Monday, October 27, 2014

On Musics, Ep. 1

I've found that a lot of what I seem to write about here on the blog is music. I mean, of the 23 posts that I've written in 2014 (counting this one), 6 of them (again, counting this one) are about music, or at least use music as a vehicle for making my point. 6 out of 23. That's like...a little more than 25%. (Be proud, I did that in my head.)  Sometimes I feel a little bad that I don't diversify my writings more than I do, but I've decided that rather than feel bad about it, I'm just going to embrace it and lean into it. So rather than push back the feeling that I shouldn't write about music, I'm going to make a conscious point of writing about it.

See, music is important to me. It stirs emotions and causes me to think about and view certain things certain ways. For this reason I try to be relatively selective about the kinds of music that I listen to. When I listen to a song I don't necessarily choose the emotions that song will evoke within me; however I can choose what songs I listen to and thus help to shape my own emotional states.

I realize that last paragraph makes it seem like I try to be all controlling about my emotions. I don't. In fact, rather than using music to affect and alter my mood, more often than not I seek out musics that reflect the emotions that are already present. In this way I think that music becomes a kind of catharsis for me as it seems to extract and distill my emotions into a form that is more readily experienced. I kinda like that.

So like I said, I think I'm gonna start a series of posts that I'll call "On Musics" in which I'll post a song (or two or three) and I'll kind of talk about why it (they) have been calling to me of late. I've even gone back and tagged all my past music post with the tag "On Musics."

Not this isn't to say that music is all I'll be writing about from here on out. I'll definitely still bring in the random musings of my life, but this is going to be a recurring thread that I'll revisit as it feels appropriate. Some days I may write a lot, getting deep and philosophical, and other days I may just post a song with a couple quick thoughts. Today it's going to be the latter.

And so, for today's inaugural "On Musics" post (although frankly it's not really inaugural because, like I said, I've written about music quite a bit before now, though not in any organized way), we have Dana Falconberry's song "Palmless."

I also rather like this live recording of it:

I woke up early this morning to finish some grading before class starts (at 8:30 in the am) and this song was in my head. It has proved to be just the perfect blend of melancholy and beautiful to capture the mood of grading papers in the dark and chilly morning hours of fall.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Autumnal Beauty

"Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower." - Albert Camus

Fall is solidly upon us. With the lovely crisp autumn weather comes an abundance of publicity for the rapidly changing colors of the leaves. No doubt you've seen that Camus quote on countless facebook posts and instagram photos in the last few days. If you haven't, you surely will.

I love autumn leaves as much as the next guy. In fact, I might go so far as to say that I enjoy them a lot more than a lot of the next guys. But at what expense do these leaves gain their notoriety? As we focus so intently on the leaves, do we not blind ourselves to other aspects of nature's beauty? Now I'm not saying this is necessarily a bad thing, it's just the way we humans work. When we focus on one thing we can't help but neglect another. Kenneth Burke would agree with me, and in fact in his book Permanence and Change he made a similar point when he asserted that “a way of seeing is also a way of not seeing – a focus upon object A involves a neglect of object B” (49). So maybe we can't help but ignore other beautiful things when all we seem to see are the changing leaves.

Now don't get me wrong here, let me repeat that I love the autumn leaves. They're beautiful. They bring joy to the soul and peace to heart. They're the flag bearers of nature's final celebration before the world shuts it down for a few months. (Curse you Persephone and your weakness for pomegranate.) In fact, two of my favorite songs (maybe in the top 150 or so...maybe) bear the title, "Autumn Leaves."

First off, the inimitable Eva Cassidy:

Secondly, Cannonball Adderly feat. Miles Davis, Art Blakey, Hank Jones and Sam Jones:

Again, I want to make sure that it's absolutely clear that I don't hate the changing leaves. My feelings are so different. In fact, they are quite the opposite.

But like I started off saying before I was interrupted by the perceived need to establish and reaffirm my affinity for the leaves, our rampant love affair with the changing leaves comes at a price. Namely, we don't recognize the beauty of the flowers of fall.

Now I hear your complaints and acknowledge their validity. Yes, it's true, flowers do get all the glory and publicity in the spring and summer. And maybe you're right, maybe it would be only fair to let the leaves have the fall and leave it at that. But I don't like that. I don't like putting a limit on the amount or provenance of the beauty we can enjoy. I say that we should be willing to open our eyes to any and all beauty as it presents itself too us, from whatever source, and that we should do so year round. Not only should we recognize flowers in the fall, but we should recognize and celebrate the beauty of the leaves during spring and summer (heaven knows their ever-present greenness is a welcome relief after living the winter months among nothing but literal shades of grey).

These thoughts began swirling around my head on Sunday night as I was out for my evening constitutional making my way down this lovely path...

...that runs parallel to the railroad tracks near my apartment. As I was thinking whatever thoughts one might think on such an outing, I began to notice wildflowers growing all along the side of the path. I stopped thinking my thoughts and focused on the flowers. 

And boy howdy am I glad I did.

And so I've decided that here on the illustrious pages of yo mama llama I will give these autumn flowers the recognition and acknowledgement they so understatedly deserve. In truth, the beauty of the scene was really an experience far beyond my poor power to capture with just the camera on my phone, but the following photos provide at least a small taste of the splendor of my Sunday evening walk. 

Now clearly these aren't the most vibrant flowers around, especially when compared with their spring and summer counterparts. But when paired with with the subtly morose charm of an overcast sky and a bit of chill in the air, these flowers seemed, to me, perfect.

The sky grew dark and as I turned off the path and headed for home, I was presented with this sight:

Which led me to conclude, once again, that sweet mother, Indiana is beautiful.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Don't Cry Out Loud

So I'm sitting here innocently doing my work while listening to my music library on shuffle. That in and of itself is an adventure because there's a lot of seemingly dissonant genres that each evoke very distinct and oftentimes contradictory emotions. But mostly it's fine. Going from "It Takes Two" by Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock, to "R.O.C.K. in the USA" by John Cougar Mellencamp, to "After Hours" by The Velvet Underground, to "I've Got a Woman" by Ray Charles, to "My Cherie Amour" by Stevie Wonder, to "I'm from Nowhere" by Neko Case, to "Bright Whites" by Kishi Bashi was like I said, just fine. But then this happened:

Rather than just being able to listen to it in the background and still get stuff done, it demanded all of my attention. 

All of it.

What I really wanted to do was to sing along as loudly as I could. To somehow let Melissa Manchester know that she wasn't alone. That I was with her. But I couldn't. See, there are other people all around me:

and I don't think they'd much appreciate it.

So while I can't do anything about it now, rest assured, dear reader, that later today as I drive home I will most assuredly demonstrate my solidarity with Ms. Manchester by belting with full vigor:

Don't cry out loud. 
Just keep it inside. 
Learn how to hide your feelings. 
Fly high and proud. 
And if you should fall, 
remember you almost had it all.