The other day, I was listening to the radio and I heard something that has set me off in the search of a Musical Linguistic Virus. The idea comes from Neal Stephenson's novel, Snow Crash. In Snow Crash there is a bio linguistic virus which ends up getting spread via virtual worlds. It seems to be a pretty virulent science fiction virus, but it seems like the idea isn't really all that far from reality.
Ideas, snippets of music, and memes have been spread from one person to another for ages. Perhaps a good example is an ear worm. Even without the Internet, ear worms can spread quickly. For people my age, I could simply mention, "Lovin' You" by Minnie Riperton, and many of my friends would not be able to get the tune out of the head.
Yet perhaps musical linguistic viruses in the Internet Age are more complicated. It wasn't a simple ear worm that I heard on the radio that I haven't been able to get out of my head. Instead, the host of the radio show was talking with guests from a band. They talked about key musical influences, bands from the eighties, and reusing samples. Perhaps they are taking musical DNA from the eighties and mutating it into new ear worms or musical linguistic viruses.
They mentioned Brian Eno, so I started to listen to some of his ambient music series on Spotify. This is a new avenue where musical linguistic viruses can spread. A thought came to me listening to a radio show. I pursued the thought on Spotify by listening to the music. Spotify posted to my Facebook Timeline that I had listened to Brian Eno and friends commented on it.
Steven L Johnson said, "That's what I listen to when I want to nap. :-)".
I responded, "Well, I've had a LONG week, and I'm actually going to crash soon." In fact, I did head off to bed soon after that, but my mind continued to turn about this. How does music affect what we think? How much does it reflect the current culture? Can we culture jam spreading different musical linguistic viruses via the Internet?
Perhaps an interesting project would be to create word clouds of the lyrics to the 25 songs of each year and tracking how it has changed.
So, what are you listening to? Why are you listening to it? How is it changing you? Perhaps most importantly, can we change what we listen to and how we talk about it to change our country and our world?
I managed to make it home uneventfully, even though I was dead tired. It was one of those drives where it took all my energy to stay focused on driving, and if the trip had been longer than my daily commute, I would have considered pulling off at a rest area and taking a nap.
At home, I made a quick visit of various websites, and am now throwing together this blog post.
Fortunately, it is Monday, so I can pull together a few things for a quick Music Monday post.
Last night, Fiona interviewed Jen Alexander about Middnight on Main, a large New Years' Eve event that will take place in Middletown, CT. You can listen to the interview here
Also, yesterday I created a YouTube video, Rick Perry ROLLED. Yeah, it's what you think it is:
I want this New Years' Eve to be one to remember, so I've been thinking about how to invite all my friends to a giant New Years' Eve party. Currently, I have 2,226 friends on Facebook, so I need to do something special.
First, the little house we're renting just isn't big enough for 2,226 people to come to, even if they come at different times. So, I needed to find some other party worth going to and worth inviting all my friends.
The Community Health Center where I work is a lead sponsor of Middnight on Main, a large First Night style New Years' Eve event in Middletown, CT. There are a lot of great acts and events that will be there.
While there are many different events that will take place at Middnight on Main, we decided to create one large overarching event for the whole evening. The question becomes, how do we invite everyone.
I could go through and click on each friend, one after another, but with 2,226 friends, that would take a while. However, there are people who have written about how to invite all your friends at once. This blog post is one of the better descriptions of the process. I've tested it in Chrome and Safari and it has worked for me, with a few special things to note.
Also, as noted in the updates, be sure to scroll down to the end of your friends list before running the script. Otherwise, it will only get the first fifty to one hundred friends.
The next thing to note. Since this is an event in Connecticut, it probably doesn't make sense to invite many of my international friends. I did invite some while I was testing, and others because I figured they would do a good job of helping spread the word. However, I really wanted to target the invitation to all of my local friends.
Since I haven't done a lot with lists, my lists aren't still all that great, but I used this to invite a bunch of people that I thought would be interested, and for some lists, adding a special message to target my invitation.
One of my writing themes for this year has been about living your life as if you were living the great American novel, or at least a collection of great American short stories. It reflects the medium I am most comfortable with, the written word. Yet I know others that are more comfortable with visual representations, or music, and there are times that I stare at the blank screen, trying to conjure words for things I just can’t find words for.
Recently, many sites are coming up with their retrospectives on 2011. I look through the images and videos. I listen to the music, and I wonder how to pull all of it together. I remember during the beginning of the Iraq war, people defending the war suggesting it would lead to an outbreak of democracy across the Middle East. As we prepare to leave Iraq, we can look back at the Arab Spring. What role did the Iraq war play in this?
I also remember climate change activists talking about who climate change would bring about food riots and more severe weather patterns. What role did food riots play in the Arab Spring? What role did climate change play in the rough weather we had in 2011?
Then, there were the people predicting the end of the world; if not this year, then the next. Looking at war and political unrest, at earthquakes and extreme weather, it is easy to wonder if these are signs of the end times.
As I look at the economic turmoil in Europe, and the failure of leaders in Europe, here in the United States in our Congress, and across the world to address growing income disparities, and the unrest that comes from economic woes, I have to wonder where we are headed. Is this another warning of the end times? Will the economic unrest grow and lead us to another World War? Will Internet based communications change the way we deal with these large issues?
I look back to art, to words, images, and music. 2011 Still Life. Yes, despite the predictions at the end of 2011, there is still life, and perhaps it could be represented in some sort of image.
Perhaps a Twenty First Century Guernica, with images of uprisings and tsunamis, of storms and of pepper spray. Perhaps as the year comes to an end, we need an image of honey badger taking out Father Time, and because no internet image is complete without it, we need kittens and double rainbows. So intense.
(While National Novel Writing Month has passed, I've written the following in the style I was exploring during the month. While it is based on my general recollections of junior high school, I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the memories.)
It was about forty years ago that I went to my first junior high school dance. It was around the time that my parents were breaking up and my mother drove me in old green Chevy pick up truck to the regional high school. With anticipation and apprehension, I dressed up in some nice school clothes. I didn’t have any fancy clothes to speak of, it wasn’t a fancy sort of dance, and I probably would have felt even more awkward if I had to where something nice. My older brothers, already in high school, and having been to various school dances made snide comments, and my younger sister, still in elementary school and a Partridge Family fan wanted to find some way that she could go on such a grand adventure. My mother sensed my uneasiness at the event, and told her to stay home as she drove me to the dance.
Back then, I was a nerd, before it was cool to be a nerd. I enjoyed talking about academic subjects, especially math. I had gone from playing clarinet in the school band to alto clarinet, on a journey that would lead me to saxophone, bagpipes, and any other instrument I could get my hands on. Yet actually performing, or for that matter, sufficiently practicing the clarinet, was something that terrified me, almost as much as talking to a girl, or letter her know that I liked her.
The drive to the school was a little over seven miles. It was fifteen minutes of just me and my mother. She tried to get me to talk about who would be there. I mentioned some of the boys that I thought would probably be there, but didn’t mention any of the girls, especially not mentioning the girls I thought were cute or hoped to dance with.
Like so many school dances, this one took place in the gymnasium. The room wax dark and decorated with crepe paper. Up near the front of the gym, the band was set up at the east end. I walked around a little the large room for a little bit to try and find my friends. Like all the boys, they were on the north side of the gym. We stood around and looked timidly across the floor to the south side where the girls were gathered in similar clusters. Some of the more popular and self possessed kids took to the dance floor. They seemed to be having a good time, and I longed to join.
We did not listen to much music at our house. There was an old radio in the corner of the kitchen that we would listen to on snowy mornings to hear if there was a school cancellation. We eventually got a small record player and we listened to records we checked out of the town library. My sister purchased a single or two, and it seemed like there would be weeks on end that I heard “If you’re going to San Francisco…” playing over and over on the record player.
I remember listening to the Beatles when we checked out one of there albums and I would mangle Hey Jude, horribly. Some of my neighbors, older boys that were closer friends with my brothers and played in one of the many typical high school bands, would endlessly try to get me to sing Hey Jude a little better, but I just couldn’t tell what I was doing wrong. I also listened to a bit of Simon & Garfunkel. “I am a rock” seemed to capture my social abilities of the time.
At the dance, there would be various songs that the band would play that would encourage me to ask a girl to dance. When “She was just seventeen” came on, my heart would go boom as I crossed the room to ask one of the girls to dance. I would be terrified that they would say no, and perhaps even more terrified that they would say yes. Yet instead of dancing through the night, we would dance one dance, and then awkwardly exchange niceties before retreating back to our respective sides of the gym.
Another song that I really liked to dance at in those says was “Smoke on the Water”. I didn’t know what the words were. I just recognized the four measure riff and anticipated singing along to the chorus, “Smoke on the water, fire in the sky”. When the familiar opening chords were played, I would walk across the floor and try to get someone to dance with me. I was more comfortable with this song. I could simply enjoy dancing to it, without worrying about everyone looking at me or what my partner might be thinking.
When the dance was over, my mother would pick me up in the green pickup truck for the long fifteen minute drive home. She would ask if I had fun and whom I danced with. I would mumble about having had a good time and maybe name a girl or two that I danced with.
The days have passed and my two eldest daughters have been through their school dances. Perhaps I was projecting, but it seemed like Mairead’s experiences at school dances mirrored my own. Miranda seemed to have a much better time at the dances and would be much more talkative afterwards.
All of these memories come to mind, as I visited a blog I enjoy today. The Modern Historian has blog posts about things that have happened this day in history. Today is the fortieth anniversary of the Montreux Casino fire in 1971 that smoke on the water is all about.
Instead of looking for the old grey portable record player we had as a kid, I typed “Smoke on the Water” into Spotify and listened to the original, as well as a bunch of interesting covers of it, from a workout video to a bagpipe cover.