Category: Music

Notes: How Disney Uses Language

  • Comparisons between Frozen and Moana are sort of a sign that right now, because they’re only one of a small number of films with the similar premise (woman-centered narrative).
  • The riff in both Jungle Book and Aladdin feel kinda like the Oriental Riff, aka Aladdin’s Cave that opens a lot of other things like Turning Japanese. Like, the iconic ‘Oriental Sounding’ music isn’t from anywhere in the Orient anywhere.
  • Cultural Appropriation is a big topic and it’s hard to talk about it in Youtube spaces, and it’s even harder to talk about on Twitter.
  • The Bulgarian choir music thing is just straight up super interesting.
    • Is this fusional, using Bulgarian choir style with the Inupiat lyrics?
  • The thing about Librettists and Operatic Composers amuse me juxtaposed with a Gilbert and Sullivan quote because they hated each other so much by the end, because they couldn’t see it as a synthesis of their work.
  • English is a fixed-stress language; words have a proper emphasis in them, but words don’t have a proper emphasis in a sentence, or rather, the emphasis tends to indicate the subject.
  • Vocables! There’s like, a language for singing, in a language? That’s super cool! I wonder if it’s also part of transmission/commonality between cultures, so they can all sing the same songs even if their languages change over time and space.
  • I really do want to see Moana. It looks really great.
  • God, Lilo and Stitch was also great.
  • The question of cultural appropriation between Hawai’i and France and Polynesian narrative.
  • I really, really love the detail that the characters are singing the song in its original language, and then they stop singing it when the language shifts to English. It becomes nondiegetic, which is really cool.
  • This form of video isn’t actually so demanding of production values. I can do this. I can do this even with Microsoft Movie Editor.

Five Country Songs That’ll Fuck A Kid Up

It used to be that back in the day the way you found new music was kinda amateurish and rotten – if you liked a few defining traits of a song you could often find songs that were like it, but sometimes you’d wind up sinking time and effort into a whole sweep of media that you just plain out didn’t like in hindsight. Now, obviously, my media tastes are a bit different given that I was raised in a bubble where even the most sedate forms of rock were considered smuggled contraband, emphasised further by the fact that my father regarded his status in the church as important enough to threaten us over if there was a risk someone else might see his, I dunno, Moodie Blues records.

This meant that the only really popular music we could listen to in this time of my life was not even pop radio, really – it was country music. And even that was dangerous. After all, there were certainly some good crossover gospel songs being made by country western singers, but there were still women who wore jeans. That was dangerous.

The good news is, growing up, some of this stuff has served to ground me in appreciating other music forms more. Country music has a lot to offer in theory, but as for the time of my life where it was the only new, reinvigorating form of media? There was some messed up stuff being played, and looking back on it, I remember learning some bad lessons about people from that.

Here, without any real structure beyond the first and last tracks, then, are five country songs that have really fucked up ideas about what’s okay.

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Gilbert & Sullivan on Entitled Shitheads


I’ve joked more than a few times on Twitter that Gilbert and Sullivan wrote songs about Twitter but that’s really just selling short that they wrote songs about people, and Twitter has, for all its much vaunted revolution, not really changed or improved anything about how people are, it’s just added ways for us to keep doing what we were already doing. In this case, we’re talking about a particular class of people – entitled shitheads.

The singer in this piece, King Gama is, without a doubt, a shithead. He’s a king, and he’s convinced that what people need in their life is to hear him volunteering information. What’s more, he does so volunteering information that may not be relevant to the conversation. He’s convinced that his contributions are fascinating and people want to experience him, even if they’ve never asked – and all his efforts to consider this fail at the fence of trying to address just why people might not like him. That is to say he’s aware enough to know that he’s hated, but not aware enough of the things he’s doing that are hateable.

So don’t be an entitled shithead. We could work that out centuries ago, but clearly we’re not teaching that lesson enough.

Remembering The Rock

I didn’t listen to sermons very often. My dad preached a lot, but what knowledge I gleaned from the sermons tended to be while I was trying to distract myself, gleaning tiny notes I could add to conversations later on to avoid an ass kicking. But I did pay attention to the one my dad gave with his hand on the pulpit, his voice loud and terrifying, when he began THE ROCK IS GOING TO FALL ON US.

He quoted the whole song.

Not as a song, not as this tale of back and forth. He recited it as poetry, without pitch and timbre, and with the building, frothing cadence of a preacher. From the timid lurking fear of the beginning to the crashing, potent terror of the last segment, this song was turned to the Christ metaphor. He closed a sermon that was laden with eschatalogical terror as it was with exhortation to do better in our own lives, with the line the rock slips a little bit.

The story of the original song, when expressed by Harry Chapin didn’t seem to have that same religious potency. It was about people. It was about listening to the outsider in our midst. It was about a person who respected what could go wrong so well they worked and struggled and strived and used what they had, even to their last, to try and save people from worse fates.

It’s a scary fucking song.

But the thing about the song that I’m reminded of today is of a friend, dear and kind, who is up on the hillside, building barricades. They’re fighting against something that doesn’t have to happen again. They’re striving and struggling and they are doing their work in part with poetry and with music, things that scored this message into my mind in the first place.

You do not believe it right now, so I have written it down and you can come back and check:

You are beautiful.

You are wonderful.

You deserve to be heard, respected, and loved.

And anything that tells you otherwise wants to lie to you to control you.

Please do remember this.

Song Thoughts: Don’t Worry, Desmond Dekker

I’ve loved the Mighty Mighty Bosstones’ work for many a year now, and just like with all the other things I love, I tend to over-examine them. I like to tell myself that their work is heavily narrative, telling snatches of stories in very approachable, memorable ways. Music conveys things the words don’t, and repetition helps underscore and emphasise things within this space. It’s all very interesting to me for a band that is fronted by a man who sounds like he gargles hammers.

Today, I was struck, as I listened to an old favourite, about why a song felt strange to me.

Don’t Worry Desmond Dekker is a piece about, as best as I can tell, a platonic breakup. It’s a song about two people – not even necessarily two men, though Dickie Barrett’s voice does help kinda pull it towards the idea of at least one dude being involved, and I’m inclined of late to examine the male platonic relationship thanks to Jeb – who had a relationship, which at some incident, ended. But the song isn’t a wistful, mourning story, like Adele’s Somebody Like You, it’s about the wistful distance you feel from your experiences and your anger. It’s about how what’s left of the friendship, what’s at the end of it, and oh, it did end, is memories of shared interests, of laughter and joy, and, of course, those precious items, given or loaned, and never returned: The Desmond Dekker and Clash records.

It Really Doesn’t Matter, Matter, Matter

The ouvre of Gilbert and Sullivan is one which typically runs in a cynical path against classism and structure. Of course, being white guys getting paid to write, in the 1870s, they were bound up with the society at the time that was racist and sexist as we are all now, still, and it reflected in the values they wrote.

Still, there’s gems in their writing, if you look through the facets that aren’t quite so, y’know, then.

Now, this song is basically a parlour trick. You’ll find a range of versions of it, though I like this one a lot. Partly because it isn’t in the Pirates of Penzance, which is cute, but unnecessary. Still, singing this song is one of those things that you do to show off more than you do to advance the plot – even though the song has plot advancement and summary in it.

I like the plot of Ruddigore. Without big spoilers, Ruddigore is a play about a man living under a family rule, bullied by literally the ghosts of his family, eventually coming up with a logical trick that lets him remove the power those ghosts have. It’s about a character who struggles with what he’s been told he is by his family, and instead chooses to be something else. He didn’t commit the sin that dragged his family into the position they’re in, but none of his ancestors tried to fix it either.

The thing that’s great about this song to me, though, is that the first verse, the easiest to listen to, is plot. “I’m going to go do this thing.” The singer is telling the audience that he’s going to – well, okay, literally, he’s going to go tell the ghosts that haunt him he’d rather die than surrender his ideals.

The second verse is basically a shorthand slap at the story trope of The Mad Woman, which unfortunately, modern renditions seem to miss. The Mad Woman doesn’t show up in other G&S stuff, not often. their women tended to either be wide-eyed ingenues whose naivete was a source of comedy (to the most ridiculous levels, like in Patience). The song points out that because Margaret’s been in all the narrative places she needs to be, she is easily the most aware person in the story, and she could solve it all… but it doesn’t matter, because she’s The Mad Woman.

And the third verse…?

The third verse is just saying, in essence patter songs suck.

Shrek Out With Your Dreck Out

The Shrek soundtrack is an amazing cultural artifact.

Don’t let’s sell it short, though. The Shrek soundtrack is just like the rest of Shrek – a piece of media whose quality and whose success only function in relation to a particular environment around them. With a media landscape defined by a struggling, glurge-driven Disney, the rise of early computer graphics that both looked bad but were hideously over-used, a product like Shrek could only really succeed in spite of its qualities, not because of it. I mean, it’s a kid’s movie featuring Eddie Murphy, John Lithgow and Michael Myers – not exactly star names to headline young media.

The soundtrack is weird too. If you looked at it in a store you’d assume it was full of crossover pop songs, things that were designed to sell a brand and vice versa, rather than focusing on songs from the actual movie. But, unbelievably, yes, indeed, all these chintzy pop songs are in the movie.

That’s part of what makes them so strange to me – and the songs show some elements of the time in which they sprang up.

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Fox-JJJ

Part of growing up under a rock is learning about top 100 songs and all that pop music I missed. Fox and I recently started looking at the Triple J Hottest 100 Of The Year, starting in 1997. After some laughing, we noticed that Fox’s music collection is mostly these songs. This showed us that amazingly, back then, Fox was one of the cool kids and we just didn’t know it.

1997

1998

1999

Yep, that’s all I’ve done with my morning.