Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Recent Thoughts: Clothing, Addiction and Songwriting

I begin work for Nordstrom tomorrow. Notice that I did not write "at Nordstrom" because I will be attending store orientation at the Westin hotel, the company's current Cincinnati headquarters. I'm pretty excited - it's been a few years since I've entered a new environment and had to meet an entirely new group of people. Given the economy and what I've heard from my manager, I'm optimistic about their coolness. Anyway, for the first time in my life, I've purchased clothing for myself that wasn't a funny or souvenir t-shirt. I chose a pink Geoffrey Beene shirt and paired tie. The cashier at Macy's complimented my taste. The job situation has complicated my establishment of independence, but it is happening.

Even as I establish my independence from my parents, I confess an increasing dependence on a substance that is legal, available and wonderful. I did not sleep much in college. I probably averaged 4-5 hours on weeknights through my last two years. I've never needed tons of sleep, but I couldn't have possibly sustained this pace without help. Junior year, I began drinking Vault, a highly caffeinated soda available in cases of twelve at Stop and Shop. I drank 1-3 per night, and began to realize that I had a problem when, having fallen asleep during a movie, awoke, chugged a can, threw it across the room into the recycling bin and promptly fell back to sleep. At some point I switched to coffee. Senior year, my schedule became even busier, with sleep typically occurring between the hours of 4 and 8 am, and I more or less superglued a cup of coffee to my hand. Coffee is superior to Vault in almost every aspect - it has no sugar (as I drink it), it tastes fantastic, and it earns one respect. It cannot, however, be stored in one's dorm room, which somewhat limited my intake.

I assumed that my heavy consumption would end after I returned home, where I have been getting 7-8 hours of sleep per night, plus the occasional afternoon nap. In fact, the omnipresence of the beverage in the Weatherly house has increased my intake to at least two and as many as five cups per evening. For whatever reason, I missed my dosage last night, fell asleep reading at about 10 pm and awoke at 12:30 completely delirious and tripped my way to bed. I don't even remember whether or not I brushed my teeth. Would anyone like to recommend a 12-step program?

Finally, I've been doing a lot of songwriting lately - I've probably written about a dozen that I'm willing to share with people, some comical, some a bit more serious. I'll be recording and posting some more demos soon. I know that the sound quality on these things is terrible, but I think that some of my songs are pretty good. However, I don't want to be that irritating talentless friend who keeps insisting that you hear his crap. I can take criticism. If my songs suck, let me know so that I can stop annoying you, though I'll continue to write because I enjoy it. On the other hand, let me know if you enjoy the songs. It makes me very happy to know that my work has pleased someone, even if that person's musical taste is very different from my own.

I wrote a parody worship song in high school called "Jesus Is My Boyfriend", satirizing the fact that many contemporary praise songs are indistinguishable from romantic love songs. I think that it's perfectly appropriate for worship songs to express emotional love for God, so long as it is clear that it is indeed God to whom we are expressing our love. I am currently at work on another less harsh parody worship song entitled "The Four Chord Praise". As you may have guessed, the song contains four chords: G, C, D and Em, the first four chords that any rock guitarist learns, functioning as I, IV, V, vi, an extremely hackneyed progression. Now, there are many songwriters who can construct memorable and moving songs from only these four chords. I am significantly less talented than these writers, so I always try to include at least one unusual chord or chord change in my songs, adding color to a common chord with 6ths, 7ths, 9ths or 11ths, including a chord not strictly allowed by the song's key, sometimes playing an ordinary chord with an alternate voicing. It's amazing to me how a single alteration can open up a song's expressive possibilities. For this song, I am strictly abiding by the title's limitation, and I am incredibly frustrated with it. The song is meant to be a bit insipid and ironically cliched, but the aggravating familiarity of this chord sequence seems to be killing the potential for humor. I see two related lessons here: 1. Do not ever write this chord sequence again unless you are a musical genius. 2. Recognize that anyone who can make this sequence fresh is indeed a musical genius.

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