Wonder-Working Power

Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose or paint can manage to escape the madness, melancholia, the panic and fear which is inherent in a human situation. – Graham Greene
“MAGNETS! How do they work?!”, or so goes the notorious Insane Clown Posse track, Miracles. Insane Clown Posse was required listening among the cool kids in ’95, when I was in seventh grade (“Sevvies Suck!). It was Michigan, and The I.P.C. was still a budding regional act, with all of the punk rock accouterments found attractive to middle schoolers. Confrontational and striking visual image, antagonistic to parents, anti-establishment (other than a Faygo pop endorsement, so not anti-corporation, I guess?) chased with edgy, albeit–dumb, lyrics. I was certainly not cool, and I was not into IPC. But these same kids got me into The Wu-Tang Clan in high school, and for that, I am definitely grateful.
So I.P.C. released a song a couple years back lauding the wonder of this cosmos we find ourselves in, but not understanding that the scientific method has let us understand a little bit of the world around us. Hence, magnetism. Genetics. Rainbows. SNL parodied IPC’s video, but do we even need a parody?
So seventh grade science class. Biology, methinks? Formaldehyde, Drakkar Noir and bad decisions. My teacher was Mr. Sommers, in retrospect a marvelous, caring, and patient teacher. It was also light years before bald men hadn’t yet realized they should buzz all that mess still left over their ears. We were hellions hopped up on pop tarts and sex hormones, pounding our chests like silverbacks. And and the girls were no better, paper wasps, applying bricked layers of lip gloss on their bottom lip. It was Monday: dissection day. (Sorry PETA! Stop reading here! It gets worse! Rated “R” for “Reprehensible”!) We had been given frogs in teams of four, and were given scalpels, tweezers and these scissors that had vicious looking pointy ends. That day ended with me decapitating the frog and putting the severed head on my scissors so I could manually open and close it’s mouth by maneuvering the scissors. I used the sad animal as rude totem of my nascent sexuality, attempting to flirt(?) with the girl behind me, cackling and forcing her to look at the sad amphibian in its dead, dead, eyes.

“Hey ladies.”

I was watching a vid on music compositional techniques on The YouTube and made the mistake of scrolling down to the comments. Sigh. I just really can’t seem to help myself. Someone wrote “You cannot analyze creativity”. The “Magical Mysteries” song popped into my head. The writer’s tone was simultaneously insolent and wizened, doting sage words as some sort of svengali troller, it surprised me that it was one of the most upvoted comments. I resisted the urge to comment back, but the thought has plagued me for weeks. You can analyze and didactically communicate creativity. It’s what I do for a full-time job. Indeed, there has been hundreds of years of musicology, and we do know how and why music works. From the interaction between psychoacoustics and brain chemistry. One of my favorite artists and arrangers, Owen Pallett has written some enjoyable deconstructions of recent pop hits over at Slate.
Learning music theory, or art history, or neurobiology doesn’t suck out the magic out. but you do tend to have to kill the frog in order to dissect it.
Watching: The Americans, S2
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Jesus, Etc.

Advent Calendar?

Unreliable Narrator, the new record, is on the iTunes store, Spotify, Rdio and all streaming services, so pick your poison, but make sure it’ll kill you! I mean make sure you enjoy and get bummed out by the new record! Also, you may have noticed the site’s new look! Hope ya dig. Next in the hopper, I’m re-doing the SOUNDS page to include lyrics and maybe some other assorted goodies, but seriously, if there is something you’d like to see, drop me a line.
Xmas is coming up soon, right? Keeping crazy grading term papers and songs, filling out shopping lists, Advent is already here in full swing, and I’ve been going through my Spotify Xmas playlist. If you want a serene vibe (as I much of the time do), you could do a lot worse than Mark Kozelek’s (Sun Kil Moon, Red House Painters, etc.) new one, Sings Christmas Carols. The Band has a great standalone song off ’77’s Islands. (ht DZ) Firstly, it’s an interesting choice to include a Christmas song on a “regular” album, however sublime it may be. Especially in the middle of the record? I guess it would close the first side of the record, but jeez. However it has synth quirkiness, and I’m crazy about dead, dead, drums like Helm’s sound on this track. Hungry to try something similar on upcoming projects. Even though I just put out music last week, my mind is only forward thinking, I’m a cerebral shark; if I stop moving, I die.
Almost done reading S. King’s On Writing, I’ll have some assorted thoughts on that next time, but for today I’ll leave a quote that has been burrowing in my mind:
“Life isn’t a support-system for art. It’s the other way around.” — S. King, “On Writing”.
Art is the reflection, the mirror of the world. It let’s us see ourselves, and our world, but it is no substitute for the world, relationships. C.S. Lewis expands on this in The Great DivorceA painter goes to the afterlife and exclaims his excitement about getting Heaven down on canvas. He is told that he’s got it backwards—he’s looking at what the painting is supposed to represent, the hidden paradise, the light peeking through the tear in the lampshade. He goes away, sorrowful. We hear a guide say:
“Every poet and musician and artist, but for Grace, is drawn away from the love of the thing he tells, to the love of the telling till, down in Deep Hell, they cannot be interested in God at all but only in what they say about Him”
For the love of God, the Cosmic King had himself born in a dog bowl.
Merry Xmas.
Listening: Serial Podcast. For real, amirite?
Watching: The One I Love, Netflix
Reading: Stephen King, On Writing
Playing: DragonAge II for Xbox 360