Monthly Archives: November 2012

To Listen

What does it mean to “listen?”

I’ve often held the belief, as a student, that anyone who finishes listening to a new piece of music for the first time and can rattle off a succession of analytical information did not truly listen to the piece in the first place; they let their mind get in the way. Though, I had to ask myself if I truly listened in a fashion that was any more sincere. The honest answer is “no,” and I feel that you would be hard pressed to find many students of music who have learned how to truly listen to a piece of music. At a recent recital I attended I noticed that it took only a couple minutes into a song before my mind had wandered completely away from the performance. This, unfortunately, illustrates how the vast majority of young Americans use music, as a backing track to whatever else they are doing. While music may sometimes appropriately function as such, it is important to look deeper into the true nature of listening.

The question of what it means to listen is very much based upon the question of what it means to “be open.” To listen is to open oneself. Openness is a state of being, and thus, is not part of any multitasking situation. It is the sole concentration of an individual at a certain time. There is no superficial support or activity inherent in “being open,” and so, this may suggest spiritualism, but let us simply say that it is meditative. For those who meditate, the process is a discipline meant to empty the mind through mental control while allowing the self to be hyper sensitive to whatever the individual is meditating on (this is my personal understanding of it, but this may vary) whether it be God, Love, art, surroundings, etc. There is, inevitably, a sense of the esoteric in this idea as one may question how meditation on a specific thing can be possible with the intention of emptying the mind. However, this is very easily understood with the reintroduction of openness. There is no intellectual pushing, only a very wide and encompassing direction that the individual opens themselves to through emotion. In the case of the listener, music is that direction. It is, in a sense, a merging with the music, and thus, a merging with the expression of the composer and performer. Such a connection is, in my opinion, the real gift that we enjoy through the artistic process.

 

My Memories of Led Zeppelin

Rolling Stone’s Cover

The cover for the issue of Rolling Stone magazine on news stands now, has on it Robert Plant and Jimmy Page (the 1970’s versions) with the headline reading “LED ZEPPELIN:  The Ultimate Guide to Their Music & Legend.”  I didn’t buy it for a couple of reasons, (1) I have been long trying to reduce clutter in my life (still a work in progress).  (2) I am already a bit of a Led Zeppelin aficionado; though not as good (or bad, depending on your take) as I used to be.  And (3) as a bit of a Led Zeppelin aficionado, I know that Rolling Stone magazine panned Led Zeppelin on a regular and almost religious basis, back when that band was still actively recording and touring.  So, as a fan, and a bit of an aficionado, I feel I already know Led Zeppelin well enough to not need some sort of primer, and I find the magazine that went out of their way to knock that band now offering some sort of tribute, kind of hypocritical; but maybe that’s just me.

While I am not old enough to remember any of the slights that Rolling Stone gave Led Zeppelin, nor am I old enough to have ever seen that band perform live, I – like many – did eventually “discover” Led Zeppelin when I was in high school in the 1980’s, about 5 years after the death of their drummer, John “Bonzo” Bonham, which ultimately lead to Zeppelin’s break-up.

I still remember the first song I heard on the local classic rock station, the song that launched me into wanting to hear and know more about this band called Led Zeppelin; that song was “Whole Lotta Love.”  As soon as I could I immediately went to the record store (remember those places?) and bought the cassette of Led Zeppelin II and I damn near wore it out.  Soon after I bought Led Zeppelin I, then III, then what is called either “IV,” or “Signs,” and so on down the list of their discography I went.  Along the way, I bought “Hammer of the Gods,” which is the quintessential biography of Led Zeppelin, written by Stephen Davis; it is a very good read by the way, even if you are not a fan or a nut for Led Zeppelin.

That book painted a new picture for me of each of Led Zeppelin’s albums.  After learning what was going on in the band’s personal lives before and during the recording of each record I began to really get a sense of why the tone of the records began to change from the raucous, youthful, happier sounds of young men, to the more tempered, and melancholy sounds that show up in their later albums, like “Physical Graffiti,” “Presence,” and “In Through the Out Door.”  Plus that book showed how Led Zeppelin was probably the band that stamped sex and drugs indelibly into Rock and Roll.  Sure, those two things have always been associated with music, not just Rock and Roll, but Led Zeppelin’s early tours are the stuff of legend, just Google “Led Zeppelin and shark incident,” and you will most certainly be stunned, probably appalled, and maybe even lament that rock stars nowadays are pretty damn lame in comparison.

I will wholly concede to the critics of Led Zeppelin that they were not nearly as “artistic” as say the Beetles, or even some of their contemporaries, especially in the lyrics department; but that should not take away from their talent.  My brother, and one of my best friends, both of whom are drummers, has nothing but praise for John Bonham’s talents.  It can be argued that Jimmy Page put the god in “guitar god.”  Few people then, or now could replicate Robert Plant’s vocals, and the quiet man of the group, the one who never really faced tragedy in his life during the Zeppelin years, bassist John Paul Jones was a very accomplished studio musician prior to joining the band.

While I truly do like the vast majority of Led Zeppelin’s recordings, even the posthumously, and not their best, released “Coda,” my favorites are when they cover old blues songs, and in fact, if you follow this link, many of their songs were covers; that being said though, it is one of their original blues songs that I can almost listen to repeatedly, called “I’m Gonna Crawl,” off the “In Through the Out Door” album which I think is masterful in the conveyance of the emotion that a great blues song should have, through the tone and tenor, the sound of the guitar, meshed with the vocals.  After reading the book, and knowing what all has happened to the band through the years, as well as what would happen in the following year (John Bonham’s death) that song’s tone (not the lyrics, but the tone) almost even serves as a bit of foreshadowing too.

That is my favorite song, but it isn’t my favorite album.  Most people will probably say Led Zeppelin IV is their favorite, and it is understandable, it is their most commercially successful album, and is even referenced (though not flatteringly) in the movie, “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.”  Others will probably say Led Zeppelin II is their favorite, then there’s Led Zeppelin I, Houses of the Holy, and Physical Graffiti.  All of those are very, VERY good Led Zeppelin albums, and have many hits that still get air play; but they aren’t my favorite.  My favorite is Led Zeppelin III.  That album hooked me with the opening track, “Immigrant Song,” and “Tangerine” is another one of my all-time favorite Led Zeppelin songs.  It is also one of their least commercially successful albums; probably because the band deliberately strayed away from the formula that led to their success; it was kind of their “experimental” album, though to me Houses of the Holy seems a bit more of a deviation, or “experiment” in sound in my opinion; but whatever.

One of the things I find most interesting about Led Zeppelin is how the name came about, it is a bit of an homage to a conversation Jimmy Page had with Keith Moon (drummer of The Who), Jeff Beck (Page and Beck played together in the Yardbirds), John Entwistle (bassist for The Who) and Steve Winwood about forming a super group, to which Keith Moon replied something to the effect, that they should call themselves the “Lead (the malleable metal) Balloons,” because that is how well such a group would go over.  So the “super group” never formed, however upon the formation of the band Jimmy Page remembered that comment, and simply changed the balloon to zeppelin, and opted for using the three letter “led” instead of the four letter word “lead,” because he was concerned that people would confuse that word for “lead,” as in leader, and he didn’t want it associated with a German invasion; so Led Zeppelin it became; that band’s name also lead to the coining of the term, “heavy metal” music.

So, no, I don’t need an “Ultimate Guide to Their Music & Legend,” I have already been there, done that.  To anyone who might want such a guide, then perhaps Rolling Stone’s article is a good source, however I think the best thing to do with almost anything that you might find interest in is to immerse yourself in it.  If that something is Led Zeppelin, then I do highly recommend reading “Hammer of the Gods,” by Stephen Davis, I can assure you that you will not be sorry.

Below are links to the songs I referenced in this post:

Whole Lotta Love:

I’m Gonna Crawl:

Tangerine:

Immigrant Song:

And one more for good measure:

Since I’ve Been Loving You:

Jammin’ the Blues

So I wanted to do something about the blues.  I love how blues music feels, and I love how it sounds.  So I came across this video on YouTube, called Jammin’ the Blues.  It was a short film, made in 1944, featuring many prominent jazz musicians of the day just jamming.

The cast is as follows (courtesy of IMDB):

  •                 Lester Young – Himself – on Tenor Sax
  •                 George ‘Red’ Callender – Himself – on Bass (as Red Callender)
  •                 Harry Edison – Himself – on Trumpet
  •                 Marlowe Morris – Himself – on Piano
  •                 Sidney Catlett – Himself – on Drums
  •                 Barney Kessel – Himself – on Guitar
  •                 Jo Jones – Himself – on Drums (as Joe Jones)
  •                 John Simmons – Himself – on Bass
  •                 Illinois Jacquet – Himself – on Tenor Sax
  •                 Marie Bryant – Herself – Singer and Dancer
  •                 Archie Savage – Himself – Dancer

While I guess it is more jazz than blues, I think you can definitely feel that blues vibe running through it.  I don’t know why it just cuts off at the end, but it does, and this is one of the longest ones I could find.  Even IMDB says that it was only a 10 minute short, so I guess this is how it ended when it was released.  Regardless I do dig it man.

College Fight Songs

Today is rivalry weekend in college football, and in honor of that below are the fight songs for the universities in many of today’s big match-ups:

Ohio State University (Across the Field – 1915):

vs.

University of Michigan (The Victors – 1899):

Univeristy of Notre Dame (Victory March – 1928 final version):

vs.

University of Southern California (Fight On – 1922):

Auburn University (War Eagle! – 1955):

vs.

University of Alabama (Yea Alabama! – 1926):

Georgia Tech (Up With the White and Gold – 1919):

vs.

University of Georgia (Glory Glory – played in the 1890’s at Georgia football games, the song is to the tune of The Battle Hymn of the Republic, which dates back to 1861):

University of Oregon (Mighty Oregon – based on the 1912 hit, It’s a Long Way to Tipperary, revised into Oregon’s fight song and first performed in 1916):

vs.

Oregon State University (Hail to Old OSU – 1914):

Stanford University (All Right Now – originally released by the band Free in 1970, became the defacto fight song of Stanford in 1976):

vs.

University of California Los Angeles (The Mighty Bruins – 1984):

University of Florida (The Orange and Blue – 1916/1917):

vs.

Florida State University (FSU Fight Song – 1950):

In the Spirit Holidays?

Yesterday was Thanksgiving here in America; the unofficial kick-off for the Christmas holiday season.  It is the time of excess.  Too much food, too much drink, too much money spent, and too much stress – at least for some.  Well, what better way to celebrate all of this than some holiday music?  So, late night television host Jimmy Fallon, and his guest Rashida Jones decided to have some fun some with the holidays by doing a humorous medley of some of the popular songs out today, of course with the lyrics changed to reflect all of those holiday excesses.

 

The art-work of the future

“the activation of the consciousness attained by Science, the portrayal of the Life that it has learnt to know, the impress of this life’s Necessity and Truth, is—Art.

Man will never be that which he can and should be, until his Life is a true mirror of Nature, a conscious following of the only real Necessity, the inner natural necessity, and is no longer held in subjugation to an outer artificial counterfeit,—which is thus no necessary, but an arbitrary power. Then first will Man become a living man; whereas till now he carries on a mere existence, dictated by the maxims of this or that Religion, Nationality, or State.—In like manner will Art not be the thing she can and should be, until she is or can be the true, conscious image and exponent of the real Man, and of man’s genuine, nature-bidden life; until she therefore need no longer borrow the conditions of her being from the errors, perversities, and unnatural distortions of our modern life.”

– Richard Wagner “The Art-Work of the Future”

 

Remembering the brief skimming of Wagner’s essays I had done a couple semesters ago made me go back to the one essay I still had saved on my computer. I decided to start from the beginning and simply read the first few pages, though sincerely, this time. I was ecstatic upon reading his philosophy. In short, he asserts that true art work must reflect or come from the connectedness between man and all of natural being; that “art” will be tainted if it is created by those who are interested in solely superficial living. Such an ideology reflects an artist who is interested in that thing which transcends the physical manifestation or illusion of artistic pursuit and pierces to the seed of creative aspiration. This is not some over- intellectualization or extreme ideology but a distillation and understanding of “Art’s” true use and necessity to all people.

 

As I continue to read more, I may have an ongoing commentary for this essay. I encourage all to just check it out. It can be found as a free pdf online.

 

 

The Bloody Hollies

This is a band that I am kind of surprised hasn’t made it bigger than they are.  Sure, sure, it is a matter of personal tastes, and while The Bloody Hollies will more than likely never reach the heights of stardom like a Justin Bieber.  I also think it is safe to say that The Bloody Hollies have no intention of being, or becoming the objects of preteen girls fantasies; I mean they are a punk band after all (which perhaps further limits their likability).  Speaking of punk bands, many of the so called “punk” bands out there that are hugely popular are arguably not very punk.  Many of these bands are what some have referred to as “mall punk,” meaning that they appeal to the mall rat set – which are Junior High and pre-driver license having High Schoolers.  Nonetheless, I have been listening to The Bloody Hollies for about two years now, and I am still a little surprised that they don’t get more love out there.  The song that got me hooked is called “Mona,” off of their Who to Trust, Who to Kill, Who to Love album.  I heard it on of all places Yahoo! Music, and I immediately started looking for more of their material.  Sadly there is no official video for that song, but you can find it on YouTube; however to save you some time I will share it here.

They do have a new album, which is their fourth, called Yours Until the Bitter End, and they actually do have an official video for the song “I Dream of Bees,” directed by front man Wesley Doyle, which again I am gladly sharing here too; however I don’t think it is the best song off this album – again, a matter of personal preference.

Thoughts and comments are always appreciated.
Happy Thanksgiving!

In Space No One Can Hear You Scream

Sorry, there’s no sound in this post, because in space, no one can hear you scream.

About two months ago NASA announced that it is working on a faster than light, warp drive engine; which surely must have elicited a very audible sound of rejoicing from Trekkies the world over.  NASA found that the energy requirements for such an engine weren’t as implausible as imagined, thus making such an engine very plausible indeed.  As a bit of a space nut myself, I thought that was very, very cool news.

Well, now comes reports from the land down under, here their scientists have finished doing their own research on the prospects of warp drive engines, and while they don’t refute NASA’s plausibility aspect, they have discovered some dire consequences of us warping the space time continuum.  In seems that our future Starship Enterprise would bring death and destruction with it to any star system it travels; not because it would be loaded with photon torpedoes, but because of what it would be dragging behind it in its wake.

The Aussie scientists contend that as our future missions to go where no one has gone before, our intrepid starship would accumulate a large amount of space debris that would get trapped in the warp field.  This isn’t a problem until the ship slows out of warp.  All of that debris would then continue to hurtle forward and rain death and destruction upon whatever planet (and the starship too) we are going to explore.  The longer the distance, the more the debris, the more hurtling destruction.

Sorry I had to through some Star Wars in there.

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