Wednesday, November 19, 2008

My thoughts on: Musicals & Music

This is a combined post with topics submitted by Ashley & Melissa.


I sure do love music. It speaks to my soul in a way nothing else can. Thus, you would think that I love musicals. I do not. And I do not know why. I think I can't handle the speaking combined with the sudden outburst of singing. I just find it a bit cheesy. And I mean, it's not like I abhor all cheesy things. I'm not THAT big of a snob. But for some reason, I can't reconcile those two media on the same stage very well. Sean loves Fiddler on the Roof. I told him i watched part of it in band and didn't pay attention so he had me watch it. OH MY LANDS I thought it would never end. And I just completely lose patience with the "time for a song again!" moments. I don't know why! But by the 14th break-for-song I have had it. I also tried to watch My Fair Lady. Same thing. I like the speaking parts but the singing I will absolutely fast forward through.

(However, I have seen a few musicals and recall rather enjoying Phantom of the Opera & Les Miserables, and i think i didn't mind Sound of Music so much, but remember laughing when they're about to kiss and she bursts into song. So.. whatever that means.)

Why is this? I love music. One theory might be that I am particularly sensitive to music. As far as my music tastes go, these are they:

I am, in large part, an old lady when it comes to my taste in music. I love varying kinds and genres or whatever, but I categorize them using a musical hierarchy, i guess. My favorite type of music: I love classical, which I put at the top of the hierarchy. That is what sweeps me away and breaks my heart and tells a story in a way no song with lyrics can. Sometimes words just get in the way, or they make the song redundant. I also love movie soundtracks. For the whole of my life I have had a secret pretend-dream of writing music for movies. I know a lot of it is manipulative and all that but often it is just lovely, and brilliant. I guess i like to get caught up in the emotion of it. That sounds dumb, but i guess it's the right thing to say.

Here's a picture I just drew of the hierarchy:

also: i realize it is completely nonsensical.

This is not to say I don't enjoy other kinds of music. But frankly, I am not too familiar with what is popular these days. Seriously, old lady over here. Lately I'm enjoying Band of Horses, Arcade Fire, Magnetic Fields, I like some Coldplay. The Flaming Lips. Back in the day I loved the Cranberries. But again, I am clueless regarding most bands.

Sidenote: I will say, I love 80's music. Maybe this is because I grew up with older siblings and I was exposed to a lot of it, thus I have memories tied to it. Or maybe it is because it is totally awesome.

And, I also appreciate a good lyric. I have never been a fan of country music. I think Thom Yorke's voice (of Radiohead) sounds like a buttery dream. I think Ska should be burned alive. I love songs that are happy and upbeat that talk about sad things. I think this reflects how I deal with traumatic or extremely unpleasant events-- with humor, sometimes awkward and inappropriate humor, as you could guess. (Not that i particularly love sad lyrics though. But I like the combo) I think rap is too hard and heavy for my soul and takes me to only dark and unsettling places, generally. Or I just can't musically come to terms with the fast-paced yelling, put somewhat to a beat. But all of this i think is particularly affected by my hyper-sensitivity. I guess I am a musical person (I was voted "most musical" in my 6th grade yearbook, so I guess I am) but I don't listen to it terribly often. Is this weird? It sounds weird to me. But i often can't focus on anything else if music is on. I could never study to music. Maybe I just have too many darn thoughts. I think I'm kind of like, musically autistic or something. Not to poke fun at autism, at all. But If I hear a repeating beat or tone in the sounds of the day, my brain is forced to sing a nonexistent song to it. If I allow it, a song will always be slipping into my brain, and I may very well go mad. So I need to be careful. I am easily over-stimulated. Often, Sean will play some music Saturday mornings which is great and fun but after a while I will say, "ugh, turn it off, please. No more." I do play the piano every day though. When I work on music-writing, I feel like I am constantly swimming in the song & the harmonies and am completely immersed, which is lovely for a time. For days, it will be there when I wake up and there when I go to sleep. But I do need breaks.

(The music-writing, if you're interested, refers to hymn arrangements mostly, one of my endeavors. Choral, vocal solo, duets, instrumental. I am trying to put together a repertoire and actually get them all written out and up on a website. I will say no more because I fear it may never happen but if it does, i will tell you and demand that you buy the music and tell all your friends. :) )

In college I was seriously considering majoring in Media Music until I realized just what exactly that meant and then I was out of there. But I took a songwriting class which was required and I realized it was songwriting, as in writing songs, like for the radio. I know this is stupidly obvious but I can't stress my old lady-ness enough. It's pretty authentic, and my brain is just more inclined toward other musical arenas. When I realized what it was I became very nervous. I do not write lyrics. If i tried it would be so absurd and just the worst song ever. In my band my job was to arrange and come up with harmonies. I am good at this. Lyrics, I am so, so not. And in my class I was completely clueless about guitar chords--what?? totally new and foreign to me. What i learned helped me in the band though. For our final project in the class, we had to write an original song with a strict but basic formula: verse chorus, verse, chorus, or whatever. And i struggled because again, not my style. But I did it. It was lame and called, The Land of Make Believe about a girl who's obsessed about a man and whose sense of reality is very skewed, and she lives in her own made-up world. Props to Britta who volunteered her angelic voice (prettiest voice I've ever heard, to this day) to sing the song for me, as well as many other songs.

Here's an excerpt of the lyrics:

We passed each other today
Strategically planned
And I waved my hand
But you didn't see me....


You don't know my name

But we're destined all the same.... [can't remember...]

Chorus:
We are in a story (land of make believe...) <-- it was a duet, so as to symbolize her schizo-ness.
Believe what's in this story.

Oh man, I need to stop. I don't think I want to remember this.

13 comments:

Joel said...

It's funny what you said about music that is upbeat but about sad things, because I was listening to a band just today that I characterize exactly that way. I too enjoy putting seemingly incongruous things together.

Joel said...

Oh, and I also can't stand musicals (except when they do them on The Simpsons).

Melissa Broekhuijsen said...

Oh Jen. You have just broken the dam.

"Songs that are happy and upbeat" yet "talk about sad things"? Seriously? You probably just defined Mika in a sentence.

While many are camp and over-the-top, his songs always have a deeper, usually more sullen meaning. For example, his biggest hit, Grace Kelly, which sounds like a desperate plea for love - a cute, bouncy little love song - is actually a shot at the music industry, written in a fit of rage. Listening and reading the lyrics with this in mind adds a whole 'nother (<---haha) layer of awesome. Another good but lesser-known example? My Interpretation. Relatively up beat, but biting. The words are so bitter - I LOVE it! See here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpcgcbZDeyE&feature=related

You're welcome.

Jen said...

Ah yes, Joel. And that is more evidence that we were separated at birth, as Sean says...

Melissa, i hadn't even heard of this "Mika" character until i saw your blog/shrine to him. :) I'll have to scope out some of his tunes.

One of my favorite songs is a Radiohead song called No Surprises. It's the prettiest melody ever, and it happens to be about suicide. Also: It's mine and Sean's "song." Ha. How's that.

Ashley said...

Are you kidding? You don't want to remember "The Land of Make Believe"? That was your crowning moment. I demand an audio clip. I can sing part of the chorus but not the other parts.

Britta said...

Ok, after reading your post I had to dig through all my CDs to find "The Land of Make Believe." I KNOW I have it somewhere. Unfortunately I couldn't find it but I DID find your Kolob, the violin Abide With Me (btw, Tamara's playing has made me cry, but I'm pregnant and that's allowed, right?), and the song you wrote to your Dad's poem.

You really have a gift. I love your piano playing and your arrangements. I would LOVE to keep updated if you ever start your own site. I will be one of the biggest fans.

Britta said...

Oh, and good taste, Melissa! I totally agree. Mika can be campy but I really can get into his music. Some of his songs I had to listen to more than once to really enjoy, but he's a really original artist.

Joel said...

The band I was thinking of is the Format. Try this. It's one of my favorite songs.

Jen said...

The Format. Yes, I vaguely recall. Those are some fun songs. Very chipper.

Britta, high five. Though, i'm very glad you can't find that CD. I can't either. I think I hid it on purpose or something. ha. But yeah.. it's ok to cry. Tamra's violin will always have that effect. Plus, I think she likes doing that to people. If you want a goodie, last Christmas I had her record a simple recording of What Child is This for 2 violins. Man alive! I don't want to pat myself on the back, buuuut.... ;)

The Pedersen Posse said...

I'm a little surprised that you don't like musicals. I admit, some are really cheesy, but most are excellent and great fun. It's not just the music or the acting I like either. When I saw "The Scarlet Pimpernell," the lead was spitting on all his fellow actors and the front row of the audience. I haven't laughed that hard in ages.

I, too, would be a fun of your music site. The "Land of Make Believe" actually sounds like it could be a hit. Whatever happened to your CD that BYU sold? I always intended to get a copy but I wasn't in the neighborhood at the time.

The Pedersen Posse said...

On an unrelated matter- who says it's me that teaches my kid "naughty" words? He does have a father too... :)

Natalie R. said...

I agree with you that opera is the highest form of music. I love it SO much, and it's so incredible powerful!! My absolute favorite opera is Turandot, but anything by Puccini makes me very happy. :0)

I have to say, though, I can't believe you don't like musicals!! Cameron was just making fun of me tonight because as I did the dishes, I was singing Phantom straight through. The hardest thing for me about living in NYC is not going to Broadway every night. I hope we can still be friends! ;0)

Jen said...

Yeah, I don't know what to tell you. I just really don't like them. Ha ha. But Nat, you don't know the struggle I felt knowing how much you love them. Please forgive.