Excerpt: That Which is Close (to Your Heart)
It’s been a minute.
Thanks for joining me on this brief hiatus whilst I spent time migrating platforms, setting up my formal site and working on a few things that I'll be sure to share with you in the near future!
For now, here's an excerpt of something I've been working on...
I wasn’t born a cynic, but naivety is too easy to lose.
When I was eight, my great aunt gave me a training bra and underwear set for my birthday. The underwear was too lacy (itchy) for my taste, but the bra was a delicate ivory, with wide straps, a crewneck, and a sequined, cream-colored flower right in the middle. It fit tightly around my chest and I loved it.
On the first day back after winter break I braved the new bra beneath a favorite pink top. The California sun radiated the asphalt “black top” as our group of second-grade girls made our way across the concrete “red top” and into the bathroom. Like the amateur miscreants we were, we loaded into the handicapped stall and began the process of filling the toilet with remnants of our lunches. Chicken soup, extra ranch dressing, crushed crackers, corn; if it looked like something that could be regurgitated, in it went. None of us particularly hated school, but if one of us could get a recess monitor to believe we were sick and had thrown up, maybe we could all go home! The logic was faultless.
I bent over as I squeezed a packet of ketchup, Pollock-style, into the chum. “What is THAT?” asked the freckle-faced leader of the pack, pointing to the glimmering now exposed by my lowered torso. Tall, lanky, and the best at soccer, Jenny had that inexplicable combination of having Irish-green eyes and a Southern tan. Her older sister had taught us what the F word meant. Jenny was pure cool.
I straightened up and pulled down the collar of my top, just enough to showcase the concentric white sequins that made up a center rosette. “It’s a bra!”
“A BRA?” she replied in that special way that makes you regret every life choice you’ve ever made, ever. She poked the blonde next to us, who was busy throwing a wholly uneaten red delicious apple into the toilet bowl (uh, did she not understand what we were trying to do here?).
Jenny repeated herself to the blonde, “A bra! What, you’re like OLD.”
To this day, I have not once been able to capture even close to the same virility that, in one meager word, an 8-year-old can produce to her “friends.” I instantly backtracked.
“No! I mean, um, it’s just like, like an undershirt. Like a cami. But like, smaller.” I stammered as words flew fitfully from my mouth. Everyone had now stopped adding to the soup to focus on the ensuing shakedown.
“That is so weird.” Jenny laughed, pulling my shirt down further, ignoring my protestations as I tried to back away and out of the stall. “Look at it!” Down went the collar, stretching near to breaking point as she released her grip to bring a hand over her snickering mouth. On cue, the other girls mirthlessly chimed in, their laughs magnified by the plastic and laminate room.
That day I learned two valuable lessons.
1. Guard very carefully that which is close to your heart.
2. The recess monitor will NOT believe that any of you got sick and she WILL make you pick all of the crap out of the toilet bowl before class.
Currently Listening to:
"Way Down We Go" by Kaleo, "Breadcrumbs" by Thomas Newman, and "Brothers in Arms" by Dire Straits
Today we’re exploring another edition of sampling. For those unfamiliar, sampling is “the technique of digitally encoding music or sound and reusing it as part of a composition or recording.” So, in other words, sampling is kind of like OK plagiarism.
You’re familiar with the feeling it evokes: “Haven’t I heard this song before?” “Wow, that really sounds like that one song.” etc. Imitation being the highest form of flattery, it stands to reason that any artist who samples another’s work is paying homage to she who came before. It only becomes a legal matter when the song as a whole seems copied from its inspiration. Still, no hard line exists decrying where the scale tips from flattery to all-out piracy. Sometimes artists will move to appear complimented or even made relevant again. For example, Talking Heads welcomed the use of their bass line in Selena Gomez’s Bad Liar saying, ““I really like the song…and her performance too.” Drummer Chris Frantz even went so far as to say “Was a big surprise and a delight to learn that a new generation is getting introduced to both.”
Other artists aren’t too pleased with the interpolation, most notable recent example being that Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke ripped off Marvin Gaye’s “Gotta Give it Up” for their “Blurred Lines.” They lost that appeal. TBH, I’m not too sad about it.
Back to the point, today we are looking at the comparison between Icelandic band Kaleo's "Way Down We Go" and two pieces from which it samples.
"Way Down We Go" by Kaleo
Kaleo samples two songs in this piece; first is the piano progression. You might find a familiar riff in the James Bond theme, those opening three lines.
"Breadcrumbs" from Skyfall, by Thomas Newman
Originally composed by John Barry in 1962 and used since in the many additional iterations of the 007 universe. However, instead of progressing to the third note in the series, Kaleo resolves back down. Still, one can just hear the third chord harmonically over the third part of the phrase. In something this simple of a progression, it’s more of an allusion than a straight-up sample. It reminds the listener of another motif; something from a different story that evokes a similar tone. Who wouldn’t want to start their song by alluding to Bond?
But perhaps less elusive (or really, just more identifyable) is the second sampling.
Ominous: just listen to the intro. It’s literally the sound of a fucking thunderstorm. Does it get anymore badass? Then a solo electric guitar comes in and you just know you better take. a. seat. cuz baby, you’re in for a story.
Personally, the key change to major and the whisper-sultry voice of the frontman Mark Knopfler doesn’t do it for me (*braces for wrath of the Baby Boomers*). I much prefer the voice of Kaleo frontman’s just-took-a-Juul-break JJ Julius Son (I mean, it’s IN his name).
I’ll give the win to Dire Straits on the lyrics:
“But it's written in the starlight/ And every line in your palm/ We are fools to make war/ On our brothers in arms."
"Brothers in Arms" by Dire Straits
“'Cause they will run you down, down til the dark/ Yes and they will run you down, down til you fall/ And they will run you down, down til you go/ Yeah so you can't crawl no more.”
Which like, sure. But also, duh? I must be missing the insight here.
The most obvious example of sampling comes at 1:55 and can be most closely compared to minute 4:55 of "Brothers" Important: this riff is *not* the same, but go ahead, try to tell the two apart.
This analysis is getting long, but I’d be completely remiss if I didn’t point out why I am comparing these two songs. Cut to one of the best episodes of television in the history of television. Lucky for us, the ENTIRETY of “Brother’s in Arms” is used to score this pivotal moment in The West Wing. Now, I almost haven’t written about this show yet because it is just that good and I refuse to even come close to desecrating it by analyzing it too much. Just... it’s so good. Yes, it’s porn for liberals. I don’t even care. This write-up is getting less articulate by the minute. That is how hot and bothered this show makes me.
Essentially, the entirety of the reminder of the series hangs on the answer to one question and our lord and saviour Aaron Sorkin lets that answer take a full 5 minutes and 31 seconds of screentime (!!). It is a treatise on diegetic sound, an homage to the single and stead-cam, a display of incredible special effects, and an entire graduate thesis on non-verbal acting. If this is your first time watching this scene, good god I envy you.