Cyclical Taste

This song just hit me — prior to this moment, I thought it was too similar to other songs and too repetitive.  When I was listening closer, I heard this really intense self-harmonizing in the chorus I hadn’t noticed before.  It’s so obvious, but I think I was too cynical to hear it.

It’s another instance of a negative opinion (of a song — this song) having nothing to do with the actual quality of the song. I’m not saying this happens all the time, but the fact that it CAN happen (music growing on you) has driven me to a place where I feel weird hating/being negative towards music. I might really dig this in five years, or this might’ve been important to me ten years ago — how can I disrespect that very real experience? What if others haven’t heard it yet and I’m already dismissing it?

Our opinions may seem irrelevant, but collectively they influence what actually gets heard. Everything’s a wave and you can choose which waves you’d like to embrace. Which ones are you going to ride on, and are you going to acknowledge the fact that you’re in this bizarre world of waves and it’s easy enough to see how much fun other people are having on other waves?

Is their fun not genuine? Does this not imply that, if given the chance, the wave they are riding has merit?

If one can overlook music, then does that mean some music resonates ‘deeper’ than others? If so, does that mean some music requires ‘more attention’? I put that in quotes because I think whatever it is that prevents people from enjoying something, embracing something, and then enjoying something else — it’s a very conscious thing. You really can choose what you’d like to embrace. The complicated part is that you also seem to have phases where a particular style or sound is PRIME. It’s like, SHOULD YOU LISTEN TO THIS, NOW, AT THIS MOMENT IN YOUR LIFE, you will find that it’s easier to ‘understand’ / ‘pay attention to’.

I’m just trying to verbalize the weird process which is desire, specifically musical desire — it’s three-part formula of what is natural to you, what is immediately desired and the quality of what’s presented. All three of these aspects can exist in different degrees. For instance, if the quality is so overwhelmingly, universally-amazing(/’potent’), it may not matter that you’re cynical, or that you don’t like the lyrics.

Just as such, if you desire to get into First-Wave Punk Rock, you’re going to likely find yourself listening to that very music. You WANT to listen to X, and when X actually happens, it’s a reminder: You’re in control. Not only that, if X is good, then you know you’re in control AND you’re doing a pretty good job picking the soundtrack.

You can force yourself to like something, and after awhile, you’ll forget your initial intentions. It’s not so much deceiving yourself as it is trying to keep an open-mind, letting all that’s good stick and ignoring all that does not.

The fact that one could ‘increase’ the quality aspect of this formula by simply being a good musician, and that one could ‘increase’ (or decrease) how much ‘attention’ they pay to something, suggests that the third aspect of this formula may also be modified.

How would you increase the likelihood of something being natural? It seems to be largely out-of-control — dependent on your personal background and lifestyle, up to that point. You can change your life, and perhaps, this will change what is natural in your new life, but it’s a gradual process. I feel that if this value of non-naturalness is so high, it will not matter if you’re listening to the Magical Mystery Tour LP or if you’re trying to listen to every detail, the value of what’s natural is just too high.

My theory is that “what’s natural” follows a cyclical path of genres and styles, which elevates in perspective after each cycle. Each path is individualized to every person, but I believe that after enough cycles, you are able to perceive the highest waves of music, which also so-happens to be what most of the zeitgeist is jamming to. I theorize that while all the cycles start out from different places, the end-result is the same, and if you follow it long enough, you’re able to appreciate just about anything, especially that which is most universally appreciated.

This makes sense, because not only are you naturally-inclined, thanks to your crazy-ass cyclical path of multicultural music, but the music itself is at least average quality. If certain aspects of the formula overwhelm others, then so long as the music is passable, GENUINE inspiration should be possible – one should be able to desire ANY kind of music. I don’t think, however, one can actually get to that point, because even the holiest messiah would scoff at some of the stuff on SoundCloud.

I theorize that if you knew the context of sub-par bedroom music, you might be able to enjoy it, but such a universal knowledge of context is unrealistic, and thus, there’s going to be music impossible to empathize with, which other people are, even if there’s only one person (the musician).

Music only appreciated by one person still conveys a valid, specific perspective. This perspective fits snugly into the cyclical path of taste and desire. The experience of desire-fulfilled is a tangible experience, possible for anyone to undergo – the music itself is the trigger. You cannot invalidate this perspective: to say something is horrible can ultimately diminish the punch of that trigger. Self-aware or not, negativity in matters of subjectivity can only reduce the chances of someone having their own subjective desire, fulfilled.

This can be used as a weapon, but I’d like to think, outside the context of itself, most music sounds amazing. I think that positivity is more potent than negativity. Negativity’s advantage is its immediacy; positivity’s advantage is its longevity/substance. In matters of experience, negativity is about the same as being too busy to really look at something. It’s not WRONG, it’s just irrelevant to those who actually looked at the same thing you ran past.

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club — Revisited & Reimagined

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The quality of this new 2017 remastering moved me to tears: dancing; thinking; reflecting; astral projecting.  From the album’s opening to the end of “Getting Better” is intensive feel-good optimism proceeded by intensive introspection (which ultimately climaxes back into dancing anyways (“Within You Without You”).   At one point we astral project into the minds of our parents (“She’s Leaving Home”) only to hover over a future image of ourselves, wondering if we’ll always be taken care of (“When I’m Sixty-Four”).

This stereo remaster takes what was already extremely lucid to a downright four-dimensional place.  Any fan of the mono originals of each album, such as myself, would be proud to stand beside this hyper-actualized vision that only The Beatles could bring to life.  It just feels like hearing their original ideas, as they were inside-their-heads (without any limitations of 1960’s technology).

A large portion of how the band feels about being The Beatles is directly addressed in the finale — “A Day In The Life”. John Lennon reveals that the narrative is not being told based upon first-hand experience — he saw a photograph of a dead man at a traffic light in a stopped car, just as the light had turned green (“He didn’t notice that the lights had changed”).   Lennon tells the narrative in such a way that it sounds as if he is living a day in the life of that photograph (only to reveal at the end, that he’s just talking about a photograph).

This is proceeded by another verse where he simply describes wanting to see a film that’s gotten bad reviews (‘the crowds of people turned away’) since he had “read the book”.   It’s interesting that on both verses, Lennon’s narrative is based around escapism into another’s perspective — whether the photograph or a film.  This escapism is where I feel Sgt. Pepper’s resonates with today’s culture.

“A Day In The Life” blasts off once again into an instrumental crescendo — this time in 2017-remastered-glory, at full volume it’s almost as intense as a DMT trip.  Paul McCartney snaps us back with a very literal, day-in-the-life: He wakes up; gets ready; has a smoke and spaces out a bit.  Both narratives suggest that there is nothing all that special about the men behind the Beatles moniker — what’s clearly important to both us and them is making something special for to listen to.

The Beatles turn dense sound and vibes into easy-going and carefree sing-alongs. This is in-part due to lyrics like those described above in “A Day In The Life”, but the sentiment is found all throughout the album — there’s a resilient levity which never subsides.  They sometimes sing light because the music is heavy — as is the life it was drawn from.

The album title references those who, prior to listening, felt alone in some capacity.  Maybe you just needed levity in the background; to break the tension; to kickstart ambition (petty and great). Are you feeling alone? Join the club. Because The Lonely Hearts Club has its own band that performs a world-famous, all-inclusive show — and the Beatles directed the soundtrack.  The new remastering feels like it’s happening for the very first time.

Stereo Version available here.

Scorsese’s Inferno

ImageI’ve been on a scary movie binge, but this is one of the most terrifying films I’ve seen. There are clues throughout the film the same way there are deaths throughout a horror movie.  As things progress, we’re made aware who is really innocent.  In retrospect, how obvious everything is; how plainly it’s presented — it will chill you to the core.

The socialite society is a metaphor for how any power system functions.  There are leaders; there are black sheep; there are those whom are respected without being admired — and every single person believes themselves to be on their own path, isolated from the rest of the system.  Yet, it’s so obvious where everyone fits and how easily everyone can be placed into a niche.

Newland feels guilt for the entire film and the viewer is led to believe he’s malicious, when in-fact, his desire is the most innocent of all.  May is revealed to be the devil incarnate: never missing the bullseye; maliciously gossiping of others; being distant with her husband; passive-aggressively telling Newland (moreorless), “Oh, do say hi to Ellen for me.”  These are all signs placed within the film, advising both Newland and the viewer just what’s what.

There’s nothing hidden in this world more than how others perceive you, and it’s so easy to manipulate that which is oblivious.  May represents evil as a force; their society, the hellish glamor they are all bound to.  The “scarlet” room is red for a reason; the manors are isolated fortresses; it always seems to be winter — Newland has no escape.  The wedlock scene plays like Newland becoming aware he’s gravely ill: the room spins as all potential life rushes by; he is merely swept along.

The most violent Scorsese film, indeed.

The Infinite Hallway (Fate vs Free Will)

  1. We are biologically alive and
  2. We are mentally conscious of this fact which
  3. Allows free will.

Yes, when analyzed, we are but a whirlwind of quarks bouncing upon quantum foam.  We have no knowledge of why quarks behave the way they do – it is intrinsically random.  If we were self-aware of every aspect that makes up who we are as a biologically living, mentally conscious, “free” individual, we would see the foundations of our thought processes are sealed in that of unexplainable synchronicities.  We are not those fractals.  Beyond a base level, do these constraints matter?  Do you first look at the top of a skyscraper, or do you analyze its foundation?  The answer is obvious – in every practical consideration of the term, we have free will.  Yes, there are societal constructs (these are breaking) and there are physical constructs.  However, even though we have no control of the rules in life, it is ultimately up to us how we play (or if we play).

Free will is embraced in optimism, while pessimism takes logical refuge in fate.  Both pessimists/optimists stand in the same hallway, with billions of doors to explore.  The pessimist realizes there are multiple floors and that only one door (which may not even exist) holds access to exploring the other hallways.  This mindset is intensified with the realization that there are also multiple buildings containing even more hallways, all contained within multiple cities, found on multiple planets, etc. etc.  The pessimist focuses on the repetition of constantly exploring the same hallway over and over again; creating a mindset revolving around life’s limitations and the “cruel fate” we have been subjected to.

The context of what’s behind each door is ever-changing.  Those who believe in fate see the limitations and recognize that life plays out like an experiment in a laboratory.  Replace the rodent and the maze with a human and the aforementioned infinite hallway.  The point?  How long before we run out of curiosity?  How long do our most intense moments of discovery last?  How long before the desire to free ourselves from ignorance becomes too repetitious and we grow weary of constantly opening new doors?

The optimist does not focus on this heavy realization.  Yes, while aware of our limited potential, free will ultimately understands that without this existential suffering, we could never experience the revitalization felt when discovering something truly holy, sacred, revolutionary or loving.  The mindset which embraces free will shall walk the hallway and admire its never-ending layers in silenced awe, never bothering to worry about an upstairs or a downstairs floor.

The optimist lives for the next moment; every moment like a lottery in which one picks their own numbers and draws them from a spinning pot.  Being that the ink is abrasive and easy to detect, with enough concentration, the optimist hopes to pull only the numbers found upon their own ticket.  This process of matching and selecting the best of life’s randomness continues until they have found themselves entirely and intentionally lost in plain sight; dancing in the realization of infinite potential and ever thankful for the experience.

This experience is the same experience which pessimism (and fate’s mindset) views as a cold and unrelenting experiment – all for the amusement of some distant observer.  Free will sees the observer as the true experiment.  This mindset finds freedom through transcendence of the boundaries; finding never-ending space and place to rest and contemplate.  The optimist knows that if the question is being thrown toward us (How long before we stop caring about finding novelty?) that an observer is awaiting an answer.  The joy and lifeblood of any optimistic mindset comes from the loving feeling of wanting to live up to human potential and being gracious to have even had the chance.  As this is an extended metaphor, the observer of this experiment and the one within the experiment of conscious (but limited) life are but the same person.

As children, the world is novel and even tragic moments come with the ecstasy of a truly new experience!  Fate says we are confined to search for novelty until we grow tired of the never-ending futile quest, but if we are confined and conscious, we will always have free choices to make.  Moments of shared transcendence continuously occur in reaction to progressive culture.  This essentially proves that when faced with the challenge to explore a billion doors or give up and become self-destructive (escapism), collectively, we have chosen to explore.

Fate and free will, optimism and pessimism – these are both sides of the same coin.  We are whole and feel different from day to day, inexplicably, like quarks (the foundation of our experience).  Today I am an optimist and tomorrow I will no doubt face thoughts of purposelessness.  The point is not that we “contradict” yesterday’s mantra in today’s actions, or that we can detect patterns of disappointment.  The truth is we do have the capacity to listen.  With this capacity comes potential for a love of life, that which goes beyond positive/negative thinking and that which is for transcendent purpose – to embrace every perspective, to attempt to empathize and to share our findings with any open ear.

A final thought:

If given immortality and omnipresent wisdom from birth, what would be the motivation to explore the hypothetical hallway, if one knew what was behind every door?  Knowledge of surroundings would not necessarily indicate transcendence from fate and if anything, it would lead to a desire to create an experiment the likes of which we now find ourselves metaphorically within.  From this perspective, it would appear that we are freer as mice in a maze, than the observers themselves.  It becomes obvious how true free will does not only occur when one is free of responsibility, but as an embraceable mindset possible in any circumstance.

“Modern Art” In Contemporary Society

Ask the average twenty-something what ‘modern art’ is and apart from an indifferent shrug, the response heard most often will be along the lines of “Oh, you mean Warhol and the soup cans?”

Warhol’s take on art was considered by many to be “the end of art”. Within the last year I have begun to realize the unintentional meaning this phrase carries in the ’00s.  To the average consumer, kid, adult and American, “art” is whatever is on television, our favorite films and the video game of the moment.  Traditional art, paintings, sculptures and the idea of a museum has become completely irrelevant apart from those who actively seek it out.  Art has faded into the background as a hobby at best and an unnecessary, exclusive, expensive and outdated luxury at worst.

Some might say, “Well, it’s simply been redefined” — this is ignoring the issue.  Paintings and the idea of putting art upon a pedestal for viewing has vanished from contemporary society and from the practical consumer’s mindset.  Sure, it has been replaced by flashier culture, but it’s only on a metaphorical pedestal, not a literal one, that we view video gaming and television.  What does a painting mean now?  If the term “modern art” means something that is half a century old (‘soup cans’), it’s clear that the very term is hypocritical.

Personally, art has meant album artwork.  This is a medium which many could toss up to containing a cohesive and beautiful statement once every 300 album covers.  Regardless, I have thrived off of my last remaining attachment I have to traditional paintings, even though the pedestal said album art is viewed upon is my laptop.

There is a poster on my wall containing the album artwork of Animal Collective’s 2009 album, “Merriweather Post Pavilion”.  When moving from college dorm A to college dorm B, I had forgotten to take down my posters.  My friend, Ryan, kindly took the posters down and stored them in his car, where they collected dust all summer long.  These posters were rolled together in a messy clump, rendering most of them ruined from being stuck together for such a long time.  However, there was one interesting effect to the Merriweather Poster.  In addition to several white tears, the sunlight had created a fantastic faded blue streak across the bottom of the image.  It gave a precise effect that looked as if it could have only been created digitally — or perhaps by leaving a poster exposed to three months of sunlight.

With no real desire to seek out far-less stimulating culture, the place for massive and vibrant paintings, sculptures and installations has been moved to one of two places:

  1. There are enthusiasts, many of them, who will never say goodbye to the wonder and subtlety that “true” art, found in a museum, provides.
  2. The second place this art has gone to (and the place which gets far more attention) is upon Flickr accounts, various impersonal Tumblr pages and occasionally upon a Google Image search.

If art was an experience to help transcend the trivialities of daily life, if even for a moment, and said experience no longer takes place outside the stream of our lives — what does that say for art?  We no longer have to visit museums to experience a plethora of styles; all we need is StumbleUpon and perhaps a search string.  Such ease allows us a whirlwind of culture, but at the same time, it is easy to under-appreciate the magnitude of the culture itself.

Conceptually, the artist is dead, because there are no longer pedestals for each artist to showcase their work upon.  All art created gets thrown into the digital void, upon one unified pedestal.  This pedestal is shared amongst all artists and with this sharing, artistic individuality has been lost in the digital stream of consciousness.  The artist is no longer relevant so much as the audience, i.e., you, as you have the power to skip to the next image or share it on your Facebook wall.  This is about as much praise as one can practically expect as an artist on a mass scale, apart from the occasional PR puff piece and blogosphere commentary.

The poster on my wall does not ask for my attention, yet it exists outside the internet, in its own museum (my room) on its own pedestal (the wall).  The audience (I and whoever is in the room at the time) is not forced to look upon this poster, but when they do, it captures the overstimulated attention span, if just for a moment.  Modern art is individually-oriented and based around personal narratives — one glance upon the poster reminds of a story.  It calls attention to something I have no control over (sunlight, the forces of nature, destroying my perfect replica of a favorite album) and in its own subliminal way, reminds of my own impermanence.  One may think that this is all a bit hyperbolic, but that’s just it!  There is nothing that is going to exist in our lives which will live up to the mythical shadow cast upon by pre-internet society, when it was impossible to fathom the audience even touching the pedestal, let alone controlling what was seen upon it.

This is why I can look to a sun-faded Animal Collective poster as the highest example of contemporary art imaginable.  This is why the definition of art in practical, contemporary society is exactly what you as a viewer, view it to be.  While artists will continue to make thought-provoking work to be seen in small scales, the masses are still left scratching their head, thinking to 1962’s “Campbell’s Soup Cans” as the only example of modern art — before tuning back into the daily programming.  Today, artistic relevance depends completely on what you personally find relevant.  Traditional art made by others will always have beauty, but it will never catch the eye as the heirlooms our lifetime will, however insignificant to an outside observer these may be.

The end of art meant the end of established artistic norms, of an invisible world telling you what you could and could not find aesthetically pleasing.  It began with Warhol realizing that art could be found anywhere, even in the supermarket.  If a supermarket is a pedestal, then it’s obvious that the museum is the human mind and whatever we attach ourselves to can be transformed into a gallery, flimsy posters included.

The Fading Hollywood Twilight

As icons and monoliths continue to fall we are left with less and less role models to look to.  Who replaces Michael Jackson?  What about Whitney Houston?  These intense groups of fandom and praise do not just disappear, instead, they hover.  They float aimlessly never to truly be fulfilled.  Who is going to live up to the hype that so many passing legends have generated in their lifetime?  This level of enthusiasm existed once and it implies that the public desires for it to exist again.

Except, there is no one else to live up to these icons.  These people came to popularity in a time of moreorless one-way communication and when what was on the radio was truly an indicator of popular American culture.  The truth is that the future is iconless and that the playing fields are completely level.  Take a look at someone like Lil B and look at how much instantaneous praise he gets on Twitter.  Conversely, look at someone like Rupert Murdoch, who might Tweet something casual only to be greeted by a hostile stream of criticism and backlash.  The public is rabid and there is no longer a barrier that exists to keep our opinions concealed from the celebrated and the popular.

This desire for new cultural messiahs has become vehement and aggressive.  Musical movements and relevant films come and go in the blink of an eye and with every passing day, the hype only intensifies.  The momentum is not disappearing — it’s increasing and it’s growing restless, leading to “trendy/flimsy” culture.  Today, Whitney Houston died.  Who will die tomorrow?  How many more icons will pass before we look around and realize that the field is completely devoid of beloved American role models?  How long before we look to the youth of the moment and find that there is no megaband and there is no universally loved actor to fill the longing void?

The cultural horizon is flat and infinite with absolutely no peaks that can be seen by the objective eye.  The only truth now, the only thing that matters, is your personal opinion and subjective taste.  The future is niche.  Every passing star makes the night that much darker.  However, there will never come a time when the sky shines as brightly as it did decades past.  It will not be long before we realize there is an approaching dawn and we no longer need to wait for the next Christlike cultural figure to emerge.  The new icon is that of eclectic personal choice.  As we learn to embrace every voice, no matter how much coverage has been given upon the radio or the Oscars, we will see a shining sun replacing the once astounding glow of the Hollywood twilight.  While the light that was cast down from the era of one-way communication was certainly meaningful to so many people, in time, I think the populous will begin to see just how glorious the collective brightness can actually be.

The Crossroads Of Indecision

There are two mindsets we take as human beings every day.  There are actions which benefit the immediate physical self.  Such things such as absurd sexual relief, indulgent eating, experiencing the meta-real (virtual reality/video games) and thus pro-longed detachment from the real — all of these things isolate us from the reality outside of ourselves.  The second mindset is that which benefits the long-term self.  It is this side which benefits the perception of how one will be seen outside of one’s individual bubble of self-stimulation.  However, to dedicate one’s self to more noble “ethereal”/spiritual purposes is to deny life and to dedicate one’s self to more tangible “immediate now” physicality is to self-indulge.

At the crosswords of these choices is that of pre-choice.  At this point is that of contemplated decision and where we are very much aware of both roads, but choose to take either the left or the right.  The one thing these roads have in common with one another is that when both are pursued long enough both lead to isolation.  If one lingers at the foreground, feels the sexual pulsating feeling of lingering pleasure and the mentally enlightening rush of absolute knowledge, but pursues neither, one experiences the place where they know themselves the most.  The longer you delay the decision, the closer you find yourself at home.

It is in this in-between place of indecision that we find our personal enlightenment, nirvana, “God”, as this is where all potential exists but none has been taken.  It is an open road in all directions.  Spend some time in this place every day and realize that this is where all decisions stem from which very directly affect the course of both the left and the right path.  We can choose either path — business or pleasure — but if we take the right path down the road, the further and further removed from the left road we become.  Choices are permanent once made and paths and roads which we walk upon carry us to very real homes of decision.  We can move, however, whenever we like and place ourselves back at the root point of the short-term and long-term and, if desired, simply float there and contemplate our choice.  It is in this contemplation which we find the deepest peace.

Falling back into disarray

During contemplation (and after ‘finding our center’) the most appealing thing to us is being lured OUT of the contemplation.  Whatever drives us out of this state, the fastest, is what turns us on the most and thus we pursue these decisions with no hesitation.  In our delighted success of finally finding “purpose” we live in leisure and at ease with our decisions.  All uncertainties are answered and we feel alive — on top of the world.  This is of course until something from beneath (within the actual world) pulls us back down to remind us that something is not quite consistent with our “we have found our purpose” notion.  At our own clumsiness, we fall once more into the cycle.  The pursual for the escape eventually becomes the norm with no additional realization gained and once more we find ourselves at a loss, out of balance and in need of some serious decision.  The cycle perpetuates…