The Beatles

So I never knew much of the Beatles besides what the average person learns listening to the radio.

I just listened to every album in a row on a road trip with a good friend, and here’s a few things I’ve decided.

The Beatles were really awesome. I feel sad that nowadays most discussion of them is hipsters arguing over who was the best Beatle. It’s obvious that take out any one of them, and there is no Beatles.

Where any one would fail, that’s where the others would come in. Lennon and McCartney wrote so many good songs together, filling in for each other, fleshing stuff out. Honestly, I think most of the songs George Harrison did are my favorites. Often I would be disappointed in the song if not for the guitar part.

And everyone needs to back off Ringo. Genius drum parts (like Come Together) are the kind of simple, steady soulfulness that brought the whole thing together. We tend to shut him out because he wasn’t this mad strummer type. Ringo is a genius, he just isn’t crazy. He was normal and people think that’s a bad thing.

I think the first four albums are very good and kinda cute. When Help! came out you started to see a little more depth than just lovey wovey dovey stuff, and Yesterday sticks out like a sore thumb. A really, really gorgeous sore thumb.

Rubber Soul really stands out as a marked change, and then Revolver is the first album that feels like there’s no filler songs. It’s just magic from start to finish.

I think I need to do something about Sgt Pepper and Magical Mystery tour, because listening to them in the car just doesn’t quite do it. I really liked them intellectually but at parts it sounded just messy or boring. Loved anything involving the sitar, though.

White Album, Abbey Road, and Let It Be are all just fantastic beyond reckoning. I like George Harrison best on Abbey Road and consider Let It Be a pretty good way to go out. I disagree with Paul McCartney that Phil Spector did a bad job producing it, because even though the album was a return to the old form, modern production techniques make listening to it less distracting.

As much as I’ve learned listening to them, I think in the end there’s a pretty good reason Paul McCartney doesn’t top charts like he did with the Beatles. The chemistry isn’t there, and without that chemistry Paul is kind of cheesy by modern standards. Still, they were the greatest band of the last century and something you gotta grok if you feel you want to write songs someday.

Think vs. Animal vs. Daniel Levitin

Just finished This Is Your Brain On Music.

Very excellent book. For my own purposes, this is my favorite quote: The coming together of rhythm and melody bridges our cerebellum (the motor control, primitive little brain) and our cerebral cortex (the most evolved, most human part of our brain).

A criticism, though, on referring to the cerebral cortex as the most human. I understand what the author means, but at the same time hate the Western concept that to be human is to be not-animal. This concept is essentially my enemy in life as well as simply in music. To deny the animal is indeed to deny a large part of what it means to be a human-in-the-world.

Still, Levitin essentially explains scientifically the concept I came across in my compositional philosophy (wow that was kind of a douchy turn of phrase) which I referred to as ‘think vs. animal’. Musically, it means good music should use both big heavy primal funky rhythm and bass, but still have complex melodies and harmonies, both sonically and figuratively full from bottom to top.

What I’m discovering, honestly, is that this presents a problem in production. The sound gets so full the volume has to go down to compensate. I think one of the reasons club music is so boring is that you have to turn everything else down to get those booming, dancy drums.

Well, fuck that anyway. I’ll figure it out. Here’s a mashup of think vs. animal by the esteemed DJ Earworm.

The Legion of Space (space space)

Just came across a really cool old science fiction novel from the 40s called The Legion of Space (wikipedia). I like it for several reasons, the most obvious being that it’s from the freaking 40s and is yet so advanced in narrative. I find it poignant that someone who was so forward thinking in applying real themes to the then dreamy genre of scifi also saw fit to casually drop names heavily influenced by the Arabic language (Habibula, Kalam). Reminds me of JRR Tolkien using exotic European languages as the basis for his Middle Earth tongues. Fun!

Evil jellyfish aliens, beautiful blond protectors of doomsday devices, and a lockpicking Falstaff. What’s not to love?

Music and the Brain

It’s Music and the Brain,
One is a genius,
The other’s insane!

“That’s so animal!” my friend Lysandra exclaimed over the soulful thump of The Soul Children’s afrobeat. “I can’t get into it.”

“But animal is great!” I yelled back. “Why deny our animal? We’re part beast and part logician. Why can’t we embrace both?”

This hit home with a concept that’s been fermenting in my head for a while now. In music there are two ancient traditions that got mixed up in the early part of this century. I am thankful for this, because we got the blues out of it and soon after jazz. If America sank into the ocean tomorrow, at least we got jazz out there in the world.

Everyone knows the basic tenets of the differences in Western traditions and African traditions. European music was all about chords, structures, and arias. African music was dance and drums, the heartbeat of the earth.

In my new favorite non-fiction This is Your Brain On Music, Daniel Levitin lays out the basic components of music, the basic structures in the brain, and how it all interacts. Toward the end of the book, a bit that blew my mind (har har) involved the cerebellum and the role it plays in music listening. Through some pretty inspired detective work and collaborations (including input from Francis Crick!) they found that things like rhythm and beat, planning, expectation, and movement take place largely in the cerebellum (the oldest structure in the mammalian brain).

We already knew that harmony and listening to the soprano part/main melody takes place in the frontal lobe. The reason two entirely different traditions of music can develop is that they take place in different parts of the brain! The African tradition is cerebellum-heavy (rhythmic, repetitive, and dancey) and the European tradition is frontal lobe heavy (melodic, harmonic, and, well, cerebral).

These traditions obviously exist today. People who grow up listening to hip hop are fine with repetitive beats and little to no melody, and people who grew up listening to alternative are fine with undanceability in favor of harmony and melody.

I grew up with both these types of music, and on top of that, I had Arabic music. Sure my parents showed me jazz and classical, sure I grew up in the ghetto and listened to quite a bit of RnB and Michael Jackson. But really it’s that Arabic music that throws the wrench in the works. I got all kinds of exposure to modes, rhythms, and timbres from a way earlier age than most Americans, and by that I mean since negative nine months.

What does that mean as far as my musical tastes? Well, I’m not fine with crap production on Western music or the absence of harmony in African music. I enjoy them both but am satisfied with neither. I want both. At the same time.

What most people don’t seem to realize is that all hip hop is electronic music. Most recorded things are samples or vocals. That’s where the amazing production comes in. There are a handful of pop acts who are utilizing the inherent awesomeness of this electronic sound to add danceability. Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, Madonna, they’ve been doing it for a while now. Unfortunately, the songs themselves are terrible. They just sound good.

That’s where I come in. I want to ZIP the music back and forth between the frontal lobe and the cerebellum. And I want it to sound phat. Freaking LOUD and sonically universally amazingly wonderful. No frequency between 5 and 20,000 Hz will be left out (the low bottom is for rumble). When I saw My Bloody Valentine at the Santa Monica Civic Center, they played so loud my shirt rattled and it was specfuckingtacular. Thank Krishna for earplugs.

So Europe and Africa are still fighting and that’s silly. The East, what with Goa, psy, and the Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack are making their presence know too, though with less hullabaloo. But the new region thrusting its music hand in the potluck?

The world of Digital. Yes kiddies, the magical land of zeroes and ones. Look around you. You’re on the internet right now. That’s your brainspace right now. Not America or England or Nepal or even Canada, but the internet. The Brave New Almost-World. And since music affects your entire brain and vice versa, cyberspace wants to make its voice known too.

You know what cyberspace music sounds like? Yeah. It’s loud. It’s weird. Hilarious and tear-jerking and thoughtful and incredibly well-informed.

When I hear music now, I’m so god damned well informed all I can think of is, “Why aren’t you doing this? Or this? Why didn’t you use this or that awesome thing I just wikied?” All music sounds like people ignoring things. There are so many possibilities. “Simplify, simplify, simplify” doesn’t mean “crap, boring, lalalalalaicanthearyou.” It means listen to Lead Belly and make the best music you can think of that might seem appropriate in 2020. It’s the future, man. Dude. The future.

My production isn’t quite there yet, but I know that with the right team we can deliver this stuff live. Live, people. These wonderful ideas I have, you don’t have to react, “Well, that’s a nice dream, Paul.” It’s possible, now. The Digital tradition has caught up with technology. These tools are ripe for the plucking.

So that’s what I’m going for. Full brain stimulation. In a hundred years, will cognitive scientists argue about whether our brain is hardwired for the internet, too? Isn’t the brain already the world’s greatest computer? We’ll never know, but lets hope our music shows we were thinking about it.

Irwin’s Conspiracy

Just caught a great show last night at Air Conditioned Supper Club in Venice. Lots of innovative live electronic acts put together by Irwin. First Wednesday’s at 9!

Bonus tracks!

Mama’s Rockin’ Chair – Produced by Bryan “Rock God” Titus!

Landslide – Produced by the incomparable Billy Van Rooy of Download.

Self Control – Here’s a track I used to perform all over Silverlake! I nailed some Boss Gigadelays to a plank of wood next to a Whammy and OD pedal and looped live! Good times.

Who’s Watching Kush? – Made for Kush Boys Studios! I also drew storyboards on a couple projects for them. These guys are awesome.

New Site is GO

New site, new look, new possibilities. Thanks to WordPress, WOO Themes, and most of all for all the awesomeness.

You can now subscribe to site updates, the blog, or the portfolio, AND comment on entries. Head over to the demo page and check out the tracks, soon there’ll be a lot more music, video, and super pretty artwork to ogle as well.

Okay you can’t really ogle music, unless you can ogle with your ears. Ear-oglers unite.

Stick around! Much, much more on the way.