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Glyph

Glyph is worse than some and better than others. He believes that life is just one damned thing after another, that only pop music can save us now, and that mercy is the mark of a great man (but he's just all right). Nothing he writes here should be taken as an indication that he knows anything about anything.

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43 Responses

  1. Avatar LeeEsq
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    says:

    I used to really hate disco. Then I learned how to dance the hustle and it became a lot more enjoyable. Disco only sees cheesy if you don’t like to dance. If you love the ecstasy of dance, especially if you can hustle rather than gyrate rhythmically, disco isn’t cheesy at all.Report

  2. Avatar LeeEsq
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    says:

    I’d also like to argue that when people describe music as upbeat or melancholy, very little attention is paid to the lyrics usually. If people paid more attention to the lyrics than many songs would change their meanings.Report

    • Avatar Glyph in reply to LeeEsq
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      says:

      Well, that’s sort of what I am getting at. I will listen to upbeat music, if it’s shot through with some lyrical melancholy, all day – in fact, I usually do.

      And melancholy music with melancholy lyrics is also fine (though take too much and you can’t get out of bed).

      But upbeat music, with positive lyrics (that is, most disco or house)? I tend to recoil instinctively. It makes me suspicious.

      But there’s no real reason why this should be so. It’s no less valid an expression of human emotion and experience than any other.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Glyph
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        says:

        The Chinese draw no distinction between food and medicine. Music seems to conform to the same paradigm: we react to it accordingly.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Glyph
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        says:

        Not sure I follow your meaning….If I were to run with a food metaphor, I would say that too much upbeat/positive in music, is like pure sugar.

        Sweetness alone rarely satisfies me the way that mixing ‘sweetness’ with ‘salty’ or ‘savory’ or ‘sour’ can. I’m a guy who doesn’t like to eat much sweets, but will eat a whole big bag of chips if you don’t take it away from me.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Glyph
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        says:

        How much do you value the idea of authenticity in music? I think that many people, and you aren’t alone in this, have a recoild from upbeat music with positive lyrics because they view it as more commerical and less artistically valid than music with melancholy lyrics. Misery appears more authentic to people because they assume the inner soul of the musician is being expressed. With positive lyrics, this assumption is much less so.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Glyph
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        says:

        I don’t *think* I view it as “inauthentic”, per se. It’s more …Happy songs are all alike. Every unhappy song is unhappy in its own way.

        When your friend has just fallen in love, and everything’s butterflies and roses, aren’t you just like “hey, I’m happy for you and everything, but SHUT UP ALREADY.” Relentless positivity is at least as wearying as relentless negativity, which is why the platonically ideal pop song has upbeat music and downbeat lyrics, increasing replayability and versatility.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Glyph
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        says:

        @glyph : that’s exactly what I’m going on about. I once had the horrible experience of a long drive in the company of a bag of Twizzlers. I can no longer even look at a Twizzler. I can’t listen to most prog rock for the same reason. Still like the idea of complex time signatures, some of the bands I like might be called prog but I hate the word, just hatehatehate prog. I can play scales faster’n you. Ugh.

        JustMe laughs at me as I deconstruct music. Oh, that’s a great chord change, B flat, F, B flat with F, C with F, awrngh.. so fine. So I’m telling her how eight notes make a scale, how 1, 3 and 5 make a major chord, 7 forms a seventh chord, 9, 11, 13 “all the odd numbers are interesting. The even numbers are for passing notes.”

        Making music without an understanding of scales and modes and harmony is like making bread without salt. You know something’s missing when you eat it, you’re not sure what’s missing — it’s just horrible.

        Authenticity in music. I once though I was headed for a career as a commercial artist. Had a long discussion with my art teacher. She said art was rather like archery. If you’re aiming for the broad side of a barn, you’ll usually hit it. But good archers aim for distant targets. They don’t always hit them. Takes years of practice, a fundamental understanding of your tools and talents to think about the target and not your archery rig.

        Authenticity arises from an artist — of any sort — shooting at a distant target and hitting it. We all recognise a good shot when we see it – or hear it. Hard to explain how we come to this conclusion but an artist is not his material. He takes what’s true about himself and creates something true from it.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Glyph
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        says:

        The even numbers are for passing notes.

        “Clara likes Johannes!”Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Glyph
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        says:

        Erm, yes. Only it’s Seven likes Five.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Glyph
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        says:

        the platonically ideal pop song has upbeat music and downbeat lyrics

        Oh, death, and grief, and sorrow, and murder.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Glyph
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        says:

        And slavery to tonic chords.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Glyph
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        says:

        “Making music without an understanding of scales and modes and harmony is like making bread without salt. You know something’s missing when you eat it, you’re not sure what’s missing — it’s just horrible.”

        What, you don’t like Italian bread? Or Pain Perdu?
        Plenty of people understand music without using scales and modes and all of that.
        Some of them even make fine, award winning music.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Glyph
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        says:

        We may always rely upon you, Kim, to say something of this sort. Where do you find the creative energy to summon up such obstrepeous lunacy at such short notice? People win awards for all sorts of dumb shit. Lord Gawd, if there was an award for Obtuseness, you’d get it by universal acclamation.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Glyph
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        says:

        O woe, woe,
        People are born and die,
        We also shall be dead pretty soon
        Therefore let us act as if we were
        dead already.

        The bird sits on the hawthorn tree
        But he dies also, presently.
        Some lads get hung, and some get shot.
        Woeful is this human lot.
        Woe! woe, etcetera . . . .

        London is a woeful place,
        Shropshire is much pleasanter.
        Then let us smile a little space
        Upon fond nature’s morbid grace.
        Oh, Woe, woe, woe, etcetera . . . .Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Glyph
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        says:

        And an almost fanatical devotion to the pope? Wait, no, not that.

        OK, so some speculation on why these three particular examples slip past my defenses. Let’s look for darkness, though I saw none at first glance. People who actually know stuff about music can correct me.

        “Happy House” – that piano riff is built around the black keys, which in my limited understanding are the semitones (1/2 up or down, sharps or flats) – thus, it sounds just slightly “off” /”incomplete” / “sour” to an ear accustomed to Western scales. Also, her vocal drops down to a lower register on the word “excellent”, rather than rising to it; placing a “fall” where we might expect a “lift” suggests its emotional equivalent. Plus, that is some uber-DFA rhythm production right there – the drums, hi-hat, and cowbells are all arranged and recorded so they snap like hell.

        “Beautiful Life” – here it’s maybe the droning vocal that, despite the lyrics, is slightly melancholy – she sounds like a narcotized robot, a little bit.

        “Warm In The Winter” – I got nothin’. There is nothing about this song that sounds melancholy to me, except the way that it somehow suggests ephemerality…I kinda want to live in the song forever, and know that I can’t.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Glyph
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        says:

        Until a chamber music concert I went to last week, I never realized what a barrel of laughs John Dowland was.

        In darkness let me dwell; the ground shall sorrow be,
        The roof despair, to bar all cheerful light from me;
        The walls of marble black, that moist’ned still shall weep;
        My music, hellish jarring sounds, to banish friendly sleep.
        Thus, wedded to my woes, and bedded in my tomb,
        O let me living die, till death doth come, till death doth come.
        Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Glyph
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        says:

        @blaisep says:

        Authenticity arises from an artist — of any sort — shooting at a distant target and hitting it. We all recognise a good shot when we see it – or hear it. Hard to explain how we come to this conclusion but an artist is not his material. He takes what’s true about himself and creates something true from it.

        Nice. I thinking of the word ‘authentic,’ which often gets garbled into some sort of nostalgia instead of meaning ‘real.’ But you get to the nub of what, to me, seems essential in art: He takes what’s true about himself and creates something true from it.

        I’m not sure the second ‘true’ is necessary; I’d perhaps replace it with something that conveys something meaningful to others; which brings the second point here: is it art if nobody else ever experiences it? I’ve spent years listening to amazing musicians improvise together; and without that extra something — the listener responding to the improv — there’s something missing. Improvised jazz gets there, at least part way, without the audience because the musicians are listening to each other, and listening carefully. But that feedback loop of appreciation seems an essential part of the equation.

        Sometimes, blog postings, etc. like this are that link. But I’m growing to think that authentic art is, at it’s heart, a community thing; call and response, I think. The novel that never gets read conveys no meaning, no matter how beautifully crafted.

        Of course, all this begs the question of copy-cat pop art that isn’t authentic, intending only to capitalize on somebody else’s winning formula. But I think that’s more trend and fad and fashion; and may or may not be art in its own right; and a part of the community reinforcing the call and response of the authentic artwork.

        Perhaps the most important part of your observation goes to the effort. Making art takes great effort, as you say, Takes years of practice, a fundamental understanding of your tools and talents to think about the target and not your archery rig.

        The community rarely sees that effort, they have this vision of the artist floating in the creative mode, and miss the focus mode. Yet they’re both necessary, and the focus probably matters a lot more than the spark of inspiration. For without focus, inspiration rarely gets implemented.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Glyph
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        says:

        It’s like to be cool, artists have to hide the work and ride the inspiration, @glyph; and that’s all he’s doing,
        She comes to me with the gift of song and in return I treat her with the respect I feel she deserves — in this case this means not subjecting her to the indignities of judgement and competition. My muse is not a horse and I am in no horse race and if indeed she was, still I would not harness her to this tumbrel — this bloody cart of severed heads and glittering prizes. My muse may spook! May bolt! May abandon me completely!

        I admire the this-isn’t-competition thing greatly, but that muse don’t spook if you’re paying your dues. And those payments are sweat and toil.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Glyph
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        says:

        Sweat and toil, speaking as a keyboard player, resolve to getting through the Chopin etudes. Thereafter, I don’t buy into the sweat and toil. If you’re going to get better after Chopin and Lizst, you need something else. Mania, probably. Love is a species of mania, I think.

        Robert Frost:

        Escapist – Never

        He is no fugitive — escaped, escaping,
        No one has seen him stumble looking back,
        His fear is not behind him but beside him
        On either hand to make his course perhaps
        A crooked straightness yet no less a straightness.
        He runs face forward. He is a pursuer,
        He seeks a seeker who in his turn seeks
        Another still, lost far into the distance.
        Any who seek him seek in him the seeker.
        His life is a pursuit of a pursuit forever.
        It is the future that creates his present.
        He is an interminable chain of longing.
        Report

  3. Avatar NewDealer
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    says:

    I’m with you on how disco/dance music often sounds cheesy to me. Part of this is because I don’t really like clubbing that much and not my idea of a good time. I like low-key and non-divey places. Music is good but not at volumes where it is possible to have a conversation. Plus I am one of those people who places a good deal of stock in the ability of performers to write their own lyrics and music. It does not have to be all but it should at least be a sizable minority of their song-book.

    This is my kind of place:

    http://20spot.com/

    They played music but it wasn’t so loud as to make having a conversation impossible. Plus it is small and intimate rather than cavernous. It is neither dingy or futuristic looking but still modern.

    A few years ago I remember this was a hotly debated part of the culture wars. This aspect of the culture wars follows Issawi’s law: “In any dispute the intensity of feeling is inversely proportional to the value of the issues at stake.” Judy Rosen is big on attacking the idea of it being important that artists write some to all of their own material.Report

  4. Avatar Kim
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    says:

    got post stuck in mod. plz fix.Report

  5. Avatar NewDealer
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    says:

    How many bands do you know? Numbers. I’m imaging something north of 1000.Report

    • Avatar Glyph in reply to NewDealer
      Ignored
      says:

      Well, this is an imperfect estimate, because I have lots of vinyl and CDs (and tapes) that have not made it into my computer yet – plus there are bands that I have seen live, or heard, but do not own any music by (or have sold or lost the records)- and almost certainly, a few of these are likely duplicates, due to typos or whatever (say, “The Pixies” vs. “Pixies” or something), and I guarantee that there is some stuff on here that I haven’t really listened to in-depth (to buy my hard drive and also to clear some space in my house, I ripped and then sold a bunch of CDs, starting with the ones I liked less, and the ones I hadn’t listened to much, on the theory that those were the ones I would miss far less in the event of their loss) –

      – but my Music folder shows 1,716 “Artist” folders (of which, some might only have one song).Report

      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Glyph
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        says:

        BTW, I went to see Stars last night at a smallish venue*. There is a good local band playing as the opening act. I don’t know how long they have been around for but they seem pretty new. It will be cool if local band made it big. Then I can tell people: I knew them from before they were huge….

        *This was both cool and surprising. Cool because it was on the low-end price wise and I got to be really close without paying mega-bucks (yea general admission!) Surprising because I thought Stars was pretty big as indie-rock bands go and I have seen them in bigger venues with packed housing like Town Hall in New York and the Fillmore in SF.Report

      • Avatar krogerfoot in reply to Glyph
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        says:

        It will be cool if local band made it big.

        ND, I’m a bit late here, but to that end, mentioning their name is a small good thing you could do here.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Glyph
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        says:

        Of course it can! Silly me:

        Trails and Ways:

        Report

      • Avatar krogerfoot in reply to Glyph
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        says:

        Thank you. Somewhere in indie rock heaven, an angel just got an ironic goatee.Report

  6. Avatar Russell Saunders
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    says:

    Filter’s “Take a Picture” came on the radio this morning. (I do not know if the general consensus on that song is “cool” or “lame,” but I will go on record as really liking.) I thought of this post.

    That is all.Report

    • Avatar Glyph in reply to Russell Saunders
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      says:

      I somehow never heard that song. I only knew that “Hey Man, Nice Shot” song.

      This is pretty different.

      Not my thing, but no one here (well, not me) will judge you for “lame”.

      I’ve gotten guff for defending “The Flame” by Cheap Trick, and even a few of the later Goo Goo Dolls singles, on grounds of good melodies and vocalists.

      The people I DON’T get, are the ones that just don’t care about music at all.

      I have no beef with someone who loves the worst (to me) music in the world – I still imagine that I understand what they are feeling, as they belt out their Fergie in the car or whatever. I like people who like stuff. If a melody and a beat and a singer do it for you, they do it.

      But every once in a while you meet someone who just doesn’t listen to music at all, or seems to like everything they encounter equally.

      That always seems…strange to me.Report

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