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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!"