Sunday, March 31, 2013

My wedding, music in Barcelona

A rare post where my personal life overlaps with my music, where my music helps me get through obstacles in my personal life ...

To follow up on the previous post (now updated with a tracklist), it was not a mix of music intended to be played at a wedding.  I was itching to make a new mix, specifically a more free flowing and laid back kind of mix like the one from Podcast Episode 6 (which I've been listing to a lot recently), but couldn't find the time.  It was only in the few days before the wedding, when we'd finally run out of important things to do, that I found the time one Friday morning to record the mix.  And in the days following the wedding, I spent a few free hours listing to the mix and doing some minor editing.  It was a simple task and therefore a helpful distraction to keep me busy and relatively free of nerves.

I had asked the DJ at the wedding to record his set.  Wait, let's back up ... I met with the DJ a week earlier and handed him a lengthy list of songs not to play. Almost immediately, I regretted doing it.  Even though I had already told him I'd be bringing him a "do not play" list (something he'd happily agreed to), he seemed put off and even a bit insulted when I showed it to him. First, it was a long and detailed list, filled with minute details like "no slow songs by Stevie Wonder", "nothing by Phil Collins except for possibly 'Against All Odds'", and a list of specific disco songs not to play.  Was he supposed to print it out and/or memorize it and/or remove certain files from his hard drive for the evening (actually, I thought the last of these was possible and not altogether unreasonable)?  Second, an experienced professional DJ might resent the impression that he was being handed a list of detailed instructions about how to do his job.

In the end, the list simply confused matters.  We'd told him he'd be playing in front of a very mixed crowd so he should mix it up between pop, rock, Middle Eastern, and some of our personal requests.  In that sense, his set was perfect in terms of style and flow.  He seamlessly combined genres and covered all the musical ground we asked him to.  But the "do not play" list was a failure.  All it seemed to do was stick the names of certain songs in his head, without the negative associations.  So now I have to live with the fact that dreck like Joan Osborne's "One Of Us" got played at my wedding.  The saving grace is that almost all of these slip-ups were for "slow" portions, when people were eating and the music was in the background.  In fact, the DJ's only real comment on my list was that it wasn't a problem because most of them were slow songs, IOW, when people were actually dancing he could just go by feel and wouldn't need my list.

Of course the truly most important thing is that I was generally too happy to really care about the DJ's mistakes.  The guests enjoyed themselves and certainly didn't care about stuff like that either, which is the second most important thing.  I have a recording of the set and can relive things "as they really were" whenever I want, warts and all, and that was important to be.

The DJ came through for us in two other, very underappreciated ways:

1) He chose the "glass breaking" song, i.e. the song immediately played after the ceremony.  His first suggestion was the Beatles' "She Loves You" -- happy, upbeat, not too serious but also a bit too old fashioned.  His second suggestion was the Cure's "Friday I'm In Love" which I didn't think would work because not everyone would know the song.  He insisted it didn't matter, it was all about setting the mood and that everyone would be able to understand that from the first note. It was perfect because a lot of people complimented us on a great choice of song even though we didn't pick it (of course we gave him his due credit!).  The DJ correctly guessed I was a Cure fan based on the music I like.

2) I gave him a list of suggestions for the welcoming reception.  I didn't want to tell him what to play but told him I'd appreciate it if he could slip in a few of these songs, just so my fingerprints could be on a small portion of the music for the night.  I was busy and/or not present for significant parts of the reception, but I vaguely remember hearing Spiritualized's "Cool Waves" and Beach House's "Walk in the Park".  But my clearest memory of the reception was in the few moments before the ceremony started, when we were already running late and really had to get out there, and you're trying to have a few more moments to relax and breath but you know there really isn't any time for that ... and that's when I heard the muffled sounds of  Beach House's "The Hours" drifting into our dressing room.  I hadn't requested that song, but he knew I really liked Beach House (why?  I'd sent him a copy of my top 10 albums of 2011 and 2012) and played it as a bonus.  And that's when time proverbially stood still for a couple of moments and I knew everything was under control.

The following week, we were in Barcelona, and unfortunately it was a trip filled with missed opportunities on the music side of things (but a great trip otherwise).  There wasn't much to piqued my interest on the club side of things (although Italo Disco night featuring a live performance by Alexander Robotnick could have been interesting), which might have something to do with Easter week being a slow time for clubs.  I didn't get a chance to do any serious music shopping, and besides, a lot of places seem to be closing based on the information on this page (and the number of dead links it contains).  We also missed out on seeing the Magic Fountain because we mixed up the summer and winter performance hours.  Seeing the final couple of minutes from afar (too far away to hear the music) while walking from the train station somehow made our mistake even sadder and more pitiful.

On the bright side, the buskers in Park Guell were wonderful.  There was a classical guitar/violin duo who were so great we bought their CD, a didgeridoo player in one of the many mini-caves in the park, and a acoustic rock band who I jokingly thought looked just like Coldplay right before they broke into a rather pleasant version of Radiohead's "No Surprises".  Best of all was the music and parades on Palm Sunday, where costumed monsters and stampeding horses roamed the streets with a succession of brass and drum ensembles.  

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Diary of Musical Thoughts Podcast 14

"The Wedding Mix" - 123 minutes

Not a mix of love songs, or a selection of songs that are necessarily recommended for play at weddings, but something that brought me much peace of mind.  A snapshot of a moment in time.

(tracklist will be posted at a later date)

Monday, March 11, 2013

Dave Ogilvie did what? and the return of Hollowphonic

As if the "Call Me a Hole" mashup wasn't unbelievable enough, it turns out that the man who mixed "Call Me Maybe" was none other than Dave "Rave" Ogilvie, who made a name for himself by working with industrial bands such as Skinny Puppy and Nine Inch Nails.  What's more, he mixed "Call Me Maybe" with NIN in mind.  I couldn't make this up if I tried.  It's also no less than the most bizarre and spectacular bit of music trivia to come along in ages.  I was reading about how he feared that the beats were a bit rough for a pop record, only to be told by the producers that it was exactly what they were shooting for, and it made such perfect sense and seemed so bleedingly obvious.  And yet at the same time who could have ever made the connection on their own, without it being spoon fed to you?  It's like the "Smells Like Teen Spirit"/"More Than A Feeling" connection, only ten times more awesome and unexpected.

What's more, I'm hearing odd connections everywhere now, like on this brand new song by Hollowphonic. Can you convince me that Brad Ketchen didn't ask for a "Call Me Maybe"-style kick drum to be glued onto his song during the mixing process?  Up until a week ago I probably would have said this was Hollowphonic's homage to MBV's "Soon", but now I hear a catchy danceable intro and a big pop chorus.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

History in photos, Black Swans in music

Catching up on some older links I've been meaning to say something about:

I can't recall seeing a better collection of photos that take you right inside New York club culture in the 70's and 80's. You really feel as though you're sitting in the room with them in these pictures.  The comments and reminiscences are revealing too, in particular, Nicky Siano's memories of Bianca Jagger's birthday party at Studio 54 (with photographers magically appearing out of the woodwork and bums lining the streets in the back) really sums up NYC's legendary highs (clubs, artists, glamour) and lows (crime, everyday dangers) that made the city so notorious in the 70's.

Why did I only find out about Slices DVD Features a couple of months ago?  In the latest installment, Alva Noto talks about how he was influenced by physics and oscilloscopes (which could be inferred from listening to his music for ten seconds, but it's still nice to hear him talk about it) and the whole interview and all the music in it could have been recorded at almost any time between 2000-2013.  Don't ever change Carsten!  He's been dong exactly the same thing since forever but he knows exactly who he is.

Finally, I woke up to a lot of "best mashup ever!"/"this wins the internet"-style posts today (which of course happens a few times most weeks) but this time it really might be true.  I always say that one of the main reasons I write about music is to be able to look back on what I write in a few years time and laugh about how wrong I was about something (and also to gloat about being right).  But just about everyone (which obviously includes me) writes intrinsically conservative predictions, neglecting to speculate on the Black Swan events that are usually more eye-catching.  Not that there aren't good reasons for this -- Black Swan events are by definition completely impossible to predict, so it's a bit silly to waste time on fantasy booking when you could be writing about the art that's sitting in front of your face.  Nevertheless it would be interesting if we could place Superbowl-type prop bets on music and musicians.  For instance, in 1991, what odds would you give on Trent Reznor winning an Oscar?  1000 to 1?  Maybe the odds come down a bit when he improbably won a Grammy for Best Metal Performance in 1992, but still.  You can assign almost any number you want to these odds -- these events were so improbable that nobody would have known how to place a value on them.

This is still true today.  In 2007, what were the odds of a reject from a Canadian reality show scoring the runaway biggest pop hit of the year in five years time?  I'd have gone a lot higher than 1000 to 1 on that.  There are precedents for renegade rock artists switching to soundtrack work and winning awards in their 40's and 50's.  There was no precedent for Carly Rae Jepsen.

If I traveled back in time to 1991 and told you that Nine Inch Nails would "collaborate" with a bubblegum pop artist on a "rerecorded" version of "Head Like a Hole" (nobody knew what a mashup was so it would have been described in those terms) and that fans of both bands and music in general would say it was cool and awesome, would you have believed it?