say I’m enjoying working on other covers.  Some of the songs I’ve got on my to-do list include “Indestructible” by Robyn, “Back on the Chain Gang” by the Pretenders and “Crazy Train” from Ozzy.  If you have any suggestions feel free to leave it in the comments.

Having just completed a busy school year of working in all types of educational settings – elementary general ed, high school special day class and non-public school, plus my own coursework in a credentialed master’s program – I am ready to take the summer off! In addition to recording new music, I hope to play some open mic nights in the bay area.   I’m also looking forward to hitting the beach, organizing my closets and perfecting my Instagram feed algorithm to achieve the perfect balance of cute baby animals, Tom Hiddleston and Jeremy Irons.  Because you have to have goals!

Winter's-Tavern-Flyer

If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area and a fan of Romeo Void you should come out to Winter’s Tavern on June 20th to watch the incomparable Debora Iyall perform Romeo Void tunes as well as her beautiful solo work and a couple of surprise covers.  Also on the bill will be Shot in the Dark, my electro glam trio featuring Sunni McGarity on vocals and Falling Pauli Gray on guitar.  Girls with Guns finish up the night with super girl powered punk rock.  It’s a night of fierce female energy and firearms.  Don’t miss it!

 

A long time ago, 1996 or so, I wanted to be Kate Bush fronting Marillion; a winning combination certain to win the hearts and minds of middle America.  Unfortunately I had neither the voice of Kate Bush nor the enigmatic charm of Fish and so every project to which I brought this vision floundered for a bit, hemorrhaged drummers, and then died a slow, whiny death.  I’ve gotten over that now.  It took me almost 20 years but I have  finally come to realize I cannot sing and perhaps more importantly, prog really is the fine china of the music world- it should only be used on special occasions under certain circumstances.

Despite all this, I believe I came closest to my dream in this song.  Inspired by a binge of both watching and reading Dune,  “Little Death” is performed by a short lived band tentatively named , Make Way for Ducklings.   My poorly drawn husband is killing it on piano, and Glen Douglas  plays lead guitar;  I think Russel Pickett is on  bass, but that may also be a midi controlled keyboard bass.  The drums are programmed, because just like my vibrator, programmed drummers do exactly want I want them to do for exactly as long as I want them to do it, and don’t expect me to make a sandwich for them afterwards.

The video was filmed in Second Life in Forgotten City.

 

Welcome, Little Death

Black wings flutter in a flag of surrender

My dreams like vultures pick the corpse bare and fly off to another

Welcome, Little One

The world in your head is immense and you cross it with a step

Reluctance conquers and rules with innocence

She was never pretty, she was not the best,

She had expectations just like all the rest

She was not the brightest, she was never blessed

She held out for more, and ended up with less

Welcome, Little Fear

You sense your time has come, you jump the gun and march

on your own country

Compromise the borders and find

There’s nothing left of me

Welcome, Little Death

We always knew you’d come our sole excuse

and all forgiving friend

So kiss this demon dream goodnight

And let it end

She was never pretty, she was not the best

She had expectations just like all the rest

She was not the brightest, she was never blessed

She held out for more

And ended up with nothing

Unforgivable, the things we do sometimes

The posture we take in a room and the way we hold our eyes

The stares we never meet and the things we never say

We think we’re holding out but we’re giving it all away

 

 

So here it is, the second day of 2015. Last year around this time I was resolving not to tread down the well beaten path of self-improvement as New Year’s Resolution, but instead take a more noble and genteel resolve to learn a rather lengthy poem and in doing so become closer to art, beauty and poetry.   I had set my sights on memorizing the entirety of “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot. I figured it would be difficult but not impossible. After all I had almost memorized all of the “Midnight Ride of Paul Revere” in fifth grade (almost).

Prufrock-1

I blazed through the first stanza within a week, worked my way through the second stanza, often mixing up “fog” and “smoke” (deciding the fog is a cat, therefore “rubs its back upon the window panes”, and smoke is a dog rubbing its “muzzle on the window panes”) and then I got to “And indeed there will be time . . .”

Time to learn the rest of this poem later in the great big year ahead of me. Yep.

Prufrock-2

The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,

The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,

 

In my defense I did read through it from time to time and would often remember fleeting lines here or there, filtering my life in 2014 through the poem. For instance, while vacationing with my family this summer I retooled the opening to make it:

 

 

 

 

The Love Song of P. Anna Barr

Let us go then, you and me

When the evening is spread out like spilled coffee

Dribbling off a dirty fast food table

Let’s get through security, to certain departing gates

Though flight delays will make us wait

For restless nights in overpriced 3 star hotels

Family vacations that end in ridiculous arguments

Of unspecified intent

That lead you to an overwhelming question

Oh do not ask what is it

There’s a placard right there. Read something for a change!

In the room the children come and go fighting over who gets to play Nintendo

 

When I first read this poem in my teens I felt a strong bond with its voice, but as I worked through it as a 46 year old woman I became very aware of how masculine it is.

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I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;

I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;

I’m definitely not Prince Hamlet, but in an entirely different way than the narrator implies.   A great deal of Prufrock involves the narrator attempting to unravel the mysteries of women. Being a woman, I haven’t had much cause to unravel the mysteries of myself (that’s why I have a therapist), or men for that matter as their voices and viewpoints are everywhere. I learned early on to identify with male protagonists in movies and literature, and my love of this poem is a perfect example of this. However, as a middle aged woman I feel I have less latitude in identifying with men, or perhaps less inclination. I’m probably just making excuses for myself, but it ultimately colored my enthusiasm for the poem and at times I considered searching for a poem of equal epic proportions by a female author.   Obviously my feminist impulse was not great enough to move me to action.

 

When November finally rolled around and it occurred to me I was not going to fulfill my resolution, I panicked. I tried cramming, but the holiday season was already creeping into my schedule. Both of the bands I play in had shows scheduled, my family had a road trip on the books, and immediately after the road trip I flew to New York City to catch Hedwig and the Angry Inch with Michael C. Hall. Who needs Prufrock when you can have Dexter in drag?

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I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker

And I have heard the eternal Customer Service rep take my call and snicker

“Sorry, your warranty has expired. I can sell you a refurbished moment of greatness if you like”

“No thanks. I’ll get used to the flickering. “

~ Love Song of P. Anna Barr

 

In short, my lofty goal of learning this poem absolutely failed. Perhaps I should have resolved to gain and lose the same 5 pounds in a 3 months cycle over the course of the year. I probably could have done that (heck I think I did do that. Can these resolution things be retroactive?)

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I grow old, I grow old

I shall wear the bottoms of my cargo pants rolled

Do I dare to eat gluten? Should I be dairy-free?

May I sip a glass of wine when dining with friends

In recovery?

I have heard the mermaids singing each to each

Those amphibious bitches have never once given me the time of day

Chambers by the sea

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown

Shut the f@#& up, you scaly tarts!

 

For 2015 I resolve to read more, write more, drink less and see every new Tom Hiddleston movie in the theater. I’ll let you know how that works out.

To get my New Year off to a happy start, here is Tom Hiddleston reciting the first part of “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”. (For the record, I can recite slightly more than he does here!)

 

As the fall television line up makes its debut,  it’s time to be grateful for the creative and original stories represented on the small screen.   Without networks taking chances on new premises and characters we would be stuck watching the same old bad television I was subjected to as a child. Of course they would probably have to be updated a bit and so, in case the networks do run out of original ideas, I offer this:

Horrible Reboots of Bad TV Shows

(That should never happen)

my_mother_the_car_logo

My Mother the Car

Original Bad Premise (as explained by Wikipedia)

The show follows the exploits of attorney David Crabtree (played by Jerry Van Dyke), who, while shopping at a used car lot for a station wagon to serve as a second family car, instead purchases a dilapidated 1928 “Porter” touring car. Crabtree heard the car call his name in a woman’s voice, which later turned out to be that of his deceased mother, Gladys (voiced by Ann Sothern). The car, a valuable antique, is a reincarnation of his mother who talks (only to Crabtree) through the car’s radio. The dial light flashed in sync with “Mother’s” voice. In an effort to get his family to accept the old, tired car, Crabtree brings it to a custom body shop for a full restoration. The car was originally coveted by a collector named Captain Manzini even before its restoration, but Crabtree purchases and restores the car before Manzini can acquire it. For the rest of the series, Crabtree is pursued by the avaricious Captain Manzini, who is determined to acquire the valuable automobile by hook or crook.

 

The Horrible Reboot –

My Mother the Smart Phonemy-mother-the-smart-phone

Follow the exploits of programmer Diane Crabtree, who while trying to create a new smartphone OS, discovers the personal assistant portion of her prototype has stopped being functional and instead criticizes her requests and offers a lot of unsolicited advice.   The voice also sounds very familiar. When the phone, without any prompting, asks Diane “You’re not really going to wear that outside, are you?”, Diane puts it all together and realizes her smart phone prototype is the reincarnation of her deceased mother, Gladys. The ensuing argument between Crabtree and her mother/phone is overheard by a competitor; the rival programmer is blown away by the intricacies of the AI and vows to steal the prototype to reverse-engineer it.

Meanwhile, Crabtree is dismayed to find her prototype is just as dysfunctional as her relationship with her mother;   because even though she is the phone, Gladys confounded by technology, cannot figure out how to make herself work.

 

The Mothers-in-Law

mother in law_Original bad premise (synopsis from IMDB)

Roger and Kaye live next door to Eve and Herb. Eve and Herb’s daughter Suzie marries Roger and Kaye’s son, Jerry. This forces the families to be a bit closer than they would prefer, particularly since Jerry and Suzie live in the garage.

The Horrible Reboot –

The Mothers-In-Law Apartment

Mohters-in-law-apartmentRoger and Kaye have been lifelong neighbors to Eve and Herb. Eve and Herb’s son, Steve, marries Roger and Kaye’s son, Jerry. This forces the families to be a bit closer than they would prefer, particularly since the housing boom in San Francisco has caused Roger and Kaye and Eve and Herb to lose their apartments and now they must share the single in-law apartment in Steve and Jerry’s Noe Valley Victorian.

 

My Favorite Martian

Original bad premise (synopsis from Wikipedia)My_Favorite_Martian_title

A human-looking extraterrestrial in a one-man spaceship crash-lands near Los Angeles. The ship’s pilot is, in fact, an anthropologist from Mars and is now stranded on Earth. Tim O’Hara, a young newspaper reporter for The Los Angeles Sun, is on his way home from Edwards Air Force Base (where he had gone to report on the flight of the X-15) back to Los Angeles when he spots the spaceship coming down. The X-15 nearly hit the martian’s spaceship and caused it to crash.

Tim takes the Martian in as his roommate and passes him off as his Uncle Martin

The Horrible Reboot –

My Favorite MartinezMy-favorite-martinez

When Carlos Martinez, a young journalist for the LA Times, has his Uncle Ramon move in with him, his landlady suspects Ramon is an undocumented immigrant. Little does she know how right she is. Ramon is an illegal alien – from Mars.

On his way home from covering a story on SpaceX’s latest launch, Carlos encounters Ramon’s downed craft, which has been damaged by space junk in Earth’s orbit. Ramon moves in with Carlos while he repairs his space ship.   Staying one step ahead of Elon Musk, NASA and US Immigration, Ramon keeps up a snarky commentary on humanity’s foibles, including how easy it is to mess with the Mars Rover and the misguided notion that all humanoid extraterrestrials are blue, green or Caucasian.

 

Gilligan’s Island

The Premise

The Horrible Reboot

Gilligan’s Server

Skip and Gil invite five random people to check out their new Minecraft server. Everything is going well until they discover they can’t log off. Also none of their mods work. Even worse, the five random users turn out to be noobs who ask the same inane questions over and over again in chat. Hilarity ensues.Gilligan's-server-title

 

 

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