Monthly Archives: January 2012

deconstructing songs

I’ve been deconstructing songs, trying to figure out what magical combination of pitches and timbres and rhythms can create such an intense response in my body. Every song is a puzzle when you try to fit the composition into what a person can do without studio editing or a band.

On my quest to unlock such a puzzle, I discovered Final Fantasy performing a Bloc Party cover of This Modern Love, what is now my favourite song of all time1, having dethroned Blonde Redhead’s Elephant Woman of the honour it held for many years. It strips me bare by layers and layers, and even though the lyrics found relevance in my life before I decided that distance would keep me sane, it’s only in recent months that it’s gone from being a song I never skip to a song I always play.

To be able to see how Owen Pallett reproduces it with only a violin, a loop pedal, and his characteristically frail voice is a particular treat. Not only because he can draw the same intensity in me as in the original version, but because you can see how it’s done; what part he keeps to present the listener with the essence of the song, what he’s changed to fit the tools he uses, and even where he takes his breaths. It’s like finding an elegant solution for a puzzle that has perplexed you for years.

But I’ve yet to sit down and attempt any serious covers of my own cause I’m still waiting for my musical knowledge and guitar ability to catch up with what I want to accomplish. I’ve been learning classical pieces for a better foundation, and in that pursuit I came across this particular version of La Catedral.

I enjoy classical music (though I’m really picky) cause it can evoke a specific emotion in me, but most pieces cater to only one emotion at a time, or there’s a lot of development before the part I really like. La Catedral, on the other hand, has it all, from sorrow to elation, and every bit of it is bliss. I’m convinced that this is how the old Paraguayan guitarists rocked out with their cocks out, and it amazes me how someone could write such heavy emotion when there were no metal idols, no amp distortion, no screaming back then.

I’d say that for anyone to fully understand me, they’d have to understand this song too. It represents everything I love about music and emotion and sex, cause it’s all in this song, and only Denis Azabagić plays it the way it was meant to be played2. When watching this for the first time, I remember thinking that I would make love to this man, this man who looks like some guy’s uncle, because he plays like he’s touching every nerve of my heart.

I love the way he moves with his guitar, the way he cradles the body, the way he purses his lips or widens his eyes with every swelling of passion. To be able to play like him is is exactly why I started taking up guitar; I want to feel as good as those who lose themselves to the music, and learning this piece has become another thing I hope to do before I die.

  1. As a person who listens to almost any genre but is still obsessively selective with music, saying that I have a single favourite song is a big deal. []
  2. I never liked this song until I heard him perform it, the last 45 seconds in particular, with his orgasmic finish. Every other classical guitarist uses pauses that break up the flow of what are supposed to be relentless sixteenth notes, to the point where it feels like the entire song is ruined. []

coming up for air

I didn’t know I needed a weekend like this to feel again. To dance in those little moments between brushing your teeth and getting into bed. To pass on the right and speed away to a chorus that grows louder with every shadow cast by every street lamp.

I can’t say it’s been due to any one thing. There’s just so much that seems to be happening lately. The days pass faster than ever, and I’m left wondering where life will take me next, cause I’m always surprised by every new friend and unexpected experience.

Wild Boar pizza at Tennessy Willems

Wild boar pizza at Tennessy Willems, one of the few wood-burning pizzerias in Ottawa. A combination of boar sausage, caramelized apple, sage, roasted garlic, and sharp cheddar. The sweetness of the apple and the savoury character of the sausage make for an interesting mélange, but the use of cheddar is what really gives this pizza a unique taste.

When I’m drowning in emotion, it feels like I’m perpetually coming out of the water, emptying my stale lungs before taking in as much air as I can again.

This is when every breath is beautiful. A rush of life coming at me.

nothing’s burning

I feel so disconnected from the world lately. It’s not like I don’t have friends who care so much that they make me feel unworthy of the attention. I just don’t relate to anyone around me. People with their lives on rails when I feel as uncertain as ever. It’s like I haven’t joined their world yet, this world of stability and regularity, where everything just falls into place.

shadows outside a pub

Do pixie cuts ever make up for smoker’s hands?

I watch the movies that used to stir the depths of my emotions, listen to the songs that would grab my heart and clench to the beat in hopes that I’ll feel something more than this. Every night, every snowfall, every photograph is telling me that something needs to change, and I’m left trying to figure out what or when or how it’s going to happen.

this modern love breaks me

My vice-of-the-moment is instant decaf coffee with loads of sugar and French vanilla non-dairy creamer; a chemical sludge I have every morning like dessert for breakfast. That and long showers (and maybe a bit of the sauce every now and then) are the only things I indulge in nowadays.

It’s a sign that instinct has taken me over. I do what I want, and I’m starting to suspect that you’re an adult when that also happens to be the right thing. Not when you hit an arbitrary age, or have kids, or a career, or a house. It’s when you start to take control because part of growing up is understanding that you’re responsible for the results in your life. When you discover that there’s no room in this place for old-school romantics, so you’ve gotta play the game. When you lose your innocence after accepting that the world isn’t the way you thought it was or the way you wanted it to be.

Still, it’s unsettling to be venturing ahead amidst such uncertainty. I’ve learned that you can’t wait for everything to be perfect in your life before taking a risk, or you’ll be waiting forever. There will always be cycles of stagnancy and change, calm and storm, hurting and healing. I don’t mind the changes, but part of me resents the innocence lost. Quixotism has always been a part of me, something that’s defined so many of my thoughts and passions and work. It’s like I’ve lost a part of myself — and a part I’ve always liked — to messages unreturned and the days in between.