Saturday, November 12, 2011

iPods and Ain’ts for fans of Music & Serendipity

My wife is a college professor and an executive coach. She does a lot of her work from her home office. She uses two computers and moves from one to the other like she was the keyboard artist for Santana.

Me, I don’t like to do housework, but since she has world-class allergies and we aren’t rich, a lot of the housework falls to me. So I am deeply appreciative to Steve Jobs for the iPod, which allows me enter another world as I mindfully do mindless but essential stuff like dusting.

The iPod is great because it stays with me in my pocket as I go from room to room and floor to floor in my attention-deficit mode of house cleaning. And it’s especially good for vacuuming because I can still hear the music.

I charged up the 32-gigger today in preparation for sweeping, mopping and polishing the kitchen, pantry and mudroom floors.

My iPod tells me it has 3288 songs. I believe I could listen to it 24/7 for three weeks without it repeating anything. Still, I get in a musical rut sometimes, captive to a groove that has me listening to the Spinners, Pharaoh Sanders, Freddy Cole or Beethoven’s Egmont Overture for weeks on end.

Not all of the songs are ideal for cleaning. Like I might be blue about having to clean but Brahms’ Requiem wouldn’t really capture it.

Of course I have playlists. R & B/Soul and Rock are usually good choices for large muscle activities like vacuuming or grass cutting, but I wanted something different today, and nothing came readily to mind.

So I decided to try something new. I went to the menu where all my tunes from Aaron Neville to Zubin Mehta were listed alphabetically by title. I’ve done this with a favored individual artist like Keb’ Mo’ or Robert Cray but never with the entire collection.

I skipped the first few songs, choosing to start with Roy Meriwether’s smoky nightclub piano jazz trio number that lives up to its name: “After Hours”.

“Affinity”, off a LaVerne Butler cd, followed as a pleasant surprise. It was an instrumental that I didn’t recall being on the singer’s cd.

John Coltrane’s “Africa”, rendered by Conrad Herwig, was up next. I have no idea where I got that cd. Must have been free.

Next came that soul singer of great angst, Walter Jackson, with “After You There Can Be Nothing”. On the same theme but with different sensibilities came three versions of “After You’ve Gone”, performed successively by Joe Williams, Sarah Vaughan and Wynton Marsalis.

This was  starting to be fun! What would be next?

There came a neat change of pace with the lilting and infectious “Aguas De Marco” by Stan Getz. One of the drawbacks of digital music is that you can’t go check the liner notes to learn the name of the vocalist with the pretty voice [reliable authority tells me the voice belongs to the pre-famous Astrud Gilberto].

Then we got to the Aints. B. B. King said he was not going get upset, “Ain’t Gonna Worry My Life”]. Nina Simone came along celebrating [“Ain’t Go No/I Got Life”].

Now we came to a long string of Aints led off by Fats Waller’s “Ain’t Misbehavin’”, interpreted through the incomparable pipes of Johnny Hartman. Steve Tyrell was up next with the same song. Yeah!

The Temptations dropped in with a favorite from 40 years ago: “Ain’t No Sun Since You Been Gone”.

Nina came back with “Ain’t No Use”: there’s nothing that fella could say, he had treated her too mean and she was outta there.

Who could follow Nina but the Queen of Soul?

“Ain’t No Way” has always been one of my all-time favorite Arethas for so many reasons. It’s incredibly soulful, has fantastic brass progressions, Aretha’s own right on time piano, and a lyric of deep wistfulness and extraordinary power. But hey, I like it most because it has such a slow, steady, deep powerful, and rockin’ rhythm: there’s no better slow jam in recorded history.

I was going to play it again, but before I could put down the mop and extract the iPod from my pocket, Aretha started feeling like Nina: she was through with love and came back with “Ain’t Nobody (Gonna Turn Me Around)”.

Seems like both of them knew they weren’t in that real true relationship Marvin and Tammi sang about. But then everybody gets to a point sooner or later where they know that “Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing”.

And when you find the real thing, whether spiritually or romantically, “Ain’t That Good News”? Two versions of that gospel goodie by The Moses Hogan Chorale bookended a song by the same title but totally different lyrics by Sam Cooke. Mercy!

I finished the kitchen floor, put away the tools, came upstairs and sat down and wrote this to the accompaniment of variously, Benny Goodman [“Air Mail Special”], Nikki Giovanni [“Alabama Poem/((I’ve Decided to Make Jesus My Choice) / Peace Be Still)”], Art Blakey [“Alamode”], and Earl Klugh [“Alice in Wonderland”]. 

Can't wait 'til next weekend. I didn't even make it halfway through the "A"s!

It’s supposed to be 60° tomorrow. If, as usual, the Browns are getting drubbed, I will turn off the TV and wash windows to the “B”s, or maybe the “R”s. If that happens, my wife will be so happy I won’t have to play “Ain’t No Way”.

• • •


Roy Van Til said...

Hey RTA: This is wonderfully clever, fascinating, thoughtful and delightfully expressed. Thanks so much for sharing your unique and refreshing perspectives with the underground world populated by many other male domestic me. Well done, my friend, and keep the beat alive. By the way, I bet our playlists overlap on an incredibly few songs, for my tastes are far less cultured than yours, but I love the way you recall so much about each track that has shaped your life and personality. I try to do the same, but I must be from another planet.
Love and health and good vibes in stereo to you and yours, Roy VT...your monaural buddy in the Maine woods

Richard said...

Roy, you are hardly monaural. I think polyaural is more descriptive. I bet the overlap between our musical libraries is greater than you allow. One of the downsides of MP3 players is that music is no longer the shared social experience it was back in our undergrad days when you would visit somebody's dorm room and get a sense of who they were from their LPs. The Kindle is probably going to do the same to personal libraries. Oh well, you can't have everything.

Roy Van Til said...

Pint well taken. Music used to connect me to the social fabric, and now in the perfect digital purity of my headphones I languish in isolation, connecting only to my former self of a half century ago...onanism with a libretto and a catchy beat. Sometimes I just thumb through a stack of LP's or 45's or 8-tracks, relishing their reassuring tangibility, and there is no way the iPod can substitute for that vinyl time machine as the energy courses up through my fingertips to the storehouse of emotions and blissful memories and unfulfilled dreams in my cerebral cortex. The same goes for my stacks of books that I would not relegate to some anonymous, intangible digital hell unless the troopers in Fahrenheit 451 came along with their flamethrowers, and even then I would just as soon jump on the pyre.