Eyes That Can See in the Dark

a music journal

August 22, 2004 (link)

10:37 PM

I found myself thinking today about men's and women's voices, and how a piece of music can feel different depending on the sex of the person singing it. What brought this to mind was Empire State Human's remix of Low's "I Remember", which uses as its source material the 7-inch version (now issued on Low's box set of rarities) where Mimi sings. It's interesting how the song changes as a result; for one, Mim sings it in the same octave that Alan does, which means that she's in her lower register, whereas Alan was basically singing in his head voice. Ergo, her delivery is more understated, a bit breathier, one might say more "relaxed" though that implies a value judgment I don't intend. To me, when Al sings the song, it's more cryptic, more spooky, more clearly connected to stuff like Songs for a Dead Pilot and Jandek -- whereas when Mim sings it, it sounds more straightforward, and more overtly like something between a lament and a lullaby and a love song. It's especially noticeable on the last phrase, "but I knew", where I find myself undecided as to whether it sounds to me like she's singing to someone she's with, or to someone she's lost or who's forsaken her (which makes it the dark surprise, the knowing-figure-outside whose presence sends a chill down your spine).

Interestingly, they both sing "No, they couldn't believe it was you" in the same way -- a way that, for some reason, reminds me of a certain accent I've occasionally heard in the suburbs north of Philadelphia, one in which the word "No" is intoned in a manner I don't think I've encountered anywhere else (and which, now that I think about it, reminds me a little bit of Minnesota).

Another case of this would be the recording I took out from the library of Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde, conducted by Leonard Bernstein and sung by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and James King. Since I didn't know the piece, I also didn't know that the work was "normally" for tenor and mezzo-soprano/contralto (instead of tenor and baritone, as in this recording); someone told me shortly after I took the CD out, but it's interesting to speculate how I would've internalized the piece differently had I listened to it, say, ten times without knowing. (Then again, I may've misunderstood the person who told me that the piece was usually sung by a woman -- I thought he meant that both male parts were normally for women's voices, and was having a hard time imagining "Dunkel ist das Leben, ist der Tod" sung up the octave.)

(Tangentially: heh-heh, "song poem".)

And a third example is the piece I'm listening to right now:

Current music: Gluck - Orfeo ed Euridice

(Before taking the CDs of this opera out of the library, I'd only had one real encounter with it, way back in the early nineties, on an old compilation of baroque music which had the "Dance of the Furies". I remember being basically annoyed at what I heard -- annoyed that it wasn't dissonant enough, annoyed that it didn't sound like Stravinsky or whatever. Obviously, this reaction does me no credit, just on grounds of "never blame something for not being what it's not trying to be" -- but I'm all the more chagrined because listening to it now, so far, it seems great! What a stupid prejudice to have, and how foolish to miss out on good music as a result of it...but then again, "Why would I want a library full of books I'd already read?")

(And the fact that that link comes up on my.opera.com is a rather remarkable bit of serendipity, no?)

(Comments for August 22, 2004)

August 12, 2004 (link)

12:03 PM

I thought of another one:

I used to have a tape of Chick Corea and Gary Burton's Crystal Silence, taken from LP, where the last two songs, "Children's Song" and "What Game Shall We Play Today", were both in D. But when I got the CD, they were both a whole-step lower, in C. Was a different take used for the CD? Was there a mastering error on one of the releases? Or did someone just speed the last two tracks up by 10% when they made the cassette I had?

(It was a borrowed tape, so I don't have it available to compare the two...)

Current music: Mozart - Symphony No. 36 in C, KV 425 ("Linz")

(Comments for August 12, 2004)

August 10, 2004 (link)

11:33 PM

P: should the grateful dead have made a disco album? let's find out:
S: they totally should've
P: well, they did.
P: "shakedown street"
S: well, then they shouldn't've

9:15 PM

"Dad, I don't like cool. I like beautiful."

6:52 PM

A quick search adds considerably to the list:

  • Billy Joel - Cold Spring Harbour (possibly the most notorious example ever of this)
  • Au Pairs - Sense and Sensuality (CD reissue; probably need confirmation on this one)
  • Shostakovich - Symphony No. 8, cond. Mravinsky (according to this review, anyway)
  • Ed Blackwell - Walls-Bridges (link)
  • The Cure - "The Top" (maybe?)
  • George Carlin - Killer Carlin (might be unauthorized?)
  • Big Country - "Fly Like An Eagle" (from Beautiful People 12"/CD5; possibly "Rockin' In The Free World" too)
  • The Jive Bombers - "Little Bad Boy" b/w "When Your Hair Has Turned to Silver" (link; it was supposed to be a 45, but they mastered it at 16RPM!)
  • Nora Dean - "Eddie My Love" (link)
  • Bob Dylan - Blonde on Blonde, UK LP (link -- need confirmation?)
  • Hood - "Ley Lines" (on Bedroom Ambience comp CD; link)

Also, I thought of one more I'd forgotten: on the American release of Sgt. Pepper, "She's Leaving Home" runs slow. I'm not sure this is a mistake...but it sure sounds like one!

6:38 PM

Let's start a list of "commercial releases that were mastered at the wrong speed". Only official releases are allowed -- live shows are OK, but including bootlegs would make the list pointless -- and the speed problem has to be inadvertent (so "No Quarter" isn't allowed). Also, let's exempt cassette releases, since quality control is a different kind of issue there (scroll down a bit). And let's also exempt video releases, since so many of them suffer from the same film-to-PAL-to-NTSC conversion issue that makes them run a half-step fast (like Pink Floyd's Live at Pompeii VHS, for one).

Off the top of my head:

  • Agitation Free - At the Cliffs of River Rhine: This live release was mastered nearly a half-step slow. At the right speed, it's much livelier -- though I can't rule out the possibility that some people might prefer the more chilled-out original!

  • Miles Davis - Kind of Blue: This one's famous, I trust I don't need to tell the story again...

  • The Hated - People Are Blue 7": About a half-step fast. I thought I remembered reading something from the band where they mentioned how much this pissed them off, but I can't seem to find it -- anyone?

  • Daniel Johnston - (most of his early recordings): But this is borderline, because that's part of the charm!

Got any more? Leave a note in the comments if so!

Current music: Gong with Kawabata Makoto and Cotton Casino - Acid Motherhood

(Comments for August 10, 2004) (2 comments so far)

August 7, 2004 (link)

9:35 PM

I think I'll wind up the retrospective at the three-year anniversary mark for the moment:

  • January 2004:

    I tend to look over my referrer logs every so often, and generally they're pretty predictable: 70-80% of my hits come from Google searches, and most of the rest come from the same dozen or so sites. If I see a new referrer, I check it out; sometimes I've discovered great sites that way, like Incoming Signals, though I've also had some odd ones too (every so often I get a hit from a George Michael fan page, which linked me solely on the basis of an extremely offhand allusion I made to Wham! a couple years back). If it's a blog, sometimes it's a good one, sometimes it's turned out to be...less interesting.

    Anyway, this is a silly and elaborate preamble by way of saying: in the past couple months, I've gotten new referrer hits from a couple of Livejournals, both linking to February posts. Now, this one* I might've predicted...

    *(looks like this post got deleted)

  • February 2004:

    ...but rather more unexpected, however, was this one (not safe for work)! But the funny thing is, they both give me the same kind of satisfaction: sometimes when you write about things like Y. Bhekhirst or obscure Bugs Bunny songs, you wonder if anyone else cares in the slightest. So it's nice when someone turns out to be looking for information about the very same things, and you're able to help them out -- especially in the case of the Bhekhirst, where as far as I know, the information hadn't ever really been dug up before. (Though I'm also glad to see that other people are grabbed by that Bugs Bunny tune: must be something about the harp.)

    Also, this post brought me email from a representative of Mr. Grimes himself, who told me that the two of them had read my review! Kind of a wild feeling to know that your review has been read by someone of such stature (though, given how I originally heard about the concert, I can't say I was completely surprised).

  • March 2004:

    "I had a bunch of very strange dreams last night": and another one this past night, though I'm too superstitious to write about it. (Don't worry, Scott, it's nothing like the one I mentioned to you on the phone!)

8:13 PM

A few bits and pieces:

Boy, this guy sure missed the point. Hasn't he ever -- for instance -- listened to a thunderstorm at four in the morning? Or sat out a Vermont winter in a silent, rattly old house? I mean, fine, you don't have to like the record, but it bewilders me that someone would actually hate it -- it's so slight, so brief, so unassuming (and I mean all those adjectives in the positive sense) -- what's there to hate?

This is terrific. (If a bit short: I beat it in about three hours, without using a walkthrough or anything, though with only 135 points or so.) But I think one ought to be able to give Naked Ned his robe back, or at least a shirt. (I tried putting it in the drawer -- no dice.) And what's this about a guitar?

I also quite like this cartoon.

Finally, read the last episode in this book (courtesy of Project Gutenberg). If I'm reading correctly, they (excepting Ms. Buckle) were executed -- at the ages of 18, 17, and 16 -- for attacking a man and stealing his hat. That seems draconian even by the standards of the period: surely a few years in prison would have sufficed?

Current music: Landing - Centrefuge EP

(Comments for August 7, 2004)

August 1, 2004 (link)

7:59 PM

In the great tradition of such retrospectives as Funky Nassau - The Best of The Baha Men and What About Joan?: Sixteen Episodes That Changed the World, we bring you:

  • January 2003:

    Speaking of North Korea, there's a fascinating site, "Journey to Kimland", that details one man's tourist trip into the DPRK. The original site (here) seems to have gone over its bandwidth [update: as of 08-07-04, it seems to be back], but you can catch a mirror at the Internet Archive Wayback Machine, though it's missing many of the uncanny images (the 50,000-person "card collages" at the Arirang Festival were particularly awe-inspiring).

    Also, it's not the only hit anymore.

  • February 2003:

    This song-poem review takes on a totally different meaning in the post-Roy Orbison in Cling-Film era.

    ("'Attending to certain matters,' he replies. 'Ah,' I say.")

  • March 2003:

    "After reading that, I've decided I'll definitely buy it": Yeah, um, funny thing about that...

    Also, on the Y. Bhekhirst front, I'm surprised that I haven't mentioned "I Will Sing" yet. There's an MP3 at the Uncle Krinkly site; get a mirror, listen to it, and watch your mouth drop open. (Think Meat Loaf, but of course, this was many years beforehand.)

  • April 2003:

    It was probably the funniest sketch The State ever did, and here's the transcription.

  • May 2003:

    I still don't know the answer to this question.

  • June 2003:

    One down! It looks like this, and plays quite beautifully (though links like some of these make me vaguely concerned about the cedar-y smell it still has, if not as intensely as when I first took it out of the box).

  • July 2003:

    Not to mention "8 Etudes and a Fantasy", which is one of the most important works for wind quintet written in the 20th Century. I need to spend some more time on that site.

  • August 2003:

    Everyone knows about this now, but have you seen this one? I'm not sure that it's even a legit Fensler Films production, but it's in the same league as "Body Massage", "Carnival", and "Computer".

  • September 2003:

    Amanset are, like, the kings of writing songs with odd phrase structures such that, while you don't notice that the structure is unusual, it makes the song seem fresh and unexpected -- yet completely natural! -- in a way you can't place. Besides "It's All About Us", another one that does that is the first part of "Dim Stars". Despite listening to this song at least fifty times, I'd guess, in the last six years or so, I only just noticed that it's in an odd/compound time signature: the guitar and drums are in 5/4 + 4/4, or 9/4 if you prefer, while the Farfisa is in straight 4/4 (which is probably why I never noticed this before -- the combination of the two feels unexpectedly "barlineless"). Wicked.

  • October 2003:

    The closest I've been able to come to following up on this: The Necks - "In a Silent Way, Mate".

    (Yeah, I got nothin'.) (EDIT, much, much, much later: duh, "In a Silent G'day".

  • November 2003:

    It's hard to believe it's been less than a year since Abbey Road came into my position. [Ed: That was, obviously, supposed to be "...into my possession", but I kind of like the malapropism.] Say what you will about "the canon" and so on, but sometimes, those records do live up to the esteem in which they're held.

  • December 2003:

    Since writing about these "Ten Sales Opportunities Lost", I now: own one of them (Cyber Sleep 1) as an official release; have picked up MP3s of another; have been given a CDR copy of a third; and am told that plans are underway to officially release (Smile) or re-release (Ralf & Florian) two others.

Current music: Beethoven's "Für Elise", sort of.

(Comments for August 1, 2004)


Current reading:

Euripides II, ed. Richmond Lattimore and David Grene

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, J. K. Rowling

Diary of a Teenage Girl, Phoebe Gloeckner

just finished:

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, J. K. Rowling


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