NIME Week 1

Week 1 of New Interfaces for Music Expression at ITP.

Make a journal entry of all the ways in which you or people you observe ‘use’ music during the next week. It can be music to wake up to, to fall asleep to, to blow off steam, to make the subway ride more private or tolerable, for dancing, etc. Include an one minute example of music you made, heard or heard made.

Music is so ubiquitous in an urban environment like New York that I often try to tune it out, but obviously I can’t, it always gets in my head.  As soon as I leave my apartment and head out, I hear music that is out of my control.  My building has music piped into the elevators and music piped into the lobby.  In fact, there are “theme” elevators tuned to different satellite radio channels– jazz, classic rock, lounge.  They are all pretty cheezy.  I have an iPhone with music on it, but I only listen to music with it during my commute ever so often.  I am more likely to listen to foreign language lessons or news podcasts on my iPhone.  Or I just enjoy listening to the sounds of the subway.  I listen in on people’s conversations.  I love to listen to people speaking in foreign languages or regional accents and try to guess where they are from.  Or I will be serenaded with buskers.  On the R/W between Lower Manhattan and NYU, it’s usually guys who play guitar and sing in Spanish who perform on the subway.  I see lots of people on the subway listening to iPods or other musical devices.

There is always music playing when I go to the gym.  It’s usually thumpy happy techno pop.  I have no choice in the matter really, but the beat does help pass the time.  I work out for vanity, not out of enjoyment per se.  No point in trying to listen to my own music on my iPhone.  I feel like the headphones and the iPhone just get in the way.  And there is no way my own music can compete with the loud music playing on the speakers at the gym.

I met some friends visiting from Barcelona at a bar last night.  There was some cheezy club music playing.  I don’t normally hang out in Chelsea, but it was near where they are staying.  The music didn’t really add value to my experience, in fact it just made it harder to communicate.  They don’t speak English as a first language, and I don’t speak Spanish as mine.  Loud music in bars is frustrating for me even in situations where everybody has the same native language.  I have sensitive ears and I find it difficult to separate signal from noise.  I’m easily distracted by background noise.  I hope I don’t have a hearing problem.  That makes me feel old.

I just listened to the Ghanian Postal Workers’ Song on WFMU. Very haunting whistled melody and catchy beat.  I’ll probably sample some of it for a future musical project.  It reminded me a bit of “Whistle While You Work” from Snow White, even if very different stylistically, it seems to serve a common function of helping to pass time while working.

I am one of those crazy people who like to hum to themselves while walking down the street.  I’m often humming the melody of some popular song stuck in my head, or some new song I am writing.  Inspiration for my songs just comes to me while I’m walking, rarely when I am sitting still.  I try to hum it to work out the melody and to repeat it so I don’t forget.  When I get home, I try to work things out on the piano as I sing the melody line over what I play.  I can’t transcribe music very well, so I just find it easy to write down some basic chord shapes or to record audio of my songwriting experiments.  Sometimes I can write a full song in 10-15 minutes.  Other times I have fragments of songs that take years to write.   Sometimes the fragments remain fragments and never grow up into full songs.

Here is a 1-minute fragment of some lyrics and a melody that I was working out this week.  The words and music just came to me suddenly.  The inspiration was obviously my recent trip back to Arizona.  It’s still very rough.  Maybe a little too earnest and a little cliché.  I don’t know what I will do with it, but I need something to share in class, so here it is.

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