Between the Notes #4

.:Random Is As Random Does:.

It happens all summer: thirteen seconds of random, over-amplified music modified by the Doppler Effect, interference and my resistance to processing the tune. I endure it along with everyone else on the sidewalk or stopped at the red light, and then we all move on with our lives maybe just a bit more sour for having to endure the song blasting out of the passing car stereo. Among life’s tragedies, it’s next to nothing, but it strikes me as odd because otherwise I generally welcome music.

I consider myself pretty open minded musically. I enjoy having music pushed at me. Every day on my commute home I pass by the Virgin Megastore and if I can make out the ambient music over my own earphones, or for some odd reason I haven’t already fitted my ears with music of my own choosing, I usually don’t mind the intrusion.

So why is it that the song on that car stereo is always a bother, even it’s a song I like? Is it that the inherent randomness is too much for my over-stimulated head? Do I just resent the perpetrator of the audio invasion? Don’t I inflict my musical tastes on people in my office, my wife, my daughter on a regular basis?

It comes down to the mind set of the one doing the playing. I share my music with the people around me. I pick songs I anticipate people in ear shot will at least tolerate if not enjoy. It’s still a “me-out” phenomenon, but there’s at least the slightest concern for the casual or captive audience, even when I’m feeling feisty. The folks around me are generally music fans and take the same care with my sensibilities.

Even the Virgin Megastore is just marketing its wares. The offensive driver (and, I have to admit, it’s been me on occasion) is not sharing or selling, but imposing and it’s the id running amok that I resent, I suppose. While I am tolerant of and usually appreciate the musical taste of others, I am not entirely accommodating of their id release.

My brother once said “no one’s having more fun than a bunch of assholes.” I’ve always found that was pretty accurate. We all need to get life’s garbage out of our systems and while that’s liberating, pretty often it means inflicting some temporary damage on the world around us.

It’s one of the things people hate about New York – the density of the population means that it’s nearly impossible for people to blow off some steam without putting out about 3,000 bystandards. It’s the trade off you make for being close to the action. Who knows, maybe the accumulated noise (literal and figurative) somehow enriches your life in some way that’s not evident to you as you muddle through, but that’s a stretch and I don’t feel like giving anyone excuses.


I’ve had a busy week and rather than choose an album to play every hour or so, I set my MP3 player to random. It’s a list of nearly 7,000 songs (6,905 to be precise) that I’ve collected for various moods and while the tempo and style shift can be jarring (Chopin to Ray Condo to Coltrane to Christmas music to Sonic Youth to children’s music to Joe Jackson just as I’ve been typing) it’s all pretty easy to work to.

How is that possible? It could be that I’ve just become that familiar with my own music collection, but how familiar do you get with the Dead Kennedies before the songs blend smoothly into Johnny Cash?

My esteemed predecessor included a list of songs at the end of each column detailing the tracks that played randomly as he wrote his column. His play list was no more confined to any parameters — just the unity of his perception (the philosophy-wonk phrase for the fact his perception of the tracks as bytes-worthy united them even if nothing else did).

It’s the flip side of the above rant. I don’t mind being jarred by music of my own choice, even if I wouldn’t choose to listen to most of it at that second, other than the rare but portentous occasion when I’ve got a song in my head and it comes up as if the player was developing intuition.

Random is just not all that random when you have green lighted every track, even if it’s pulling from a pool of songs in the thousands. But, like the protagonist’s re-filed record collection in High Fidelity, it only makes sense to the people who are intimately familiar with the collector. Without knowing a bit or all of Jeffrey R. Fernandez’s musical development, what connects all of these tracks? If you didn’t know they were tracks he heard while writing the most recent sKR33d, would you imagine they were connected by anything?

– Los Amigos Invisibles, “Groupie”
– VNV Nation, “Epicentre”
– Corina, “Temptation”
– Fluke, “Kitten Moon”
– Lords of Acid, “Rough Sex” (The All Night Grinder Mix)
– The Cure, “Close to Me”
– Butthole Surfers, “Pepper”
– T’Pau, “Heart and Soul”
– ABBA, “Waterloo”
– The Cramps, “Primitive”

If you believe in his integrity (and who, really, would lie about this particular set, especially as you get closer to the end?) this all came out in this order and he didn’t make mention of being shaken by it. The more you know about his tastes, the clearer it gets until you become the man himself (hi, JF2K6!) and every song is tightly woven into your history to the point where they are just dots on your personal timeline of music appreciation.

The one caveat to testing the limits of acceptable randomness is that it’s pretty humbling when someone drops by to talk about work and the Hokey Pokey comes on (Songs for Wiggleworms, the Old Town School of Folk). You can’t hide your stashes of guilty pleasures and musical indulgences to family and friends when true randomness and your full collection mix. I can be beaming over my music snob cred when someone finds me grooving to a semi-obscure Swedish crooner only to scramble to the volume control when “I Just Called to Say I Love You” starts (really, try to find a decent Stevie Wonder singles compilation without it).


.:On a Separate Note:.

So I’m packing up several hundred CDs to made room for another person in my life. I’m not being metaphorical. There’s a baby on the way and the room designated for the child’s occupancy currently houses a book shelf, the desk at which I am writing, a futon and many, many CDs.

I’ve got digital files that make the better part of the physical album collection redundant, but there are some decent disks that I either chose to not rip or never got around to ripping. I mini-splurged recently and purchased a 160GB Black Book external storage device that can hold all of the music, our back up computer files as well as the pictures and movies we will take of the expanding family. So I have the hardware required and roughly a 2 week window to rip anything that needs ripping.

It’s not a big deal except I wonder if there is anything keeping me from having a massive sell off, or just leaving the disks on the side of the road like people used to do with their LPs before LPs became the height of cool again. Am I ready to make the 100% pure digital plunge? I could probably use some lossless codec and still get the bulk of the music into the handful of cubic inches sitting behind the screen in front of me.

I could, but I won’t.

The CDs are the things I paid for and while I agree with the owne’s right to rip the disk — which is based on the content, not the atoms you hold in your hand, being the product — I left the store with each disk after handing over some cash to an Ssquared wanna-be and I want to keep them. Although to be perfectly honest, it’s partly that fetish and partly something more sentimental.

I remember buying my first compact disk. I was a freshman in college, not particularly wealthy, and wanted something that was both not already in my tape collection and something I was pretty sure I wouldn’t regret. I ended up with Back To Basics by Billy Bragg. All and all, not a bad choice, even looking back on it from the distance of (cough, cough) years. I remember getting six people from my office together for a trip to the new HMV on 36th Street in Manhattan to buy Rhymes, Beats and Life by A Tribe Called Quest on the day it came out. I remember when I found the first CD by a band my friend was in, sitting in the appropriate stack of my local record store.

I see myself hauling these CDs from home to home, losing just enough in every move to be really annoying but not quite infuriating, eventually passing the remainder down to someone who likely won’t care since the hardware needed to play them will be lost forever. If I was not so many years older, I’d have a box of eight-tracks somewhere. The disks are the artifacts of my love for music. Anyone who completely lacks sentiment can be the first to laugh. In fact, if you are that person, I’m coming to drop my box of cassette tapes on your door step.


.:Reading is Fundamental:.

Ssquared (S^2 to friends) has an axe to grind with the labels

Must read of the week: Kyle breaks down the YouTube hubbub

Gloomchen provides a moral guide to choosing what music others will endure at your very personal function, and thus provides a sort of precursor to this column

The Bootleg Guy makes a welcome return and corrects some errors of judgment

No one puts Mathan in a musical corner, thank god

ML Kennedy fights convention wisdom on The Bourne Identity

Daniels nails the ARod debate


.:Beyond the Notes:.

For starters…


Lance Bass was the focus of the most overblown musical news story of the year, Prince is getting divorced, Metallica gave in to iTunes and Ashlee Simpson is being sponsored by Victoria’s Secret. Man, did this week suck for music news.

Michael McDonald is touring with Seeley Dan

Chris Cornell is doing the next Bond movie theme song

Kazaa’s paying up $115M to avoid a suit with the content companies

Really, that’s about it. Don’t shoot the messenger


And finally…

David Hasselhoff: The Musical
(BANG Showbiz) – David Hasselhoff is to star in a musical based on his life.

The show will be inspired by the 54-year-old’s career, US soap opera ‘The Young and The Restless’ and the songs of Teddy Pendergrass.

Hasselhoff, who has battled alcoholism, is quoted by website as saying: “I am doing a heart-rendering set on my life and the mistakes I have made.

“It sounds like a bad joke, but it is really going to be a good show… totally campy.”

He added: “It’s written by the same people who wrote Bette Midler’s show and produced by the people who produced ‘Chicago’ in London.”

The production – simply called ‘David Hasselhoff: The Musical’ – will open in Melbourne, Australia, before moving to America.

~~~ Admit it. You though I was kidding when I said it was a bad music news week.

Join our newsletter

never miss the latest news, reviews, live event coverage, audio podcasts, exclusive interviews and commentary for Movies, TV, Music, Sports, Comics, Video Games!