Friday, September 28, 2007

This is Cliche

I waited two months before listening to my ipod on the streets or in public transit. I didn't know what I was missing.

I was called into work two hours ago to find out, after I had made the commute, that it was a miscommunication. No worries, I popped in my head phones, sat in Bryant Park and watched the city to the soundtrack of Andrew Bird.

I was immediately intoxicated.

Catastrophe wrapped in ambient music is poetic. This statement needs no explanation but here I go:

Imagine an atomic explosion in the Arizona dessert with no sound but the music of Handel's Messiah. Is this a twisted thought? Maybe. But just the THOUGHT of this experience induces pathos that neither experience could independently induce. The experience itself, the bomb with a soundtrack, would be a novel experience. Many consumers buy soundtracks to movies because of the emotional content of the film, not for the quality of the music. (I know I'm throwing around large generalizations that I'm not clearly explaining but bear with me if you can.) I'm sure there are already many academic, physical, psychological, metaphysical, and artistic studies into this idea. If there aren't, then I need to get crackin'.

Nothing catastrophic happened on the streets of New York today. I wasn't living in New York when the towers fell, but I was eternally scarred by it. And know that the youtube clip of the news footage played to the music of a certain country-western singer is a crock of shit. A personal visceral catastrophe does take on new light when watched retrospectively with music, but that is a disturbing thought that I don't want to expand upon.

Unlike the large tangential examples above, my experience today was subtle, natural, and in perfect sync with the music.

Seconds after I sat next to the fountain and put in my earphones, rain drops began to fall and two kids under the age of three, a black girl and a white boy, began to dance around the edge of the water as the harmony of strings filled my head.

I began to walk to the subway to get home before the downpour, and a petite waif wearing heels slipped across the wet cement and braced herself on a handrail as symbols clashed. I laughed out loud.

A rise in feedback and distortion complemented the screeching breaks of the arriving train.

A creole man in a skin-tight, long-sleeved shirt and overalls walked, head bobbing out of sight, while the train pulled away to the staccato plucking of a string quartet.

At Columbus Circle a chic black woman boarded the train car along with 30 other random rush-hour suits. She had to squeeze up beside me and smelled of pineapple. Mr. Bird sang "bum bum-bum-bum bum/bum bum-bum-bum bum." (Yeah, I couldn't figure that one out either.)

I exited the depot into the rain and walked along the park -- the symbols sizzled, brushes on the high-hat, reverb on a cello, slow fingers plucking guitar, Bird crooned over his own harmony and whistled through the bridge as a wave of strings rose in volume and swam around my head, until they fell into the street as the chorus of rain drops picked up the encore . . .

Sunday, September 23, 2007


A friend in the city, we'll call him Chuck, crushed my heart. No, his friend did.

He has a 13 year-old golden retriever who is . . . 13 years-old (how long is that in dog years?).

He and his wife cannot be away from their house for more than 4 hours because Sophie, their golden retriever, may have trouble. They live in New York, and both have full-time jobs. I had dinner at their house tonight.

Chuck said, "She hates hardwood floors" as he walked over to Sophie where she was straining to stand up but was poised in a military, crawl position -- her fore legs out-stretched and hind legs folded. She was whining. She needed help. Her hind legs weren't doing what she wanted them to do. Chuck walked over and lifted her by her back hips. Once her legs were underneath her, she began panting and wagging her tail, happy to be up and around.

Sometimes when he takes her out to shit, she'll stand gawking at nothing, looking around and consuming the world as if she were a human infant taking in her surroundings for the first time. Chuck yells, "Come on, Sophie! I gotta catch a train." But Sophie is old and can't hear.

Tonight as Chuck carried our after-dinner-coffee to the table, he accidentally spilled some coffee on Sophie. Sophie turned to look at her back to see what happened. She didn't flinch other than that. I don't think she could feel the actual heat of the fresh coffee. Chuck didn't even know he had done it until Mrs. Okie and I pointed it out to him.

He apologized to Sophie profusely. Sophie sat at his feet underneath the kitchen table, neglecting her much needed rest of an elder dog, and listened to us talk late into evening.

Man's best friend is a horrible understatement.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Won’t You Be My Neighbor

Our neighbor who lives in the building adjacent to ours is an art dealer. I'm not positive that he is an art dealer, but I overheard a conversation with him and an unheard party on the other end of his cellular phone line. He said that he had sold a painting and was ready to finalize the sale by writing or sending a check to the artist.

Well, our neighbor, in spite of his visual art acumen, has a shitty taste in music. He listens to overplayed current hip hop junk when he has a gathering of his peers. I'd like to make an old-fashion telephone line (two empty soup cans tied to opposite ends of a string) and educate him on better music. Better yet, I'd like to leave my end of the string sans soup can and sew the string through the center whole of a ready-made-burned-CD in order to slide it across to him. I can easily climb up the steps of my fire escape to the next floor to have the appropriate altitude difference to facilitate a friendly and much needed CD transfer.

Everyone thinks he is an expert on music after listening to it for any short or extended period of time. I know this. I listened to Pop music for 5 years (Pop music includes Pink Floyd and Pink) before I ever got into jazz, classical, blue grass, etc.. But after one year of delving into Pop music, I'd happily argue with anyone that wanted to question the musical merits of Nirvana. And I will still argue (even though I realize that Nirvana's music is poignant to me for the era in which I listened to it more than anything else) because it's fun.

I'm not saying that his music is shitty. I'm saying that his variety or "taste" of music is shitty. I can listen to Radiohead from daybreak to daybreak for several weeks straight, but I won't impose that rigorous music listening effort on my friends who are casually mingling and nibbling on wine and cheese.

Do I consider myself more cultured in music than my neighbor? Yes. But whether I actually am or not is beside the point.

The point is: he needs to close his window during social gatherings. Not because I'm an elitist, but because it's social etiquette.

Now, I will proceed to be a musical pedant and hypocrite and play Chopin's Concerto No. 1 at ultimate volume on my phonograph at 10:30 p.m..