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.
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.
Listening: Doing It Right – Daft Punk ft. Noah Lennox
Watching: The Americans, S2
Reading: The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Vol. 1: 1929-1964
ed. Silverberg, Robert
ed. Silverberg, Robert