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What are you listening to?
It's smorgasbord time! Join in and tell us what you're listening to lately...
Hey all! Wednesday was Juke’s 18-month anniversary (the 18th, for those of you who like serendipities.) Which means it’s time for another quarterly contributor smorgasbord!
Every three months, I ask all our contributors to answer a question and, amazingly, they tend to reply. Our autumnal question is: What are you listening to lately?
Everyone takes the question in a different direction, and everyone has their own fantastically quirky taste. So, enjoy the responses below and then jump into the comments and let us know your answer too!
I read a disturbing statistic once that said, generally, people stop listening to any new music after their early 30s. Not that they don’t discover older music (you can suddenly go crazy for Miles Davis at any age,) but that they will never pick up anything newly written after they turn, roughly, 33 years old.
I remain a little dubious about the study, which I recall was “informally conducted” using Spotify data, but I’m also glad that it was published when it was. It pissed me off at just the right moment (my early 30s). Since then, I have made a real effort to keep an ear open for new things.
So, in a nod to that decision, here are three songs I have on my playlist right now, all of which were released in the last year-ish:
The last time I glanced - and I confess it was 60 seconds ago - I had 28,292 “items” listed as songs in my Apple Music app, previously called iTunes. I keep them all locally, eschewing the cloud for the comfort of that a thing exists in my possession. Even if that thing is a file of bits and bytes that lives on a solid state or spinning drive - in other words, my own personal ether - it’s *mine* and doesn’t exist on somebody else’s cloud on some foreign server in some other galaxy. But I digress.
Most of those “items” are songs and, at the moment, I could be listening to any one of them. The way it’s set up, of course, EVERY FUCKING TIME I hit shuffle, Buck Owens’ “A-11” comes on and, even though I love Buck and the Buckaroos, the opening notes to that song make me reach for the “NEXT” button faster than I can grab a slice of my favorite pizza. So what am I saying? I’m saying that I’m listening to the stuff in my exalted digital library of bits and bytes. What about when I grab something specific, though?
Well - the other day I watched the movie “Smoke Signals” - go ahead, judge me. I don’t care - and for the past two days, the songs from the exquisite album, “Mahk Jchi,” by the group ULALI have been haunting me. They did a song or two from the soundtrack of the movie and I bought the album a long time ago. Can’t recommend it enough.
Nino Rota, as always, has been at the top of the rotation. And then the usual bunch of insanely bad, random ear worms that surface, seemingly from nowhere, to torture me for hours or days until I can find a way to get rid of them, in much the same way I try to banish the occasional rogue fly from my apartment. Those suckers find a way in and then I have to eradicate them. It doesn’t make me happy, but it can be a relief.
The new Stones song, too, which I have to admit is kind of catchy. I wonder if Charlie’s death lit a fire under their asses? So, the usual answer - everything and nothing in particular.
Lately, as in just a few weeks ago, I found myself on a one-way road trip - driving 625 miles away from thirty-three years in Montana to a new life in Carlton, Oregon. My husband Bob drove his car, I was alone in mine. I have SiriusXM so “surfed” channels during the 625 mile/10 hour drive which we did over two days. I have to say, being able to jump from classical to country at the press of a button makes the miles pass by most enjoyably.
As I got on I-90 in St Regis, MT, the Symphony Channel was beginning a marathon of all nine Mahler Symphonies, I made it through two before needing a break. “60’s on 6” was just the ticket. “I Got You Babe” by Sonny and Cher was playing - perfect! I had not heard this for years and I jacked up the volume and let it carry me away to my late teens in Southern California. This is a great song! Listen with fresh ears (and the volume up!) and find it new again.
Other greats from the 60’s:
“Hello I love you” - The Doors
“Monday Monday” - Mamas and Papas
“House of the Rising Sun” - Animals
“Love Me Tonight”- Tom Jones
“Hit the Road, Jack” - Ray Charles
“Sound of Silence” - Simon and Garfunkel
“Blowin in the Wind” - Bob Dylan
Then there were these from Bluesville:
“Running in and Out” - Bobby Rush
“Polk Salad Annie” - Tony Joe White
On Prime Country:
“Shoulda Been a Cowboy'- Toby Keith
But, my favorites over the 10 hours were these two:
Richard Harris singing “MacArthur Park”. My God!
“Someone left the cake out in the rain
I don't think that I can take it
'Cause it took so long to bake it
And I'll never have that recipe again
And the winner for best title:
“Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?” - Shania Twain
My Spotify homepage is a disheveled mishmash, polluted by the Taylor Swift and Super Mario tastes of my kids. It’s like a messy bathroom that a whole family shares, each blaming the other for the toothpaste in the sink. My suggestions are all over the place as if Spotify itself is saying, “Who is this psycho?” But in new finds, I’ll say thank you to my husband for finding me a singer named Laufey. I’d recommend her “From the Start.” Lovely for a weekend cocktail hour, even though it doesn’t have the slightest feel of fall. For that, I’ll forever stick to the Tori Amos album from 1994 - Under the Pink. Play “Pretty Good Year” for a fall feel.
For podcasts, I’ve been waiting greedily for Heavyweight to return which it’s set to do any week now. It’s a wonderfully funny and touching podcast about people needing closure from some part of their past and relying on the podcast’s narrator, Jonathan Goldstein, to do the heavy lifting for them. It’s always dry and interesting and well written.
Oh and “I listen to the wind, to the wind of my soul. Where I’ll end up well I think only God really knows.” See Cat Stevens The Wind, from another fall favorite - the soundtrack to Wes Anderson’s Rushmore.
Lately, I listen to and listen for is pings, squawks, and whistles.
My wife Tracy and I and our pooch, Frankie Colorado recently moved to downtown San Antonio. We bought a loft in a small compound of six living spaces. It’s an industrial area, in an up-and-coming neighborhood, in real estate speak. Up and coming
is means high crime.
This area is a bit more up and coming than I thought. When I first walked this neighborhood, I would hear little tweet sounds, at first, I thought it was birds, then I thought it was a warning for blind folks, now I know it’s surveillance cameras, they are everywhere.
We have been here two months and have had eight break ins or attempted break ins. Sometimes they are armed, sometimes not.
We now have an alarm system and nine surveillance cameras of our own.
All day and night are a constant barrage of electronic noise and worry. My phone never stops making noise. Ping, someone of the back deck. Beep, there is a person at unit 110. Ding, side door open. The shriek of tires and radio chatter lets me know the police are back.
Now we have a temp chain link fence around are place until we can get a decent secure fence and gate…
At night when we are getting ready to crash, I turn on the alarm. It states with its electronic voice “Home and Armed”, I nod to myself in agreement and go to bed.
Mudd September 2023 soundtrack
Oma Space - Slow Walk
Harold Budd - Jane 13
David Kollar and Arve Henriksen - Unexpected Isolation
Iceland Symphony Orchestra - Emergence:1.Silence
September cricket ensemble - live at Gar Ranch
Katydid’s fading into autumn 2023
Ruby Throated hummingbirds preparing to migrate south
You wish you could listen to what I’m listening to right now. It’s a song called “Johnny Cash” and it’s been playing inside my mind for a couple days now. I guess this is something called an earworm, also known as involuntary musical imagery. I’m not unique by any stretch. Most everyone gets this sensation at some point in time. Often, it’s perceived to be annoying or troublesome because it is an involuntary repeating sequence of a snippet of a crappy, fucked-out pop song that was likely co-opted into a commercial.
But I like my current earworm because I love this song. I don’t mind it being up there (meaning “in my mind”; but it just occurred to me that if the mind is “up there”, what exactly is down below that has the consciousness and ability to remark about things going on “up there”? And why am I not “up there”?)
It’s often recommended that folks play the entire offending song all the way through, which is supposed to satisfy the brain’s unwilling desire to keep replaying that snippet of song over and over and over again. I’ve done that with “Johnny Cash” several times and it hasn’t cured me, because I love the song. It catchy, it’s fun, and its voiced with aching love and affection.
Yes—it is an unabashed love song, and it’s clever and catchy and country. I’m going to keep listening to it inside and outside whatever’s going on up there. But you can’t because it’s not been released yet. Sid Grimes will eventually release it on her upcoming album, later this year.
I’ve heard “Johnny Cash” because Sid loves me, her papa. You’re gonna love it one day, too!
Birmingham, Alabama's Sidewalk Film Festival is a world-class film love-fest that just celebrated its 25th anniversary. I was lucky enough to catch a screening of the most excellent documentary, The Elephant 6 Recording Co (now streaming on Amazon), early on a hot August Sunday morning coming down at The Lyric Theatre in downtown Birmingham. It details the collective community in Athens, GA in the late-20th Century that gave birth to such bands as Neutral Milk Hotel, Olivia Tremor Control, Elf Power, of Montreal, and loads of others. It's inspirational as all-get-out, and ever since I've been on a deep dive into the music of the Elephant 6 label. Currently, I am grooving to Neutral Milk Hotel's "Two-Headed Boy" feeding into Olivia Tremor Control's "Green Typewriters" into of Montreal's "Wraith Pinned to the Mist and Other Games," and life is very fine.
Some albums playing in the studio last week:
Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders & The London Symphony Orchestra - Promises
Fennesz & Ryuichi Sakamoto - Oto
Love Is Everywhere · Pharoah Sanders
Alice Coltrane - Universal Consciousness
Tim Hecker - Ravedeath 1972
Formal music has not been revolving around my spindle for a very long time. Indeed the words in that sentence date me to when such things existed and that's when listening to music stopped. Instead, Nature or the noise of the neighborhood provides the melodies.
A block away is the entrance to the open desert for motorized vehicles. Dirt bikes driven by prepubescent boys roar up the road, creating the drone bass for the gunshots echoing from the shooting range against one of the hills. Sometimes there are sirens from ambulances carrying away a reckless youth whose attempts to scale the widow maker hill went awry. Sometimes, the neighbor's German shepherd whines and barks with anticipation while his human fits a pair of gobbles over his snout to protect his eyes. They then pile into the 4 by 4 to explore the desert for the day, both returning with bugs on their teeth.
In the deep hours of night, when nightmares invade my rest, I retreat to the garden. There, the crickets, cicadas, and frogs sing in counterpoint harmonies. Occasionally, a Great Horned owl sings his love serenade. To his joy, another answers and he follows her voice to where she awaits. The donkey down the road brays for his breakfast. A chorus of dogs gossip across the valley, joined soon by a master class of cockerels coached by a robust rooster showing them all how one raises the sun.
Two years ago, I bought my first brand new car, a Subaru Crosstrek. And a one-year subscription to Sirius radio came with the car. By complete accident, I came across a channel on Sirius called ‘Little Steven’s Underground Garage.’ I have been a fan of Steve Van Zandt since one of my Navy friends and I took a drive down from New London to Hartford, Connecticut one night to hear him play in a very small club.
This was at the height of the success of The E Street Band, but Van Zandt showed none of the pretense or boredom about playing in a small venue, obviously with a band he enjoyed for different reasons. And then, of course, years later he ended up playing one of Tony Soprano’s ‘guys’ on that huge hit.
So I’ve always been intrigued by this guy, and tuned in to the Underground Garage to see what it was all about. And I was immediately hooked. Not only does Van Zandt love to tell insider stories about people in the business, he also drops in anecdotes about the recording sessions for particular songs, like the story about a studio musician named Al Kooper sitting in on the session for ‘Like a Rolling Stone,’ and convincing the producer that he had an idea for an organ part, even though he was a guitarist. Kooper admitted years later that he actually had no idea what he was doing, or even what the chords to the song were, which is why you hear a slight delay every time the organ comes in. When they started listening to the tune in the studio, Dylan turned to the producer and said, “hey, turn that organ up a little,” and the producer said “Nah, that guy doesn’t even play the organ,” and Dylan said “I don’t care if he plays the organ or not, I want more of that.” Kooper’s riff has become one of the most famous organ parts in the history of rock.
Van Zandt has a delightful line-up of guest DJs, who all bring their own flavor to the channel, but it’s him and his storytelling, along with a very eclectic mix of music from the entire history of rock and roll that makes Little Steven’s Underground Garage an immersive experience in American culture.
I was born into a family of musicians. My father played a range of instruments and composed music, and my mother sang those compositions with her rich mezzo soprano voice. As a child I was strongly encouraged to spend hours a day practicing piano then oboe, take lessons, learn music theory, play in a variety of ensembles, and sing in my father’s choir. Most of the music I learned as a young student was classical, but occasionally we played new compositions that were often highly experimental and jazz influenced. I was especially moved by this music. The kind of listening required to be an effective ensemble member forever changes how you engage with sound of all kinds. After high school I felt burned out and ready to explore anything ‘other’, so I stopped playing in ensembles. Now, I play around on the guitar and sing for fun when our friends gather for music nights. Music may have moved to the background of my life, but I can never escape its effect on me. Listed here are four albums that I listen to in rotation as I work and teach. Love in Exile by Arooj Aftab, Vijay Iyer & Shahzad Ismaily, Live at Radio City Music Hall by Khruangbin and Nubya Garcia, Here it is: A Tribute to Leonard Cohen by Various Artists, and Virtue by Julian Lage, Gyan Riley & Bill Frisell.
Fall is a flurry, a whiplash shift from a timeless summer on the road. The urban campus where I spend my days is a chatter. It is, I suppose, what colleges look like in American films about college. There are the sounds of bustling between buildings, chimes on the hour, a flourish at noon, lawnmowers chasing squirrels, traffic, sirens, soccer practice, gossip and geese. There's the strangely regular cyclist pulling a sound system on a homemade, cabinet wood trailer. Today, he towed the Bee Gees toward the river. For years now, whoever moves into a particular second floor room of the freshman dorm keeps the quad in song, at least on sunny days. The new guy has better taste than the last. On my way to a meeting, I caught the end of REM's "Drive" into the Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want". Not bad. This month, I'm working through final edits on a film. We'll premiere Without Them I Am Lost in December, and the sound mix transports me back above the Arctic Circle with terns and gulls, boots on snow, and a hardanger fiddle. There's also been a good round of new music in and on the air. Here's a sampling of a few finds:
Ondoezik: 3. "Human to Try"
Julian Lage. View with a Room. "Tributary"
David Eugene Edwards. Hyacinth. "Lionisis"
Wilco. Cousin. "Pittsburgh"
Califone. Villagers. "Halloween"
How to explain? I am on the set of a forthcoming short film, In Place of a Time Before, and film sets are difficult places to explain. They change and change often. A set is both thrilling and boring. We are putting together the pieces of something we cannot quite see. The energy ebbs and flows. Everyone needs more coffee, tea, food, sleep. The conversations between days, between scenes, between takes are strange and wonderful and often buzz with taboo. There is also the business of getting the work done, of making the film. A few moments you might hear are:
The was great. Can you do that again?
Can I say “wash” instead of “clean”?
It’s raining. The fucking rain.
Is that a plane. No. I think that’s a car on the highway. I think that’s a truck.
Where is everyone going? What day is today?
Sunday. Is it already Sunday?
Can you two pretend to like each other.
Did she have her coat in her right or her left hand?
Hold please. What’s wrong? There’s a crow somewhere.
Can your dad bring a shotgun down here.
Let’s try this again.
Wait. Look at this. No. Don’t look at that.
They got it. They got it. Yeah. I think they got it.
And yes, you will hear, too, the exclamations of action, cut, and that’s a wrap! We are making worlds. We are telling stories. Maybe there is something better to do or a better way to get through life, though none of us can figure out what that would be. At the end of the day(s), the effort is about love or something like it. (Thank you Megan MacDonald, Theodore Rex King, Todd Torrance, Courtney Coffey, and Dylan Hughes for saying the words, for the action, for listening, for seeing, and for doing all of it just one more time.)
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