Category Archives: music

“if it’s pure, it hits you like a sledgehammer”

I read the 33 1/3 Series book on Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea on an airplane over the – uh – dirt (and some sea) recently.

To say that the record is significant is an understatement. No more needs to be written on it; it needs to be listened to. (I will add, very briefly, that when in the process of unsuccessfully attempting to license the record for release in the UK, I got to know Jeff Mangum a bit – many phone calls, a few in-persons – and he was one of the more self-effacing, genuinely kind geniuses I’ve had the pleasure of meeting).

In any case, while nothing more really does need to be written on the record, the above-referenced book is good. The author, Kim Cooper, wisely doesn’t attempt too much exegesis on the record. Instead, he focuses on the circumstances leading up to the record, the furor around the release/tour, and a bit (just a bit, thankfully) on Jeff’s “disappearance” post-tour.

If you’re a fan, you’ll like it (or hate it).

What hit me the hardest was the quote from band-member, Julian Koster, below.

Mouse and Pin Cushion

A while back I made a promise to try and engage in more random acts of creativity; things get very dark around the Ponderosa when I don’t.

I’ve done OK with this, but I’m certainly not where I want to be in terms of frequency.

I was thinking about why my output hasn’t been what I’ve wanted, and some of it comes down to my damnable Virgo personality of needing to refine things rather than letting them be/go. While I’ve come to be largely OK with this, it does stand in contrast to much of what I preach with respect to getting stuff out there and refining.

What happens is, I’ll start with a sketch of a song or of a…er…sketch, and rather than keep it as just a sketch — a moment — I add layers.

The question is, do these layers really add anything? Isn’t the essence where it’s at?

I think the answer is that, yes, the essence is there…or it isn’t. Refining is not necessarily a bad thing, and, often, is absolutely necessary. But sometimes it’s more necessary to just create, and let the essence be what it is or isn’t.

I think if there’s something there, you’ll come back with a different eye, a different approach, and you’ll refine. If there isn’t something there, coming back to it a billion times won’t get you any closer to the truth.

To that end, I was taking a break from the jaberwocky a bit ago, and came upstairs from my office; the kids were running around in circles (not kidding), and I picked up my guitar. I’m fascinated and obsessed with staccato rhythms on guitar that imply melody, and am always on the hunt for these. A drop D and a capo later, I had the feel of something. I plopped my iPhone with the voice memo app running on my knee and banged it out.

My intention was to use this iPhone recording to just remember the idea of the tune. But then I started thinking of all the layers I would add to it, and it became less about doing something fun and cathartic and more about planning a time when the house would be quiet, the phone wouldn’t be ringing, etc.

Pretty soon I was tired just thinking about it.

So, screw it. Here’s the iPhone recording. Yes, that’s Henry running around in circles talking about monsters. Yes, that’s me breathing. Yes it goes out of time at one point.

mouse-with-pincushion
Mouse and Pin Cushion

Once again, I’m honored to use, with her kind permission, one of Kristin Hersh’s amazing photos as the title inspiration.

If you want to hear real songs, head on over to Kristin’s Site; lots of amazing things going on over there.

I hope those of you who read Ye Olde Bloggee don’t mind these little moments of internal contemplation and their collateral manifestations.