Writing Music Monday: Kokoro No Furyoku by Hiroumi

28 Jul

[cover] Hiroumi - Kokoro No FuryokuIt is one of the moderately weird features of my personality that I enjoy listening to songs in languages I do not understand.

I could claim that it comes from my years living in a foreign culture, but I don’t think that’s true. When I was young, even English lyrics were foreign to me. Most songs, I knew the melody, and maybe the chorus, and the rest of the lyrics I didn’t know or care about. (There were any number of exceptions, but they remained exceptions.) This might have been an early manifestation of my partial nerve deafness, which makes it difficult or impossible for me to separate sounds from background noise.

So, for me, listening to foreign pop music brings no cognitive dissonance at all. Even when, as in many Asian pop songs (including some on this album), a few English phrases are thrown in.

Kokoro No Furyoku by Hiroumi (it was also released under the title Secret Ocean) is a quiet, minimalistic delight.

It’s just Hiroumi singing, playing acoustic guitar, a few backing instruments, and an occasional backing vocal. Not over-produced at all. (In point of fact, there is a fair amount of production on most of the tracks, but it’s skillful, subtle, and perfectly suited to each song. Making it all feel simple, intimate, and perfect.)

The tunes are hopeful, positive, and yet wistful in some way. There is no anger or cynicism here (unless in the lyrics, because, again, I speak almost no Japanese).

All in all, it’s just lovely.

You can download Kokoro No Furyoku from Jamendo.

Creative Commons License
Kokoro No Furyoku by Hiroumi is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


26 Jul

STNC coverDon’t tell anybody, but Spring That Never Came is FREE on Amazon through tomorrow!

The first hit’s free, kid! :D

Magic words and our cultural passive aggression

22 Jul

Martial artists at sunset

How social interaction should NOT feel.
(Artist: bykst. License: CC0)

Recently, two religious kids came to my door trying to sell me stuff to help fund their scholarships. I politely declined, and they immediately demonstrated why I declined, turning a general principle into a concrete reality.

They ignored my “no” and kept trying to find a way to get me to buy.

And kept trying.

And kept trying.

I should note that, because of my background, I am extremely touchy about anyone at all even pretending that I do not mean what I say. But they seemed like nice enough kids (apart from the script they had clearly been trained to follow), so I restrained myself from my usual response, which is generally along the lines of “I just told you ‘no’ in civil and polite terms. However, since you are now rudely assuming that I did not mean what I said, I’m going to repeat it to you in a way that will leave absolutely no doubt in your mind that, yes, I did in fact mean it.” I merely kept denying them in (reasonably) polite terms until they finally gave up. (Or, much more likely, ran to the end of their script.)

Not two days later, I got a sales call, unsolicited. And the smarmy lady who called had an even more hostile script, which she seemed to enjoy acting out. She asked if I was the man of the house. I asked what she was calling about. She asked if I was the one to make decisions for the household. I asked what she was calling about. She asked if my name was my name. I asked what she was calling about. She sniffily said, “Well, since you’re being uncooperative, you have a nice day,” (translation: eff you, bye) and hung up.

This problem is not confined to marketing (though it is especially acute there), it has been rising in our culture as long as I’ve been alive, maybe forever. It is the idea that there are Magic Words, words that when you speak them, elicit the response you require. In the case of sales and marketing, Magic Words will get you to buy the product on offer, without thinking.

This is so offensive to me that I treat anyone who tries to control me with Magic Words as a hostile enemy who is trying to kill me. I have free will. I have a working brain. Want me to buy something? Then trying to manipulate me, to manage my impressions and steer me through your choice of words and carefully practiced script is the one guaranteed way to get me not to buy. If, on the other hand, you treat me with basic respect, tell me what you have, answer my questions directly and without trying to use impression management but just bloody answer what I bloody ask, then I might. If I want it. Which you do not get to decide or control. And if you can’t handle that, too fucking bad for you.

In politics, you get the obsession with “messaging”. Did you know that the only problem with Obamacare is that the administration didn’t use the right messaging? That’s it. Not the government takeover of one-sixth of the nation’s economy, not the partisan way it was ramrodded through Congress, not the umpteen-thousand ways it violates individual rights or the Constitution. Nope. They just had “ineffective messaging”. They didn’t find the right Magic Words.

There’s an old saying from Alfred Korzybski, inventor of General Semantics: The map is not the territory.

More and more, our culture seems to take it for granted that if you change the map, the territory will follow suit. And anyone who disagrees is an unmutual doubleplus unperson.

Well, count me as one of those. Approach me in a manner I consider hostile, and I’ll treat you appropriately.

Writing Music Monday: Aida by Giuseppe Verdi

21 Jul

Verdi conducting

Verdi conducts Aida in Paris.
Adrien Marie, 1881.

Because sometimes you’ve just got to write to opera.


I’m being serious.

Sometimes you have to do that.


And, lucky you, there is a site that has the vast bulk of Verdi’s operas available in MP3 format for free under a Creative Commons license. The recordings are generally from the 1950s, so they’re not super-high tech with surround sound. But seriously, who needs that? All you need is the music, the beauty, the epic emotion. And you get that in spades.

In truth, the only opera I ever listen to is Verdi. And while I count Aida as my favorite, I don’t know the story of it. I just listen and let the music and emotion flow through me.

A the Italian site Liber Liber, you can download most (perhaps all) of Verdi’s work (including the Requiem), but first (and to my mind foremost) are two different recordings of Aida. You want them. If you only get one, my favorite is the first one listed, the RAI recording. Download the entire thing. Maybe both versions. If you’re a nut like me, download everything and spend days wallowing in Verdi.

There are worse ways to spend your time.

Aida by Verdi is in the public domain. The recordings offered by the site Liber Liber are made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license. (CC BY-NC-SA 2.5)

Writing Music Tuesday: bunk by Jahzzar

8 Jul

bunk CoverI’ve been sick the past several days. Not mortally ill or anything, but enough to be distracting, irritating, and yesterday I hopped myself up on Benadryl so that I could breathe without blowing my nose every ten seconds. Benadryl sends my brain of to some OtherSpace where it floats hither and yon, bumping gently into many thoughts but unable to hold on to any one for longer than a minute or two.

So, I meant to post yesterday, but it just did not happen.

And even today, sans Benadryl, I’m not braining too good. So if the following doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, ignore it and go listen to the music, which is the main point in any event.

With bunk, today’s album, Jahzzar has now appeared in five different Writing Music posts. I note that particularly because it is, in some ways, a companion album to the very first of his that I shared with you, Wake Up. Where that first album was the bright and happy side of ’80s style synth, today’s album is darker, slower, and more lonely feeling.

Here’s what Jahzzar himself (Javier Suarez, in his non-superhero identity) has to say about it:

Bunk is a collection of beats. It’s instrumental hip hop and ambient. Minimalism and maximalism. To explain it, is better to imagine a triangle. In one vertex we would have r’n’b: The Weeknd, Drake or araabMUZIK (even). In another, the maximalism of people like Flying Lotus, Rustie, amor,est. or Mouse on Mars. Dreamer Tokyo may also be included in this vertex. The last vertex would be for the minimalist ambient: Alva Noto, Balam Acab, Nicolas Jaar electro …
Arguably, Bunk tries to find the middle point within this triangle.

It’s not something I listen to all the time, but when the mood is right and I need the dark of ’80s post-apocalyptic synth, it usually works.

You can download bunk in almost any format you like, as well as sending some well-deserved money Jahzzar’s way, through BandCamp.

Alternately, you can get it in either MP3 or Ogg Vorbis format from Jamendo, absolutely free.

Creative Commons License
bunk by Jahzzar is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Writing Music Monday: Impact Valentine by Lobo Loco (WMM Edition)

30 Jun

CoverHere’s where you can see a small benefit of the Creative Commons. I’ve had this album on my android forever. Every now and then, I go back to it, and begin with the thought “This is great! Why haven’t I put this up on the blog yet?”

And then one of the vocal tracks plays.

And then I don’t try listening to the album again for months and months.

I won’t get into whether the vocals are good or bad, but they yank me right out of the mood the instrumentals put me into, every single time. This, for a collection of music to write to, is Not A Good Thing.

So I have taken advantage of the Attribution-Share Alike license and “remixed” the album — if by remix you understand me to mean that I just dropped the vocal tracks entirely and let it go at that.

This is “modern” jazz in the sense that it’s the sort of thing that I usually do not enjoy, much like last week’s album. And much like last week’s album, this is a strong exception to the rule. I really enjoy these tracks, having them in the background while I’m writing or outlining or just thinking through structural problems with a story. It works for me, in some way I can’t explain, or differentiate from other albums in similar style.

Lobo Loco appears to be a German individual (go figure, again), and has contributed quite a lot of music to the Free Culture movement. His musical and melodic sense, in the instrumentals I’ve listened to, are quite good. His vocals, alas, are not for me. Even so, what he has contributed is good stuff, and all licensed to be used just as you see fit.

You can download Impact Valentine (WMM Edition) from either the Internet Archive or from this playlist page at Jamendo.

Creative Commons License
Impact Valentine (WMM Edition) by Lobo Loco is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at http://www.jamendo.com/en/list/a120046/impact-valentine.

Writing Music Monday: Nothing but Gonzo by GONZO GONZALES

23 Jun

[cover] GONZO GONZALES - Nothing but GonzoThis one really is not going to be for everybody. As should become clear.

I usually explain my love of jazz by including a cutoff date: 1960. If it was recorded prior to that year, I generally like or love it. If it post-dates that year, I probably dislike it, though there are any number of exceptions.

What I especially find tedious is all the “fusion” that came from Miles Davis’s late-1960s works, like “In a Silent Way” and (especially) Bitches Brew. I admire Davis himself, and either of those works I can listen to if I’m in the right mood. But almost anything derived from or inspired by them, I just don’t have the right mind or background to even begin to appreciate.

So it’s odd that I enjoyed this at all, because it proceeds pretty directly from that period and style.

But I did enjoy it, and it makes for good background while writing or outlining, at least for me, at least for the mood I’ve been in the past few days.

GONZO GONZALES looks to be a German band (go figure), and they have four albums on Jamnedo. Nothing but Gonzo was recorded in 2003, and released on Jamendo in 2007.

Nothing but Gonzo is free to download from Jamendo.

Nothing but Gonzo by GONZO GONZALES is available under a Libre Art License (AKA a Free Art License).


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