Saturday, May 28, 2011

40 Songs, 40 Days, Day One (2011 Edition): When The Ground Is Numb by William Ryan Finch

Okay, so I fell down pretty badly for last year's as punishment, I've tacked on the ten days I didn't do during 2010 onto 2011, and I'm starting right at the beginning of the year. I figure if I can't put aside 40 days to write essays on 40 songs throughout an entire year, I should stop doing this and, I dunno, take up knitting.

The rules are this: once a day, I am going to put my expanded 6GB Sansa Clip on Random and press play. I am obligated to write something on the first song it plays. There is no cheating and no do-overs with one exception--if you've covered two songs by an artist in the same cycle, you have the option of writing about the next one. I also invite anyone who is reading this to do their own '30 Days, 30 Songs' this year (I'm not going to make you do the extra ten) consider yourself tagged.

And first up is something from last year's Asthmatic Kitty Digital Sampler. I'm one of the people who really enjoy finding, downloading and perusing these independent label samplers. Yeah, a lot of the stuff I find may prove to be not to my taste, even risible, but there's also the chance I might find a little nugget of yumminess. Asthmatic Kitty in particular is a label started by Sufjan Stevens, an artist I'm not particularly enthralled with...and this track is a puzzler.

See, it's an instrumental done by a film composer--and boy, it does sound it. This is the sort of thing you'd hear in a late 90's indy psychological thriller: some atonal strings, some nondescript choral work, a drum machine pounding what I guess could be called a counter-beat, and a weird oscillation tone to end it all. It's all about setting a mood of unsettlement, but it's so generic in its progressions that it fails to direct the listener in any emotional direction. I'm sure in the movie it was intended for, it might be effective, but devoid of the visual context it's....well, it's annoying.

And that's not what you want in a movie soundtrack. The best movie music not only creates a mood, but can be evocative of the core concepts of the film even when the music is divorced from the film itself. You can't not listen to John Williams' work on films like Superman and Raiders of The Lost Ark without swelling up with heroic pride, you can't listen to Danny Elfman's Batman score without a sense of mysteriousness, and you can't listen to Harold Faltemeyer's work for Beverly Hills Cop without getting a taste of the bouncy, kinetic flow of that movie. It's one of the reasons some composers get connected to certain directors...Howard Shore reflects the sensibilities of David Cronenberg perfectly, for example. I can't see Fitch's work rising above the generic, and that's sad...

No youtube video for this one, so you'll have to take my word for it.

So a sad launch to this year's exercise. I am filled with dread.

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