Bob Schwartz

Category: Music

My Spotify Listening 2018: WOW or WTF?

Spotify is telling listeners about all the songs they listened to during the past year.

As readers of the blog know, I love music, and Spotify is my streaming music library. I listen many ways, sometimes in focus, sometimes in background.

But seeing the statistics and the profile of the music I listened to gave me pause.

I listened to 8,733 minutes of music.

Spotify says: “Those are minutes you’ll never get back. But then again, why would you want to?”

I listened to 2,696 different songs:

Spotify says: “You listen to non-mainstream artists 50% more than the average Spotify listener—so here’s to being different.”

Too much? Too little? Just right?

A while ago, you would have found me dancing around the kitchen, with songs from Spotify as the soundtrack.

You know what David Crosby sang:

Everybody’s saying music is love
Everybody’s saying it’s love

Put on your colors and run come see
Everybody’s saying that music’s for free
Take off your clothes and lie in the sun
Everybody’s saying that music’s for fun

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Music: The Polyphonic Spree – Light & Day/Reach for the Sun

It’s never easy to find the right music, especially if the moment is sad and frustrating, where if hope is the thing with feathers, as Emily Dickinson says, it seems not to be perched but rather to have flown away.

There is plenty of upbeat music, but that isn’t enough, not the whole story. Sometimes you need something that just hits the spot—the place where you can suspend shade and pragmatism in favor of joy and celebratory naiveté, even for just three minutes. It’s going to be alright because it already is alright. Right now.

Thank you Polyphonic Spree.

Light & Day/Reach for the Sun

Light and day is more than you’ll say
Because all
My feelings are more
Than I can let by
Or not
More than you’ve got
Just follow the day
Follow the day and reach for the sun

You don’t see me flying to the red
One more you’re done
Just follow the seasons and find the time
Reach for the bright side
You don’t see me flying to the red
One more you’re nuts
Just follow the day
Follow the day and reach for the sun

Leonard Cohen on Yom Kippur: Who By Fire

A signature prayer of the Days of Awe is Unatenah Tokef:

On Rosh Hashanah it is written, and on Yom Kippur it is sealed.
How many will pass and how many will be created?
Who will live and who will die?
Who in their time, and who not their time?
Who by fire and who by water?
Who by sword and who by beast?
Who by hunger and who by thirst?
Who by earthquake and who by drowning?
Who by strangling and who by stoning?
Who will rest and who will wander?
Who will be safe and who will be torn?
Who will be calm and who will be tormented?
Who will become poor and who will get rich?
Who will be made humble and who will be raised up?
But teshuvah and tefillah and tzedakah [return and prayer and righteous acts]
deflect the evil of the decree.

Unatenah Tokef inspired Leonard Cohen to write the song Who By Fire. He restates the prayer poetically, and adds this question:

And who shall I say is calling?

On Yom Kippur, some number of Jews who don’t usually attend services will find themselves not only at a service, but at one on the holiest day of the year, being asked to consider their lives in light of a theology of divine judgment. Some will believe that individual acts are weighed, some will believe that the whole year or a life are taken into account, and some will not believe in any of it at all.

That is where the question comes in. If you engage in the communication on Yom Kippur, or at any time, who is on either end? Is there someone here, is there someone there? Who shall I say is calling?

Who By Fire by Leonard Cohen:

And who by fire, who by water
Who in the sunshine, who in the night time
Who by high ordeal, who by common trial
Who in your merry merry month of May
Who by very slow decay
And who shall I say is calling?

And who in her lonely slip, who by barbiturate
Who in these realms of love, who by something blunt
And who by avalanche, who by powder
Who for his greed, who for his hunger
And who shall I say is calling?

And who by brave assent, who by accident
Who in solitude, who in this mirror
Who by his lady’s command, who by his own hand
Who in mortal chains, who in power
And who shall I say is calling?

Aretha: Listening to her you’ll never walk alone

The passing of Aretha Franklin captured the world and toppled a lot of less worthy and less uplifting stories from the news. As it should have.

After hours of relistening to her music, and reading and watching lots of moving and illuminating tributes, I haven’t much to say.

I will mention that Aretha would have been the best and most famous singer in whatever genre she chose to focus on. Instead, she ended up creating and then being royalty of modern soul music. But gospel music was her beginning and end, her alpha and omega.

In 1972, on top of a glorious string of popular singles and albums, she released the gospel album Amazing Grace. I’m not an expert on gospel music, and not a Christian, but that doesn’t matter. I have ears and a soul, and I can tell when somebody has a gift—the gift—and is channeling the spirit.

Listen, because if you are listening to Aretha, you will never walk alone.

Trio Gnossieme

Trio Gnossieme

The birds
The cicadas
The wind through the branches.
A yellow flower twitches.
Nothing still.

©

Music: The Magic of John Fahey

Music is transportation. And as many vehicles as have been built by masters and magicians of acoustic or electric guitar, none has built a more magical one than John Fahey.

From AllMusic:

One of acoustic music’s true innovators and eccentrics, John Fahey was a crucial figure in expanding the boundaries of the acoustic guitar over the last few decades. His music was so eclectic that it’s arguable whether he should be defined as a “folk” artist. In a career that saw him issue several dozen albums, he drew from blues, Native American music, Indian ragas, experimental dissonance, and pop. …The more meditative aspects of his work foreshadowed new age music, yet Fahey played with a fierce imagination and versatility that outshone any of the guitarists in that category. His idiosyncrasy may have limited him to a cult following, but it also ensured that his work continues to sound fresh. …

Fahey’s early albums for Takoma in the mid-’60s laid out much of the territory he would explore. His instrumentals, filtering numerous genres of music into his own style, evoked haunting and open spaces. At times they could be soothing and plaintive; at other times they were disquieting, even dissonant. The more experimental aspects of his material even foreshadowed psychedelia in their lengthy improvisations (some cuts lasted as long as 20 minutes), use of Indian modes, unpredictable stylistic shifts, and overall eerie strangeness. His persona as a weirdo of sorts was amplified by his bizarre and lengthy song titles and liner notes. He also employed odd guitar tunings that continue to exert an overlooked influence on contemporary musicians to this day.

Never once have I not been transported the moment I hear Fahey’s fingers dancing impossibly on those strings. His music is proof of the alchemy of heart mind body soul that is the essence and power of music. With someone so gifted, we are literally better for having heard even just one song.

Trump: King Midas in Reverse Works His Magic on Kanye

He’s King Midas with a curse.
He’s King Midas in reverse.
He’s not the man to hold your trust,
Everything he touches turns to dust in his hands.
King Midas in Reverse, The Hollies

From The Hill:

President Trump on Friday thanked Kanye West during his speech at the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) annual convention, giving the artist credit for his rising popularity in the polls among African Americans.

“And by the way, Kanye West must have some power, because you probably saw, I doubled my African-American support numbers,” the president told those gathered in Dallas, Texas. “I went from 11 to 22 in one week.”

“Thank you Kanye, thank you,” he added….

West has sparked outrage and intense debate among the hip-hop and African-American communities in recent days with tweets in support of Trump, with some celebrities expressing support for West while others, including many of his fans, have expressed disappointment.

“We are both dragon energy. He is my brother,” West tweeted in one of his pro-Trump messages starting April 25….

Trump has previously thanked West for the support on Twitter, tweeting that it was “very cool!”

Kanye is only the latest in a long series of those who have seen their careers or lives turn to “dirt” (to be polite) simply by having anything to do with Trump. Sometimes it happens relatively quickly, as in the case of Dr. Ronny Jackson. Sometimes it happens after years and years, as in the case of Michael Cohen. Besides being an exceptional artist—which he has been—Kanye seems to have a bunch of other problems, not totally related to his Trump thing. But he seems to have been able to overcome some of those difficulties—until this. Being thanked by Trump at the NRA Convention is almost certainly the coup de grace.

The moral of the story: If you think it necessary or advantageous to get in bed with a pathological narcissist, know that you will wake up alone and covered in dirt. Possibly under a bus. Which is never very cool.

Facebook Releases Oculus Go—Its First Self-contained VR Headset

This isn’t a review of the Oculus Go released today—Facebook’s first self-contained Virtual Reality headset, requiring no phone or computer.

This isn’t a review of the photo above of Mark Zuckerberg demonstrating the Oculus Go. (Note: you can use the Oculus Go wearing a t-shirt or the occasional business suit, if you are demonstrating it to a Congressional committee.)

This is a mention of the growing movement to travel to and colonize Mars, a movement Trump supports. Until that dream comes true, if we want to avoid and escape the depressing and often insoluble problems we are faced with, problems that some are daily making even worse, a self-contained VR headset—from Facebook!—seems like just the ticket.

“He’s in the bestselling show. Is there life on Mars?”

Strands

Strands

Separate the strands of spring song
From these ten thousand birds.
Sweet and strident
Simple and symphonic.
Follow just one
I am already lost
Follow them all
I am gladly ready
To listen and disappear.

©

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© Bob Schwartz