Watch Me Entertain Myself!

Sacha Guitry once said, "You can pretend to be serious, but you can't pretend to be witty." Oh yes, I'm the great pretender.
(pilot episode: 20 January 2004)

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Feel Of Songs

Songs, especially those you were quite fond of when growing up, go beyond an auditory experience. Sometimes they have “feel” to them, as if they burrowed deep into your ear and brain, and lodged themselves so that you can feel them in your head. And when they don’t “feel right,” you know something’s off.

My friends and I were on a 3+ hour drive from Chicago to Indianapolis. One of them,  Ben, had Spotify, and we chose an all-80s playlist (we’re friends since high school). While listening, we quickly realized that Spotify has cover versions or worse, “multiplex” versions, despite being labeled as the original version.

(Multiplex, for those too young to remember, were popular before videoke replaced karaoke. On a cassette tape, the vocals are placed on one track—often the left channel—while the instrumentations are on the other. This way, someone singing karaoke can have a guide vocal track with variable volume levels—you adjust using the balance control. Back then, producers of multiplex albums tried their best to replicate songs as close to the original as possible; in fact, some of them were near-perfect clones.)

A song on Spotify would start playing, we’d listen to it, and after a few bars someone will say, “Hey, wait a minute. This song doesn’t feel right.”

Yes, “feel”. Sometimes we’d say, “Hey, that doesn’t sound right,” but when the song is almost as close to the original, it’s not the sound that you trust. You check how the song feels as it’s hitting you. And it’s not just an purely auditory experience; in fact, you allow it to seep inside your ear, let it roll around your head, and allow it to course all over your body. Yes, I actually listen with my body. And I can tell if the vocals flow differently, or the banging of the drums is off.

And when we find the original song and play it, the three of us can instantly tell with our ears and (for me, at least) bodies that it’s the real deal. “That’s it!” “That feels right.”

The body has a way of remembering.

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