Monthly Archives: January 2011

Public Space

I don’t look at them until they turn on the music. It’s a phone on speakers so the sound has a sharp unpleasant edge to it. Otherwise, I might have enjoyed the beat. The words might even have been poetic from what I glean from the occasional set that I hear.

They look like teenagers. Two girls, two boys. We are all passengers on BART. I am two seats away from them, facing them diagonally.

Earlier I had overheard their conversation. They were saying the words of a song, a rap.  I heard a few words here and there and tried to hear more. But couldn’t tease out the poem. So, I was lost in my own thoughts when I was forced out of my quiet escape by the phone speaker.

I look at them to let them know that I am unpleased with this invasion of my personal space. My quiet request is ignored. The music continues. I decide to adjust to the situation and try to listen. The rudeness of the situation is more overpowering than any musical or poetic words and I can only relax once the song is over and the kid turns off the speaker.

This is akin to the occasional car that passes me on the roads in San Francisco with music blaring loud enough to make me wonder if the driver has hearing problems. I feel as if sound pollution is slowly encroaching my personal space and I’m powerless to do anything about it. I wish I could tell these people that listening to music should be my choice and not one made for me.

I feel the same about the pervasive music in coffee houses. I go there for quiet, to work, to read. I wish they wouldn’t feel the need to add their own entertainment. But, at least, in those cases the option of listening is mine.

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Posted by on January 14, 2011 in sound


Too much music?

I’m reading This is Your Brain on Music but the technical explanations of octaves and scales are eliciting a mental yawn. I don’t want to give up so I continue reading but I know that I’m not learning very much. I want to get to the good stuff, the physiological effects of music. That’s the reason I bought the book.

I’m at Borderlands. There’s no music. Just a soothing hum of conversations. Ironically, I’m noticing the absence of music and the calm that it produces.

Is music being used too much in our society?

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Posted by on January 9, 2011 in sound


What is music?

I do a few google searches with the keyword ‘music’. The results are mostly about musicians and their songs. I don’t find much on the instrumental aspects.

What is music? It seems that many people emphasize the songs or the musician rather than the sounds of the instruments. The only indicator of the type of instruments used is gleaned by the categories which are assigned to the song: jazz, rock, bhangra, country, Arabic, classical, rap, r&b, Indian, hip hop, reggae, electronic, a Capella, Chinese.

I look up the definition in Merriam-Webster and the primary definition “tones or sounds in succession, in combination, and in temporal relationships to produce a composition having unity and continuity” seems fairly broad and beyond just musicians and their songs. I like the concept of “tones and sounds” and that’s what I’ll explore in this blog.

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Posted by on January 8, 2011 in sound


Faucet Dripping

I was watching a French film today and noticed the absence of music. Moods were indicated by sounds of a door closing or a key rattling or a faucet dripping. There was none of that overpowering Hollywood or Bollywood music that tells the audience what to feel.

In the case of the French film, it was the absence of music that gave the movie its emotional power.

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Posted by on January 3, 2011 in film, sound


Poetry, Story, & Music

As a teenager, I was drawn to the Talking Heads and The Cold (a local punk rock band in New Orleans).

I enjoyed the poetic vibrancy of Talking Heads lyrics:

They pick the sound and let it drop
Nobody know what they’re talking about…

Their unpredictable and unique beats elicited unique movements of the body. I felt free and happy letting my body interpret the music without any feedback from my mind…

The Cold told stories with their songs:

So now you’re starring in a show
You’re up there on the stage
I’m down here in the crowd.
You make your entrance and the dialogue begins
But all I hear are your words…

And the fast pace of the music was a perfect match for the teenager energy that my friends and I brought to the small nightclubs where the band played. We’d sing the songs along with the band and dance and jump and shake our heads vigorously as our hair cascaded back and forth and side to side.

Ahhh… to feel music, to feel it in our bones… it was the best therapy for our raging hormones…

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Posted by on January 2, 2011 in dance, poetry


If music be…

If music be the food of love, play on;
Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.

—from “The Twelfth Night” by William Shakespeare

When I first came across these words, reading Shakespeare was required torture as part of my High School English class. But these words stuck and I memorized them. Later on, these lines often resonated with my feelings about music and love. They brought Shakespeare back into my life but with a open interest.

Today, as I think about my new year’s resolution to explore my relationship with music, I’m reminded again of the emotions in Shakespeare’s poetry.

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Posted by on January 1, 2011 in poetry


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