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Saturday, July 10, 2010

Hussalonia Song # 11: Everything and Its Opposite At Once

In planning this blog and deciding to attempt writing about every single Hussalonia recording, one of my motivations was a love of the underdog. In both my tastes in music and in other things, I've noticed a bizarre reoccurrence. If I enjoy something popular, generally my favorite part of it will be the part that nobody else enjoys very much, maybe even the part that most everybody else actually hates. For example, "Infidels" is considered by many to be a lesser Bob Dylan album, but it's my personal favorite. Though there are songs and other works of art that I don't particularly enjoy, I have long believed that most works of art simply have their place. A song that for most of my life I don't care much for might one day become my favorite. It may not remain my favorite for long, but for that particular day it is. Perhaps it will only be one person's favorite for one particular day, or even an hour. As a writer, much of what I create is crafted with the knowledge that my work may only have a very short period of worth, and very possibly only in the life of someone I will never meet. When I listen to a song (or read a book or watch a movie or whatever the case may be) no matter whether I love it, am ambivalent about it or even find myself outright irritated by it, I try to find what about it may be good and meaningful, even if it is only for a certain type of situation and a certain type of mood. Some songs don't make a strong impression on me one way or another (the last entry on "The Twist" contains a Hussalonia-based example, though some songs from this album made stronger impressions on me after I gave them closer listens for the purposes of writing about them on this blog) but I try to discover in what sort of mood, place and time that they might.

In the case of "Everything and Its Opposite At Once," however, I need not search far for a particular mood in which I would best appreciate the track. This one draws me in as soon as it begins, every time.

Somehow in the span of a minute and a half it manages to build a beautiful momentum, beginning right off the bat with a strong, catchy sound. I can't think, off the top of my head, of many other songs that have such a powerful, climactic sound that builds up so nicely in such a short time.

The lyrics match the rhythm very well, and I find that it keeps me guessing every time I hear it. The one the narrator sings about is the killer…and raises the dead, is a thief and the police, is mysterious, magical, and has the narrator under the spell of his or her clavicle, which is a line which particularly baffles me.

Who might this paradoxical person/entity be?

God? Jesus Christ? If you consider the Judeo-Christian view, God has certainly killed quite a few people, and Christ has raised the dead, plus there's the whole "like a thief in the night" thing. I'm unsure of God being viewed as the police, though there may yet be some argument there.

Bob Dylan? I have no idea why it would be Bob Dylan, but I seem to recall some speculation that he was the subject of that "You Oughtta Know" song by Alanis Morissette. If she can maybe write a cryptic song about Bob Dylan, why shouldn't Hussalonia be able to maybe write a cryptic song about him?

Johnny Cash? Kris Kristofferson said that he was a "walking contradiction," and that seems applicable here. I'm unaware of his ability to resurrect the dead, though.

Sting? He was a member of The Police. I'm unaware of his having murdered anyone, or having joined the band The Killers, but maybe Hussalonia knows something that I don't?

My nonsense aside, this is a personal favorite track of mine. I can't say that I have any particular insight on it, and aside from simply enjoying the music I'm not sure what in particular draws me into it so quickly every time that I hear it. I am always impressed that so much beauty can be fitted into a minute and a half. It is the sort of song that I'm frequently replaying, both to satiate my urge to hear what keeps looping in my head and in the vain hope that eventually it will become longer by several minutes.

I don't know who is "Everything and Its Opposite At Once," but I know that I love this track. Mysterious and magical, that's what it is.

Hussalonia Song # 10: The Twist

I would like to preface this entry with a bit of background information. This was actually written on July the 9th (it is now the 10th) and completed. However, as I was saving the file, an error occurred with program that caused me to lose the second half of the document (the first half was preserved due to the Auto Save feature) and at the time I was too frustrated to finish it by rewriting the last several paragraphs.

Shortly after midnight, I discovered an online news article proclaiming that yesterday, July the 9th, happened to be the 50th anniversary of the release of Chubby Checker's hit single "The Twist." As alluded to in the original section of this post to follow, the especially long delay from the last blog entry to this one is due to various distractions and a personal bad habit of procrastination (and admittedly also to a bit of writer's block) and was not in any way intended to coincide with the anniversary of the release of "The Twist." This is a rather odd coincidence, in fact. I am now actually glad, at least to some degree, that my posting of this entry was a day late; it missed being posted on the anniversary of the original "The Twist," but if I'd posted it yesterday when I originally finished it I wouldn't have known about the coincidence in the first place.

What follows, up to the sentence beginning "At around the two minute mark…" is the original post on Hussalonia's "The Twist," written yesterday, July the 9th of 2010, 50 years to the day, apparently, after the release of Chubby Checker's "The Twist."

I don't suppose I should bother with an explanation for why it has taken me exactly three months to update this blog. If my past update schedule is any indication, I may very well take even more breaks lasting multiple months. Instead, let's just accept the uncertainty and move right along, shall we?

Writing about the tenth track of "Ernest Evans Hussalonia" has been quite a challenge. This one is somewhere between a song collage and a traditional song. The first two minutes feature, a tinny, stressed-opening tune, one or two lines of disembodied speech and a lot of other stressed sound; the music sounds like it might be fitting for some sort of science fiction film, possibly the build-up to some shocking revelation. Of all the Hussalonia sound collages and non-traditional pieces, "The Twist" is one that admittedly makes very little impression on me overall. When listening to it, I tend to zone out, and usually this zoning out occurs within those first two minutes. Songs that lead one to zone out are not necessarily bad songs (or sound collages or whatever they might individually be called) and I always like to find what is unique and positive about each work even if it is one I don't find myself listening to it very often. It is a song best enjoyed, I think, during reflective times, though the stressed and ominous tone lends it to a very particular sort of mood.

At around the two minute mark, however, things change.

Though the somewhat ominous, spooky distressed instrumentals continue to play most prominently, a new song is mixed into the track, one that actually brings to mind the track's namesake (specifically the Chubby Checker version) and the rest of the 50s and 60s pop that is referenced throughout "Ernest Evans Hussalonia." That isn't to say Hussalonia's "The Twist" actually sounds very much like the identically-titled song best known as being performed by Chubby Checker, but it's a great deal closer to it than the stressed instrumentals that continue to dominate the track even as this more traditional section plays.

As I believe I have mentioned in previous entries, I have little knowledge, musical or otherwise, of Chubby Checker, "The Twist" and probably a host of other things referenced in some way or another on "Ernest Evans Hussalonia," so I may very well be missing something with this track. I suspect that there is much to the design of this track and the album as a whole that would be better appreciated by someone savvier about the 50s and 60s pop material being referenced than I am. As always, I can only offer my own reaction, despite how ill-informed it is. It has been one of the most difficult tracks to write about so far.

When I hear the rather disorienting juxtaposition of sound collage and traditional song, I feel that my expectations are being challenged in some way. What message may be there, I'm not certain, but I get a rather strong impression that this track is intended to defy expectation. After all, the narrator proclaims that he doesn't want to hold your hand (bringing to mind one of my first favorite songs by The Beatles) and also that you must take the meaning and give it a twist…it sounds like a twist on "The Twist" to me. I find myself wishing to hear the traditional song part of this track separate from the sound collage part; not in place of the way the track currently is, but just so that I could appreciate them separately as well. Nonetheless, I think that it is very possible that the juxtaposition may be intended to provoke just such a desire and potentially frustrate the listener. Then again, I may be entirely wrong. I am most likely wrong about most things you read here. So it goes.

I had a very difficult time writing with any clarity about this track, as I've already said, and the little hiccup with the computer program I was using to save it created a rather frustrating extended delay. Nonetheless, having re-written the greater portion of it, and hopefully that the problem won't repeat itself, here we are. This blog's number of entries has entered the double-digits. Hopefully it hasn't done too much harm and misinforming so far and hopefully somebody out there has or eventually will benefit from it somehow. Let us press forward, as the remainder of "Ernest Evans Hussalonia" awaits!

One last note: In keeping with the one-release-per-month project currently being undertaken by Hussalonia, we, the listeners, have now been given three new excellent (and need I remind you? Free!) releases: "Attention Deficit Recorder," "Hissalonia" and "The Somewhat Surprising Return of Percy Thrills Hussalonia!" Of the three I've heard the first two and have been enjoying them very much. I look forward to listening to the most recent release very soon. Viva Hussalonia, and happy belated 50th birthday to the Chubby Checker release of "The Twist!"

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Hussalonia Song #9: What Will Become of Me? [Second Appearance]

I have previously mentioned that the first appearance of this song on "Ernest Evans Hussalonia" was probably one of my three personal favorites. However, after writing the last entry on this blog, and about to go to sleep (once again, I am up much later than I ought to be) I felt the urge to give this track a fresh listening. I do not know, as I had wondered about in the earlier post, if I can say anything here all that wildly different about this recording of the song as opposed to the one appearing earlier in the album. Nonetheless, I felt so struck by listening to it just now I decided to postpone some much-needed rest and go ahead and write about it while I feel so energized by the recent listening.
I've already mentioned how this song and merely the title of it seem to embody the experience of anxiety about the future for me. My listening experience of moments ago is very much connected with a particular experience I had recently, so this entry may be a bit more on the personal side, a subjective expansion of the more general sentiments expressed on the post about the other recording of this song. As for more specific commentary on the song itself, I would like to add this: it impresses me very much how all three recordings of this song manage to feel, to use a word probably bandied about too often these days, "epic." There is are unique forms of grandeur in both the faster and slower tempo version, and the final appearance of the song, which I'll be writing about later, is such an amazing synthesis of the two. It is a testament to [The Hussalonia Founder]'s talent that he was able to turn this single song into three unique and uniquely beautiful recordings that all fit so well together on the same album.
Now, for the anecdote portion of this post:
Being someone who has written for many years, admittedly with long periods of literary inactivity (as well as general inactivity), I have always veered towards writing odd little stories that resemble, if anything, the fiction of Kafka (I refrain from using a certain much-maligned descriptive word that I nonetheless have no problem with myself). I've never had much expectation that any of these stories would be commercially viable, and as I've slogged my way through college attempting to earn a creative writing degree (because, frankly, I couldn't think of anything better to do with myself that would be any more productive and yet tolerable or inclined to give an illusion of productivity) I feel even more increasingly aware of how unlikely it is that my best work will ever be profitable in the monetary sense. Further, I become more and more worried that selling them would be some sort of betrayal of my principles, in my belief of whatever worth it is that they have. If something is a labor of love, if the aim isn't, at heart, for a physical, material purpose, then should one really try and make money from it? If anything, I don't know if I feel the need to even spread these stories publicly, but rather pass them around individually, in keeping with my philosophy. We've all got to make a living somehow, and I'm still not sure how I will manage after college, but I feel even less confident than I initially felt that my serious, blood-sweat-and-tears literary efforts will ever provide me with food or shelter and other necessities.
Some time ago I decided to do two things, embodied in one project. One of the things I had tried years before, the other thing I had never tried before at all. The thing I had tried years before was releasing my literary inhibitions and just writing things for the fun of it, purely for self-indulgence. The thing that I had never tried before was writing something with the specific aim of making it "commercial," making something that might be marketable, publishable, and capable of allowing me to make a living some day, after years of rejection and perseverance.
I don't regret beginning this series, and I don't blame myself for that aim of making money, though I find myself struck again by paranoia of working in an industry built on corporations and demographics and focus groups and all of those things that some people seem to really believe are worthwhile. It might be presumptuous to worry about success when I have no real guarantee of it; after all, who am I? That's part of the problem though; I hate the thought of playing to the standards of popular opinion. Say, if you will, that this is merely the rambling of an insecure nutjob who is afraid of rejection; I can understand anyone viewing this that way. Nonetheless, the feeling persists and is sincere, and I wonder if I ought not keep writing as a passion reserved for spare time and not something that I attempt to convert into a career in pursuit of that illusive "actually having a job you love" ideal. It all leads back to that question: What Will Become of Me?
I recently asked an illustrator online, who offered to do drawings for a very reasonable fee, to sketch one of the characters from this (originally, at least) "commercial" series. The result nearly knocked me on the floor; the sketches were absolutely beautiful, and they gave me new drive to write these stories, just to live up to the images she created. All the while, it is past 3 AM, and I'm pondering a friend's accusation that the narrator of the series is a manifestation of my own suppressed desires (furthered by an embarrassing Freudian slip on my part), and the character from those sketches is staring into my soul. When I listened to this recording of "What Will Become of Me?" the element of triumph that I perceive in it seemed to outweigh any element of despair even as that despair was still the instigator the triumph. I have tried, lately, to overcome future-anxiety, to live in the present, to cease to worry and deal with things as they come. Perhaps, despite this swirl of sleep-deprived mania and insecurity, the feeling of exhilaration given to me by listening to this track reflects a hopeful move towards inner peace. If not, it is still a really great song anyway, in all three tracks in which it appears.

Hussalonia Song #8: Kindle For the Red Coats

"Kindle For the Red Coats" is a song with a truly impressive premise: a young nerd invents a time-machine and drastically alters history by traveling through the centuries to the Revolutionary War, where he provides the British troops with a modern electronic reading device. It puts both Ray Bradbury's "A Sound of Thunder" and every single novel written by Harry S. Turtledove to shame.
That, folks, is my belated April Fool's joke! Happy spring time!
Yes, a whole month gone, and still no word. Well, here is the word. Word up.
While I realized in beginning this blog that I would likely not be very productive in writing it, I had hoped to release at least one entry a month. Lo and behold, that ship has sailed. Somehow I find myself already in the midst of April. Nonetheless, we must press forward, we must keep buttering the bread, we must keep trimming the sails, and we must keep chug-chug-chugging along.
It may be worthwhile to mention that I'm currently suffering from some sort of cold. I won't let that stop me from writing now that the busy days of March have finally yielded to a decent-enough amount of time and frame of mind to do so. However, if this one does turn out to be a bit more incoherent than usual, consider that you have been warned.
As usual, before I begin, I'd like to cover relevant Hussalonia news.
I missed it due to my lack of productivity last month, but March saw the release of an excellent new Hussalonia album, titled simply "Alonia." One might argue that this is first "traditional" album (though perhaps that term is relative) that Hussalonia has released since 2008's "Satan Amongst The Sofa Cushions." Specifically, I believe that since that album and until the release of "Alonia," all full Hussalonia albums either involved robot voices, animals reading letters, instrumental covers of eastern European national anthems, and some strange, sometimes hilarious sound collages. While I love those albums, it does delight me to hear [The Hussalonia Founder] once again providing vocals to Hussalonia music.
This month, continuing the endeavor to release one thing per month, Hussalonia released yet another new album. I've only just discovered it and so have not heard it as of the time of this writing. It is titled "Attention Deficit Recorder" and features the unique property of being designed to be played in any order while maintaining a flow between the songs. I very much look forward to hearing it! With it, this blog's scope seems to get bigger and bigger. Will I ever get anywhere near catching up to Hussalonia's productive output? The answer is a resounding probably not, accompanied by an undaunted sense of perseverance in the face of failure.
Lastly, Hussalonia is now offering a most unique opportunity: a personalized song that will be owned solely by the buyer. The cost is 100 dollars, and there are some strict rules to abide by if placing an order. Nonetheless, the thinking behind it is absolutely brilliant. Anyone reading this blog is strongly encouraged to read the page of the Hussalonia website detailing this offer. If I may be permitted a further divergence from actually writing about "Kindle For the Red Coats," I would like to say a bit more about this.
It has often occurred to me how simultaneously wonderful and terrible shared culture can be. There is a pleasant sense of community one can find in forming a new acquaintanceship or friendship over shared interests and the topic of favorite music is always a popular focus in such bonding rituals as these. One's mind could get absolutely boggled when considering the countless times that proclamations for the greatness of a popular song have served as icebreakers between strangers. I have had this experience a good many times in my own life. I can't say that I find any particular experience such as this regrettable.
Still, the existentialist, the individualist in me must, as in so many other cases, rebel against accepting this too idly. Though I may never have really regretted striking up a conversation with someone based on the shared love of a song, a movie, a television show or a videogame, I can also remember many times in recent years how, to some extent, it disturbs me, and gives me a sense of being too tangled up in the crowd.
I feel that this new offer from Hussalonia and the free-for-everyone release "The Public Domain EP" are, in a way, two sides of the same coin. "The Public Domain EP" provides, totally free of charge, four excellent songs that a person can have total freedom with, freedom to change, to alter, to build upon, to profit from, to enjoy, to do just about anything. This personalized song offer has a definite set of terms and conditions, many of which are the polar opposite of the freedoms allowed by the open terms of "The Public Domain EP." Yet it offers a different kind of freedom through these strict rules: it offers one the ability to truly "possess" a song in a way that is entirely individualized, that sets one apart as an individual from the entangling web of culture. The song one obtains through this offer is one's own; you can't start a conversation with a stranger based on a mutual love of it. You'll never hear it in a movie or on the radio. You can't go out to the store and buy a new copy. You will be left alone with it, yet in a way more truly so, perhaps, than any other song you will ever hear. I bow once again to Hussalonia for such a unique offer, for providing art for the individual even as art for the masses has been provided for. In a world mired in industry, in culture shared but not freely, Hussalonia has covered all of the bases. I cannot help but feel inspired, and my intent of spreading Hussalonia awareness through this blog feels ever-increasingly worthwhile.
Now, finally, I shall write about "Kindle For the Red Coats." I fear that my comments on this song will be quite skimpy, especially compared to the rambling I've just done.
I have long found this song's meaning difficult to grasp. I am able to pick up on the imagery of the stage, but somehow I feel drawn into the music itself and not far into it my ability to concentrate on the lyrics is absorbed into a trancelike state. The music is certainly excellent. However, this is one of the songs on "Ernest Evans Hussalonia" that I play very infrequently. The "list" that appears not long after or around the one minute mark features some of [The Hussalonia Founder]'s most unsettling vocals that I can currently remember. Not there is anything wrong with being unsettled by art; it can very well be a sign of great success. Still, even as a success, when this effect is achieved (whether or not intentionally) one can expect that a listener/reader/whatever will probably feel reluctant to return to that work of art very frequently.
Some years ago, about a year after the album "American IV: The Man Comes Around" by Johnny Cash was released, I was speaking with a friend about how much I enjoyed it. She told me that she didn't really like to listen to it much at all. This offended me to some degree. Upon my questioning her, she explained that the most of the songs on it were just too dark and too intense, and while they weren't, in her estimation, bad songs, they weren't the kind of the songs one listens to often or outside of a certain mood that is particularly receptive to such music.
This always bothered me, despite and perhaps increasingly because of her explanation. Nonetheless, I must concede that I do see her point. "Kindle For the Red Coats" is not a bad song, and it is arguably very evocative and effective; still it is, for me, rather difficult to listen to, perhaps due to the very fact that it has such a strong effect upon me. As the words "pathetic mother…movie theater…" are sung in that (to me, anyway) eerie, strained way, I feel like something in my mind could break, like the Gates of Hell are about to open. I am not really sure what about it is about this section of the song that affects me this way, and so strongly, but every time I listen to it I continually get that same sense of being overwhelmed. Perhaps the fact that I've never really comprehended the meaning of the lyrics adds to that feeling of being overwhelmed, of being lost in a confusion, running against a constant deadline to make sense but seemingly without hope of doing so as one's emotions come crashing down upon oneself. It is very powerful, very strange, and a bit too much to bear. Likely I've missed the real intent behind it, and I don't think that in writing this I'll be able to work out what that intent might be. I'm left only with that overwhelming intensity that it seems to convey to me.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Hussalonia Song #7: I Can’t Tell the Difference Anymore

The recording of "I Can't Tell the Difference Anymore" on "Ernest Evans Hussalonia" is very minimalist; it includes nothing more than voice, guitar, and the same voice overdubbed at a certain point to create a one-man duet. I may as well stop adding to my list of favorite tracks; at this rate, nearly all of them will end up on there if I do.

The first, most striking thing about the recording is that lovely background noise, which, if I'm not mistaken, is the cassette tape hum. I happen to be old enough to remember using cassette tapes as a primary format for music-listening, and I have a nostalgic fondness for that kind of sound the way many people who are older than I am have a fondness for the hiss and crackle of records (in recent times I've bought a few records myself, and I've discovered a fondness for that sound as well). The official album descriptions that of the tracks that comprise it, created between 2000 and 2003, some were recorded on Tascam 4 track cassette. I know little of the technical side of music production (nor, really, any side of it) but this sounds to me like it is one of those cassette recordings. In any case, I find the resulting sound most endearing.

A night-time ride, a warning to keep hands and arms inside the vehicle (despite having nothing left to lose, a line that seems at first funny to me, and then intriguing, and then sad), and falling asleep are the primary images that stick out to me in the song. I particularly love the description of the narrator's head cutting through "the starry night, like a speedboat does to water." It is an effective bit of imagery, one that really takes me into the action described in the song (though I haven't figured out what the vehicle referred to is supposed to be; it may be obvious to anyone else).

The overdubbing of another voice track onto the primary one during the asking of questions ("Is this love or is this depression?") could potentially break the intimacy of the song, yet it fits perfectly. The questions asked are followed by a comment at the very end, not really an answer, and it is the title phrase. That is where the song ends. It is a sad and beautiful ending to a sad and beautiful song.

This is one of those songs that seems to be intended to capture a moment and a mood, one of those little everyday instants that, due to some external reminder or just some wandering thought, brings to mind a memory that inspires a mood, or else just the mood itself. It is the sort of moment that, melded to that mood or feeling, sticks out in your memory for years afterwards, perhaps for the rest of your life. It might reoccur but, if not in the same place, then likely you will only remember that first time in that original location. Riding through the night, a passenger, falling asleep, stars above you, and some strained and maybe painful sense inside you, some conflict, all of this comes together, each thing meshed with every other, and it crystallizes in your memory. I can't help but feel a sense of admiration and gratitude to an artist who can capture one of these often-unspoken occurrences in a work, and especially in a song so unassumingly simple. As retrained as it appears to be in terms of production, it is incredibly rich in feeling, in emotion.

I would say that it is a fairly sad thing to imagine one who has lost the difference to tell the difference between love and depression, yet it isn't difficult to imagine at all. I may have been there myself once before, some years ago. It is difficult to remember these things, no matter how intense they may have once been, if something in particular doesn't inspire remembrance.

With this entry, I am at the halfway point in writing about "Ernest Evans Hussalonia" and that means that I am at the halfway point of the first album that this little blog has ever covered! Though often a challenge, I am finding this blog a pleasure to write. I look forward to the next seven songs and beyond!

Hussalonia Song #6: Peggy Sue

As noted on the album's official description, "Ernest Evans Hussalonia" makes many references to pop music of the 1950s and 1960s, yet sounds very little like that type of music. That certainly holds true, yet I think that "Peggy Sue" might be the track that most reminds me of the music that it references. Musically it is still quite different, but the repeating lyrics in the last half sound like they might have come from the late 50s or early 60s. In fact, if my memory serves me well, a rhyme or two might even be the same as one or two used in the original Buddy Holly song with the same title as this track.

I mentioned in an earlier entry that my personal favorite tracks on this album might be "Chubby Checker," "Limbo Rock" and "What Will Become of Me?" (tracks that also happen to appear in succession). Already I must revise that list, in this case to add "Peggy Sue." A benefit of writing this blog is becoming apparent to me, namely that by forcing me to listen repeatedly to songs I may otherwise not have listened to as often, and to listen to them closely, I am learning to appreciate much that I had been overlooking before. "Peggy Sue" was one of those tracks that I didn't dislike but nonetheless never paid a great deal of attention to before. For whatever reason, it just didn't stick out in my memory. Now, however, having listened to it several times to prepare for this writing, I am enjoying it more and more. I can't help but feel that if writing this blog has no other reward then developing a greater appreciation for some of the Hussalonia songs I didn't take proper notice of before, then I am more than amply rewarded. "Peggy Sue" is an absolutely beautiful song!

I confess that, yet again (get used to this, kids) I'm not really sure what to write about this song. I've given it multiple listenings to prepare and yet each time I hear it I find that it washes over me so quickly, and makes such an emotional impression, that I'm not sure how to properly express my reaction to it. As I continue to acclimate myself to writing this blog, I am faced, with each entry, with the question of exactly how to go about writing something about each song that does it justice, expresses my personal reaction to it, yet doesn't rely too heavily on interpretation and traditional music criticism. After all, my aim here isn't to imitate "Rolling Stone" articles or bland documentary interviews from VH1; it is to give a little bit of exposure to one of my favorite musical cults while maintaining a format closer to that of a personal diary than that of typical journalism. General interpretation may be a part of my personal reactions to the music, and I definitely mean to include the personal interpretations that are a part of my reactions, yet I fear that relying too heavily on interpretation might have too much influence anyone who might actually read this stuff. I would encourage listeners of any music to try and experience music, at least their initial listening, with an open mind, and not get caught up in the interpretation of others. I speak only for myself here, but I feel that music, like most things, ought to be an individual experience, first and last. I want to express my individual reactions here, but I don't want to ruin your own. Besides all of that, I have a long history of misinterpretation when it comes to understanding an artist's/author's intention with his/her works. While I strongly support people forming their own personal reactions to art, I'm not a fan of the whole "Death of the Author" idea either. I'm an author myself, and, like most living things, I don't want to die.

With all of this in mind, I hope you'll forgive me if what I write about "Peggy Sue" is a little vague and brief; the same goes, likely, for a lot of future entries that I will write.

The lyrics that make up the first part of "Peggy Sue" are quite obscure to me. They speak of escape, and also of returning to someone who, in the last part of the song it is revealed, is the title character. I do not really understand the meaning of these lyrics, that is to say, what the intended meaning was. They do bring to mind some personal thoughts and memories for me, however, though this may have nothing to do with what the song is really about. I am reminded of those situations in which one is torn by and between loneliness and the urge to be alone. I can imagine that the eponymous character here, Peggy Sue, is the subject of the affections, and perhaps the simultaneous lack of affection, of one who cannot make up his/her mind about what they want out of life in regard to relationships. The escape, the call for Peggy Sue to look away, and the sense of testing things out all bring to my mind someone trying to figure him or her self out, varying between a commitment to a relationship and an urge to escape from it, or else a commitment to solitude and an urge to escape from it, or, once again, both at once. Not, admittedly, very fair to Peggy Sue, but all's fair in love and war, they say. Are they correct? I have no idea. The repeated rhymes that draw the song to a close imply at first that Peggy Sue doesn't really understand what is going on in the narrator's mind, and what they are going through emotionally, and, at the end, it implies that the narrator has decided to choose the relationship over the solitude. I can't say I relate to the conclusion in this scenario, but the situation is one that is quite familiar to me. It brings to mind the idea of falling in love with the idea of someone rather than the actual person; appropriately, there is another Hussalonia song with the title of "I Love the Idea" of you. Again, this is something I'm quite familiar with, a subject I've given much thought to over the years. The song doesn't really describe a setting, but the combination of music and lyrics, and the way that I interpret them, give me a rush of memories and imaginings of days spent at the beach and a series of ambiguous telephone conversations, swirling around with sunlight, a dream that wasn't mine, and seemingly endless uncertainty, hopes and disappointments.

Again, I can't emphasize enough that I don't really know what the real intended meaning of this song is, and that what I've written here is really a personal (in fact, quite personal indeed) interpretation. Whether you share my interpretation or not and whether my or your interpretations reflect the real, intended meaning or not, I can say one thing very much in earnest: this is an absolutely beautiful song, beautifully recorded. In other words, this is classic Hussalonia. The vocal is breathtaking, and instrumentation is lovely, and the rhyming section is quite catchy, something that is in keeping with the tradition of the 50s and 60s pop music that this album makes so much reference to. If, like me, you heard this song only to find yourself not paying it close attention and moving on to other tracks that you initially find more memorable, I urge you to give this one another listen. I passed it over too quickly on my initial listening, and I'm glad that, in writing this blog, I rediscovered it and was able to appreciate it. If nobody else gets anything out of this blog, at least I got something out of it!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Hussalonia Song # 5: The Locomotion

Vindication! Recognition! A blurb!
I would like to begin this entry by thanking Hussalonia founder for announcing the presence of this humble little blog on the official Hussalonia news page! Once again, traveling back to the Hussalonia Internet Concourse for a bit of fact-checking for the purpose of writing this blog, I was greeted with another welcome surprise. It seems that lately every visit to Hussalonia's website has provided me with some such unexpected good news. I am honored to have my written ramblings recognized by Hussalonia!
I would also like to mention that [The Hussalonia Founder] has recently posted on the website (though he'd alluded to it once before in the Hussalonia newsletter, which you would know if you subscribed to it; what are you waiting for?) his intention to release at least one project per month for this entire, grand old year known as 2010. I congratulate The Hussalonia Founder on his forming of such a plan and I wish him all the best in following it through! I, for one, greatly look forward to the prospect of new Hussalonia material each month, and I very much hope that the project winds up a rousing success. Viva Hussalonia!
Now, it is time for me to return to this week's entry, track number five off of the "Ernest Evans Hussalonia" album, "The Locomotion."
This is the first Hussalonia recording I am faced with writing about that isn't a traditional song at all, but more or less a full-blown sound collage. I fear writing about these a bit, as sometimes, to be honest, I do not have much of a reaction to them, and even to the extent that I do, I'm not sure that my writing skills are capable of capturing the very mercurial thoughts and feelings they inspire. I imagine that these probably aren't instant-favorites with most listeners. I, however, do have a soft spot for them, even when I don't really know what to make of them. Elsewhere on the official website, it is mentioned that [The Hussalonia Founder] collects old recordings, and these often seem to wind up in sound collage, and occasionally in the more traditional songs as well. These are used to great effect on both counts, though it will be some time before I am able to write about some of my favorite examples. For a bit of background on exactly what the nature of these antiquated recordings are, I give you a quote from the official description of the 2008 public domain sound collage release "OMG LOL WTF." It reads: "[The album] is comprised of experimental instrumentals and sound collage compiled from home-recordable, Wilcox-Gay acetates dating to the mid 1940s/early 1950s." I know little of acetate collection myself, but I imagine it is quite a fun hobby. It certainly appeals to my magpie-like urge to collect things. These recordings, explained elsewhere on the website (I admittedly forget where), contain everything from audio from radio and television to people just goofing around for the fun of it. "OMG LOL WTF" even includes some rather hilarious audio from a record designed to teach parakeets to talk. However, I must pace myself; that's quite far ahead! I must get back to the matter at hand.
The first thing that strikes me about "The Locomotion" is that it isn't "The Loco-Motion." To be more specific, it isn't the well-known pop song originally performed by Little Eva. In case you wonder, yes, I did just search online for who the original performer was and yes, I've never heard of her before now, despite being quite familiar with the song. In an odd side-note, my late great-grandmother was good friends with someone called Little Eva. Looking back, for all I know, it might have been the same person. In retrospect it was rather like a reoccurring gag out of a sitcom, in that I heard the adults of my family reference Little Eva, and my great-grandmother would talk to her on the phone while I was around, but I never saw her or even heard her voice. It reminds me of Wilson on "Home Improvement," or Carlton the doorman on "Rhoda." I half-remember this Little Eva supposedly having a sister named Big Eva, though I can't imagine why two siblings would have been given the same first name, unless it was not a sibling but a mother or an aunt or something. At any rate, my great-grandmother passed away several years ago and I've heard scarce mention of Little Eva since. How very odd that is, now that I think about it.
Oh, wait; I was supposed to be writing about a Hussalonia track, wasn't I?
As I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted by my own memories, short attention span, and the complete disregard for your precious time that prevents me from editing out the superfluous and unnecessary text, when I listen to "The Locomotion," no matter how many times I hear it, like Pavlov's dog I instantly expect to hear "The Loco-Motion." I'm not really sure why, but I always feel a bit disappointed at first that this isn't a cover of that song. This is especially strange considering that I never really liked "The Loco-Motion" all that much. I recall being made to listen to it, and, I think, dance to it in elementary school, probably in the same music class that ruined "This Land Is Your Land" for me. It conjures memories of some faded music textbook with bland pictures of a smiling cowboy clown next to the lyrics to "Home on the Range."
At any rate, after I settle down from the shock of not hearing "The Loco-motion," I find myself listening to a very intriguing little sound collage. It begins with some singing. Who is it? I have no idea. I think that the words are "When you're alone on the street of regret." It sounds quite mournful, buried though it is under distortion. Before long what appears to be a recording of the hymn "Angels We Have Heard on High" (if I'm not mistaken) comes to the fore, with the instantly recognizable "Gloria in Excelsis Deo" chorus. This has a lovely quality, yet as it sounds fuzzy due to age, it has kind of a ghostly quality as well. As if to accentuate the creepiness, dubbed over the rest of the track is a single sound: it appears to be a man sighing or grunting "uh." This sound, coupled with the relentless repetition, makes me quite uncomfortable. It brings to mind the feeling of being spied on by some perverse and inconsiderate voyeur. Before you ask, I have never knowingly experienced that, thankfully. Hearing that "uh" sound makes me imagine all too vividly what it might very well be like, though.
By the end of the track there is the sound of children babbling and repeating a phrase. It sounds like "taffy," or "coffee," or "Cathy." Each syllable is spoken separately but I still can't quite tell exactly what they are saying. I find the creepy "uh" sound mixed with the carefree sounds of children especially disconcerting.
What can I say about this track? I couldn't begin to interpret it. I have covered what each element of it makes me feel. Perhaps I should conclude by making a solid attempt at describing the overall impression that the track leaves on me.
When I listen to "The Locomotion," I am given a feeling of childhood, a certain part of childhood that is rather dry, boring, and, at times, vaguely unsettling. It is a feeling at once of smaller, country, churches and at the same time of larger cathedrals. For one moment I feel as if I'm at an uncomfortable Christmas Eve service, surrounded by candles; at another moment I feel as if I'm in some regular, typical Sunday service, being pressured against my will to sit on the altar while somebody gives me a sermon that I know full well I won't listen to if for no other reason than that I'll be too distracted by feeling nervous about having to sit up there to listen to it. I am reminded of the character "No-Face" in the film "Spirited Away" and that "uh!" sound he makes when he holds out his hands to offer gold, and how, in high school, a friend of mine liked to imitate it to be intentionally bothersome and disconcerting. Lastly, the track gives me the feeling of being in Sunday school, surrounding by construction paper and safety scissors, or else at some birthday party where everyone wonders why I don't feel compelled to hit the piƱata. In either case, I am driven primarily by the urge to go home.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Hussalonia Song # 4: What Will Become of Me?

This song presents a problem for me in regard to this blog. The problem lies in the fact that the song appears thrice on this album. Each track contains some variation. I'm not entirely sure, however, if I can think of much to write about each one individually. That isn't to say I don't enjoy the repetition, or that I discount those variations between each version; I think that it does add something to the feel of and overall experience of listening to the album that this song is repeated. I'm just not entirely sure if my reactions to each version are different enough to inspire three full, separate entries on this blog. Then again, there's no real limit on the minimum or maximum length of a post here (well, there might be technically, but I haven't imposed any on myself as a part of this project). Perhaps my entries on the second and third versions of this song will just be very brief. We'll see what I can do, though. As best I can, I want to live up to this blog's title and write something about every Hussalonia song (though, more specifically, every Hussalonia track/recording).
While, in my current state of sleep-deprivation and poor habits of eating and exercise, my memory is a bit fuzzy and my thoughts are a little unclear, and therefore I'm not really recalling the other tracks all that well, I think that the triad of Chubby Checker, Limbo Rock, and the first appearance of this song might be my personal favorite tracks on this album.
This song brings to my mind anxiety about the future, a most relatable feeling for most, I imagine. The lyrics reference building a nest, only for it to become infested with violent bees and ruining the comfort that it was supposed to provide. [The Hussalonia Founder]'s vocal here seems to me to tread a fine line between triumphant and despairing, especially around the halfway mark when it really seems to reach a high point that I find both beautiful and tragic. I'm not really sure if that sense of triumph that I imagine has any basis in reality, but somehow, nonetheless, I get this near-triumphant feeling when I listen to this track. I emphasize the "near," though. Despair seems to pervade the lyrics and the delivery; I sense a struggle going on. It all comes back to that title: What Will Become of Me? It is one of those phrases that seems to capture an entire mood very well, and since I've bought this album, whenever I've had the feeling that this song gives me, the title phrase, without my really thinking of the song in particular, seems to loop in my mind.
Anxiety over the future plagues me fairly often and has been the cause of more than a few depressive episodes. I've noticed that sometimes I experience a phenomenon that has only begun to occur in the last few years, and I wonder if it is the reason I feel this nearly-triumphant aspect of this song even though it may not really be intended. What I'm referring to is when, in the midst of a depression, I suddenly experience this kind of snap-back in which I feel suddenly exuberant, likely for no particular reason at all. It may last until it and the depression dissipate together, or the depression may return before the episode is over. I cannot explain this; perhaps someone with a decent knowledge of psychology or something could. At any rate, I am always grateful for these times, even when they are temporary.
This track brings to mind a certain loneliness I feel. I do not get along well with most people. I have few very close friends and few very close family members. I can get along with many people I meet on a shallow level, a small-talk level, but it is difficult for me to form deep relationships. I feel that my life is perched precariously. I fear losing loved ones. I feel nervous now, just writing about it, as if by writing about it I will upset the balance somehow.
Why is it that a song so associated with my worst fears and deepest anxieties be so enjoyable? I'm not sure if "enjoyable" is the correct word to use. Perhaps a better word would be "cathartic," but I'm not sure. At any rate, I do take some kind of odd comfort in this song, even if it doesn't seem intended to offer any in particular, at least as far as I can tell. For all I know, I might be looking at it all wrong in the first place and missing the point. Nonetheless, it is what it is to me, and I am glad to have it. When those anxiety attacks hit, somehow thinking of the title of this song, while it doesn't erase the problems, somehow lassos them and labels them, and somehow that does ease things up, if only slightly. It is a phrase that expresses great uncertainty, great fear, and great apprehension; yet somehow condensing those negative feelings into that phrase creates some kind of peace, though small: what will become of me? If you've ever wondered that yourself, or if you've only had the feeling that the question seems to convey, then I believe you will enjoy this track, or at least take some kind of comfort in it. I know I do.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Hussalonia Song # 3: Limbo Rock

Well, don't say I didn't warn you. That is, I believe that I did mention that I'm prone to frequent procrastination. If I didn't mention this, I probably meant to, but never got around to it.
It has been exactly one month and a day since my last entry on this little blog. Let us not be downhearted; let us believe, against all rationality and good sense, that we have all the time in the world.
Before I begin to write my reaction to the song that is this entry's subject, allow me to make a few announcements pertinent to this blog in varying degrees.
First of all, I mentioned in my introductory post here that while the idea for this blog came from nowhere more profound than my own mind, much inspiration in the execution of this idea came from the similarly-conceived and much more brilliant blog "Every Bob Dylan Song." When I began this project, that excellent blog appeared to have gone on an indefinite hiatus. I am pleased to announce that it is now up and running once again! Author Anthony Ling is once again hard at work writing about each and every one of Bob Dylan's songs and I strongly recommend you check it out. That link, once again, is: http://everybobdylansong.blogspot.com/.
In even more relevant news (to this blog, anyway) is that an album I've wanted to hear for quite some time now has finally become available to me. Mentioned also in the introductory post here, "Skaros [Name Redacted by Order of Nefarico] and Wild" is a single album by a one-time band featuring Hussalonia founder. As previously noted, the link on Hussalonia's website associated with this album has been broken since I first discovered Hussalonia in April of 2009. While checking the music page recently, in preparation for entries on this very blog, I just happened to notice that the "LINK COMING SOON!" message had finally gone away! I was lead to a website that, after signing up for an account, allowed me to download all seven tracks from the album for free. While I haven't listened to these tracks yet, I plan to include my thoughts on them here, if there are no objections.
Finally, yet another new Hussalonia album has been released! It is Hussalonia's 30th release, in fact, and it is quite unusual. I've only listened to a couple of tracks, but I look forward to listening further. It is a most strange and wonderful album indeed. It is titled "Dear Hussalonia: Letters from Animals, Mostly Ducks." I like ducks quite a bit, and many animals, just as I enjoy national anthems. Hussalonia has been good to me lately. As with the previous release, this album has been dedicated to the public domain. I hope, in the future, to appropriate some of this album into some obscure project of mine.
Now, on to the actual subject of this entry!
The third track off of "Ernest Evans Hussalonia," "Limbo Rock" is one of many Hussalonia songs that I associate with the clash between staying true to one's self artistically and the need to get by; in other words, it is the ideal versus the practical. It is a subject near and dear to my own heart. In "Chubby Checker" I got the sense that the persona (perhaps or perhaps not [The Hussalonia Founder] himself) of the song is viewing Chubby Checker as someone alienated from him. Checker is the rock and roll ideal, living the high life, doing what he wants to do, and the singer is stuck trying to get by, paycheck by paycheck. In "Limbo Rock," however, the singer faces an altogether different figure: the Devil himself, who takes his soul. With "the hands of Liberace, and the voice of Nat 'King' Cole," the Devil plays a bizarre concert in which he takes requests and everyone is dancing "like contortionists." As the song "Unforgettable" is played, the singer observes how his younger self would never have imagined nor desired to "be a party to that song, but now [he sings] along." I'm not really familiar with the song or with Nat 'King' Cole (shall I be ignorant of everything referenced in Hussalonia songs?) but from what little I do know, I think I get the picture of what is going on here. Cole and the song both represent something much more mainstream than what the singer would like to be a part of; I imagine that by singing along and joining in with the dancers, he is losing himself, as the Devil has already taken his soul, and becoming just another face in the crowd. The theme here reminds me more of art theory, or philosophy of art, than of any actual spiritual or religious matter. Still, I can't help but feel that the theme could apply in such realms; after all, art is not the only form of human endeavor and experience. It certainly means a great deal to me personally, however, that this song brings to mind the struggle over art as personal expression versus art as crowd-pleasing, commercialism and practical value.
I sometimes wonder if art simply isn't for making a living, no matter how you look at it. I wonder if it isn't arrogant, or greedy, or deluded to think that one can, or should, attempt to make a living "doing what one loves to do," as it is so often said. In my writing, I have certain things that I want to say and certain ways that I want to say those things and I fear the scenario in which an editor or whoever wants me to change anything. This is, I think, the typical complaint of young authors, and seen often as a mark of arrogance. However, I do realize that in refusing any or at least too much outside influence, my writings will be flawed. I am so very fond of flaws, though. Nothing, to me, seems more human, and without them, I fear that my individuality might be erased from what I create. I realize that flaws make a book less pleasurable to read (in most cases at least) and therefore less marketable, less profitable, and etc. It would be arrogant of me to presume that my writings will sell, that they will be beloved by many or any, and that by carrying out this philosophy of strong individual emphasis and retaining-of-flaws I'll earn any practical reward. I am arrogant in some ways, but even I don't believe that any of that is likely in the least. That would be ideal, but I'm not sure that it is the ideal I should pursue (as doing so would certainly be in vain). The ideal that I should pursue, and that perhaps any self-respecting artist should pursue, is to be as true as possible, flaws and all, and make the art that they want to make or feel that they ought to make. If you have to do something else to support yourself, that's unavoidable; do what you can. There's always the route of doing strictly commercial works as a means of paying the bills and doing personal work on the side just as you would with any other job. That's the route I'm currently exploring.
From what I know of the Hussalonia founder, having read through an interview or two, listening to his music and reading a blog he kept, he and I differ a great deal on many subjects, some most essential to a person's worldview. Though our reasons may be different (a subtle difference, perhaps), though, we seem to be in agreement to a fair degree on this subject of maintaining art as something individual and honest and not subjecting it to commercialism, to making a living, to what anyone or everyone else thinks. Songs such as "Limbo Rock" strike me as a reflection of that, and [The Hussalonia Founder]'s comments during the interview section of the "Live In Allen Hall" seem to express much the same opinion that I've expressed in the preceding paragraph. If [The Hussalonia Founder] and I truly have one thing in common, I think that this subject is it, and in large part it is what attracted me to Hussalonia in the first place. Having the will to make one's own art, apart from any reward, praise, criticism or influence of any kind, and making it available to all for free, is an endeavor I cannot help but respect and admire. While I continue to make fiction with the long-distant aim of mainstream publication and commercial success, merchandising and all, I hope that I will be able to take a similar approach to that of Hussalonia when it comes to my "real" works, the things written for someone, for some reason, even if I never know who or why. I'll see how that goes. In the mean time, I will continue, sporadically, to write this blog, and I hope that someone somewhere will find it, discover Hussalonia as I have, and be inspired in much the same way, in addition to enjoying some most excellent tunes.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Hussalonia Song # 2: Chubby Checker

I am only familiar with Chubby Checker in passing; I don't own any of his albums or songs, and nothing about "The Twist" ever really captured my attention in particular other than the fact that it is indeed pretty catchy. Considering that this album is full of references to the man, I'm probably the worst person to be writing about it. Still, I shall press on regardless of my own ignorance. Isn't that the way to live?

The song displays a contrast between the narrator's life as he is "living check to check," with the freewheeling party spirit of a recording of Checker performing "The Twist." It brings to my mind those times when certain stresses of life seem best dealt with by way of escapism. After all, if I'm not mistaken, isn't early rock n' roll a kind of escapism, a rebellion against the mundane, the everyday, the conformity, and, most dreaded of all, the practicality? It brings to mind a song by another popular rocker of old, Chuck Berry's "School Day." In that song, the narrator sings of how after a boring day of school all you've wanted to do is dance, and so you head to the juke joint. The narrator of Hussalonia's "Chubby Checker" seems to have been listening to "The Twist" by the eponymous singer with such escapism in mind (as he would like to "do the Twist with you"), but it just isn't working for him at that particular moment. Checker "must've really loved that dance, [but the narrator's] just so worried about making the rent." This is a sad story indeed; the power of rock has failed to overcome the blues of struggling to get by. I'm not stranger to looking to a song for some kind of relief or escape from something bothering me, and sometimes it works and the blues get blown away, and other times it just doesn't work for you at all. This song captures those moments for me most excellently. The music doesn't remind me of Chubby Checker's style at all, as the album description warned, but for the song's short length it has the beautiful vocals I've come to expect from Hussalonia and a tune that seems to ring out into a wind tunnel in my mind. I think that this may be one of my favorite tracks on this album. I may not be a Chubby Checker fan myself, but I think this song (and the album as a whole) gives a very nice expression of appreciation for him. Perhaps somewhere down the line I'll pick up an album by him; maybe it will lift my spirits, if the time is right.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Hussalonia Song # 1: I Used to Be Afraid of the Dark

Well, here we are at the beginning of this little odyssey at last, and it feels so wonderful to be here with you on my first (regularly maintained) blog!
I should start, as I did in the introduction, by drawing attention to the fact that the title of this blog is a misnomer. Hussalonia's first four albums, released on cassette in 1997, are not in my possession in either hard copy or digital formats. Having no means of listening to them, and no knowledge even of the track listings on them, I have decided to simply start with the album released the earliest that I do own. That album is "Ernest Evans Hussalonia." For posterity, I would also like to list the four Hussalonia albums that I do not own: the first was "Holden Hussalonia," which may or may not have had some connection to J.D. Salinger's "The Catcher In the Rye," the second was "Don Juan D'Hussalonia," which may or may not have had some connection to romance, the third was "Russophile Hussalonia," which may or may not have had a connection to an appreciation for Russian culture, and the fourth and last of the 1997 releases was "Maryann Hussalonia," which may or may not have had any sort of connection to the character played by Dawn Wells on the 1960s television series "Gilligan's Island" or to the same Maryann who featured in the later Hussalonia album "The Somewhat Surprising Return of the Hussalonia Robot Singers." Once again, I'm just a fan, folks. All you'll get from me here is personal ramblings, speculation, and probably much less insight than what you arrived here with (I might even sap some of yours before you're gone).
According to the album description on Hussalonia's official website, the material on "Ernest Evans Hussalonia" was recorded 2000-2003, and the album itself has a release date of March 4, 2003. Being out of print, it is one of the few for-pay Hussalonia albums that I was only able to get a copy of digitally. That was a bit of a disappointment to me, as I'm the type who collects things obsessively and always prefers a hard copy when at all possible. Such is life.
Drawing again on the information already provided by the website's official description, one will note that the album contains many references to 1950s and 1960s oldies music while not really being very similar to that music at all. I am only vaguely familiar with that type of music, I confess. I have one Buddy Holly box set that I hardly ever listen to. I have no dislike for that music; it just isn't the type that grabs my attention very often for some reason; I might say that I'm simply not in the mood for it very often, for whatever reason. I own no music by Chubby Checker. I'm probably missing a ton of references on this album.
"I Used to Be Afraid of the Dark" is a rather odd song in terms of my introduction to it; as I've already said, it is the earliest Hussalonia release that I possess a copy of (though not the earliest recording; "Charles Hardin Hussalonia" holds that title, if I'm not mistaken) but I didn't listen to it until after I'd heard nearly every other Hussalonia album. This was, as you might expect, due to the fact that I listened to all of the more recent, free material first before I began to purchase the for-pay albums. In other words, I more or less discovered Hussalonia's entire catalogue in reverse order.
The first thing that the song's title reminds me of is the 1990s Nickelodeon creep-show "Are You Afraid of the Dark?" and so it goes that my exposure to American (though I think the show was based in Canada) pop culture already begins to affect my reactions to these songs right from the start, and, of course, in the most irrelevant way possible. You might also note that I have already turned to my strange practice of writing exceedingly long, meandering sentences.
The song itself begins like a late-night, tape-recorded bedroom confession; the vocal is soft and restrained with only acoustic guitar for company. It doesn't take long, however, for the song to reveal this opening as a bit of a ruse. About fifteen second in another sound enters in, and if I may get right to showcasing my complete musical ignorance, I can't place what was used here, though I'm fairly confident it was a synthesizer of some kind. The vocal and guitar don't even make it a full minute into the song before the entire thing becomes more of a sound collage than a song. Sound collages feature fairly frequently in these earlier Hussalonia works (I think that somewhere it is mentioned that the four 1997 Hussalonia releases were full of them) and they are something of an acquired taste, I'll admit. However, I do enjoy them when the mood strikes me a certain way.
The lyrics here, for whatever reason, are not especially memorable to me personally, and I cannot venture a guess as to why – though I remind you that statements such as this are highly subjective and this blog will be full of them, and in this case saying that the lyrics aren't especially memorable to me likely says more about my memory than about the lyrics. The words that close the lyrical portion of the track, however, do stick out in my memory: "I used to be afraid of the dark, insects and death." That statement inspires me to question why on all three counts.
As far as my ability to relate goes, I'm not sure that I was ever afraid of the dark per se. I have an odd memory from my early childhood that to this day I cannot adequately explain, though on the internet I have stumbled across one or two other people with a similar experience, and this memory may relate to a fear of the dark. I recall that as an infant, lying in my crib, on at least one occasion I saw "shadow people" standing over me. I recall their skin being as black as shadow, almost of a kind that could absorb light like a black hole. There were two or three of them. I could see their shapes only vaguely, though I remember with some greater distinction their hands, grasping the railing of the crib. My only response to this was hiding under the covers. It is possible that it was an early nightmare, or a kind of waking dream; perhaps even a form of sleep paralysis or something. It is possible that it was a childish hallucination based on a general fear of the dark. Whatever it was, it felt real to me, and if nothing else it feels real to me when I remember it. I found an article on the website "Retrojunk" some time ago by a guy who described the same sort of experience, and he simply called the figures "phantoms" if I recall correctly.
I have always been rather afraid of, or at least disgusted by insects, including dead ones. Several weeks ago I found a spider crawling on my foot. A year or so ago a centipede crawled over my foot as well. On both occasions I switched to wearing socks in the house for some time afterward, though I don't prefer to do that. The spiders that crawl around the ceiling and don't move much generally don't bother me a great deal. Black spiders, and faster ones, such as one that I found on my bed several weeks ago in yet another traumatic incident, disturb me very much. I despise centipedes; something about them strikes me as some sort of unholy, unnatural, demonic terror. They tend to come out in the spring and show up here and there until late fall. I almost always wear socks in the summer.
I have almost always feared the deaths of loved ones much more than my own. That is another question I would pose to [The Hussalonia Founder] about the statements in this song, if they are in fact autobiographical: namely, was his fear of death of the same sort as mine? I have lost very few loved ones in my life, and frankly I have very few to lose (which makes my losing them all the more terrifying to me). For whatever reason the reality of death struck me at, I believe, about the age of six, and I think that perhaps it caused me more depression then than it does now, though I'm not entirely sure why. The fragility of life has been on my mind very, very often since that early age and I think that perhaps it is one of the things that have shaped my personality and way of thinking most strongly. I have endeavored to enjoy and appreciate life's best aspects as often and as deeply as possible. I try not to take anything for granted, though I do not always succeed. Further down the years I wonder if perhaps the best way of dealing with death anxiety is to simply allow oneself not to think about it much, even if that leads to taking things for granted at times. Is it better to take something for granted that you will someday lose or to try and appreciate it and struggle to do so against a terrible anxiety over the inevitability of losing it? This might be a good time to invite you, dear reader, to leave a comment if you so desire. It is nice when, in times of despair and in thoughts of great gravity and stress, we do not have to feel as alone as we are.
The dog my grandparents have owned since I was in the fourth grade died rather unexpectedly two days ago. It has left me feeling rather glum and strange; it is funny, in a way, how the lack of a dog's presence can leave one feeling totally out-of-whack, like life is missing some key component that makes it what it is or is supposed to be. The last time I lost a dog that was in my family was a good many years ago, and it was a dog that they owned since I was in kindergarten. When she died I listened to "People Are Strange," one of the few songs by The Doors I really liked, and it all but ruined that song for me due to the memory association.
If I were to ask [the Hussalonia Founder] any further questions about these lyrics directly, I might also ask exactly why he no longer fears the things mentioned here (again, assuming that this song is, in fact, an autobiographical one; I realize that not all songs are, though I do tend to think that at least a little bit of ourselves gets implanted into the things that we create). Overcoming fears, in most cases, is usually a positive experience, and if there is any knowledge on this particular subject that I am missing and that may be of help, then I welcome it.
After the vocal section of the song ends, the sound collage really takes over. I think that I am most often reminded of the Beatles when listening to Hussalonia, though on two or three occasions I am reminded of another band entirely: The Flaming Lips. This is one of those occasions. The Flaming Lips, if memory served, started off with more use of sound collage and later focused on traditional song arrangements and the like, and the sound collage section of "I Used to Be Afraid of the Dark" sounds like it wouldn't be out of place on a Flaming Lips album, especially an earlier one. The track takes on a sort of dark, techno kind of sound as it progresses, and it brings to mind a sort of black-and-white 1950s science fiction image. I can imagine it being the soundtrack to a film with lots of old-school flying saucers, ray guns and monsters. It doesn't inspire in me any particular emotional or intellectual reaction, but it is a pleasant listening experience despite what I perceive to be a rather ominous tone.
That, I suppose, concludes my first written reaction to a Hussalonia song. Perhaps if you forgive it the rambling, the imprecision of language, and the occasional boring anecdote, you might find something worthwhile here after all. Keep on the positive side, and keep on truckin', my friends!

Monday, January 11, 2010

An Introduction: “Who are You and What is This “Hussalonia” You Speak of?”

Hello, my dear friends, and welcome to “Every Hussalonia Song,” a tribute in blog form to one of my personal favorite creators of music in the modern era: Hussalonia.
You are probably wondering at this point exactly who or what I’m referring to when I say “Hussalonia.” To put it very simply, Hussalonia is a pop music cult. Founded in 1997 by one [Name Redacted by Order of Nefarico] of Buffalo, New York, Hussalonia has been producing pop music for over a decade. Since 2006, Hussalonia has done the unthinkable in this very commercial world: starting with “The Broken Hearted Friends EP,” a collection of cover songs, all Hussalonia music has been released for free online. That’s right; you are quite free to download all of Hussalonia’s music released post-2006, right now, without paying a cent! As if releasing music for free wasn’t enough, Hussalonia has gone the extra mile. As of the date of this writing (January 11, 2010) a total of three of Hussalonia’s albums have been released directly into the public domain. For those not in the know, this means that these recordings are not only free but free of copyright, and so may be used for any and all purposes including but not limited to film, video, television, radio, elevator music, and beyond, both commercial and non-commercial, without any permissions or licensing needed (though if you do use any of it, be nice and give Hussalonia a credit!). These albums, for the record, include “OMG LOL WTF,” a 6-track album of experimental sound collages, “Know Your Eastern European Anthems,” a collection of covers of, well, Eastern European national anthems, and the aptly titled “The Public Domain EP,” featuring four very beautiful pop songs. Hussalonia’s earlier, commercial recordings are now out of print and hard copies are becoming increasingly scarce, though a few are still available to be purchased digitally.
I am getting a bit ahead of myself. You are probably wondering WHY Hussalonia would turn to releasing music free of charge and (gasp!) even releasing recordings directly into the public domain. If you listen to their music you will likely wonder even more, for it isn’t as if Hussalonia doesn’t have the potential to win over many listeners to buying more than a few albums. It is most common, however, that in most cases, no matter how talented one might be, a lot of self-marketing is a necessity for success. Hussalonia founder [Name Redacted] has concluded that making music is more important than selling it and in light of this conclusion has decided to put aside the pursuit of monetary rewards in favor of having more time for simply making music. However, don’t take my word for it! Hussalonia’s official website (also linked via the image at the top of this page) has an “About” section that tells the official story, so to speak, and you can access that page at http://www.hussalonia.com/the_about.html . While you’re there, explore the entire Hussalonia web site. That will save me the trouble of needlessly re-phrasing everything already stated there or else cutting and pasting it in order for you to become better informed about Hussalonia.
That brings me to the other question you might very well be asking yourself after having discovered this blog: who is the guy writing it? For starters, I have no official affiliation with Hussalonia. I do not know [the Hussalonia Founder] or anyone else involved in Hussalonia personally. This is entirely a fan-made project. The closest it comes to being connected to Hussalonia directly would be that, in both of the two exchanges of emails I’ve had with [the Hussalonia Founder] in 2009 and 2010, he gave the idea of my making a blog such as this one his approval. This blog will be focused, for the most part, on my own, personal reactions to the songs of Hussalonia.
This, then, brings us back to the question of who I am exactly, and, furthermore, what gives me the right or reason to make an entire blog commenting on somebody else’s hard work. My name is Leonard Kirke, an unpublished author from a small village in Ohio. You can probably learn enough about me from my profile here on Blogger. I am currently pursuing a degree in creative writing, whatever that’s really worth, with the sort-of goal of having something published someday in the hope of making money in order to live comfortably. However, much of my work isn’t terribly viable in the commercial sense, at least as I see it. My work doesn’t express strong, polarizing, biased political views, it doesn’t contain sexy, sparkling vampires, and it is more inclined to pose questions that one might prefer to avoid rather than give many direct answers. I have started working on some projects with commercial viability specifically in mind (while still managing to avoid writing about sexy, sparkling vampires), in which I allow myself to indulge in more mainstream tropes of fiction and it is, admittedly, great fun to write things like that. Still, I feel like my best and most meaningful work is rooted in the things that I probably can’t, in terms of pure practicality, ever make a living off of (unless stories like Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis” become the new equivalents of “Harry Potter”). I also worry that dealing with publishers/corporations/etc. could ruin my work due to meddling even if I were to make money that way. I am not totally closed off to any option, but I do have much anxiety about this subject.
As a result of this anxiety over producing commercial art, I was rather predisposed to be drawn to anyone or anything that broke the mold and didn’t allow the world to bring them down in this way. In other words, I wanted to find a person or persons who lived and worked in a way that they wanted or felt called to despite the fact that in a practical sense their work could not or would not support them (again, not necessarily due to lack of talent but more so due to personal standards). Last spring I was seeking Creative Commons-licensed and public domain music online. At the time I was still planning on working on a short, low-budget and lowbrow comedy video series that my friends and I had been producing since 2007 (this series went on indefinite hiatus due to schedule conflicts). Music really adds a great deal of life to video footage and film, and I hoped to find some high-quality songs that could be used either through the Creative Commons Attribution license or else, more unlikely, songs that were actually in the public domain.
One site I searched well was www.archive.org, a most excellent resource for anyone working in a creative field. It was here, at the Internet Archive, that I discovered an album of four, count’em FOUR, songs, all beautifully written and recorded, and, you guessed it, released directly into the public domain! I could hardly believe that some musical artist out there would take the plunge of releasing actual pop music tracks into the public domain, yet there it was: “The Public Domain EP,” a mini-album by someone or something called Hussalonia.
I was instantly taken with all four tracks. “Meaning Isn’t Based On The Importance Of Being, But On The Relationships In Between” had a mellow tune and melancholy lyrics that appealed to my existentialist tendencies. “Like Tetanus In A Wound” was beautiful but I couldn’t tell if it was a song of bitterness or of heartbreak or of both. “There’s More Than That To Being Poor” was a bit faster and upbeat, yet the lyrics at times struck me variously as hopeful and struggling to be hopeful. Lastly, “This Song Won’t Sell A Thing” was a real sing-along type of song, a perfect closer to an album released directly into the public domain and the perfect song for one who, like myself, struggles with the issue of making a living off of what one loves to do and/or feels compelled to do yet without compromising it in a way that changes it into something else entirely.
Before long I had downloaded all of the free Hussalonia material, albums and singles alike, and shortly after that I bought some of the remaining copies of the older commercial releases as well as buying the digital commercial releases. I was captivated by the entirety of Hussalonia’s collected works. I wanted to give something back. The official website recommends giving kind words in return for the free music (if one is unable or disinclined to make a monetary donation for any reason), and so I started there in April 2009. [Redacted] and I exchanged a few emails and he struck me as a pretty nice fellow. I had the idea for this blog then, and he gave me his approval when I mentioned it to him. Due to my procrastinating tendencies and the rush of everyday life, however, it would be some time before I actually got around to writing the text that you are reading now. It’s been nearly a year, in fact. In the fall, I discovered a blog that had a premise similar to my idea for a Hussalonia-based blog: “Every Bob Dylan Song.” That most excellent blog can be accessed via this link: http://everybobdylansong.blogspot.com/. I’m certain that the idea for a blog containing commentaries on musical works probably isn’t unique to either myself or Every Bob Dylan Song author Anthony Ling. At any rate, reading his blog further inspired me to create this one. Bob Dylan gets lots of free press, and I won’t argue that he doesn’t deserve it! Still, it occurs to me, couldn’t Hussalonia also use some free press, especially when nearly all Hussalonia music is given away freely? I wrote to [The Hussalonia Founder] via email again in early January 2010 to wish him well upon the release of his latest album, “Know Your Eastern European Anthems” and to state my intention, despite the nearly year-long delay, to create a blog in tribute to Hussalonia, and he once again gave his approval. So here we are.
I should also mention, as an aside, that the title of this blog is a bit of a misnomer. Hussalonia’s first four releases from 1997 were released on cassette and are no longer available. Thus I have never heard them. There are also a couple of Hussalonia tracks that appear on an ambient music album by some-time Hussalonia contributor John Hughes; I haven’t bought that album yet and though one of the tracks is posted online for free, the link to it remains broken to this day. There is also an album/group featuring Hussalonia founder [Name Redacted], “Skaros [Name Redacted] and Wild,” that I would include here if I could get a copy of it at some point (the link to that album has also been broken since I first took notice of it over a year ago). I am, however, including another [Hussalonia Founder] side-project, the most excellent eponymous album by the band The Hickory Windbreakers, presuming nobody objects to that.
Another bit of relevant information worth mentioning here is that in addition to the official Hussalonia website linked via the image at the top of this blog, [The Hussalonia Founder] himself has his own blog known as The Pleonastic Hussalonian. You can access it at http://hussalonia.tumblr.com/ .
As previously stated, the views expressed on this blog are entirely my own and do not in any way represent the views of Hussalonia , the founder, or any other affiliates of Hussalonia. I have absolutely no experience in the production of music (excepting having once learned to play “Ode to Joy” on keyboard, kind of) and chances are I’ll say some pretty stupid things here as a result of that ignorance of music-making. I feel that if Hussalonia can release work into the public domain, exposing personal songs to the whims and fancies of anyone who might want to use those songs for who-knows-what, I can allow myself to show what an ignoramus I am about music in order to spread the word of Hussalonia. This won’t be so much music criticism as it will be simple, personal responses. Things may get very autobiographical; it is hard for me to tell where this will go so early on. At any rate, I hope that, whatever I write in response to the music of Hussalonia, you will find it at least mildly worthwhile, and if nothing else I hope that this blog leads you to discover some great music that otherwise you might never have known.
Viva Hussalonia!