Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Can You Hear It?

Hey, Friends.

I love music.  Not a big declaration, I realize, as I don't know anyone who doesn't at least appreciate music. I think I need to share some backstory in the hopes that this will all make a bit more sense.

When I was in kindergarten, my elementary school music teacher let me start playing the recorder with the "big kids".  I was the only one who got to do it.  I'm not sure what she saw in me that said I should do it, but I loved it.  I thought I was so cool.

When we got older and got to pick out a "real" instrument to play, I chose the flute.  Why?  Because of this:

At some point I had seen James Galway play this song on television, and I was fascinated.   My parents even got me one of his albums so I could listen to it around the house.  I played the flute and sang in chorus all through elementary school.

Once we got to Middle School, however, you kind of had to pick a side.  You couldn't (or at least not with my schedule) do both band and chorus, so I chose band.  I was in the band all through Middle School and High School.  I joined the marching band in high school and ended up playing the piccolo in it, as well as in the concert band.  I took private lessons, went to NYSSMA -- I was a total flute geek.

I think it was back in sixth or seventh grade, everyone had to take a basic music appreciation type of class -- even if you were already in the band.  You had to learn the basics of how to read music (there were a lot of kids who didn't play an instrument and didn't know how), and I remember we had to learn on a paper print-out of a keyboard where the notes were located.  It sounds silly, but I always thought the most helpful part of that whole class was the paper keyboard.  I never took piano lessons, but after that I knew where the notes were on a real piano or keyboard.  My parents got me a little Casio electric keyboard, and I would amuse myself for hours, trying to play sheet music for my flute on the keyboard, or picking out tunes by ear from songs I had heard.  It was a very exciting life I led in Middle School.

Friends, you know how when you go bowling, and you do a really terrible job of aiming the bowling ball?  I find myself standing at the lane, waving my arm in the direction I want the ball to go, like I am going to magically correct my shitty aim with the power of my mind.  You can deny it, but I know I'm not the only one who does that.  I've seen other people trying to do the same thing. 

 I do something similar when I hear someone attempting to sing, and they are not quite reaching the notes.  My mother and I took my niece and nephew to a concert in the park one summer, near the Fourth of July.  It was a full concert band with a featured female singer.  The kids weren't paying the slightest bit of attention, running around and having a great time.  My mother and I were listening to the concert.  The band itself was great.  The singer?  Not so much.  I figured the first song wasn't so hot because of nerves -- there were a lot of people there to watch.  After two more songs?  I'm convinced this woman either can't actually sing, or she is somehow not remotely hearing the music from the full concert band directly behind her.  Most of it was okay, but when she would try for the big dramatic notes?  Ouch.  She would warble around the note -- flat, then sharp, sliding all around it without ever successfully landing on the note where she was meant to be.  People would clap and say how good she did. No.  No clapping for you!  You are literally making my ears twitch.  She would go for a big, long, dramatic note and I would find myself squinting my eye and tilting my head, as if I could will her to get just that little bit less flat and nail it, or as if tipping my one ear higher into the air would somehow make her voice that little bit higher and on pitch.  That was the most painful concert I have ever been forced to sit through.  (There were fireworks afterward, so totally had to stay for those or I would have bailed early on.)

I do have a point to this entire ramble that you just read, promise.  

I have this thing that happens at fairly often.  I don't know what you would call it, in all fairness.  It's not really a talent.  I don't know that it's a personality trait or quirk either.  It's just a thing. Sometimes I hear a song, and it usually happens the first time I hear it, and it immediately makes me think of another song.  I'm not talking about the songs with obvious samples in it that the artist pretty much expects people to recognize.  It's something different, and it's not always the same thing. Maybe it's the melody, or the bass line.  Some visceral, ephemeral thing about that song immediate connects it to another song in my brain.  

This is where you come in, Friends.  

I've tried pointing these out to friends and family who I know listen to a wide range of music, hoping they hear it too.  Most of the time I get a responses like, "No. They sound nothing alike.  How did you even come up with that?" or "You're crazy. They are completely different."  Once in a while I'll get a, "They do sound a little similar. Maybe it was the same writer or producer or something."  Maybe those people are just more polite and don't want to hurt my feelings.  Very, very rarely will anyone ever agree with me.

Friends, I want to give you three examples.  Let's start with the one that I could find absolutely no one to agree with me on, shall we?  

First up:  E-Pro by Beck and So What Cha Want by the Beastie Boys.  When I first heard E-Pro, I was immediately reminded of the Beastie Boys.  No one else seems to make the same connection. Tell me I'm not alone on this, please?

Example number two:

E.T. by Katy Perry and All The Things She Said by t.A.T.u. -- This one wasn't immediate.  I had heard the Katy Perry song numerous times without making the connection.  I hadn't heard the t.A.T.u. song in a long time, and it wasn't until I heard it on Pandora (Maybe? Either that or the regular radio) that something in my brain clicked and linked the two together.  I found one person who would agree with me that they sounded kind of similar.

Example Three:

This one just happened yesterday morning, as I was scraping ice off of my car.  A neighbor somewhere had music playing loudly, but it was muffled and at a distance -- like it was coming from inside their house, or in a running car with all of the doors and windows shut.  I was enjoying it, but when they opened the door/window/whatever-they-did and it got louder, I realized it was a completely different song than I thought.  I had never heard the song they were playing before, so I Shazam-ed it (yes, I'm using Shazam as a verb.  Deal with it.) on my phone.  I haven't told anyone about this latest bit of musical madness in my brain, so you get to be in on the ground floor, Friends.

This is the song that, it turns out, was actually playing.  I had never heard this before, although I have heard of the band.  I know they're really popular.  I don't live under a rock.  I just haven't actively sought out any of their music to listen to yet.

Hey Everybody!  by 5 Seconds of Summer

And here is the song that I thought I had been hearing:

Hungry Like the Wolf by Duran Duran

They sound really similar, right?  That's not just some weird shit going on in my brain. Tell me you can hear it, Friends. Or tell me I'm totally cracked in the head. Tell me I should just keep all my strange little musical moments to myself as no else gets them.  

Tell me anything, Friends.  There's got to be at least one other person out there somewhere who gets where I'm coming from with these.  I refuse to believe I am the only one who gets these little connections when they hear music.

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