Beyond The Fallen Tower of David.

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Anyone familiar with the third Season of Homeland may remember lead character Nicholas Brody, played by Damian Lewis, finding himself in a decrepid highrise somewhere in Venezuala. What you might not know is that there is such a place, and it’s known as the Torre of David, or The Tower of David. Construction on the 45 story Centro Financiero Confinanzas began in 1990, but ended abruptly in 1994 before it was completed as a result of the Venezualan banking crisis.

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Soon after, an estimated 2000 impoverished families moved in to squat inside the unfinished building, in order to build a new life for themselves. They somehow managed a jerry-rigged system of utilities that included both water and electricity. A number of bodegas sprang up. There were also day cares, internet cafes, hair salons. Even a dentist set up shop. Photographer Alejandro Cegarra managed to capture this underground commune with some incredible images, featured throughout this story.

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Then, just last year, Operation Zamora rolled in. The tower was deemed unsafe to live in. It wasn’t just the kids that had accidentally fallen off the building. Despite the well organized community, there were rumours of ties to organized crime. The government sent in soldiers to evacuate the building’s residents and re-locate them to a housing project. The tower still stands today, although it’s future, like that of it’s residents’ children, remains unclear.

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Almost four thousand miles North of the Torre of David, in the city of Toronto, it’s slightly colder than it is in Caracas. And, even though our climate may be vastly different, the issue of homelessness is something we share in common.

This winter alone, three homeless men have died as a direct result of sub-zero temperatures in a series of extreme cold weather blasts; one in a bus shelter wearing only a t-shirt, the other inside an abandoned van. Just last week a man had burned alive after trying to keep warm in a makeshift shelter behind a concrete making facility. With a new Mayor behind the reigns, eager to repair his city’s image, the deaths have re-ignited debate on how to solve the age old enigma.

The knee jerk reaction is a call to build more shelters. But ask anyone on the street why they choose to take their chances elsewhere and you’ll get a fistful of answers, almost as varied as the coins made from a panhandler’s daily take. They’re dirty, dangerous places, they’ll say, you’re more likely to be assaulted or robbed inside a shelter than outside. Not to mention the rampant alcohol and drug use.

So what’s the alternative?

Multiple studies have stated that there is a clear path to end homelessness. The answer lies in long term housing, alongside access to training programs and addiction counselling. Not only does providing housing help people off the streets, it actually costs less doing so. The costs of a shelter bed per year far exceeds the cost of a self contained longterm apartment.

If the solution to the homeless crisis is in front of us, why don’t we go for it? Here are some compelling reasons why solving it is in all of our best interests.

1. Less crime. It stands to reason that if homeless people are off the streets, and provided food and shelter, but most importantly, also have access to treatment programs for addiction, anger management, or for other health and mental issues, there would a reduction in robberies to feed addictions, fewer assaults, etc.

2. Less health related illnesses. If the homeless are given stable, long term housing, they should have better access to health care. Regular check ups would mean preventative diseases can be caught earlier, before they get more serious, and end up costing the health care system more.

3. More hospital beds. Currently homeless people account for a high number of emergency beds, adding to an already heavily burdened system. A study put forward by the New England Journal of Medicine concluded that Homeless residents also end up staying longer in hospital, which each visit costing more than non-homeless residents. If they had better access to health care, hospitals would be less burdened.

4. It makes good economic sense. Having the homeless off the streets would lessen the burden on law enforcement, the justice system and health care management. With re-training and education programs, housing the homeless would allow a formally disenfranchised sector to become productive members of society. Either by being hired across many sectors of business, or, by starting their very own businesses; it’s ultimately beneficial to our economy as a whole. Just ask Frank O’Dea, a former homeless man, who would one day go on to become founder of Second Cup.

5. There is a moral obligation to do so. In a so-called world class city in one of the world’s wealthiest countries, how can we casually walk over frozen bodies on our way to the local Starbucks?

It’s more than likely that no current government wants to step up to the plate and build the housing we need to get the program in place. We’d rather spend 709 million dollars building housing for the Pan Am games’ athletes, than pursue this crazy idea. But imagine if we did. Imagine becoming a city without any homeless people.

Unfortunately, for the moment, we’ll have the cold comfort that 90 new shelters have been temporarily added by renting out 20 motel rooms in the city’s West end. The proposed 2015 budget for the City of Toronto will include funding for 100 new shelter spaces and 2 drop in centers for women. On paper it sounds good. The unfortunate reality though, is that it’s more of the continued band-aid style solution for a problem that has not improved over the years, and is not going away any time soon.

In the interim, all we can hope for is for warmer temperatures, and people to come in from the cold.

 

If you live in Canada, and you’d like to help get involved in the fight to end homelessness, you can check out the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness. Join their Facebook page here.

If you are in the US, check out the National Alliance to End Homelessness. Join their Facebook page here.

If you’re in Europe, check out FEANTSA, the European Federation of National Organisations working with the Homeless. Facebook page here.

Posted in art, Culture, longform, Photography, Photos | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

The Freshest of the Fresh: 10 of the Very Best Tracks, Remixes & Re-Edits from 2014.

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Full disclosure – this is as incomplete and unofficial as it gets. If you are a frequent follower of this blog you’ll know I haven’t been posting in a while, so this isn’t just a tally of the best of this year, it’s also a way for me to play catch up on stuff I’ve been jonesing to cover for awhile, but just haven’t had the chance to. So here we go:

10. Ronald JenkeesAlpha Numeric

Jenkees may have built his career on short quirky Youtube vids, but he has since gone on to greener and more lucrative pastures, providing remix work for some of Hip Hop’s legends. He’s still working on his own thing though. Alpha Numeric has this epic in scope thing going on, and if this tune sounds a bit video gamey, that’s because it is for a video game, namely There Came an Echo – which drops sometime later this year.

9. Rome CeeAmerican Made

American Made is off Baltimore area Rome Cee‘s latest album Glimpse, which is chalk full of tightly packaged fresh beats brimming with soul and laced with lyrics that will make you think, all delivered with a perfect mix of power and artistry. It’s been written that one of Rome’s influences is Nas, and it’s pretty clear with tracks like American Made. There’s lots of content covered in street storytelling lyrics like slavery, crime and punishment, with bone chilling results that make you bop your head. Check out the whole album over here.

8. Jon Hopkins – Abandon Window (MODERAT Remix)

A jewel of a track gets an outstanding remix, retaining the original, essential Jon Hopkins ambient flavour that borders on the sublime. You will want to listen to this one again and again.

7. Pat BenatarLove is a Battlefield (Belanger Remix)

Like the return of fanny packs and mom jeans courtesy of NormCore, some things from the 80s are back with a vengeance. Here is Pat Benatar as you’ve never heard before, courtesy of NYC producer Belanger.

6. Frontin’ – Pharrell ft. Jay Z (Disclosure Re-Work)

Bouncy beats are like slow cooked pork ribs. You can’t rush the process. Just add some brown sugar for sweetness, and you gotta be patient. Let the science work it’s magic. I have no idea what ribs have to do with this track, except that I like them both. Maybe I’m just hungry. The boys from Disclosure dish us a plate with a slow start that’s a generic 4:4 beat, leaving plenty of time to add to it, but be sure to stick around till the 35 second mark and you’ll know you’re in for something special. Just add a dash of Pharrell vocals and ya’ll be cooking for real in no time.

5. Crystal Waters – Gypsy Woman (Genius Remix)

There’s lots to choose from in the Genius bucket of remixes, but there’s nothing quite like that original riff from Gypsy Woman that gets singled out for this remix. It’s a track that deserves a re-visit and this remix is a fitting tribute to the original.

4. Mister Lies – Push Becomes Shove

I had trouble covering Mister Lies latest album, entitled Shadow, even though I had been looking forward to it for so long. Nick Zanca had been warning people for months not to expect another False Astronomy, and he was right. This album is a clean break from those days, and it’s very good. Production wise, it’s unparalled, there’s a gorgeous array of fresh, innovative beat samples. It’s just a bit slower than most of the tunes I cover for Digitized, but it’s a great album that should be checked out – there’s also tons of poetic lyrics and wonderful, strange new territory to explore. Looking forward to hearing whatever comes next from this artist.

3. Treat Me Like Fire – Lion Babe – Snakehips Remix

It’s no secret that Snakehips have consistently been dropping bullet proof hit after hit. Slightly slower tempo than glitch heavy After I met you, but with more meat on it’s bones than No Other Way, the remix treatment for Lion Babe’s Treat Me Like Fire is a fitting tribute to it’s original Motown tinged flavour; beginning with stripped down vocals from Jillian Hervey and simple piano chords, then dropping a sweet Biggie sample, then it’s off to Snakehips country. Flawless as per usual. Look out for fresh new tunes from the Snakehips crew this January.

2. Odesza – Say My Name feat. Zyra (Jai Wolf Remix)

It’s kind of hard to choose a favourite track off Odesza‘s latest effort In Return. There’s a definite leaning to a kind of grandiose, world beat/tribal vibe to alot of the tracks, while Say My Name stands out as a playful throwback to why I fell in love with Odesza the first time. It’s just some gorgeous music to dance to. With lyrics that shout: I wanna dance, I wanna to dance with you – It’s blatantly honest with it’s message, maybe that’s why I’m so in love with this tune. For those bass heavy lovers check out the Kastle remix over here.

1. Broken Bells – Holding On For Life (Solomun Remix)

I’ve snuck this one in again because I just had to. Here’s the full version of the track originally posted in one of my previous Freshest of the Fresh posts. Without a doubt, the dopeness is strong with this track, and in my humble opinion hands down beats the original. Total banger of a tune. Happy New Year everyone.

Bonus Track – Bondax – Dusk Funk

Released mere days ago, tracks like this one don’t come any fresher. Glorious disco themed Dusk Funk is everything a Bondax Banger needs to be and more. This is off their latest release of re-mixes, buy it here.

Posted in art, Culture, electronica, entertainment, Hip Hop, Music, Music Videos | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

No Man’s Sky: To Boldly Go Where No Other Video Game Has Gone Before.

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I won’t bore you with details, but something significant happened in my life a few months ago. More specifically, to a family member that I love very much. This is very much related to the lack of posts for some time. When stuff happens, sometimes you fall back on old habits. You may turn to an old friend. Sometimes that friend comes in DVD format. And sometimes that DVD format contains the first Season of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

star trek- tng Hello, Friendos. Glad Wesley eventually traded in that sweater for a uniform.

It’s a season I’ve avoided for some time now, I’ve always equated it as the worst one, just in terms of not having a polished look – the series was first released in 1987, after all. Some of the special effects and uniforms are a bit dated, some of the characters are not quite developed, there is some clumsiness in dialogue. Looking back on it now, sure, there is a certain level of awkwardness, it’s not quite as refined as some of the later seasons, but there are still some great episodes. But what is really great about the season, is what I love about the entire series, and dare I say it; the entire Star Trek franchise.
It’s an astoundingly simple premise.
A ship sails off into the unknown. Who they encounter, where they visit, what phenomenas they come across; the possibilities are endless. There is a constant element of danger, excitement and surprise.
Maybe that’s why No Man’s Sky has excited me so much. This is a video game developed by Hello Games, and it’s based on essentially the same premise. You fly off into space with your own space ship, exploring the galaxy. You can spend as much time as you’d like on each planet. The eventual goal of the game is to upgrade your ship to go deeper into space until you reach the center of the galaxy where a still unknown surprise awaits. Founder and Game Programmer Sean Murray is passionate about exploring the roots of science fiction; that sense of wonder and excitement that we first had as children, maybe it was reading our first Philip K. Dick novel, or watching our first episode of Star Trek. Alot of the artwork contained in NMS, is in fact, a throwback to sci-fi book covers from the 60s and 70s.

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But it’s not just the uber cool premise of the game, nor the artwork that make No Man’s Sky so groundbreaking. It’s also the engine behind it. You see, this game doesn’t come on a disk. It’s not stored in a cloud. It’s a game based on what Murray describes as “procedural mathematical formulas”, meaning the game’s environment gets built as the player moves forward, exploring what’s around them. Sounds pretty neat, right? But how detailed is the game? Well, it turns out, to say the game is complex or very large would be a vast understatement. When you start the game, you begin on a planet; in a star system. One of hundreds of millions in the game. That’s not a typo. Think about that – there are hundreds of millions of stars, each with it’s own set of planets to explore. Players that encounter planets (or the species on them) for the first time get to name them.

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This Friday will mark the 42 year anniversary of the Appolo 17 mission’s conclusion. It was the sixth and final mission for Humans to land on the moon.
Let’s hope a video game is not the only way we can explore space in the future. In the meantime, we’ll have to settle for No Man’s Sky. It should be released sometime in the new year, on Playstation and PC.

Posted in art, Culture, entertainment, gaming, Science Fiction, Space, Technology, video games | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

My Rules :: Underground Shooter Drops New Book Feat. Old School Skate, Hip Hop + Punk Culture.

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It’s a rare thing to be at the epicentre of a new subculture. It’s an unpredictable, sometimes dangerous place, filled with a raw, seemingly uncontrollable energy. Yet somehow photographer Glen E. Friedman managed to be there. First as a 14 year old boy with an instamatic in his hand at the side of an empty pool in Dogtown, shooting his friends who happened to be some of the dopest skaters at the time. Later on, he would bring a camera along to some of the punk shows he was attending like Black Flag.  Eventually he started doing some promo work for Russell Simmons’ label Def Jam recordings, which included shooting iconic Hip Hop legends like Run DMC & Public Enemy.  On the 20th anniversary of his last book, aptly titled Fuck You Heroes, he’s just released a new book; My Rules, designed with the help of renowned street artist Shepard Fairey and featuring an uncompromising look at some of the most important youth culture icons of their time, including Fugazi, Ice-T, Dead Kennedys, Minor Threat, The Misfits, Bad Brains, Beastie Boys, and Skateboarding legends Tony Alva, Jay Adams, Alan “Ollie” Gelfand, Duane Peters, and Stacy Peralta, and Tony Hawk.

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Posted in art, Culture, entertainment, Hip Hop, Photography, Photos, punk, skateboarding | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

Picturing the Ghost in the Machine: Pixel Drifting, Data Bending & Glitch Art.

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Like ghosts captured on digital film between worlds, somewhere between the past, the present and the future, these are the haunting snapshots of transitionary moments that we were never meant to see. Straight out of the playbook of a William Gibson novel, these jarring images shock, jolt and seduce. There’s a bunch of different ways to achieve some of these results, without having to resort to inter-dimensional time travel. You can glitch up photos by opening them in Notepad, deleting or adding random data, then re-opening. If you want to go the animated gif route, you can use something like After Effects. There’s also a program called Pixel Drifter where you can chop up images in real time with jaw dropping results. Want to check out more? There are tons of lovely abstract ones here, a facebook group and even a tumblr devoted to dirty glitch over here (nsfw, obvs.)

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Posted in art, Culture, design, Photography, Photos, Technology | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

The McLaughlin Planetarium Is About To Be Destroyed. Here’s Why You Should Care.

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Saving the McLaughlin Planetarium seems like a no-brainer for most Torontonians. Still, there remain detractors and skeptics that throw their hands up in the air. It’s sometimes all too easy to become jaded or apathetic in this city. This is a town that doesn’t tend to hold onto it’s past. It’s a fast paced city where the all mighty looney rules all. Buildings get torn down and built up on a continual basis, like a sugared up kid on Ritalin in a room full of Lego blocks. Despite this, maybe there’s a way where everyone can win. Maybe we can figure out a solution where we get to hang on to a piece of our city’s history while still progressing and moving forward. Here are a few questions from people that may not believe that saving the McLaughlin is feasible or relevant.

The building has been closed and dormant for almost 20 years. Why should anyone care about it?
In order to answer this question, we must first address how and why it was closed in the first place. The planetarium’s closure happened in 1995. It was closed due to budget cuts, during the reign of Mike Harris, the former Premier of Ontario, and his Common Sense Agenda, despite it being one of the only profitable planetariums in North America. Should it have been closed in the first place? Probably not, but at this juncture, the point is moot. It is closed and has been for some time. So let’s move forward and look at some of the reasons that people should care about this empty shell of a building.

1. It is an architectural landmark. Despite the insides having been torn out, the building in of itself is a work of art, and is one of the most excellent examples of Mid-Century Modernist architecture in Toronto. This is a near extinct species of buildings within the Toronto area. It doesn’t matter what is inside it, or what is has been used for, or what it hasn’t been used for these past few years; the building itself is a treasure that needs to be preserved. Just because something has been closed or damaged doesn’t necessarily diminish it’s cultural or historical value. Why re-build the Twin Towers in New York? The example is a bit dramatic, I admit, but the point remains the same. Just because something is unused, damaged or destroyed does not mean we should not attempt to restore, re-build and correct a poor decision.

2. It is a tourist attraction. When the planetarium was functioning, it was host to five million visitors. These people came to see the building the same way people go to museums, art galleries and more recently, aquariums. It was an excellent source of revenue for the Royal Ontario Museum in it’s day. It would be a destination point, not just for the 6 million men, women and children that reside in the Greater Toronto Area, but for the millions of tourists that visit our city; North America’s fourth largest, every year. This would mean more income for the city. As a destination point, people spend money at hotels, restaurants, taxis, and so on. There would be a trickle down effect on our city’s economy.

3. It is an educational marvel. The main purpose of the planetarium is to educate people on astronomy and space. This means children having classroom trips, and families having educational and entertaining outings that everyone can enjoy. I know people today that still recall their class being brought to the planetarium and how amazing it was. But the educational aspects don’t end with children. People of all ages can learn about space. If you want to know why learning about astronomy and space is important, read Marissa Rosenberg’s essay over here.

4. The Location is ideal. The location is perfect in terms of being a cultural destination that is easily accessible for both locals and tourists. It is situated next to the Royal Ontario Museum, and across from the Ceramic Museum. It is located at a major intersection in the downtown area, next to shops and a subway station. Currently, the only planetarium open to the public is at the Ontario Science Center, which is far less accessible to both residents and tourists.

5. It has other practical uses. The planetarium could also play host to a plethora of entertainment and corporate uses like concerts, business conferences, academic lectures, public speaking events and many other special events for the corporate world as well as the Arts community. The rentals would all add to a substantial revenue stream. Imagine seeing the upcoming JJ Abram’s Star Wars trilogy (hopefully without Jar Jar), or a sequel to Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (if it ever gets made) premieres at TIFF, with the planetarium hosting? The applications are endless, and only limited by the imagination.

star_trek Star Trek Exhibit at the Planetarium. Photo by Robert Cook.

6. The majority of Torontonians want it back. A recent Toronto Star poll stated a majority of Toronto residents want the planetarium saved. This poll, alongside recent media coverage and a fast growing grassroots movement all point to the fact that the majority in this city want to protect and restore this landmark. Let’s face it, this has not been a good year for the city, with most of the world’s attention on our mayor and his substance abuse problems; saving our planetarium is an opportunity to restore our city’s image.

7. Most other world class cities have one. New York has several. Chicago, San Francisco, Vancouver and Winnipeg all have one. Last year, Montreal just built one. And right here in Ontario? You can find the Doran planetarium in Sudbury and the W.J MacCallion in Hamilton. In fact, it may be more difficult to find a major city without a planetarium. A planetarium isn’t just a building to look at planets. It’s a reflection of a city’s progress in taking on not just a world view, but a universal view. It’s a necessary staple to culture and education, much like a library, a museum or an art gallery. Imagine a city without any of those? How much would we lose as a vibrant, diverse culture?

8. It is a flagship for Science and Technology. A planetarium is a space that converges cutting edge technology, innovation and scientific exploration. It is the area of science that blends what we know and what we don’t know. While it’s important to remember that one of Ontario’s biggest celebrities is one Chris Hadfield, an astronaut that serenaded the world with Bowie’s Space Oddity from the International Space Station, it’s just as important to look at numbers. Toronto is Canada’s center for technology research and development. It’s home to 35% of the nation’s tech industry. Shouldn’t a city with such a distinct tech community have a planetarium?

9. The University of Toronto has a moral and ethical responsibility to protect the planetarium. There are two reasons for this. The first is that the planetarium is a hub for scientific exploration and education, values that a leading post secondary facility has a duty to protect and foster. The second is that the planetarium got it’s namesake from Colonel R. Samuel McLaughlin. When he signed a cheque and handed it to the University of Toronto in 1964, it was intended to be for a planetarium. If we continuously demolished buildings that were donated by generous benefactors when they become inconvenient, and it’s simply easier to get quick cash from somewhere else to build something new, what’s the point in donating money to institutions in the first place? Agreements should be honoured, not discarded. Last week Peter Gilgan, former CEO of Mattamy Homes, gave a 30 million dollar donation to St. Michael’s hospital to build a brand new building in order to house critically ill patients. Should he worry about it being destroyed in 20 years to make way for a casino? It may sound incredulous, but what kind of precedent would be set if this move went forward?

10. A planetarium is the only place to look at stars in this city. Currently, Toronto has the highest number of highrise buildings under construction in North America. It may be great for the economy, and makes our downtown more livable. But what about heading out to the back yard, (or if you’re a condo resident, the roof) and looking up at stars…something that our ancestors have done since the dawn of time? Chances are, you won’t see much these days. And yet, it is the cornerstone of every civilization to look up and ask the fundamental existential questions. Who are we? Where do we come from? Where are we going? What else is out there? With our skies crowded with towers, smog and light pollution, it has become almost impossible to star gaze in the GTA. This is another reason why we need a planetarium. As Helen Lovejoy from The Simpsons would exclaim; Won’t someone please think of the children?

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Won’t it cost too much money?
It will cost money to restore and rebuild the planetarium. There would be a lot of work involved. But the alternative wouldn’t come cheap either. The cost of demolishing a building and erecting a new cultural complex would be a significant sum as well. The difference is that the planetarium would be a way to create a viable way to generate revenue not only for itself, but for the entire city. Remember, it was once one of the most profitable in this continent. A planetarium can be a rewarding landmark not just from a financial perspective, but in terms of cultural and educational benefits as well. These are things that this city and the millions of tourists that come to visit each year can all enjoy.

I went to one of the Laser Shows and thought it sucked.
Many attended the laser shows and enjoyed them tremendously. The planetarium was host to hundreds of exhibits, conferences and in later years, laser shows. The concept of destroying a building because someone deemed a show to be unworthy is both unfair and erroneous. That’s like saying, after taking your daughter and her three friends to the last One Direction concert, you wanted to eradicate the Rogers Center. It may be an understandable sentiment, but nevertheless, an unfair one to make, as there are any number of other shows at the same venue that are enjoyable and rewarding in their own way.

Toronto is the largest city in Canada. It is the economic capital of the country. It has one of the most ethnically diverse populations in the world, growing at an ever increasing rate. It is a city whose core values are unity, tolerance and progress. These are values that a planetarium encompasses and reflects. Toronto needs the McLaughlin Planetarium protected and restored. It’s time for the municipal, provincial and federal governments to step in. It’s time for local and national media to take notice, for philanthropists and regular citizens to weigh in and have their voices heard. It’s time to stand up for a crucial piece of our city’s history and an essential scientific, educational and cultural legacy for generations to come.

It may be our only chance, before another part of our past gets erased forever.

If you’d like to help out in saving and restoring Toronto’s historic McLaughlin Planetarium, you can sign the petition, or join the Facebook group.

Posted in Culture, entertainment, Science, Science Fiction, Technology | Tagged , , | 24 Comments

Inside The Complex Science of Music: Emotional Vs. Cerebral Responses.

Here is a recent submission from guest writer Alex Tiuniaev. If you’re interested in contributing a post, music or story idea to DG, feel free to email me.

kandinsky_several_circles-black-lines Kandinsky’s Several Circles With Black Lines – Made popular in the 1993 film, Six Degrees of Separation. The artist famously painted in opposing styles on both sides of the canvas.

I’ve always wanted to share my thoughts on how I listen to music and how I interpret what I hear. What is it that makes some tracks “work” for me while others leave me uninspired? Of course, there’s no short answer. Sometimes it’s a vocal hook, sometimes a driving guitar part, sometimes a floating ambience or a pumping bass line. With every track it is different. However, after giving some thought to this and “analyzing” the way I perceive music, I’ve come to realize that I can clearly distinguish between the two types of music: what I call “thinking music” and “emotional music”.

“Emotional music” is probably the most obvious kind. This is the type of music that makes you feel good or makes you want to cry or just makes you feel like you’re flying through the sky and all your problems just seem to melt away. This music caters to the basic human emotions, and this is what you usually can hear on the mainstream radio. Of course, that does not exclude jazz or classical or any type of indie or alternative music. For instance, Bach’s “Air on the G string” or Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” or even Philip Glass’ fabulous score to the film “The Hours” are all — to me — examples of this type of music. As are Radiohead’s “Fake Plastic Trees” or U2’s “Where the Streets Have No Name” or Bob Dylan’s “Desolation Row” or even Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” and, strangely, most of Sigur Ros’ catalogue as well. As you can see, very different music genres belong here. This doesn’t have to be pop music in the narrowest sense of the term but tracks belonging to this type usually have a strong sense of melody and/or harmony and quite simple chord progressions (although again, this is not mandatory) especially when compared to what is called “academic music” or some of the more complex forms of jazz.

“Thinking music”, on the other hand, may (especially on the first few listens) seem dull and uninteresting, or too complex to comprehend, and at times even outrageously dissonant and non-musical. However, as it caters more to our “logical” or “rational” mind, and sometimes to our imagination, with the right attitude and the right mindset it can start to blossom and open up a world of previously undiscovered musical treasures. Take Brian Eno’s “Music for Airports”, for instance. Each piece is quite simple and “static” yet if you start to listen to the details and let the music carry you on a journey you might find that this album is one of the best works of modern music.

Most of Boards of Canada’s records belong here. Maybe they are not that complex when it comes to melody and harmony — as the basic building blocks in traditional music — yet they are highly “visual” and very unique in terms of “sound shaping” and their unorthodox usage of synthesizers and samples. Most of what is usually referred to as “20th century classical” music also belongs here (Morton Feldman, Steve Reich, Erik Satie, and Arnold Schoenberg just to name a few). Seminal jazz records like Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue” or John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme” are outstanding examples of this kind of music (again, this is my personal opinion – other listeners may disagree). Listening to this type of music is like looking at an abstract painting (as opposed to realist or romantic art) or like drinking black coffee (as opposed to blackberry smoothie or vanilla milkshake).

It does not mean, however, that a piece of music or a song should be “classified” either as “emotional” or “thinking”. This is by no means a black-or-white world. There are thousands of records that have the characteristics of both of these categories in various proportions. The best music, to me, is the one that has both the “emotional” and the “thinking” components; and all of the above examples, of course, do contain both – it is just that one of the parts prevails over another. And it’s up to the listener to decide which one.

My favourite band is Sigur Ros. Why? Simply because they have mastered what I call the “avant-garde pop” genre. Their sound is pop enough for my taste but without being clichéd and sterile. You can listen to their songs purely for their “emotional” component yet an attentive listener will find many subtle details in their music that can satisfy a “logically oriented” person. The same is true of Radiohead. Or any other band that makes “musician’s music”. Because bringing out human emotions is a worthwhile undertaking but doing so tastefully and artfully is an even greater one.

P.S. All of the above is just my own thinking. It has no pretensions to be anything else. Music is subjective. Just like our tastes in liquid refreshments.

Alex Tiuniaev is a composer, producer and songwriter from Moscow, Russia. He composes music for various media (mainly, video games and online media) and releases original recordings in the ambient, electronic, rock and experimental genres.

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