Thursday, July 31, 2014

High Emotion

Since the day I first discovered that there was music in the world beyond Top 40's radio, I have been in pereptual search of music that speaks to me on an emotional level. I enjoy a good beat and a catchy melody as much as the next person, but the music that really resonates with me must display a high amount of emotion.

On the other end of the spectrum, I really enjoy cheesy club anthems. Dance music circa 2009 was a golden moment for me, although I was a little late to the party and can only appreciate retroactively.

Ministry of Sound's 'Mashed' collections were, without a doubt, the best compilations ever made. I own all five of them, with this song having earned the highest play count in my iTunes library:

Since electronic music tends to follow the trends of other genres, what with DJs and the like, it is forever changing. Those sounds I loved in 2009 have now turned to a dubstep sort of feel, and electronic music seems to have shifted into something I cannot hang my hat on.

And then I found trap music. I really did not like it when I first listened to it. It sounded too much like dubstep. You can't tap your foot to trap music. It's very erratic and strange, but the experimentation and off-beat patterns have become refreshing to my ear and I can't get enough. I started listening to Flume a few weeks ago and I can't listen to anything else. His music is so choc-ful of emotion that I can't help mouthing the words or humming along on the subway in rush hour (which I'm sure is very annoying to other passengers). Over the past two-ish years, Flume has exploded in popularity in Australia (where he is from) and all over the world. Tomorrow, I will be seeing him for the second time in under two weeks and his performance might just be the highlight of the entire Osheaga weekend for me.

Wikipedia defines Trap music as follows:
Trap music incorporates an extensive use of multi-layered hard-lined and melodic synthesizers, crisp, grimy and rhythmic snares, deep 808 sub-bass kick drums, pitched down vocals, double-time, triple-time and similarly divided hi-hats, and a cinematic and symphonic utilization of string and keyboard instruments creating an overall dark, harsh, grim and bleak background feeling for the listener.
This sounds about right to me, with the addition that a lot of trap music features rap overtop of these grimy beats. I wasn't the biggest fan of rap before I found trap music, but I have found that I am starting to enjoy some rap as well. What a great segue into a new genre!

In time with Osheaga this weekend, I made sure to familiarize myself with a lot of new music. Shlohmo, a native of Los Angeles, is equally talented and has a very interesting sound. I listened to a lot of his stuff on Soundcloud, where I realized that there are a lot of people who feel the same way about this music as me. Watch the comment section as you play this song:

First of all, those comments completely confirm my thoughts about trap music being highly emotionally charged and wonderful to listen to. This kind of music brings something out in people that other music doesn't do (or perhaps does in a different way).

I also absolutely love the experience that Soundcloud creates for its listeners. You can add a comment at any point in a song, and each comment pops up for subsequent listeners as they reach the part of the song where the comment is located. It's like listening to a song in a room with a bunch of other people who love the music as much as you. If we're going to talk about excellent user experience, here is your shining example.

From Flume and Shlohmo I landed on ODESZA. Originally based in Seattle (near to my heart!), the duo has been coming out with amazing songs that really hit you where it hurts. Have a listen to this:

To wrap a bow on this one, I guess I just don't see a point in listening to music that doesn't make you feel anything. It would be like eating food that didn't have any taste or nutritional value. I should state that music is probably one of my main sources of pleasure in life, as it is for many of the people with whom I surround myself. And is that so bad? All we're looking for in life is meaning and the pursuit of happiness, right? Why shouldn't it come from an art form that dates back to the beginning of man?

One thing I would like to reiterate is the fact that I never thought I could get into trap music, until I did. Opening oneself up to new things (both inside music and outside) is so important to becoming a well-rounded and satisfied person. Let's chalk this up to my summer motto of "just say yes", shall we?

Monday, July 21, 2014

New Uses For Old Things

As you may or may not know about me, I am an avid researcher in the world of animated inanimate objects. By this I refer to the way that many people attach meaningful sentiment to the possessions that they hold dear (or perhaps detest). I enjoy coming across attached meanings of everyday objects, which raises their value in some way.

I came across a very interesting instance of this phenomenon through an unexpected channel. I happen also to be interested in Dan Savage’s love and sex column. Having followed his writings in local newspapers and online for about four years now, I can honestly say that he is the most levelheaded advice columnist I have ever experienced. I agree with almost everything he advises, and even if I didn’t, he is very modest and makes sure to state that his advice is only meant to act as a guide for readers. He insists again and again that they should do as they feel is best, especially for the reason that they are the ones living these experiences. But of course, this is not the subject of my post. If you want to read his column, click the link above.

My post is more about a couple of specific instances in which Dan solves various relationship problems through inanimate object association. For example, in this post, a woman explains that her feminist beliefs outside the home conflict with her kinks towards being a ‘perfect housewife’ role with her boyfriend at home. She wants to be able to live both of these lives at once, while also setting some kind of boundary so that everyone feels safe and un-marginalized. Obviously, the problem with submission-related kinks is that having to break role and tell your partner that things are escalating too quickly will kill the libido instantly.

That said, I was scratching my head trying to guess what Dan would recommend. The best thing I could think of was to discuss everything beforehand, or have pre-arranged times of day or week where these ‘housewife’ scenes would occur. But that’s not very romantic, is it? Dan brilliantly suggested the writer wear a specific necklace every time she wanted to put on this role. When she was bored, tired, or otherwise finished with it, she would simply take off the necklace. My interests here lie in the way that a simple item is transformed into the visualization of all the happiness this writer will now be able to experience with her boyfriend, and become an essential tool in their life together. What an elegant solution.

If you weren’t overly impressed by that one, I have another for you. A woman wrote in to discuss the fact that both she and her boyfriend had kinks that the other was not so keen to perform. It boiled down to the fact that he wanted her to be submissive and she wanted to be on top (obviously, both partners’ kinks are almost impossible to carry out at once). Dan proposed something slightly elaborate:

“Take the average number of times you have sex in a month and divide that number in half, then divide it in half again. You each get a stack of red poker chips equal to whatever the third number is plus one blue poker chip. So let’s say you guys have sex 12 times in a month on average. Half of 12 is six, half of six is three—you each get four chips: three red, one blue. (You still with me? Good. Man, I could use some chips right now, myself.) You keep your chips on your nightstand, and your boyfriend keeps his chips on his. On nights when you want to top your boyfriend, you hand him one of your red chips. On nights when he wants you to be submissive, he hands you one of his red chips. If he doesn’t want to bottom for you on a night when you hand him a chip, he can veto your red chip by surrendering one of his. Likewise, you can veto one of his red chips by surrendering one of yours. When a veto is played, you default to the sex you have most of the time, i.e., your “regular” sexual routine (which seems to entail you bottoming for him as his equal), and the chip used to veto is forfeit. You each have to use your three red chips in one calendar month—an unused chip doesn’t carry over to the next month.

…And what’s the blue chip for? It’s a “free veto,” a chip you can sacrifice without giving up one of your chances to f*** or dominate the other.”

There’s a little more to the story, which you can read by (again) clicking the link above. Again here, a sexual problem between what I can see as an otherwise very compatible couple, is elegantly solved by applying new use or (if you will allow) identity to an object whose original use had nothing to do with the current situation. I love these sorts of things. I assume my love of practicality and logic are hiding in here somewhere, as well.

A slightly less ‘cool’ example of this tactic is a little something known as the “talking stick.” In a group setting, whoever holds the talking stick is the only one with the right to speak at that moment. Of course, these sorts of things can get out of hand as their new identities are taken too seriously. I only refer to these examples as possible solutions to common problems in our everyday lives. They are not mean to control numerous aspects or, stepping back even further, cause unhappiness. I merely mean to draw attention to the fact that taking a step outside of the box can bring wonderful changes to the status quo.