Saturday, October 08, 2011

Come Closer and See

It's a family secret --between my sister and I, actually -- that I love deep house music. Or chillout. Or nu jazz. Or--well, I don't really know what the hell to call it. But I know what  I like when I hear it. I like this:

A Forest from Ping Trace on Vimeo.

Deep house is my go-to background music. It's perfect for running and creating spreadsheet formulas or Powerpoint notes (or deploying any friggin Office product, really). As atmosphere rather than focus, the sounds flows through part of my mind not occupied with-making-feet-go or dropping in a text box. I learn about it by listening to the internet radio stations -- and not that Live365 crap. I take time to find commercial-free goodness. I support indie! (...thanks to corporate behemoth Apple and its iTunes radio capability.) These stations aren't hard to find; today, faced with a big cut-and-paste job at work, I located Chilltrax

Sometimes, a familiar strain will emerge from clicky beats and hushed vocals. That's what happened in this case. I heard her voice sing "I hear her voice...into the trees..." and realized what it was:

Not long ago, during a visit at my sister's, our dad got a listen to our chillout music. He was all, "Oh yeah, I was listening to this twenty years ago, when the instrumental station would play 'future music' on Sunday nights." Now I grew up in a house where, despite the Stevie and Isaac Hayes and Simon and Garfunkel and Miles Davis in Dad's record cabinet, we listened to "Beautiful Music" during dinnertime. There was an actual radio station that played what I guess is Muzak and it was called The Beautiful Music station. We're talking "Three Coins in the Fountain" and a mystifying instrumental version of "Take It to the Limit" while we ate pot roast and beans and squash from the garden. Gradually, as the format shifted from the soothing sounds of yesteryear to the splashy, new (but equally relaxing) Smooth Jazz format, dad's stereo with the big silver dial stayed on the same place on the radio dial.

Maybe Deep House is the Easy Listening (now Smooth Jazz) of today. Maybe I am taking to it in middle-ish age as my father in his middle years turned from the relentless sax squawks of real jazz and plaintive harmonies of 70s folk to the soothing swirls of Kenny G. Maybe that's why I don't really share with anyone (besides my sister) about how much I like it, and like it irony-free. Maybe I don't share my interest with anyone because, really, no one else I know likes Micatone and Kaskade and St. Germain. (Do they?)

Does it square with everything else I listen to? Not much. This music is occasional and functional, both for me and inherently. It is made to play over VIP martini-shaking at on the Vegas strip and for, I don't know, people to hear as they come down from whatever hallucinogenics they take in Ibiza these days. It lacks the sublime artistry and transportability of music that I am passionate about. It's not what I wear on my sleeve, yet it's not a guilty pleasure. It says something about who I am, the (ha) depth of who I am, but it's not me.

Deep House doesn't move me. It creates context.

I guess Dad is right in that it's shut-off-your-brain music. It doesn't require me to do anything besides like how it feels to be surrounded by it. Context.

Speaking of context: I discovered in writing this that everything discussed here can be an article in academic journal, complete with French Structuralist references (Lefebvre, for those keeping track).

This is germane if only for this reason: this random article (apparently up for a patent?) reinforces how culture today is ultra-fractured. If a guy can extract meaning from the intersection of Coen brothers films, and classic rock can be played by session instrumentalists, then Ping Trace can cover "A Forest," I can like Wild Flag and Ping Trace. Can't I?

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