Monday, May 24, 2010

Day 7: Avian Genius, Swashbuckling Storytelling [Music]

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While we were talking about the genius of the sadly deceased Jeff Buckley, one of my former lecturers remarked how our generation's musicians had no genuine talent - and I'll admit that I listen most of the time to artistes who wouldn't be on the mainstream Top 40, or who don't seem to get any airplay at all on Malaysian radio but are rather big in the States, though I remain hopeful that one day someone will disprove his statement.

I'm a big fan of Andrew Bird, whom I had the fortune to see perform live last year at Lupo's - he was simply amazing in real life, which isn't surprising when you consider that he sings; plays the guitar, violin, mandolin, and glockenspiel; handles his looping machine like a pro; and whistles.

And boy, does he whistle well.

Every time he sings a song live he alters it, so each live show is a singular experience. This video shows the range of instruments he plays, but seems to miss out the looping machine on the floor - that's how he layers his music live. Note how he plays one bit, then loops it over and over while he plays the next instrument. I prefer the recorded version to this particular version - he's done too many vocal acrobatics in this and altered the melody beyond recognition - but it's still good stuff.

A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left, @ Bonnaroo 2006

But hark! I'm not completely in the dark about contemporary music. In fact, I end up listening to mainstream pop and rap far more than I would like to...

See, I catch up on the latest music by listening to what the beer pong players outside my room are blasting from their speakers three nights a week. No, I'm not kidding. While I hole up in my room trying to study, I have to bear with their music, so I mentally approve or disapprove of the songs they play.

K'naan? Ah, good taste.

Miley Cyrus, oh no, here we go AGAIN. When ARE they going to stop playing Party in the USA?

Basshunter...I wish my door was soundproof. Catchy, yes, but not the kind of thing you want in your head when you're doing organic chemistry.

So although I may whine and complain about having to push through half-sober people to get back to the comfort of my room, I probably owe them a lot in the way of entertainment.

Even if some days I wish they would just play Nina Simone's rendition of Pirate Jenny, which deserves to be listened to in its entirety in an absolutely quiet room with the volume turned up. When she sings '...noon by the clock/ and so still by the dock/ you can hear a foghorn miles away/ and in the quiet of death i'll say: right now. ... right now ... then they pile up the bodies...' I get chills.

Or maybe, for geek cred points, the credits song from Portal, 'Still Alive'. In terms of lyrics, you would be hard pressed to find something elsewhere like:

Look at me still talking
when there's Science to do.
When I look out there, it makes me GLaD I'm not you.
I've experiments to run.
There is research to be done.
On the people who are still alive.
And believe me I am still alive.
I'm doing Science and I'm still alive.
I feel FANTASTIC and I'm still alive.

It's also annoyingly catchy.

Charis Loke is a rising sophomore at Brown, concentrating in Biochemistry. Her interests include art and illustration, Tolkien, and procrastination.

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