It’s that time again. Almost a year ago to the day I was writing up my responses to our Listen to Something Different challenge. I’m trying to enable my design learners to overtly consider being more open in order to be more creative. Openness, it turns out, is one of the chief attributes of a creative person. And I think we are often in an unrecognised rut with our musical tastes so it would seem that to listen to other things might introduce us to new experiences. As last year, each person in the challenge has to nominate two songs from their personal favourites for another participant to listen to; one should be fairly accessible for others and the second should be a bit of a shock to their musical sensibilities. The aim is to listen to this novel music and find something of interest, even if you are inclined to hate it outright!

As usual, I’m in three groups so I had six songs to make analysis of and hopefully even like! I was sure I’d lap up the several rock songs – right up my street – and detest the club things.

My results are below. I doubt many people care to read that much detail, apart from the groups I’m feeding the activity back with. But what did I learn about my openness? Well. Maybe the sad Brothers in Arms by Dire Straights killed my mood today because I struggled to like anything. Even though I could at least find some things noteworthy it ,might only have been having to write some reflections here that forced me to do so. Or maybe I’m just really not open to the tastes of others. Perhaps I ought to stop setting this activity! Overall, I was slightly shocked that the music genres I expected to enjoy instead I found a bit meh! Vini Vici’s Alteza was the one I found most alien to me yet also of the most interest. So, perhaps I am just a little bit open….please!

So from that I can conclude, expectations make a big difference and I’ll only be pleasantly surprised by things I’m expecting to dislike and I’ll always be disappointed by the things I presume I’ll like. I also found that one listen is not enough. Poor Avenged Sevenfold I was ready to dismiss on the song I was given, yet I’m sure I’ve liked other stuff of theirs. I longed to listen to the pieces I had set for others. I must be a music snob.

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I also did a bit of research on music tastes as I already know that the people who like Beethoven are supposedly judged the most creative and those who like Rap and Gospel are deemed the least so (based on college test scores). However, I’d guess, in the same way that you can’t blame computer games for school shootings (because you can’t separate out one factor from a complex and emotionally messy life) so there may be other factors for the music taste results.

Of course, I just lurve Beethoven!! Actually, I do. If I could only have one musician to listen to for ever I’d pick him. Sorry, Clash, System of a Down et al. But I’d really hate to only have one person’s material. Music is really a mood thing. And, for light relief, I found an online music-taste-to-personality checker……I did have a go and it was spot on, mostly. Though as you do have to enter your perceived personality traits so, yeah, it may be accurate because you tell it to be. You can find my results and have a go at your own at www.outofservice.com if you want a bit of fun.

So, here are my reviews. You can follow the links out to the YouTube videos:

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Dire Straights, Brothers in Arms: a mellow, even melancholy song that can have many interpretations depending on the listener’s perspective. On the face of it an anti-war song, reminding us that we are all the same, whatever “world” we come from. It’s a plea for sense not battle. Or is it simply about not battling with people around us, the near and dear? The message, anyway is for peace. You cannot argue with that. Yet the lyrics, delivered in almost weary manner, seem to counter the message. The tone of voice is almost resigned; “all men must die”. Or is that just my own weary variation of it? The guitar, especially seems laid back, relaxed, almost like a piece of improvisation, which again belies the seriousness of the message. It seems like a song to chill to – but isn’t. It changed my mood to one of sadness. Winter’s coming, the dying of the year. Misery. Death.

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Guns’n’Roses, Sweet Child of Mine: A classic. Famous high pitched guitar and high pitched yet croaky voice of the typical rock star. Not new to me at all and not a song I hate at all either. It’s not a song I choose to listen to (I prefer my rock a bit harder), but not one I’d turn off if it came on the radio. Part of the activity is to listen, but looking at this on YouTube really emphasises how distracting a video can be. In this case, shots of the band on stage interspersed with back stage footage of a girl…presumably girlfriend; the “sweet child”. Yet I have always favoured the interpretation of a little daughter rather than a lover, which I find a bit patronising. Maybe because I don’t know all of the words and have been misled by the lack of a signifier somewhere. Or I’ve been misled by many a media piece using this song as a soundtrack to an item about someone’s kid. I was quite happy to get this song as one of my random ones so why do I feel so annoyed at it now?

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Greenday, Kill the DJ: So Greenday became a load of tired old dads who can’t stand what the young people do! Even the video shots of them somewhat gingerly riding motorbikes round the desert sum up their mid-life crises, while their disapproving looks in the club make it seem as if they’ve gone to fish out the daughter of one of them and take her home! However, I think I’m with them if I have to take a side as they have always been savvy and political, whereas what DJs seem more about “merely” having a good time (open to correction here…). The video emphasises this point. However, if you just listen to the song it is almost as repetitive as the stuff it seems to critique. Have I missed the point? The crisp and clear guitars and drums sound way better than any clubby stuff. But the song structure is kind of crappy. If only the song would turn into something a bit harder, less, erm, popular-sounding. But wait, what’s this?…can’t get the pesky tune out of my head..!

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Avenged Sevenfold, Nightmare: It’s my nightmare when rock music somehow isn’t. So what’s wrong here? The drums-that-sound-programmed-but aren’t (double pedal and all) are ok. It begins with a music box like tinkling music that is soft and gentle and obviously means “lulling you into false sense of security”. Then the guitar sounds just like Brian May’s. As it started I wanted to see if I could picture Freddie singing…but no, it lacks his elegance. I really thought I’d like this but actually I found it too meandering and too identity-less. It can’t make up its mind if its rock or middle of the road. It keeps losing its pace. It is really mis-titled, way too mainstream and sounds to me like a song that wasn’t given enough time in the writing stage. That’s not to say it is not interesting. It is…but perhaps for the wrong reasons. Seems way more time was spent on the hospital-based spooky video. Why so dismissive? I expected more of an aggressive kind of punch, like much of their other material. I guess it is interesting to me that I was disappointed and intriguing to explore why this is the case. In any case, it grew on me the more I listened to it. Just shows first impressions aren’t really to be relied upon.

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Vini Vici, Alteza: This is the kind of song I wanted for my activity as it is of a genre I’d avoid at all costs. However, on first listening I was delighted to find some points of interest and indeed – here’s the crucial part for music appreciation – actually respect some parts of the making of it. It starts with an annoying, fast-paced beat but this is overlaid with a phasing, horror-film like suspenseful echoing sound. This is soon joined by an echoing chorus of children singing. I have no idea what they are singing about, though! Nor can I understand the words of the male singer (is this Vini?) or even what language it is [English!]. It is all quite enigmatic because I want to understand what it is “about”…though I also wonder if it is actually about anything specific or is just music! The piece is interspersed with typical synthesiser sounds, very electronic, but yet the overall effect is quite jungle-like – the busy complexity, the sounds from afar, the suspense, all suggest to me in a quite synaeathesic way, the presence of many unseen beings in a frantic world that vision can’t cope with. The sense of hearing is foregrounded (well, that is a truism for music!). It could also be film music for an Alien-type SciFi story. So, yes, the piece is really interesting and tantalising. I think, if I ever danced, it’s be a good dance piece too, or great for fast motorway driving. So, yes, with this one I do feel I achieved my aim of listening to and appreciating something I’d never usually consider.

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Fragma, Toca Me: OK, but not this one. I found this drivel. Awful. Made worse by the selfie-mentality video (yeah, so don’t watch that then). This is old and frankly, really boring. It is lots of repetitive holiday club music with the occasional breathy exclamation of “Toca me!” But if you do watch the grainy old video you’ll at least find some amusement in watching the admittedly very beautiful Fragma herself dancing in a very ungainly manner and making an equally ungainly hip thrust as she exclaims the song title. She is very stiff and like a mannequin compared to the energetic dancing of all the other clubbers. Come on, try to find interesting things….its really hard…I don’t like this stuff…But you set the challenge and you should set an example, no? It wouldn’t be so bad if I was more sure of which of the million versions I ought to hear. So I am forced to listen to several. One more try, please? All I can think of is that repetitive music makes you dumb. Alright, so there is one piece of the music that kind of climbs over the main backbeat like fire taking hold of a curtain. That’s quite interesting. There’s also a bit where a guitar plays but sounds as if the guitarist is muting the strings too much. That’s also worth noting.

Anyway, what am I complaining about? I could have got Shoenberg and his atonality! Sigh. Where’s that Beethoven C.D?

Image credits:

Boy by Dr Evil, http://www.morgufile.com

Headphones and notes by Moonlightway, http://www.morguefile.com

All music images YouTube thumbnails from http://img.youtube.com