Tag Archives: music

How Do You Pick Music To Write To?

2013-11-07 22.13.50I’m of two minds when it comes to music and writing. On the one hand, it can be a helpful shortcut to get me into a consistent emotional space for a particular story, cutting through whatever else is going on in my life to make sure I’m on the same “page” when I set pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). On the other, I often find that once I’ve started writing, the lyrics of a song can be a distraction. Sometimes I solve this problem by listening to instrumental or electronic music once I get underway, other times I just shut the music off once I’m in the headspace I was looking for.

What I generally find challenging, however, is putting together a playlist to support the writing of the actual piece. A piece can have a “soundtrack,” but it takes vastly more time to write a few pages than it does to listen to one song, which I find can have an almost schizophrenic effect on the tone of a novel.

In working on a current project, I’ve found that each character has a few songs that help me find the feeling I need to write sections of their stories, but when it comes to assembling new playlists for new characters (each segment of the story is told from one character’s point of view) it can be challenging. Sometimes the songs that put me in the mind of a character are quite different from the songs a character would like or listen to, and sometimes I can’t think of more than one or two songs that fit, right off the bat. It’s annoying and unproductive to have to keep thinking of another song to add to a playlist, but putting one tune on repeat for an hour-long writing session is the best way to guarantee you will never want to hear that song again. (I used to have the same problem when I made fan music videos – hey, I was young once. I still can’t listen to some of those tunes without wincing.)

How do other authors put together their playlists? Is it instinctual or calculated? Do songs fly from your mind to your Spotify or iTunes? Do you use different playlists for writing than what you use for the “playlist” that’s eventually publicized to readers? I’m curious about how this process works for other writers, and hope some will comment to add their two cents.

Letting the Cables Sleep

2013-04-25 22.32.00For years, I’ve had the habit of keeping the old cables from my past. Wires and wires, quarter-inch jacks and mini-jacks and parallel cables and VGA connectors. Later, HDMI and wifi connections replaced those early, fussily-pinned male-and-female connections with something more universal.

I’m cleaning the apartment, which seems less daunting when you hear that the space involved is probably under 300 square feet than it is when you’re trying to clean it out. The lights in here aren’t great. Most of them come from dim bulbs in age-yellowed fixtures. I’ve lived here four years and am just beginning to feel enough ownership over my abode to start putting pieces of myself into the place.

In trying to use a cheap piece of Plasticine (Copyright? Registration? TradeMark?)/leather furniture-slash-storage to its most efficient “use” I uncover a pile of old cables. It’s when I see the one from an old video capture card that I realize: how absurd, the idea these physical connectors would make their way into use in the future. Exactly once, I found myself in need of a cable I didn’t already own (and never had), and wound up paying an extortionate price for the replacement.

Earlier this year, I took a perfectly functional CD player to Goodwill because I had no practical use for a CD player. My computer houses a DVD-R drive; I strip everything I listen to to MP3 if I buy it in physical form at all, which I haven’t since I trudged the streets of Camden in search of the last British wave of music I bought into on CD.

2013-04-25 22.28.01Letting go of these cables seems impossible. But I weigh their usefulness against the space they take up and think of my roommate coming home earlier, as I was in the grip of a cleaning frenzy, asking her if I could use her hair dryer on the regular so I could throw out mine. “I’m so proud of you,” she said, because we encourage one another to be our best selves and she knows I hold on to things for way too long sometimes.

Can I let go of these old, physical connections to a past that involves a 486 on Windows 3.5; WP5.1 run in DOS, floppy disks and videotape-to-digital conversions? I used to joke that a BA in Media Studies (Video Concentration) meant I was qualified to hook up connections from one piece of equipment to another, but this physical education was quickly outpaced by the progress of ensuing years, and only part of the theory held true.

Knotted up in lengths of cables and noting the absurdity of this specialized cable [PIC], I think, this is ridiculous. This is a moment of clarity, a lesson in scaling back. Stop holding on to those things which no longer serve you.

IMAG1253

Pare down. Don’t tuck them in a bag, zipped up, smothered under fabric. Put them away, let them go.

Let the cables sleep.

music: bush – letting the cables sleep [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RPelsDKEtLQ]

 

Hey Amanda, Can I Get My Dollar Back?

Dolla Dolla Bills, Y’all

I contributed to Amanda Palmer’s Kickstarter campaign because even though I don’t adore her music (I like a lot of singles, and have friends who see her in multiple cities, and was fortunate enough to see her show in NYC last year), I have a lot of respect and admiration for her as a hard-working performance artist who wanted to change the system. I wanted to play a small part in that change.

Today, I found out she’s allegedly refraining from paying fan musicians who have been invited to join her on stage during this tour. There is some controversy around whether this is a “controlled fan invasion” or “unpaid work.” @tomcollins76 quoted her to me on Twitter as saying, “If you really want to play music with me on stage, go for it…I just can’t pay you, it’s your choice.”

Will Ms. Palmer be playing for for free on these occasions? Or donating all ticket proceeds to charity? Or finding another way to put money in the pockets of performers invited to appear on her stage?

I didn’t support Amanda Palmer to support Amanda Palmer; I haven’t even downloaded my free digital copy of the album yet. I supported Amanda Palmer’s Kickstarter because I believe the entertainment industry models have got to change. This – asking people to do what they love for free (plus beer and hugs) – is not a change in the industry model.

Thanks to Ozzy/@karohemd for use of the image.

Musicians – even if they’re fans, even if beer and hugs make them happy – should not be exploited by other professionals for no money.

Especially not by a musician who sold herself as being out to change the face of the music industry.

By not paying musicians who are appearing on stage at a professional, ticketed gig (and I’m not referring to GTO here, as they are getting paid – this is about the fans who are joining her on stage for free), Palmer is recycling the same old model. It wouldn’t stand in SAG, it wouldn’t stand in the Director’s Guild, and maybe it shouldn’t be what the revolutionary darling of the social music industry – and with over a million bucks fronted by backers, this is absolutely an industry, even if just the early days of one – encourages.

It’s definitely not what I signed up to support. The Kickstarter parties (pictured left, and thanks to both Ms. Palmer and @karohemd for getting it to me) were private fundraisers. These are, from what I understand, public concerts.

So while I think the video for WANT IT BACK was incredible work from a visionary artist, and I admire this small-businesswoman-gone-largescale for her chutzpah, I won’t be supporting further fundraising campains by Palmer. And this makes me a lot more cynical about supporting other Kickstarter campaigns by “known” artists looking to “change the system.”

It doesn’t matter if you want it back/You’ve given it away, you’ve given it away,” Palmer sings in WANT IT BACK, and when I heard her song I aligned the sentiment with the intimacy an artist reveals when they create for an audience; the metaphor of a crowd-sourced piece of work and the artist who created it.

Not so much, anymore.

 

Edit: Two pieces I highly recommend:

http://www.amandapalmer.net/blog/why-i-am-not-afraid-to-take-your-money-by-amanda/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3lJQjihCp1E (Amanda speaks near Harvard Square)

 

 

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Homework Takeaway: There’s a hole in the bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza…

I finished reading The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene, a week or so ago, and meant to post about that with some summary thoughts. Instead, I reached the end the week of the discovery of the Higgs-Boson, and suddenly the last few pages were no longer conjecture, they were likely fact.

It’s amazing how easy it is to take something seriously once it’s been proven.

At the beginning of the year, I joked on Twitter that if The Elegant Universe was my homework, well, I was an Honors Student and I’d be doing some extra credit, as well. So I’ve started reading The Fabric of the Cosmos.

Already, I’m struck by the change in Greene’s tone – or the change in the tone of the tenor of my reading of it, perhaps? The writing has a deep narrative quality. Greene wrote this before the discovery of the Higgs-Boson, so maybe the tone is due to the increasingly advanced matter of its subject? Past a point, science and art follow many of the same intuitions.

I’m glad to have read The Elegant Universe, as frustrating as I found some of its metaphors, because I’m now confident with how Greene may intend to lay out this new story. Having ended The Elegant Universe with discussion of of temperature transference theory at the time of the Big Bang, Greene is now talking about basic physics experiments again.

Issac Newton’s bucket. Concave and convex surfaces.

Which has brought the song behind the lyrics of this post’s title to mind.

There’s a hole in the bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza,
There’s a hole in the bucket, dear Liza; a hole.