Archive for the ‘Brian Eno’ Category

Soundtrack to my Life

November 4, 2007

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In 1985, my mom came home from a music appreciation class she was enrolled in at Cal State Long Beach, and she handed me a homemade cassette that some guy had given her in class (I think he might have been hitting on her!). She had already listened to it, and while she liked it, it wasn’t her cup of tea. Knowing I was always on the prowl for cassettes to tape my songs, she left it for me on my bed with a note saying “Free tape. Just erase what’s on it first.” 

The tape lay hidden under my dirty clothes for a week or so, until one day I dug it out to use for an idea I was having. I put the tape in the recorder and hit play so that I could wind out the leader. Suddenly, the most incredible sounds—not quite melodies, but yet, kind of—oozed from my speakers. My spine began to tingle, sending me into a trance-like state, and there I remained motionless for the entire length of the tape. I never recorded my idea. 

When I saw my mom again, I demanded to know who the artist was, but she didn’t know either. Worse yet, her class was over and she didn’t know how to contact the guy who gave it to her (plus, I don’t think she wanted to). So, I spent the next couple of years trying to figure out who this was. I played the tape for my friends who worked in record shops; I gave copies of it away, hoping someone would recognize who it was; basically, I was obsessed.  

Then one day I played it for a small record shop owner who said “Well, it sounds like that record Jon Hassel and Brian Eno collaborated on a few years back, but then again, it sounds a bit off.” I asked him if he had the record in question, and he did, so I bought it. I ran home, put in on my turntable and waited for the familiar ether to envelope my consciousness. It started playing, and at that point I understood the words of the record shop owner. It was playing too slow!! Wait, I mean the cassette was playing too fast! What’s happening here! It was when I cranked the turntable speed up that I realized the guy who gave my mom the tape years ago taped it at 45 rpm!!  

Possible Musics Fourth World Vol 1 by Jon Hassel and Brian Eno is the soundtrack for my life. It expresses what I feel in my soul, what I hear in my head, and what I see when I shut my eyes in silence. It’s been about twenty years, but I still can’t listen to it at 33 1/3 rpm; it has to be 45 rpm. It makes sense why the music doesn’t elevate me at 33 1/3 rpm—the frequencies that tingle my spine just don’t exist at the slower speed. 

Here is a link to one of the tracks, Ba Benzele, played at 45 rpm. Since there is no actual video for this, I’ve created a visual counterpart to go with it. To see it on youtube, where you can enlarge the screen, follow this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PdpIEdF7iko Otherwise, you can just click below. So, turn the lights out, enlarge the video, and chill out for a bit.

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A Musical Laxative for a Constipated Society

November 2, 2007

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I once attended a lecture by Brian Eno at UCLA back in the late 1980’s. He was talking about the future of virtual reality and its possible affects on the brain and sensory organs. What was really interesting was his comment about the brain and how it processes frequencies. Apparently, when the brain “hears” frequencies, specific chemicals interact to make sense of the “noises.” Sometimes when new frequencies are introduced to the brain, specific chemicals interact for the first time, causing nausea and mild confusion. “Ah ha!” I thought to myself. That’s what happened when I first heard Devo’s record “Duty Now for the Future.”

It was 1979, and I was at a friend’s house listening to records. I remember him pulling “Duty” out and putting it on the turntable. The cover was unlike any cover I had seen before. It had these five guys in black shirts, wearing orange crash helmets, and they had barcodes across their faces. When the music kicked in, I was really blown away.I had grown up on Zeppelin, The Doors, Beethoven, Carole King, Jim Croce, Crystal Gayle…you get the picture—pretty main stream stuff. Anyhow, Devo was unlike anything I had ever heard before. It was punk, but electronic, and the vocals sounded like they were emanating from a plastic tube or something; it wasn’t Jim Morrison, that’s for sure. My friend only played one song, Wiggly World, and then put it away. I begged him to let me take the record home, and reluctantly, he did.

I got home, went to my room, shut my door, and put on my headphones. The sounds that came through those headphones were both atonal and beautiful at the same time, and then it happened. I got really sick, like “I gotta puke” sick.

“Duty Now for the Future” was the first punk record I ever bought, and through that record I discovered music all over again. Since then Devo has remained one of my favorite bands of all time, and I’m not the only one who thinks so. I can’t think of a musician from ANY musical background who hasn’t considered Devo an influence. From jazz to country to grunge to classical, musicians understand how important Devo is (and I’m not even going to discuss their message!). It pains me to watch these one-hit-wonder shows on VH1 and see Devo featured. They are so much more than that. Their music is complicated to play, interesting to listen to, and fun to rock out to.

Below are two clips. The top one is an interview with two of the spuds in 1981, and the bottom clip is a live version of that first song, filmed in 1978.

WE’RE ALL DEVO!!