The Visual Medium and Music

I watch A LOT of television and movies and I find a lot of new music through listening to music in the background emphasizing the specific scene going on. One band I found recently is an underground band in the UK called “Johnny Foreigner” who immediately captured my attention. I was watching “Shameless” on Showtime and they played one of their songs called Absolute Balance. I’ve come across many new artists this way such as Alberta Cross from watching Californication (also Showtime) and Cold War Kids from Entourage. Have you guys found any cool music this way or do you tend to not pay attention to the music that much when watching a show? For me the score and soundtrack are very important and play crucial parts in portraying the mood of the show and emphasizing certain actions. The next time you watch a movie or show and hear the music pay attention and see if its appropriate towards that scene because I’ve also seen some poor soundtrack choices in shows and movies.

Music Forums

I try to listen to a lot of different music and going on music forums is my favorite thing to do. I’m a big Redditor as well so I like to use http://www.reddit.com/r/music to find new music or search other music related “subreddits” to find new stuff. I have always had an eclectic music taste with my taste in music changing constantly depending on what mood I’m in. Mood music is something I’m really into so check out https://www.stereomood.com/ as well for new music. I’m curious as to what sites you guys use to find new music or if you just find music through word of mouth by friends. I’m always interested in listening to new music such as Electro-Swing or anything else that catches my interest. Benji showed me Connan Mockasin recently who my friend and I got really into so tell me about any music sites you’re into (if you are) or check out the links I put in the article to expand your musical horizons.

Is Looping Its Own Genre?

As the years have past I have seen a musicians implement looping into their music. With looping you can even use it to create a whole band if you want. I realized in the past few years what the possibility of looping holds. It allows you to cover a song in a way that otherwise cannot be heard even if you had a whole band because the entire song just comes from one person harmonizing with him/herself in different ways. A loop can be created using a wide range of music technologies including digital samplers, synthesizers, sequencers, drum machines, tape machines, delay units, or they can be programmed using computer music software (Wikipedia).

I just saw an insanely awesome cover of a Nirvana song and I assume we all know that to cover a Nirvana song you have to be amazing to live up to the king of grunge known as Kurt Cobain. He was a man that stood against everything corporate and capital and wanted to only make music for making music. As we saw in class a couple weeks ago Kurt Cobain didn’t like to sell out in any shape or form and having to pretend to play they’re instruments for a show isn’t something that this man would ever do. As we saw he and his fellow band members shit all over that concert as a big “Fuck You” to the people that made them fake playing their instruments.

Kawehi – Robot Heart: Heart-Shaped Box (Cover)

Her name is Kawehi and she did (in my opinion) an absolutely amazing cover of Nirvana’s Heart-Shaped Box. She captured the mood of the original song with the musicianship and skills to create a great background composition. She completely revitalizes this song and makes it her own in so many different ways. I believe if Kurt Cobain were alive he would hate how obsessive our world has become with the internet but I believe he would also love the possibility of finding true musicians such as Kawehi. Looping creates an endless amount of possibilities for musicians to work with and create new songs or cover new songs in unique ways.

A couple of other cool looping artists:

ThePeteBox – Where is My Mind (Cover)

Brysen Andres – Violin Loopin

Project Pitch: Electro Swing Movement

For my project I will be diving into a new emerging genre of music that most have not heard of before called Electro Swing. It is not a cultural phenomenon by any means but it does have a strong subculture in Europe, specifically France. I came to learn of this genre through browsing music on Reddit and I immediately responded to it. I loved it, it combined old school swing music such as Django Reinhardt but added a techno side creating a completely unique genre. Nobody know’s who started the genre but we know it did start a few years ago when some DJ’s began adding swing/jazz music to house/hip-hop music. Apparently many producers were trying it back int the 1980’s such as Mike Dixon and James Curd.

It became popular in Europe thanks to Romain BNO: he and his peers are amongst some of the best french producers, having remixed and released the G-Swing tracks on an album called “Swing For Modern Clubbing.” I plan onto diving more into the culture and the comings about of this unique genre. Popular artists with the genre right now are Caravan Palace, Parov Stellar, G-Swing, or Goldfish.

Caravan palace- Rock It For Me

Parov Stelar – Catgroove

G-Swing – Mood Indigo ft. Nina Simone

Goldfish- Wet Welly

Subway Music

You guys ever see those musicians in the subway jamming about as everyone goes about their daily commute? Some are good and some are terrible but we rarely ever take the time to really listen. A while back sometime in 2007 Joshua Bell, a famous violinist took to the DC metro and took out his 3.5 million dollar violin out to give the people a little show during rush hour. Now if you’re at rush hour in NYC nobody stops for anything and the same goes for the DC metro. Only seven people stop to hear him play out of hundreds and people are none the wiser and I’m sure plenty of these people still don’t realize that they were serenaded by one of the greatest classical musicians of our time.

Here’s the video of his performance: Joshua Bell – Stop and Hear the Music

I was recently on Reddit and came across an interesting video of a musical trio that performs in the Union Square subway station. All three of them are talented musicians and they all show their skills in the video. The most astounding part is that you see people actually stopping and constantly giving them money for their show or picking up their flyer to see who they are. At the end of the video you see a crowd of people which is unbelievable in my opinion for a subway music group. Somehow they were able to attract people out of their humdrum commutes and wake them up and get them listening to the music even if they could only listen for a minute or two. I wonder if they garner so much attention because of their music and how loud and rhythmic compared to Josh Bell who’s violin fell on deaf ears. I mainly feel its because of the energy this band gives off compared to Josh Bell that they were able to generate much more attention. But its still crazy to see a world famous violinist go unnoticed, it just goes to show how little people often notice something unless its blasting at them like TOO MANY ZOOZ.

Here’s the link I encourage you to listen to the whole thing: TOO MANY ZOOZ rocks Union Square

Response – In Defense of Disco

Early on Dryer discusses how Disco was more than just music, it was an experience, it was a lifestyle. When looking back on Disco music its easy to see how it became a cultural phenomenon and more than just music, with the disco techs and crazy outfits. He goes on to talk about how Disco was hated for two main reasons: it was seen as a capitalist mode of production and the message or ideological expression it stood for. Other types of music such as rock and folk could be produced through easier means and Disco was seen as giving into the man and capitalism. Its funny how we are starting to have the ideology once again with the sudden uprising of indie artists that aren’t taking labels and are independently producing music so they can say what they want to say.

Disco was seen as a product of capitalism so along with it came a capitalist message that people did not respond well too. Capitalism can make profit from something that is ideologically against it. Dryer quotes “As long as it makes a profit what does it matter?” This statement encompasses capitalism and shows how relevant it still is and will forever be in a capitalist society. For example, Miley Cyrus with her wrecking ball video or Chris Brown hitting Rhianna did not stop people from buying their music even though one used to be a Disney Star and the other was just an asshole.

The romanticism and eroticism that comes with Disco is exaggerated by the culture at the time which wholeheartedly embraced it. Disco wasn’t soft it was loud and raunchy unlike pop songs which were quiet and meek. The phallic nature of rock and roll with the thrusting and grinding was similar to Disco but not there entirely. Disco was a full body experience that utilized tons of instruments that rock didn’t use such as violins. Disco tells us to live in the moment and be happy with ourselves.

Cover Song Analysis – Hurt

Music is and always has been a medium of sorts for connecting people together, no matter race, religion, or age. In his article, “Hijacked Hits and Antic Authenticity: Cover Songs, Race, and Post War Marketing,” Coyle talks about how it was Elvis’s openness in embracing the past R&B singers that allowed his cover songs to flourish. He wasn’t “hijacking” a song he was paying homage to the past and created what is today considered a modern cover song. Back in the 1940’s and 50’s hijacking a song from a popular R&B singer was common practice among the industry and since hijacking was just the same exact song sung by someone else, if a white person sung the song it gained far more attention thanks to radio play by white disk-jockey’s. Thanks to eventual desegregation and growing anti-racism awareness we no longer have these problems today and hijacking a song is nonexistent because of the modern cover (although we do have very strict copyright laws as a result of this). In 2002 a frail and dying Johnny Cash covered Nine Inch Nails “Hurt.” A song that was created 8 years earlier in 1994 by lead singer of Nine Inch Nails, Trent Reznor. Johnny Cash’s cover of “Hurt” takes a song created by a young emotional man and transcends a generational gap by making it his own by giving new meaning to the song. Cash reminds us of how songs can so easily be transformed and shaped to create something with new meaning.

Trent Reznor’s Hurt:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=htmKZKR7oyc

 

Johnny Cash’s Hurt:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3aF9AJm0RFc

In 1994, a young and extremely emotional young man named Trent Reznor was in his room feeling very isolated from the world and life in general. From this seclusion and loneliness came “Hurt.” The song begins with static white noise for about 22 seconds until a soft acoustic guitar comes in followed by a soft voice singing, which consists of the verse. When the bridge arrives a synth piano sound is heard playing chords in the background along with the guitar strumming until the chorus arrives. You hear drums with a slightly echoed loud voice singing and the guitar strumming along with the piano now with a classical sound to it. Afterwards it goes straight back into static white noise with the guitar and soft singing. The second bridge is the same as well until the second chorus arrives and the guitars now enter with a loud twangy electric sound and the drums pretty loud in the background along with a loud classical piano. Finally it ends with the bridge having the drums in the background and 3 heavy guitar strums, the last of which holds out for over a minute.

The tone of the song is very dark and the mood in addition is very depressing. For example, when listening to this song through headphones the static is very prominent and as a result the sound feels creepy in the beginning, which then soon is enforced by the soft vocals and acoustic guitar. The lyrics begin with “I hurt myself today, to see if I still feel. I focus on the pain, the only thing that’s real.” So right off the bat we have disturbing and depressing lyrics accompanied by a creepy guitar riff and static. Trent Reznor describes his experience writing the song in an interview with uncut magazine:

“I wouldn’t admit that to myself but when I wrote it I felt like I was sitting in a pile of rubble and there was a hint of regret and remorse. Hurt was the first inclination for me that I could use a hand here. The Downward Spiral
album was a record all about beating everybody up – and then Hurt was like a coda saying may be I shouldn’t have done that. But to make the song sound impenetrable because I thought it was a little too vulnerable, I tried to layer it in noise.”

We see that Trent gives an explanation for the noise but personally I feel the vulnerability would’ve added more to the song. The chords in the background bring an uplifting feel to the depressing intro and soon the drums come in for the chorus and the vocals become loud and you can tell he’s singing with a lot of feeling. Straight afterwards we go right back into the creepy sounding verse with more sad lyrics. This song is one that is sung from the point of view of an extremely emotional and lonely young man who lost his way in life. Only a few years later do people hear the Johnny Cash version and begin to truly appreciate the song.

In 2002 at the age of 71 and on his last few months of life Johnny Cash recorded the cover of the Nine Inch Nails song “Hurt” and was shown the spotlight one last time. We all know Johnny Cash made his career as a country singer and he had a problem with alcohol, drugs, and the law. He even recorded a live album in a prison once even though he himself never served a prison sentence (though he had been arrested on numerous accounts). Because of this struggled past of his he had a lot of regrets at the end of his life, as is evident when watching the music video for his cover of “Hurt” where we see a montage of pictures from Cash’s past. When watching the music video the songs meaning seems to apply so much more to Cash than to Reznor that you think Reznor actually wrote it for Cash.

The song opens with a dominant acoustic guitar riff with two guitars creating a harmony with one another and thankfully getting rid of the static in the original. Soon Cash starts with his vocals saying the exact same lyrics as the original version but he’s not saying them softly he’s saying them as if he’s telling his life story to someone. The piano soon comes in as well adding a lower harmony to the music. Next the chorus comes in with Cash’s lyrics going strong and the piano and guitar strumming sort of softly and getting louder and louder until they cease completely and we’re left with the opening guitar riff and piano once again. We repeat this until the last chorus when all of the music is built up and up louder and louder and you hear Cash singing and putting his soul in those words.

We gain a completely different perspective from Johnny Cash’s version of the song. We have a frail old man practically on his deathbed and he’s singing these lyrics almost as his last will and testament to his life. The tone is one that is sad one but one that has a lot of feeling and meaning behind it. Reznor’s performance of the song feels like it’s missing a real emotional connection so the songs message gets lost in his version. Both Reznor and Cash sing about regret in life in this song but one is talking about regret at the age of 30 while the other is talking about regret at the age of 70. The message in the song is much more prominent from Cash than Reznor and I feel it is because of that, that Cash’s version surged in popularity when it was released. Reznor states that:

“This song is about realizing consequence and regret. It sends a powerful message that we should all proceed through life wisely, because there is nothing worse than being stuck with a label, a pain, a sickness, or a death, that we know beforehand will leave us only wishing things had been different and that we could change the choices we made.”

I mentioned Coyle early on because I found his thoughts on Elvis Presley and the modern cover to be really interesting. Presley took songs that were ten years old or and older and transformed them into something new as Cash did with “Hurt.” What Cash created was a productive remake and is deemed so because the song was created for artistic purposes and not for monetary gain. Cash had originally created the song without actual consent from Reznor however. Famous music producer Rick Rubin asked Reznor if Cash could cover the song and Reznor said he would be flattered but never gave any actual consent. A couple of weeks later a CD arrives at Reznor’s door and Cash’s cover of “Hurt” is on it and Reznor felt annoyed and angered. He described it as if his girlfriend had been taken away but after seeing the music video it brought him to tears and he said he changed his mind completely and now loved Cash’s version. Cash shows us how songs can be viewed and examined from different perspectives and one version can mean something completely different than the other.

 

 Works Cited

“Hurt.” By Nine Inch Nails Songfacts. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Feb. 2014. <http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=2727>.

“Interview: Trent Reznor.” – Uncut.co.uk. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Feb. 2014. <http://www.uncut.co.uk/nine-inch-nails/interview-trent-reznor-feature>.