Month: September 2016

Musical Awakening Reflection

I do not know how I wake up. I almost never do know. What is the precise noise, smell, temperature change that prods a body into consciousness? Something at 8:30 AM – a stray sliver of light from the blinds, a soft shuffle of feet, or the neighbors’ Russian talk show wafting through the walls- prodded my body into consciousness. Often times, I am conscious at 11AM, and by 1AM I have mustered up the willpower to bid farewell to my warm cocoon of an abode.

Pushing my back away from the mattress, I teetered on my twiggy arms: panic. What the hell am I going to do with myself today? Mechanically I walked to my desk, pulled out a square of yellow paper. I guess what the hell I was going to do was make an origami moth.

Moth completed, I fluttered to the mirror. I was pleasantly surprised. Feel good, look good. Right? Well apparently it doesn’t quite work the other way around- feel bad, look bad- because, I still looked good. 

Idleness is so tedious.  

Naturally, I feel the urge to turn to art for a sense of comfort, of guidance. Not visual art this time.
the-vaccMy newfound music craze sprouted from my binge watching “New Girl.” I reached the closing scene of an episode that features Jess and Nick driving away into the moonlight to the song  “I Always Knew” by the Vaccines.

That was all it took. Before I knew it, I listened to all of the Vaccines’s albums on the Spotify premium account that my best friend lets me mooch from him (thanks Jack). The Vaccines can help cure me (heh. Witty, I know). But in all seriousness, I have found my band. Or, I guess that it kind of found me.

Considering that I haven’t had a favorite band since the Jonas Brothers, this is a pretty thrilling discovery. Actively listening to music is just not something I normally did before. Sure I had a melange of songs, but they ranged from German rap to Italian opera. Obviously, there was no consistency or coherent music genre. Yeah, that did made it pretty awkward when someone tried to get the conversation going.

Them: So, what’s your favorite musician/band/song/genre?

Me: Shifts nervously on feet. Dramatically sucks in my breath, you know, like how people do when they are about to deliver bad news. Aha.. well, I don’t really listen to music.

Them: Sharp gasp. Wait, what?

Me: Heat crawls to ear tips. Yeah..uh haha.. I mean I just don’t actively listen to music but it’s not like I hate it or anything. I mean I still listen to what’s on the radio and stuff.

Them: Pulls a closeby friend into the conversation. Hey dude, get this. She said she doesn’t listen to music.

Dude: Makes large bug eyes and snickers. What? Are you serious!

the-vacc1In all honesty, I did not understand why music was central to a lot of my friends’ lives. “It speaks to me” pffft, stoner blabber. Headphones equated to antisocial. Hardcore fans were sort of weirdos. I used to scoff at my younger sister’s trash indie music because all the songs sound the same. Now, that isn’t outrageously untrue, but once I researched lyrics and did nothing but listen to the music- and I mean really do nothing, just sit and breathe and listen- it made sense. Listening to music from the same genre is a special experience. The songs tend to produce similar chords and vocals, which in turn elicit similar and nuanced emotions from within myself.

Discovering music is not only the external experience of finding combinations of notes, words, and instruments that appeal to your personal tastes, but, on a deeper level, a force that encourages introspection, curious questioning, and self discovery. Why do I like this sound? What makes me feel emotional about these words? How does this relate to my life, right now? 

As I continue to delve into this musical awakening and explore The Vaccines among similar artists, I’m comfortably settling into a consistent taste. Who in the heck would have guessed that my favorite genre is indie rock? Not me. And, more specifically, english indie rock.

Although I am in a deep honeymoon phase of marveling over the newfound genre, I appreciate other artists completely foreign to me.

coffee-and-ciggs

Coffee and Cigarettes (2013), a film by Jim Jarmusch, introduced me to Iggy. No, not Azalea. Composed of a series of short skits, the film features individuals sharing a moment, a conversation over, well, coffee and cigarettes! During one of these skits, Iggy Pop and Tom Waits meet up in a musty looking diner. Iggy Pop has most melancholy and sincere gaze I have ever witnessed, and his face is really comforting to me for a particular reason that I am unable to pinpoint. Awkward and uncomfortable, the exchange caused me second hand embarrassment just from watching the two men interact. But I loved it, in a way, the raw flow of events.

Iggy Pop is captivating, so I explored his music which caused me initial disappointment. This voice lacks the soft and sympathetic tone from the movie. I searched through the Post Pop Depression album and nearly got depression myself (alright, not a very original play on words, I’ll admit). Ready to give up, I absent mindedly clicked on the last song left- “Chocolate Drops.” Eureka! Soft voice! The lyrics! It is perfect.

Thanks to Chocolate Drops, with revived energy I scrolled and clicked on the album Aps. Instantly I was hooked. Iggy Pop sings retakes of songs in French- La Vie en Rose, La Javanaise- with his endearingly unapologetic American accent.

It only felt it fair to give Tom Waits a chance, too, although he did not intrigue me as much. His distinctive raspy voice and daring themes failed to reach me. Only one tugged at my heart strings: “If I Have To Go.” Here, there is no raspy voice, no theatrics.

demarcoThen I rediscovered Mac Demarco. I mistook that gap toothed smile and head of scraggly golden locks as an indication of his music having abstract lyrics infused with many references that would fly over my head. But you can’t judge an album by its cover. He sings clearly, and enunciates his words, words that make sense- Let Her Go, Let My Baby Stay, No Other Heart, Without Me.

There are sprinkles of other small treasures I unearthed. “Toothpaste Kisses” by the Maccabees, “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” by Tame Impala, “Lead Existence” by King Krule, “Warned You” by Good Morning, “A Lack of Understanding” by the Vaccines, “Parking Lots” by Plums, “Looking out for You” by Joy Again, “Processional” by Weedeaters, “Ivy” by Frank Ocean, “If You Wanna” by The Vaccines, “Hold Up” by Beyoncé.  

High top black converse paired with rolled up jeans and a leather jacket, I ride the bus feeling like a badass. King Krule’s “Baby Blue” crackles at my eardrums. I’ve really been missing out.

Infinity remains to learn about this music world. I want to behave like a sponge to soak it all in; but a productive sponge who labors at building up a steady knowledge of music. Like Spongebob-Squarepants-at-The-Krusty-Krab productive.

From discovering english indie rock to my desire of becoming Spongebob, it is obvious that listening to music is taking me on a journey that I am, for once, perfectly content with having zero control over.

Shower me with any recommendations that come to mind, I would be thrilled to give them a listen.   

Header image: Mac Demarco

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Poteau Patriotique

Get out of the house and have an experience! -she said. It’ll be fun! -she said.

The “she” is my aunt and the “experience” was this public event in Fribourg, Switzerland that she had helped to organize with the APCd Foundation -a contemporary art gallery. I wasn’t sure I fully understood when she tried to explain to me what the event would be like.

“It’s the installation of a Poteau Patriotique (Patriotic Pole) on August 1st, Switzerland’s Independence Day. There are going to be a few speeches, and food.”

Still completely lost, I nodded my head and smiled, awaiting the next day with a mixture mild amusement and trepidation. What in the world is a Patriotic Pole? Who is giving the speeches? And more importantly, what type of food?

monney1My questions were all answered rather promptly when my mother, little sister, and I pulled into the parking lot across from where the event was to take place. We timidly parted the waters into the sea of unknown suits and flowing dresses with intricate designs. They all had clear plastic cups with glittery fizzing liquids; they all looked at us. Then I looked at us. My mom in a casual top with slacks and formal flats, my sister in a body hugging black dress with classy sandals, me in a t-shirt with jeans and flip flops. I catch sight of my aunt: thank god. She introduces us to her colleagues- Director of the gallery, handshake and smile. Exhibition manager, handshake and smile. Arts director, handshake and smile. Then she points out the creator of the Patriotic Pole, Alain Monney, also known in Switzerland for being a prominent comedian.

My sister and I casually float over to the appetizers. We take turns tasting the different macaron flavors. I try a tuna tomato bite sized tart. Then another, and another. By the time I’ve popped the fifth in my mouth, the crowd hushes. I stop chewing.  

A bald man holds a microphone while the crowd molds a crescent shape in front of him. After clearing his throat and uttering words of introduction, he takes out a scrap of paper from his coat pocket and uncrumples it- the paper is shaking. I watch his moist red face move for a few minutes. He announces he is nervous, as he is in the company of such prominent comedians and skilled speech-givers. I guess he was a comedian. I didn’t laugh.

He hands the microphone to a young woman with a prim pixie cut and small lace bows on her baby blue ballet flats. She is lively and intelligent; as she speaks she motions to the Patriotic Pole. Upon first sight, the Pole looks like a clumsy jigsaw puzzle of sporadically arranged pieces.

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But, as Prim Pixie explains, there is far more thought behind the piece than meets the eye. Monney chose the names of specific villages and cities in Switzerland and arranged them on the pole so that when read phonetically in order, the words on the pole sound like the first words of the Swiss National Anthem. Additionally, each label for the town points accurately towards its direction from the site of the pole.

Pixie hands the mic to Daniel Rausis, a well known Swiss comedian. He moves his hands and fingers in a way that tells you that he sat alone at the lunch tables in high school.

Then, things get weird.

img_2594All of a sudden, a priest emerges from the crowd, Rausis hands him a clear cup with water in it and a small twig of rosemary. The priest approaches the pole, dips the rosemary in the water, and twitches the twig towards the pole, sprinkling it with water.

Did a priest just bless that Patriotic Pole? I have to make a blog post about this.

When the priest retreats, Monney takes the spotlight and leads the crowd in singing the Swiss National Anthem around the pole. My sister and I blunder with the lyrics, mostly moving our mouths to blend in.

At last, the ceremony ends. I had endured a peculiar journey from banana flavored macaroons to nervous comedians to a priest blessing a pole to pretending I could sing the Swiss National Anthem.

If you read my previous post, you know I have had issues in the past with accepting contemporary art.

We are in for Round 2: Coming to terms with the fact that a street pole is art.

I cannot unlearn what Pixie explained. When I drive by next summer and catch sight of the jigsaw puzzle, I will flash back to the macaroons, the bald red man, the blessed rosemary, and mouthing words to the Swiss Anthem. I now associate the pole with my oddly entertaining experience. I also understand the logic behind Monney’s choice of towns and their position on the pole, as well as his choice to mount the pole on August 1st.

img_2595

However, had I not been present at this event, this pole would have meant nothing to me. No memories, no association, nothing.

How then, can others who did not attend the event or create memories with the piece, consider the pole a work or art? Perhaps, Swiss people can feel a sense of general bonding, familiarity, belonging to their country, as the pole features towns from all the cantons.

But what about for total strangers? They have no bonds to the pole itself, and no bonds to the country it wishes to praise.

Because this pole caters to only a small audience who can truly connect to it, is it even art at all? Is all art universal? In this case, the pole is a piece that is not universal. Is it still art?

As usual, I end my post with more questions than I began with. I would love to hear your opinion in the comments.