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Monthly Archives: January 2011

Why can’t I be you…


“Why can’t I be you…” moans a familiar voice through the speakers… I recognize the lyrics, the notes, the tones… It’s from an album I bought in the late 80’s or maybe the early 90s.

“Is it The Cure” I ask the store clerk, a 20-something who responds with a big grin “Yes, I love them!!”

The song reminds me of my own youth. I lived in a house with three roommates, and all of us had met because of music. We had bonded on the basis of knowing the lyrics of songs like “Lips like Sugar” (Echo and the Bunnymen), “Your own personal Jesus” (Depeche Mode), “I Know It’s over” (The Smiths), and “Boys don’t Cry” (The Cure). One of our roommates, Bill, was a singer/songwriter in a band. When he told us the title of his new song “Diet Christ”, he didn’t need to explain to any of us what it was about.

I recall my rebellion against the cliched emotions of pop songs and my attraction to the poetry in the lyrics of alternative bands. I think of my friends who shared the existential angst that penetrated our souls and the upbeat irony in the music that moved our bodies.

Today, in a store on Valencia Street in San Francisco, music connects me to my youth in Boston…


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Posted by on January 30, 2011 in lyrics, poetry, sound

 

Song-A-Day


Jonathan Mann has been writing a song-a-day since January 2009.

He made a music video in which he tells iPhone 4G owners to return the phone instead of complaining about the poor ATT reception.  The video was picked up by Apple and shown as part of opening remarks by Steve Jobs. When he told us the story, Jonathan was still in shock at this unexpected publicity.

I heard him speak at iMacWorld 2011 today.

 
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Posted by on January 29, 2011 in song

 

Good Radiation


Surprised at the sound coming from the radio, I do a double take. Yes, my radio is tuned to 88.5, to KQED, which is the NPR station in San Francisco. I hear the name Terry Gross and know for sure that I am at the right station.

I smile and listen to the song and am very pleased by what I hear.

 
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Posted by on January 28, 2011 in lyrics, poetry, rap, song

 

Bollywood “Outsourced”


“Outsourced”, a prime-time NBC show set in an office in India, opens today with a song and dance sequence similar to those in Bollywood films. Normally there is no singing or dancing in this show. It’s a half-hour sitcom with a story which relies on the culture clash as a white American manager runs an American company with Indian employees.

The show airs on Thursday nights but I TiVo it and usually watch over the weekend. As I eat my cereal and watch the bright and shiny rainbow colored high energy movements of the dancers, I let the music wake me up with it’s bubbly enthusiasm.

The music doesn’t last long however because the manager wakes up the employee who is daydreaming about being a Bollywood star, and the real story of “Outsourced” starts to take shape. I am not disappointed. The song and dance it nice and refreshing change but I’ve tuned in for comedy.

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2011 in dance, song, television

 

LL Cool James


Last week, when I was in Washington D.C., I hadn’t expected to find LL Cool at the National Portrait Gallery. His portrait commanded the center wall in the room just like Obama’s famous campaign poster adorned the center of the previous room. The size of both portraits were about the same.

My knowledge of rap music is limited to Digital Underground from the 80s and a book that I bought recently on how to write a rap song after someone in my poetry workshop  brought a delightful rap about his cat.

I was clueless to the prominent position that rap has taken in the American cultural landscape and was taken by surprise to see LL Cool James, aka, Ladies Love Cool James in a room next to Obama.

The bio next to the painting said that his real name is James Todd Smith. No, it doesn’t quite have the resonance as LL Cool. This guy understands the power of words.

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2011 in rap, song

 

Musical Inspiration


Here come treble.

These words are printed in white letters on a black t-shirt. I am in the gift shop in The Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. There’s a green crystal guitar sculpture on a shelf next to the t-shirt. The flipper of a cooking handle is shaped like a violin. Piano keys inspired salt and pepper shakers, trays, and mugs abound.

I recall a paper weight I had bought for a friend many years ago. It’s a sculpture that looks like a crushed music sheet. She’s a musician so it seemed like an appropriate gift. I’ve also given her a rock band, i.e., frogs playing a variety of musical instruments.

At home I have a toy of a little Native American girl asleep on a large drum. I also have a very large real drum in the center of my living room which I use as a coffee table.

Music translates into visual inspiration. This time I don’t buy anything. It’s time to go beyond ‘collecting’ musical inspirations.

 
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Posted by on January 16, 2011 in art

 

Native Sounds


@the Native American museum in Washington D.C.

The sound of live music is unexpected. I’m at the Native American Museum in Washington D.C. My friend Eugene and I are drawn to the the rhythms beating on the hand held drum.

Only a few minutes ago, we were listening (and watching) similar music on a looping video in the museum. After a few minutes, Eugene had moved on to other displays but I was transfixed by the gorgeous sounds of the flutes and the drum rhythms, the mountainous backdrop of Peru,  the beautiful brown skinned men in multi-colored outfits and rainbow accessories.

Now, similar sounds are here, live, four floors below us, and I’m captivated.

Perhaps it’s a drum beat that reaches into ancient memories, essence of our human rhythm, on par with our instinctual lizard brain…a feeling resonating inside my neurons and my other cells and beyond the grasp of my words… isn’t that what all good music does?

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2011 in sound