Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Refrains , vocalists and dogs whining.

Sometimes , the refrain in a song really does matter.

I was listening to Stairway to Heaven sometime back for possibly the millionth(?) time. I love that song. At first , the quiet vocals and the apparent lack of energy would put me off  and thus  I gave up on it , for maybe I expected a little more gusto after being subjected to Metallica , Children of Bodom , Slayer and the like. Not subjected , exactly. Subjected would mean...submission or involuntary involvement. More like...I don't know. And I'm digressing.

Anyway , it's a lovely song. I love the way it begins , I love the guitar , the matter-of-fact tone , the voice...Robert Plant has the second best voice in heavy metal music. The first is Dave Mustaine. Never walk alone! A tout le monde! :D

But then the refrain spoilt it all.

I understand that the lyrics aren't meant to make any sense for it is a '60s song and thus provides a good enough reason for it to not mean anything.
But the refrain and the way it is sung...reminded me of Hey there Delilah and that is very bad , for a classic song is being equated to a trashy loser song which at best can be laughed at! "ooo...it makes me wonder.."...it sounds pompous and a mockery at best. And it is repeated around three to four times in the song , so I can't resist a smirk everytime Plant goes "...and it makes me wonder" which I find truly distressing. So much for a classic song and it's imperfections. So much for me. ^ ^
Hey there Delilah is a trashy song at best. Some argue that it portrays true love , it's touching...but I think it's crap. But I shall not post more in this vein so as to not affect certain sentiments. I'll only say that the refrain ('oooo , it's what you do to meeee') sounds incredibly like a dog whining. o_O

A song in which I really like the refrain is Black Night (Deep Purple). 'The black (k)night is..far away from home"...it introduces the possibility of 'Night' being interpreted as 'Knight' too. I love that song. It's really catchy and short which makes it intensely likeable. One reason I do not like Smoke on the water is that it's too long. It's got a good beat and all , but it's plain and repetitive. Black Night is crisper and better. I love old songs , especially You've got another thing coming (Judas Priest). That's another long song , but more ruing for another day. :P

PS - 'Classic' need not necessarily be interpreted in a strictly technical sense. It could mean , superior , excellent , or vintage , depending upon the context. :P

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Kubla Khan - Coleridge

I'm not a person who enjoys poetry generally , I think it's overrated. I dislike romantic poems , socially conscious or self-obsessive poems. But there are few poems which have made an impact on me , and I never do get tired of revisiting them again and again. One such poem is 'Kubla Khan' by Coleridge.

Kubla Khan (A Vision in a dream - A fragment) was written by Coleridge in the autumn of 1797 in a farmhouse in Exmoor , England. The legend behind this poem is quite interesting. Coleridge , an inveterate opium eater developed this poem in one of his opium-induced dreams. On waking up , he began to furiously write down what he remembered of that dream. However , he was interrupted by a 'mysterious visitor' from Porlock who detained him for an hour. After that meeting , Coleridge was unable to recall the rest of his Vision , and thus , the poem remained a fragment. This person from Porlock can also be interpreted as a metaphor for all the obstacles/turning points  a man faces in his life , which throws him off track and perhaps , changes the course of his dreams and actions.

The poem is based on Kublai Khan , the prominent Mongol ruler of the 13th century Yuan dynasty. It describes his summer capital at Xanadu , a surreal and enchanted place , besides the sacred river Alph and the Xanadu Hills , both based in Antartica.

"In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree :
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea."       
The 'sunless sea' described here , reminds me of another Coleridge poem , where he describes with contempt ,  the slimy creatures which seemed to eat up the base of the ship...

"The very deep did rot: O Christ! 
That ever this should be! 
          Yea, slimy things did crawl with legs 
           Upon the slimy sea. " (The Rime of the Ancient Mariner)

Coleridge further describes that , despite the enchanting beauty of it all , the place is haunted by a woman wailing for her 'demon' lover. Or maybe it's enchanting because of the supernatural elements it posesses. 'Demon lover' suggests that the woman has been betrayed by the man she loved and thus she wails 'beneath a waning moon'. Her seething emotions bursts out in the form of a 'mighty fountain' whose intensity is described as follows :

"And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
mighty fountain momently was forced :
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher's flail :"

This mighty river flows into the 'lifeless ocean' , creating an altogether tumultous scene. And amidst all this , Kubla Khan heard strange voices prophesying war.

Coleridge calls the whole series of events as a 'miracle of rare device' , a 'shadow of the dome of pleasure' :

"The shadow of the dome of pleasure
Floated midway on the waves ;
Where was heard the mingled measure
From the fountain and the caves.
It was a miracle of rare device,
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!"

Coleridge further recounts his vision of an Abyssinian maid playing a dulcimer (a plucked musical instrument) and singing of Mount Abora. The poet further claims that if he could revive that music within him , he'd build that 'pleasure dome with caves of ice' in air ,  implying that that damsel's music could be equalled to the surreal happenings of Xanadu. 

"A damsel with a dulcimer
In a vision once I saw :
It was an Abyssinian maid,
And on her dulcimer she played,
Singing of Mount Abora.
Could I revive within me
Her symphony and song,
To such a deep delight 'twould win me,
That with music loud and long,
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome ! those caves of ice !"

I'd compare this to another poem , written by Coleridge's counterpart , Wordsworth :
"...No nightingale did ever chaunt
More welcome notes to weary bands
Of travelers in some shady haunt,
Among Arabian sands;
A voice so thrilling ne'er heard
In springtime from the cuckoo-bird,
Breaking the silence of the seas
Among the farthest Hebrides.
....Whate'er the theme, the maiden sang
As if her song could have no ending;
I saw her singing at her work,
And o'er the sickle bending;
I listened, motionless and still;
And, as I mounted up the hill,
The music in my heart I bore,
Long after it was heard no more."
(The Solitary Reaper , Wordsworth)

All those who heard him build that dome would cry in horror and close their eyes in holy dread , for he had drunk the milk of Paradise or Opium.

"And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware ! Beware !
His flashing eyes, his floating hair !
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread,
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise."

And thus the poem ends...rather unconvincingly. But then , it's a fragment and noone knows how the original poem was like , in Coleridge's dream.And despite its limitations , the poem is regarded as one of Coleridge's masterpieces , along with the Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Frost at Midnight. 

However , some parts of the poem confuse me. For example : Kubla Khan's summer palace is said to be built beside the river Alph and Xanadu Hills , both located in Antartica. Why would a summer palace be built in Antartica? And the lack of continuity between the fourth and the fifth paragraph..the damsel with the dulcimer part is unsubstantial and does not fit into the scheme of the poem. But maybe , there is an abstract meaning in the structure of the poem which I fail to understand and it all probably does  makes sense. 

This poem has also served as a reference for many writers to come. William Dalrymple , especially in his travelogue 'In Xanadu' pays a tribute to this poem when he finally reaches Jerusalem , after a long and ardous journey. That book , and Dalrymple in particular , is fodder for another post altogether :)

Monday, April 6, 2009

Sun signs and the human personality...

I believe in Zodiac Signs a lot.  Linda Goodman, Rick Levine (http://www.tarot.com/about-us/bios/levine/), Bejan Daruwalla... 

Linda Goodman , especially. I'm one of those who invest in every single book by Linda Goodman, or spend hours poring over them in the Astrology section of Landmark. Sun Signs , star signs, relationship, compatibilities...it's all about the sun and the stars for me... :)

Much to the chagrin of some of my friends  who believe it's all hogwash, or an all too convenient set of words to describe a person. The major arguments I've heard, is that it's general. It isn't always true. Why, I'm a Leo and I'm supposed to be vibrant and talkative, but I'm not! I'm quiet, shy and I hate being the centre of attention! How would you explain that?

I wouldn't. I agree that sun signs aren't always accurate and horoscopes can never map your future the way it will be, but I do believe in sun signs. For it has worked for me, in analysing people. Probably , accepting people as they are. And I believe that if you allow for a little bit of deviation, sun signs could work for you. You needn't necessarily swear by them, but maybe  if you don't disregard them, you could be exposed to a lot more insights into a person's character than you can ever imagine. Or maybe , you could just be imagining either ways :) But that's what I believe in , and you needn't necessarily subscribe to it.. :)

My personal favourites include Cancer , Virgo , Pisces , Libra , Capricorn , Taurus (:D) and Scorpio. But I have friends of (almost) all sun signs and I find something interesting about each friend which probably corresponds to his/her sun sign. Like one's creative and stubborn..she's the Aquarius. Another one is a Cancer , moody , secretive and possessive. Yet another is a little too obsessed with discipline , a Virgo for sure. The jealous , possessive ,  the altogether intense Scorpio. The centre of attention , never short of words Leo. And the indecisive ,friendly Libra. (I haven't figured out the noun forms yet , as you can see. English grammar has never been my strong point!)

Maybe I'm just generalising. I do not claim to know all about astrology, if anything, I'm an amateur; but I believe that there's some element of truth in it. Sometimes , maybe a little too obvious , sometimes not. And again , it depends on what time the person was born , the position of the planets and all that. Astrology is a complicated science , mathematics even (pun intended!). 

Another science which interests me is Tarot. I'm planning to get myself a Tarot book and try to learn something about it. Let's see how it turns out!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Satriani , names that roll and big words.

I'm listening to Satch boogie , by Joe Satriani.

I love the way it begins - jazzy and full of energy , if I may say so. Spirited and lovable. But after a while , it seems like a disorganised array of many tunes , so I move on to Always with me , Always with you.

This is a classic song. I love the way it begins , the way , it moves up , from low to high , the cheerfulness of it all. It's a very cheerful song , tune rather. And with amazing guitar. I love Joe Satriani. I think he's an amazing guitarist. Even better than Steve Vai , who's kind of my namesake. I like how all Satriani's songs are so...joyous. 'Summer song' couldn't have a better name.

Is it just me , or does the beginning of 'No One Like You' (Scorpions)  sound like a Joe Satriani/Steve Vai piece (I wouldnt know whether it is Yngwie Malmsteen's , for I haven't heard any of his songs. And even if I have , I wouldn't remember) to you too? Probably , it's just my imagination. Or maybe , a guitar riff/chord is the same. I wouldn't know. I don't play the guitar. 

I admire people who play the guitar. Or any instrument for that matter. I think it's an achievement to create music. Pluck the right chords. Not sound awful. And concentrate and keep in tune.

I love the names of the classic guitarists - Joe Satriani , Steve Vai , Yngwie Malmsteen , Lynyrd Skynyrd. I love the way it rolls out of your tongue! It makes for a very satisfactory pronounciation. That's another word I like. Pro-nun-see-ay-shun. And dee-nun-see-ay-shun. I love that word too. I think it is pul-chri-tu-di-nous. There , I said it!

I like using big words. Sometimes I don't know what they mean , but I still like using them. Which is not a very good thing to do. It is viperous (Thank you , Thesaurus!). And can make you look foolish. Not to mention , a Rodomontade. Gasconade! Fanfaronade! Gatorade! Lemonade! 

Not the last two. I'm just bored. And jobless. :D .Which is why I created this blog. Welcome to my blog!