There’s an interesting SubReddit called LeopardAteMyFace (‘I never thought leopards would eat MY face,’ sobs woman who voted for the Leopards Eating People’s Faces Party. Revel in the schadenfreude anytime someone has a sad because they’re suffering consequences from something they voted for or supported or wanted to impose on other people.). Schadenfreude is something we all understand and feel anywhere in the world, but the concept-word seems almost unknown in France. It’s been often used with Brexit (when you want to Brexit and then your company crashes because of all problems caused by it).
Of course they made a CovidAteMyFace, a very schadenfreudish place…
In 2000, the French “plural left government” voted the “35 hours workweek” law. From then, it’s how we work in France! As I work in a store there’s been a little agreement: we work 36h, then 39h in December when it’s crowdy, and get 12 more days off (plus the legal normal 5 weeks off, c’est la France!).
In this company, there’s a senior new thing: when you’re 55 and more (which is me), you can work 80% (28h) in four days, you lose the salary part, but not for your retirement. I chose 85%/30h and I’m the happiest man since.
Reading a bunch of books about Barbarossa, the 1941 attack of USSR by the Germans. I have a huge book written by two historians, but I completed with a Wehrmacht soldier memories book, a Red Army compilation of stories, two photography books (on each side), a more complete book about all this German/Russia war (1941-1945), the fantastic Alexander Werth’s book Russia at War.
And it IS a tool here: when you want to explore an era, an artist, a country, one must combine sources from different perspectives and heights. It builds a knowledge-web, and more comprehensive way to always remember it’s complex as hell.
There’s a site named Vodkaster where you add your film critics in… 140 characters only! Less than two lines, which is a great exercise for concision.
Where do you need to exercise your concision’s skills?
I have been obsessed with Francis Poulenc, a French composer (1899-1963). There’s absolutely nobody I can’t talk about Poulenc with, but, well, that’s life! I had the visit from a friend working at the Opéra Garnier in Paris, who is a classical music lover, and we could talk a bit.
He told me and I agreed that Poulenc sounds “so French” that it made us smile. We wondered about what “sounds French” in classical music, which is a real question.
You can do that for many countries, I think of Italy or Russia, or the United Kingdom. There IS a British sound in pop (and classical) music, right? There IS something Russian in Prokofiev’s music. Is it in harmony, style, movement?
Poulenc is unframable, it changes all the time, it’s “insanity and beauty”, triangle and sharp like the Russians, and a second later sweet and dreamy. It’s not that serious, it’s lovely but jerky. It modulates in strange delicious ways…
Go to 3:42 for colors:
French composers we know: Ravel and Debussy. You can spend a few weeks with the Web and YouTube to explore what is common or different with these guys. Debussy is fluid, impressionist, Ravel is more “Fauve”, with stronger colors. But that’s not that simple…
From Ravel, listen to the Piano Concerto. From Debussy listen to Nocturnes.
Russian Painters are fantastic. When you need a little “good old academic painting” session, you need a book about Russian painting.
Google : “russian paintings trees”.
You need to have someone on the Internet who explores fields you could like. In music, I talked for a long time to a French guy named EdWood since the nineties (we were among the first French diarists on the web, before it was called “blogging”). He’s an explorer! So every year, he posts his best films or best albums of the year, and I dig!
This week I listened to 50 albums, downloaded plenty, and kept 3 names : Weyes Blood, Anna Meredith, The Twilight Sad.
What is YOUR source for musical discoveries?
I just uploaded a new track on YouTube, and I added a post on the GarageBand SubReddit, telling:
Hi everyone! I had fun yesterday building a crescendo based on a loop of “4 bars” + “4 bars with a modulation”. This makes the audience… need a melody based on it, right?
This is based on a single note called “arr1”, the famous “Moments in Love” Fairlight sound of Art of Noise. I wanted this note to be like a wind (like, in a way, the sound of the wind in Fellini’s movies). I added reverb and some distortion, and it’s just a “Hhhaaaaaaaa” all along the track. The carpet note, if you want.
I found this sound on the web after a few Google searches. “”Moments in Love” Fairlight sound of Art of Noise”.
I added pictures of flowers and frogs to make a YouTube movie.
So it’s 4 chords then 4 other chords with a little modulation. This is boring therefore I literally PILED other sounds with echoes, arpeggios, and some drums here or there. I love stairs!
I separated each step (hhhaaaaa) with a one-bar break. It’s like a… “pause then go on”.
There are two breaks, just for the pleasure of “Let’s climb again”.
In the end, I added louder drums and strings. The two guitars give some relief. They… use the modulation to bring something, I suppose.
Is it acceptable? Should I add a “chorus”? What kind of music is it? Should I use a “I’m a man playing piano notes” over the chords? (I admit I always love to build… little machines). Some lyrics?
Thanks for reading and listening!
The other one is built on a “pianist fingers exercise” (notes around one central note).
My YouTube text:
So I wanted to build an ambient loop around these photos of ants. I lost myself a bit, with this somber piano, but voilà. Insects are cool, right? But ants are cooler when you watch them worrying about « having to go », having to quit, to go away, to find a new home… It’s their dawn, their beginning. Queens within soldiers protecting them until they fly… I played with the idea of unstable harmonies. Some things are sweet, some others are bitter, or uncertain. The music loops but constantly stops. The weaving instruments are sometimes dissonant… this was all a funny game, like Lego.
Game of contrast : acoustic/electronic, reverb/dry, rooted on the loop/evoluting.
I have to go, there’s a big storm coming.
Have fun, thanks for reading!