What I Listen to when I don’t have to Listen to Anything

a really good practice habit that i got into years ago (even before the carpel tunnel and the tendonitis) was listening to the music that i was practicing. not while i was doing it, duh, but afterwards. i can remember listening to recordings of my competition pieces (not by me, but professional recordings) and my college audition pieces, for hours on end. on the bus to and from school, sometimes even while i was working (stocking shelves at the supermarket oh so long ago), and when i would sleep at night. it was really helpful, because i could listen to it and think about it without the distraction of physically having to do it.

then i got carpel tunnel and i just couldn’t practice as much as i wanted to. listening as an additional means of practicing became a very valuable tool.

so a lot of the music i listen to, i listen to for “work.” by the time this year is out i think i’m going to be sick of these 27 club songs (even though the doors have a permanent fixture on my “list of favorite bands, ever.”) simply because for maybe a week or two at a time, i am only listening to the same 10 – 15 songs. that’s a lot of time to be listening to the same songs.

so when i don’t have to listen to something, what do i listen to and why is it important? well, i happen to think it’s important because the stuff i listen to, when i don’t have to listen to it, still really influences my playing. some music more than others, of course, but they’re all still worth mentioning.

so here it is, in “as i think of them” order.

ani difranco. i’ve never actually sat down and done a tally, but i would estimate that i have somewhere around 85 – 95% of her entire discography. right now, a playlist consisting of only ani on my iTunes is about 20 hours long.
the rolling stones. i like the early to middle stuff that they did. the stuff they’ve churned out in the past ten years or so is still pretty good, but i like the gritty, bluesy, rocksy stuff they did when they were in their twenties.
led zeppelin. see rolling stones.
frank sinatra. this just brings back nice feelings about my childhood. i listened to a lot of frankie when i was a kid.
status green. if ever i need waking up, which is actually quite often, firebomb usually does it for me.
tori amos. only because she reminds me that keyboards can be sexy, cool, mysterious and intricate while still remaining on the borderline of the mainstream. remember when tracks from boys for pele was getting play on Z100? no? i do. it was craziness. that album, i’m pretty sure, kind of changed my life.
gogol bordello. this is the kind of punk rock i was born to listen to. it’s infectious, it’s gypsy, it’s freaking awesome. eugene is a master lyricist, and english isn’t even his first language!
voloshky. their vocal harmonies can halt a conversation in my household.
the beatles. i used to kind of not like them. i was going through a “rebelling against my mother” phase and my mother was a teeny bopper in the 60s who was crazy about the beatles. so for awhile, on principle, i refused to be crazy about them. got to college, sat through theory III with dr bob where he used pretty much only the beatles for listening examples, and i started to really grow to like them. probably when i’m over the 27 club thing, i’ll put together a beatles playlist.
the bad touch. see status green.
little dipper. i’ve been to more little dipper shows than i can count and i still can’t tell you what it is i like about these guys. they are just good. i am a fan of a number of their songs, and of course, the biggest fan of the one random song that they rarely play at a show because it’s a really slow one. does that give me more stret cred? that i like an obscure song by a local band?
rick barry. but don’t tell him. his ego is big enough.
weezer’s blue album. hands down this might be the best album, start to finish, ever written.
indie female musicians, mostly from new jersey. no, that’s pretty much the truth. i went to my tigerlily pink playlist to see if i could find a few that i really really like but i couldn’t even make a decision. so here’s the entire playlist, in ABC order: alix olson, amanda duncan, april smith, chelsea genzano, colleen coadic, cyndee lee rule, the dresden dolls, feathermerchants, gina catalano, the gutterbunnies, joanna burns, joy simone, judy aron, melissa anthony, rachel sage, sarah donner, seeking through silence, stephanie white and the new jersey philth harmonic, tegan and sara.

so there it is. what i listen to when i don’t have to listen to anything. sometimes, too, i just listen to silence. after a long day of teaching at the elementary school, with screaming kids and singing kids and crazy kids (i love em all), when i get in my car sometimes i don’t even bother turning the radio on.

across the universe

Trying to weave so many Beatles songs together to make one cohesive story is a daunting task but Julie Taymor succeeds with Across the Universe.

Some of the cutting from scene to scene is a bit choppy in the beginning as all the characters are introduced, and the psychadelic drug trip scenes in the middle are a bit over the top (as I suppose psychadelic drug trips should be, but throwing together random and absurd images and trying to make it work is a bit of an art and i think they could have just done better on those scenes) but overall the story created is a good one, and an intriguing one, that will engage the viewer not just in a game of “what beatles tune will they cover next,” but “what will happen to the characters?”

Before I sat down to write this, I looked up the movie on IMDB, just to see what they said about it over there. Now, all of the main characters take their names from Beatles tunes, Jude, Lucy, Maxwell, Prudence, Sadie, Jojo, and, oddly, Sadie is a visual reference to Janis Joplin while Jojo pretty much looks like a dead on Jimi Hendrix impersonator. In addition to this, and this is something I didn’t see mentioned, I have to wonder if Jim Sturgess was cast 1) because he has a wonderful singing voice but also 2) because he looks like a young Paul McCartney. because HOLY CRAP. i think it’s a little uncanny.

Also, in blink-and-you’ll-miss-them roles, Bono as Dr. Robert (reference to Ken Kesey I think), Salma Hayek as a nurse, Eddie Izzard as Mr. Kite and Joe Cocker as a random bum/pimp/hippie (he appears in one song as three separate people).

As for the music itself, I have absolutely no complaints whatsoever. First of all they chose good vocalists. Secondly, the songs were arranged beautifully. If you go on iTunes to get the soundtrack, you have to have to have to check out the mostly a capella arrangement of “Because.” It’s stunning. Songs arranged for Sadie and her band were done well. I also really liked what they did with While My Guitar Gently Weeps – they tone it down and it’s quite melancholy – it’s played right after Martin Luther King Jr. is killed.

I didn’t really get “Let it Be,” sung by a little kid who gets killed in what I will just term as racial violence towards the beginning of the movie. On the one hand I can see how they wanted to include it in the overall movie because it is set during the 60s when the civil rights movement (along with the war in Vietnam) was going on, but on the other hand, it is one of those scenes at the very beginning of the movie that just seemed cut together kind of quickly. As my mom commented early on, “I feel like we’ve just been watching music videos.” And she did have a point.

Overall, though, if you are a Beatles fan, like my mother and I are, or just a dork about music in general, you will find this movie to be really enjoyable. I also really liked this for the same reasons that I liked Moulin Rouge, and the way they cut all those random songs together to make them tell a story. Incidentally, Across the Universe starts with Jude singing “Girl” in this really haunting arrangement with very sparse instrumentation supporting him… very a la Nature Boy from Moulin Rouge.

If you haven’t seen this yet, you should at least rent it. Getting the music from iTunes may be more accessible, but I feel that if you don’t first see the movie, you won’t have quite the same experience just listening to the songs without the visuals to reinforce the story line.