Tuesday, April 13, 2004

A Trekker's lament

I've been a fan of Star Trek since I saw my first episode of classic Trek, which was "Plato's Stepchildren". (I was in the hospital recovering from surgery, at a young age. Star Trek was not on the TV menu at home when I was a child.) There has been so much Trek since then. I've watched and been a fan of NextGen, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager...to varying degrees. But it was all Trek. I'm not having such a good time with Enterprise.

Recently it's seemed as though they are belaboring the point that in the pre-classic Trek historical period, humans were not (or won't be) nearly as highly evolved. This point is coming across very well, but I'm not sure how intentional it is. I just saw the rerun the other night where Lt. Reed and the Marine commando major had to batter each other like crazed 11-year-olds up and down the halls of the Enterprise. It was awful.

Paul made an interesting point recently which was that in Stargate SG-1, you can believe Col. O'Neill being a ruthless SOB on occasion because his background is in special ops. Capt. Archer being as cold-blooded as that, which he has been a LOT lately, is hardly believeable because he was a test pilot before becoming a starship captain. The Xindi-inflicted Sept. 11th notwithstanding.

The Enterprise episode featuring Sim, the copy of Trip that was made so that Dr. Phlox could harvest his cloned neural tissue to save the real Trip, was really disappointing in the cold-bloodedness of Capt. Archer and the Tale of Two Cities ending. It would have been so much more interesting if Trip had died and Sim went on to assume his role on the ship.

Besides which...and this seems to be the "early Trek humans are more primitive" thing again...Captain Picard would never have sacrificed Sim for his neural tissue once it became clear that Sim was distinct from Trip, especially after he saved the Enterprise. Both Picard and Capt. Janeway would have said something like, "This man is a member of my crew. Phlox, you're just going to have to keep Trip on ice and find some other way to save him." That could have taken half a dozen episodes and been hella interesting.

Sometimes I wonder if the current writers of Enterprise have ever actually watched any other Trek series, or if they were just hired with resumes full of The Commish and Lifetime movies. Or, perhaps there are just way too many executives from Paramount lurking around the set. I have no idea. I am just a disgruntled fan.

Sunday, April 04, 2004

Define "self-indulgent"

I heard a really invigorating concert at Davies Hall Friday night. Esa-Pekka Salonen was the San Francisco Symphony's guest conductor that night, and the whole program was high-energy. They played A Night on Bald Mountain, the Mussorgsky chestnut I remember improvising to as a kid in ballet class; a piece that the conductor himself composed, called Insomnia; Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 1 in D-flat (with Yefim Bronfman playing the solo); and Bartok's Suite from The Miraculous Mandarin. Not even the guy sitting next to me, who clearly didn't want to be there and kept looking at his watch, could have fallen asleep during that gig.

I'm kind of cynical by nature about certain things and I wondered, when I saw the piece Insomnia on the program, whether it would be substantive or just self-indulgent. When the time came, I actually really liked it. Parts of it were really good sonic reproductions of late-night motorhead. Other parts of it were very loud and aggressive and not what I'd automatically think of when I would look back on my own late-night experiences, but I guess they were evocative of severe inner torment. Self-indulgent, though, it was not.

That made me wonder what exactly constitutes self-indulgence. I have discarded or rewritten a lot of lyrics over the years in an effort NOT to be self-indulgent. The standard I've worked with is, if it's likely nobody else but you knows what you're talking about, you'd better rewrite it. I know a lot of lyricists don't bother to do this but I feel it's important. One reason is, if you reveal too many specifics about what's informing your work, the listener may (a) find nothing in it to relate to, or (b) be embarrassed by your revelation, because s/he doesn't know you, and why should you be so familiar with your communication?

I have a very strong feeling that not all journal entries should be set to music. (Especially not this one.;) ) Yet, what the Muse offers you in times of your greatest torment or greatest joy may be the most original, or the most universal, statement you have to offer. On Diogenes I let my tunes be informed by very specific trauma, but I edited the lyrics so that they would be more obscure, less embarrassing, etc. (If you find them over-specific and/or embarrassing now, imagine how bad it was before I edited them!!!) For my lyrics to sound like something written by Staind, would be really wrong, I think.

Chrissie Hynde once said, "Ray Douglas Davies is the only songwriter who can write confessional lyrics without being embarrassing." I think "embarrassing" what I'm offering up as the definition of "self-indulgent". So does that mean "my heart on my sleeve" is also a synonym for "self-indulgent"? I think what I'm trying to say is, the music is more important than the self. I am trying to share my music, rather than just share my Self. It would be inappropriate to share my Self with many, many people I don't know.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Joel Krutt, DJ & now, musician

Joel Krutt is a longtime DJ at college radio station WHUS in Storrs, CT. He was one of the first to play my music on the air on his show, "Pushing the Envelope", back when all I had to give him was a demo cassette, and he still plays my tunes to this day. Now all his years of playing music has inevitably led him to make some of his own. His CD, What Next? arrived in the mail recently and it features lots of found sounds presented in classic ambient style. I was awfully flattered to find myself in the "special thanks" section of the liner notes. That is so cool. :) Thanks Joel!

In other news I'm busy with the beginning stages of arranging my song "Road Spiders" for the Punk Rock Orchestra. I've transcribed the Stewart Copeland-inspired drum track for real percussionists, and I'm making the bass line, which I improvised on a bass keyboard in 1995, into parts for contrabass, cello, and low winds. I'm really excited about this project. I can't wait to hear what the full orchestral assault will sound like.

Will Grant and I are busy trying to nail down a time to record that flute part for his piece Dreams in Berkeley. I haven't had much of a chance to work on the About.com piece yet (apologies to Margery), but I will get to it soon. I haven't forgotten.