Music as Evolution: Spinning the Soundtrack to Life

If you stopped someone on the street and asked him why he liked a particular song, there’s a higher likelihood that the response you’d get would simply be something along the lines of “because I do.”

Unfortunately, I’ve found a limited number of people who actually spend time thinking about why they enjoy the music they do, let alone someone who is willing to talk about it. Music for me is not just about listening to notes and lyrics as entertainment.

Music is about each beat, the rhythm, the movement and the way the actual sound makes you feel. Music is a collaboration of the artist’s instruments, beats and lyrics all united for a single purpose: to tell a story. The story can be humorous, tragic or inspirational, but it’s this combination of elements that I look for in a good song.

A good song can entertain you; a great song can make you feel alive. With a potent mixture of fantastic instruments playing notes of the right fit, the correct beat allowing you to feel as though your footfalls match the same, and lyrics that speak to your heart, a great song can be the greatest high you can ever experience, greater than any drug you can find.

Above all, a good song is a true testament to the artist’s ability, for those who write their own songs, it tests their ability as producers to find and arrange the correct class of instruments, as songwriters, not only to find exquisite lyrics that will convey the story they wish to tell, but above all, to find the correct flow of notes onto the sheets.

To truly immerse yourself in the music is to ask yourself each time you listen to a song; what is the artist trying to say, what message are they trying to make sure you understand, and how does it make you feel? Are you able to connect with the picture the lyrics paint in your mind, does it relate to your life and your experiences?

Over the years, from Michael Jackson to Evanescence, I’ve encountered a lot of music, from all genres across the board that I would deem to be songwriting and producing perfection. The tireless hours, blood, sweat and tears that a competent artist spends on his/her or their craft cannot be made up for by manufactured so-called ‘image’ music.

What I refer to as ‘image’ music refers to the names and the celebrities attached to the art of songwriting, those who make more money in sponsorship deals and tabloid headlines. There are those, without naming names, who ride the coattails of their parents, or on their images of being sex symbols in order to sell their records.

Quite frankly, the state of much of the music industry of the 21st century disgusts me, and I choose instead to listen to artists that the majority of their music does not receive mainstream airplay. For those artists, it is not about image, it is about blood and tears, and a God-given talent to place what they feel, what they think and what they’ve experienced that they can’t forget, onto the page. What airplay they receive comes from niche stations and publicity off official websites, social networking sites and fan generated appreciation.

It is these artists that create the soundtrack that is my everyday life. Each note from a guitar, drum or cello brings inspiration; each word paints poetic ideals in my mind. Much of what they share with the world I have also felt in my life.

I feel as though my relationship with music and song comes full circle. The artist(s) shares his/her or their vision with the world, their thoughts, feelings, experiences and inspiration, and in turn it is inspiration for me to write my own interpretation of their words and the pictures they paint.

The soundtrack of my life does indeed have different artists from genres I would have never previously taken an interest in, but each one serves as inspiration and serves to melt reality and make ideas that much sharper in my mind.

Music is something that can lift you higher than you’ve ever been before and yet simultaneously bring you back down to earth when it’s over. Music is the only thing in this world that I believe continually is being re-interpreted and re-invented and that lasts through all ages.

For every manufactured tabloid image in the music industry, there are those who spend years of blood, poverty, tears and pain to achieve even moderate success. And it is to them that I send a salute and let them know to continue honing their craft because there will always be one person drawing inspiration from their exceptional abilities.


Slapping Society in the Face: Why We’re Fascinated with the Dark Side

“There is an idea of a Patrick Bateman, some kind of abstraction. But there is no real me, only an entity, something illusory. And though I can hide my cold gaze, and you can shake my hand and feel flesh gripping yours; and maybe you can even sense that our lifestyles are probably comparable, I simply am not there.”  The above quotation, spoken by the infamous Patrick Bateman, chillingly portrayed by the incomparable Christian Bale in the 2000 film of the same name as the novel written by Bret Easton Ellis; sent chills down my spine the first time it crossed my hearing.

What is it about those who are rebels to the societal norm that attracts our attention? Make no mistake about whom I’m referring to, I don’t talk about the people who spray graffiti on walls, or who choose to wear bright orange clothing with pink hair. No, the people I refer to have a much darker way of turning their backs on society. Why is popular culture seemingly obsessed with films, literature, music and even news about men and women who snap and make it the mission of their lives to commit murder and torture?

Though popular culture of the new millennium embraces it, it is not a subject that has just started receiving attention in the last twenty years. The prolific horror and crime fiction writer Edgar Allan Poe displayed a fascination with the psychology of people who commit murder, calling the reasoning behind their atrocities, perversity. In two of his short stories, The Imp of the Perverse, and The Black Cat, both narrators commit murder, and claim that there was something inside them that compelled them to do so. The murderer in the Imp of the Perverse claimed that his confession was driven by an incredible compulsion inside of him that he couldn’t control. This compulsion, the narrator claimed, was perversity. The argument that Poe makes within these two texts is that there is something perverse that exists in all of mankind; it causes us to do actions or create situations due to the fact that we cannot control them. We all have darkness within us, and there will be a time where it will be unleashed and control us all.

Could the same argument then be made for a serial killer such as Patrick Bateman? Is it the perversity inside him that drives him, or some innate evil that he was born with, that he alone controlled when to unleash it? Or was it the incredible shallowness and self absorption of those in his social class that motivated him to make the first kill? I believe that it was the emptiness of his life, the emptiness of people around him, and the fact that although Bateman wished to fit in, he simultaneously wanted to be recognized. He killed indiscriminately those who he believed didn’t deserve life, from the men he worked with, whose lives were hollow, shallow shells, to those he thought lacked the will to do anything with their lives, such as bums on the street. He killed in order to fill the hollow emptiness within himself, and in his desperate confession was still amazed to find that no one knew him. No matter what he chose to do, in his world, he, Patrick Bateman was invisible to those around him. Could his reasons for killing still be attributed to Poe’s argument and belief in perversity?

And what about the famed Dr. Hannibal Lecter? What could a psychiatrist want with murder? Is it the knowledge and the power to lord over his patients and his would be captors? Is the ability to manipulate thoughts and feelings until they cause their own deaths what Lecter craves for? I believe that Lecter craves the power, he craves the psychological puzzles that cause his would be captors and his victims to run in circles towards insanity. He is the perpetrator and the creator and the one who forces answers to surface that were previously dead and buried not too long ago. It is not perversity in his case; it is the innate pleasure derived from manipulation, from control, a game that Lecter believes must be played in the game of life.

Why then, do we as the public and consumers of popular culture continually immerse ourselves in such darkness? Fascination is simultaneous with fear; we are consistently fascinated by what it is that we do not understand, yet at the same time fearful of it; for no reason other than we fear to see it within ourselves. Poe certainly makes the argument that that darkness exists within all of us, and it will be unleashed because we do not want it to be. We fear becoming depraved, evil, heartless, and most often, we fear being ostracized for atrocities against our fellow man. And yet, same as individuals such as Bateman and Lecter, we crave notoriety, recognition, and to some extent, fame. Our curiosity betrays us in an elaborate maze, searching for the answers and the justification behind the minds of such brutal killers, if not for self-preservation, then for the seeming façade of science. The riddles of human mind enslaves society as a captive audience, compelling us to discover, to understand, the meaning behind madness; because fear brings an excitement, an adrenaline unsurpassed by anything else.

The actions of such fictionalized serial killers as Bateman and Lecter attract us, because they do not care about the bounds of society. Laws are there for them to rip apart, to bend as they wish in order to serve their purposes. There is a part of all of us that wishes to rebel, to cast off the restraints and boundaries in society and live our lives the way we wish, and the extreme in which these killers destroy the law in murdering their victims excite the rebels in us who wish for a taste of that rebellion; even if it is through the pages of a novel, or the silver screen of a film. The dark side of humanity does not only extend into literature and film, but also into music and world of graphic novels.

Individuals and bands such as Marilyn Manson and Evanescence pen songs dealing with blood, death, pain, and suicide, invoking the dark side of pain. Marilyn Manson’s own stage name was combined to illustrate the duplicity not only of Hollywood, but of society. The Joker of the Batman comic universe deals his cards of murder and mayhem concurrently with laughter. Indeed, his victims die of laughter. We celebrate the glitz and glamour of those who are beautiful, talented and famous, while also training the relentless spotlight on those who we consider evil, the fictionalized murderers, and their real-life counterparts.

How many publications, both for research and pure interest purposes have been written on the lives, crimes, and motivations of serial killers? How many hours of news coverage, interviews, and breaking investigations, such as those on Dateline or 48 Hours Mystery; have been devoted to killers such as David Berkowitz, or Aileen Wuornos? What about the names that still brings chills to those of us who remember, in Ted Bundy or Ed Gein? Indeed films have been made to glamorize the actions of such depraved, disturbed, and cold individuals, Monster, and Summer of Sam, to name a few.  As our fascination extends beyond the realm of fiction and into reality, the question must be asked: where do we draw the line?

The answer is not a simple one, and as such cannot be summarized in neat one or two sentences. However, it is certain that so long as there is fame, and there exists the continuing supply of such blood, torture, murder and brutality against our fellow man, both in fantasy and reality; human nature will continue to be curious about it. It is a belief that should we succeed in understanding these individuals, we will succeed in understanding ourselves. And, then, perhaps, there will be no need for fear.