Posts Tagged ‘music’

I was walking home from work the other day thinking about the ways that I am enjoying being surrounded by music and how it has been a major factor in the recent mood shift, increased hope and joy in my life, and possibly even affected my energy levels and fitness, and decided to write a post about it. Then my new (shiny!) MP3 player randomly played some Cat Empire and I realised that I could do this subject no better justice than to repeat the lyrics to one-Four-Five:

“Cos these three chords make people
Feeling better all the time ah
They keep repeating
Like a scratch on a cd
But it’s quality cos these three harmonies
Breed positivity
Protecting against insanity
Of modern insecurities
Believe me when I tell you
All you need is to be hearing all that

One four five
To make you high to make you high”

The whole song suited exactly what I was trying to say, with a bouncy catchy beat, and a horn section. What better way to exemplify it?

But there is more to be said than simply “music makes us all feel better”. Let me take you on a journey…

If you’ve listened to my radio show then you may have heard some of this before, if so I apologise, and you should stop reading and continue listening to the show! (aside: the fact that there is a Cat Empire song to describe my mood fits the “there’s a Cat Empire song for every show, no matter the theme” rule).

I have an odd music background. My mother was an infants school teacher, who had a love for singing and musicals, especially Andrew Lloyd Webber. So I grew up surrounded by music that you can sing to. Nursery rhymes, Rolf Harris, lots of Play School in the early years and then Andrew Lloyd Webber, the Beatles and Elton John in my later childhood. Not very hip music, I know. The only saving grace was my father’s love for obscure early Moody Blues. Then in early High School came the Top 40 obsession as a way of not being quite so much of a social outcast. This meant I missed the early grunge music, BUT I did develop an appreciation for old skool hip hop, which is not so bad.

Then Thailand. Thai pop music is an interesting music genre, which really doesn’t change. I find it amusing that I can go into a Thai restaurant, have never heard the song and can still sing along to it. A theory I tested on my Cathay Pacific flight recently where the Thai Pop music channel was the only one worth listening to.

My real education in music started in 1996, with the people I spent most of my time with post-exchange. I was introduced to Beck, Weezer, Ween, Custard, the Whitlams, Esquivel, Radiohead, REM, and triplej in general. Happy music time, also happy life time, as if the two were interconnected.

Then around 2000 this stopped. My absorbtion of, and time spent listening to, music reduced to what I heard while while driving. And as triplej seemed to be playing more hip hop than I was willing to listen to at this time I switched to other generic stations, including AM (poor little Datsun, it didn’t have an FM radio). I was also too poor to buy CDs, so that avenue closed. Oddly this is the point that I started the downhill slide into a mild depression and the point at which I started to lose a sense of myself.

This continued until 2005, when I was introduced to a game that incidentally had a streaming radio station attached, which I started to listen to for the 7 hours a day that I was at work. All of a sudden I was discovering new music again: ska, irish punk, nerdcore, acapella, electronica, obscure tracks from well-known bands. Essentially non-mainstream music. I remember feeling a sense of happiness and excitement while listening to this music, but also, at a deeper level a sense of it being a bit of a life-line from a couple of stressful, depressing situations. The happy bouncy music was talking to a part of my personality that hadn’t seen the light of day for many years.

It then propelled me to start listening to a broader range of music again. triplej became my regular radio station, along with FBi. I started going to live music gigs. Then I was hired as a DJ and I happily spend a couple of hours each week sharing the music I’ve found with a wider audience, but also planning out what I am going to play them in my downtimes and paying attention to the music around me and working out what I’d want to play for others and what I wouldn’t.

Music was the salve for my soul late last year and early this year. Angry music with a bouncy beat sung very loudly while doing the washing up in my house by myself was perfectly cathartic and a great emotional release. Reel Big Fish‘s “Everything sucks” and Lily Allen‘s “Everything’s Just Wonderful” were the two most played songs during that time, and I think they contributed to the calm exterior that most of the world saw the rest of the time. Over time I stopped needing that sort of music and moved on to other happier stuff like Darren Hanlon, Old Man River and Regina Spektor. Although RBF still has a special place for housework related activities.

I bought an MP3 player while I was in London, which then got loaded with a bunch of music at a friend’s house. Many, many people have commented on how much happier and settled I appear to be since the holiday, and while a break from life, and the time spent with good, fun friends while overseas did help I think that this “soundtrack” to the holiday was also a factor. It gave a sense of imporatance to the time there, so that I paid more attention to the magic of walking beside wheatfields in Derbyshire, or of walking around Camden Town like a local, but not, or of travelling over the Firth of Forth. There was a bouncy purpose to my step and a smile on my face.

This has continued since, albeit reduced a bit, and I think that being surrounded by music again has a strong part to play. It’s hard to be sad when you are bouncing down the stairs of Parramatta station to the Fratellis, or dancing to the Cat Empire on Croydon station, or tapping your feet in time to Regina Spektor, or being uplifted by the Levellers, or giggling at Tom Lehrer. It all reminds me of how lucky I am and how much there is to appreciate in the small moments of life, as well as the opportunities that exist in the large parts of life. Hooray for the Cat Empire and their lyrics that explain this state, “cos these three harmonies breed positivity”.

So true, so very true, and let’s keep it that way.

Now, if only I could get this Morrissey song out of my head…

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Dancey feet

I’ve been going to a lot of live music recently, and Marina keeps poking me to write about the Vulgargrad concert (warning: link opens in a myspace site with music) we went to a week ago. So here’s some thoughts on that and the Lily Allen concert (musical myspace site again) at Luna Park last night.

Vulgargrad: A Melbourne band that plays street music of the Russian underclass. I went to see them play last Friday night with two friends, one of whom speaks fluent Russian. It was fun. Eastern style beats with a sort of swinging, slightly punky influence. Didn’t quite get up and dance, but I did have my toes tapping the entire show.

Marina’s translations of the lyrics added an element of surrealism to the experience. It was a good crowd, happily dancing away to what, on the surface, was nice traditional Russian music. However I’m not sure they’d have been so calm if they’d understood the swearing and innuendo that was actually being sung at them. Here’s some examples:

  • “Why did the Aboriginies eat Cook? Because they were hungry. Though possibly it was out of a deep respect. Who knows.” Which apparently is a well-known song in the Russian community in Australia.
  • “Normally, I’m a womaniser, but tonight, I’m just hungry and lonely.”
  • “You can be my cow and I can be your cowboy.”

Lily Allen: A solo artist from the UK, confident, cynical, lyrical with reggae & hip hop influences. Her album has been frequently played in my house since I bought it last July. The concert lived up to the promise of the CD, natural, unaffected, fun, energetic. I was a little annoyed with the dead crowd, who didn’t seem to be getting into the music at all. It was an all ages gig, so I suspect there may have been elements of “too cool for the school” there, as well as people only knowing her for one single rather than the entire album.

She seemed to be quite unapologetically herself as well, she walked on stage with a cigarette in one hand, and asked for another two during the show, which possibly goes part of the way to explaining the loss of voice towards the end; she informed us that she was a bit tired as she’d stupidly gone on some of the rides before coming on, and had never been so scared in her life; dedicated the song “not big” to Chris, the drummer from Jet because of an incident at the Big Day Out on the Gold Coast; paused in the middle of a song to throw a jacket back into the crowd as “can’t wear that, it’s got Man U. on it!”; and got the end of “everything’s fine” and told the “younger girls” in the audience that no one should ever tell them to be skinny, that curves (she used a different word that I forget) were wonderful, indicating the gorgeous curves that she has.
All in all, very happy that I went to see her on a school night, and got a spot close to the front. Especially as she’s not yet “big” here, which will happen.

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I’m in an effusive mood this morning, so here’s some random thoughts and experiences from the part few days:

1. Darren Hanlon and Laura Imbruglia.

I went to see these two play at the Houpetoun hotel last night, which was fantastic. I’d heard one of Laura Imbruglia’s songs and had her pegged as a punky female singer. What I didn’t realise was that she also has a wry sense of humour and can tell a good story. She had me laughing in almost every song. I am definitely adding her to my future CDs list.

The main reason I went was to see Darren Hanlon, and I am glad I did. He was warm and relaxed, telling stories in between songs and interacting with the small crowd. Like Laura he played two songs he had written about Christmas, the second of which fits into the “Christmas murder ballad” genre 🙂 He also played the first song of his I remember hearing: “punk’s not dead (she’s just gone to bed)” which was fun, however the best part was when he continued the theme and it morphed into Sid Vicious’ “Anarchy”. If you know the song at all, this was a perfect ending and a bit of a revelation about his influences. Darren originally started his myusic career playing in cover bands, so a few members of the crowd kept calling out for “chisel” and “oils” as a joke. So, after the Sid Vicious detour he immediately morphed into a well known Australian song (can’t remember which, except the chorus had “cheap wine and lalalala.” Chisels song). The crowd sung along with him, and then at the first chorus he just stopped, with a cheeky grin as the crowd kept going, you could see he was appreciating the joke as much of the rest of us. I got to hear four of my favourites, some I’d never heard before and a completely new song that had never been performed in public. It was a great night and I am glad I got to see him in an intimate venue before I see him on stage at a festival in April.

I almost didn’t make it into the gig. It had sold out by the time I arrived at 8pm. Luckily I was told this as two Canberra girls arrived, with a spare ticket. Hooray for serendipity! This brings me to my next rumination:

2. Independence

Things changed recently, both for the better and for the worse (as they always do). The major thing that I have noticed is my confidence in ability to deal with anything going back up. There is just me now, so I have to. Last night is a case in point. I went to that gig by myself. I had invited a bunch of people, but they all pulled out at the last minute. 2 months ago I would have decided it was all too difficult and scary to go to a gig in a strange pub by myself, but now… it was simple. And incidentally I wouldn’t have got in with a bunch of people anyway, since those girls had only the one ticket.

The other reason I noticed this change yesterday was that I mowed the lawn. The lawn which had grass a foot high in many places. It had not been mown since October. I’ve not mown a lawn since I moved out of my parents place, so going on 8 years now. But it felt good. I was brought up in a household where everyone could do and should do everything, there were no “boy jobs” and “girl jobs” my brother, sister and I all mowed the lawn, lifted heavy things, did the washing up and vacuuming etc. It was and is an integral part of my personality to believe that (to a certain point) there is not difference in what the different sexes can and can’t do. However, in the interests of harmony and an argument that was not really worth having, this had been suppressed over the past few years, so it was nice to go back to an “I can accomplish anything” mentality, including mowing the lawn. Simple and yet profound.

3. some interesting articles.

Two articles I noticed this morning:

Alan Paton on “Fragile environments: moral and ethical responsibility” in online opinion. I was particulary appreciative of the line: “It has been argued that war is a catalyst of progress and a basis of human evolution, but from an environmental perspective, in the long run, war is stupid”

Mark from Lavartus Prodeo wrote an article entitled “Is the end of the world near? Ask President (Chelsea) Clinton” which is about the role of science fiction in shaping the culture wars. I loved his conclusion: “Perhaps the left needs to understand that confronting the culture warriors with reasoned arguments is only part of the game. It will be won when, and if, we can imagine different worlds.”

I did warn you that I was going to be effusive…. enjoy your christmas if I don’t see you before hand.

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