Since my launch of the blog a few weeks back, I completed many tasks except posting to my new and shiny blog. *Sigh*. These things happen, and the start of a new month brings the start of many new adventures, yes?
I wrote about diversity last time as I graded papers and closed out another semester of college teaching. I re-read that post and can sense the weariness in my voice, weariness now dissipated (thanks June!). I graded everything, sent papers/tests/grades to students who wanted them mailed, turned in my grades electronically, which is very convenient, and proceeded to clear the air a bit. And, I attended to my home office. By the time I was done with grading and turning in a chapter of my Dissertation to my adviser, also electronically, my office looked like a bomb hit it. Today is a new chapter (literally as well as figuratively) for the Diss, and all elements are a-go for whatever comes my way. Yahoo!
Diversity....I can comment on the diversity of the weather here in Buffalo for a moment as spring twists and turns, explodes and retreats, howls and wimpers. Today is one of those comfy cozy days. The rain was gentle, unlike the half-hour blast from the sky Saturday afternoon, and I had my window open so it woke me up early. Fresh as a daisy. The forecast for the next week alludes to days and days of 80s with sun (but it's hard to promise such fortunes in these parts...). My goal is to swim in my pool this weekend. The wind all the time makes the sun's job harder, and my tomato plants are workin' to stand tough. The wind is the worst weather. Of all weathers. Even snow is ok without the wind....not in June, though!
Anyway, I've been diverse in my activities since I'm in "catch-up" mode from all choices left dangling but not entirely forgotten during the academic year. I vowed to listen to all sorts of music from my CDs and itunes library while putzing around here in the 'burbs. Oddly, this was the exact opposite of what my listening habits became over the past few weeks. With the help of my Nano and the "repeat-one" button so widely available on all of my audio players, I became obsessed with playing one of three songs over and over and over and over. Do you do this? It comes in spurts. This was one of them. Now, one day last year my adviser commented to me that my heavily researched and edited paper on Pearl Jam grew out of a "commitment" to the band's 17-year career rather than an "obsession" of it. Ha ha!!! It was a funny moment, since it seems anything can be said in a way that makes it OK to listen to one damn song over and over and over and over...so here are my three musical "commitments" from the past few weeks along with my own quasi-rationalization of why they have stopped musical diversity around here in its plucky little tracks:
"Apologize" by OneRepublic/Timbaland.
Of all things, Archie from American Idol refueled my love for this song which, to be honest, had waned since around St. Patrick's Day. "AI" strikes again, but holy canoli! That duet with this band and David Archuleta was pretty good. I love the leadsinger's voice (OneRepublic's, not Archie's), how he goes into the falsetto on every rendering of "too laaaaaaaate" except the last two times when he just belts it out and adds "Yeeee-aaaaaaaaah." The consistent drum loop is highly addictive, and there is a piano on this track and a string-ensemble arrangement to boot! Whoo-hoo for acoustic instruments! Thanks Timbaland!! Mostly, though, I love this song because it fits perfectly in MY vocal range---especially in the car, with the Nano, over and over. Those last two vocal phrases....cathartic!
"Let It Die" by Foo Fighters
Mmmmmmmmm. Dave Grohl. Enough said. No, just kidding. I will absolutely use this wonderfully aggressive, dense and strange track in my classes next semester to demonstrate "polyphony." Having thrown the Nerd Card into a pop music discussion, I'll digress back into my committed fandom....I think Dave Grohl has some of the best ears for melody not demonstrated by pop music in a very very long time. Tori Amos has them, too. Grohl, as a songwriter, can weave a snippet of a guitar lick into the main theme of the song's final climax, as he does in this song. The opening guitar line becomes the chord structure for the end of the song. His melody for "do you ever think of me/you're so considerate," introduced after the early two verses of the song, comes from a HARMONIC guitar line heard right before he sings that very phrase! A foreshadow!!! All of these beautiful wrinkles of melody simply erupt into vocal/harmonic POLYPHONY at the end of the song. All at once, all mixed together, but equally strong and solidly heard. Dammy damn.
And Grohl seems to have found a band to handle his melodic ju-ju (or would that be "foo-foo"......sorry....). His bass player can, while always locked-in-the-pocket where a good bass player is most needed, find interesting chord tones off the beaten path of simple harmonic structure. This is not extremely odd for a "good" bass player, but this makes him "great" to me. I appreciate just that little extra creativity on the low end. Makes me smile. See, he does this first "Do you ever think of me" about 2:52 into the song, and it sounds slightly funky, with a groove. He weaves in and around the root of third and fourth chords making the result very juicy yet unstable (these, of course, are the words used most in musicology to describe such things....smile....) but then goes to the roots for the NEXT repeat of this text/melody making the two refrains different but just a tiny bit! It's all in the little things, I guess. Especially when burned deep in the noggin after a week or so. Go Foo!
"Awakening of Cheerful Feelings Upon Waking in the Country," Symphony No. 6 in F, movement 1 by Ludwig van Beethoven.
This is only about a 10-minute movement making it perfectly manageable for the "one-repeat" button. Beethoven gave specific titles to his music very sparingly. This symphony, "The Pastoral," comes out of my library every spring because I haven't heard much else--ever--that can capture a title of a work better than Beethoven's writing for this piece. My moment in this selection happens about 7:45 into it (on my CDs, the Karajan ones). The opening material has returned again, and that signals that this wonderful, amazing music is going to move toward the end of the movement. The now-familiar melody says its time to prepare to push toward a final cadence, the big endings that Beethoven loves. But right here, Beethoven delays any traditional expectation of "how to wrap things up, now" by pushing the melody into higher and new territory with the full strings and high winds. The melody just soars, briefly, then STOPS on this pinnacle, and (oddly enough) begins to repeat that note seven times before dipping slightly, returning, repeating again. The whole orchestra is stuttering here in this repetitive rhythmic (agitated?) gesture. Then it traces a slow, slow, descent back to where it was. As if nothing happened!!!! It's astonishing. Triumphant. It can only be heard to me this way, I think, because of Beethoven's title, because it allows me hear the sheer power and obsessive tenacity of "spring." And, June is here, isn't it.