Saturday, November 14, 2009


Tonight on a whim I went back and listened to the Pizzicato Five (P5) Happy End of the You remix album. The most notable thing about the re-listen was how my position relative to the album has changed since I first listened to it back in college.

The first time I heard the album was during my studies at Caltech. In college I pursued music, among other things, as an escape-valve for the incredible pressure I was feeling academically. In high school I had latched onto Pizzicato Five to supplement my Japanese studying; Shibuya-kei was more accessible than other J-pop genres in a pre-Youtube, pre-Napster time, because Matador Records distributed their albums and brought them to the US for tours. Eventually I joined the p5ml, a mailing list for English-speaking fans of Pizzicato Five. When Happy End of You came out I interpreted it as being a big deal to the list because here was a bunch of western DJs acknowledging and possibly having been inspired by Pizzicato Five. Still reviews of the album from the list were mixed; p5ml members had eclectic tastes that tended towards pop, rock and oldies (there was an overlap between prominent members of p5ml and the Exotica list, a list "for fans and collectors of weird and unusual music from the early LP era forward").

By the time Happy End of the World was released I was a P5 collector, so I picked up a couple of the vinyl releases of the individual mixes at Moby Disc in downtown Pasdena, and eventually the entire CD. My own reaction was similar to the list's: I preferred the more upbeat tracks and was disappointed by the slower, more unstructured mixes. I didn't have a good perspective on those compositional styles; my background so far had been pop and techno in Spain, hip-hop and rock in high school, and then some exotica and world music during college. The sounds I was hearing on these remixes were foreign and almost unconnected to anything I had ever heard.

How is my listening different now? In the years since then, influenced by my brother's progressive musical tastes, by DJ friends and classmates at Caltech, by the documentary on techno called Modulations, by Kraftwerk (through P5) and their influences, through Cornelious, the Plastics, the Boredoms, through "graduation" night from Princeton in Beijing 2000, through marveling at the curious club scene of Shanghai, and through the influence of Mr Zambrano, Mr Hogue and NoiShanghai, I've picked up a few things here and there about the more fringe, exploratory, theoretical facets of music and exposed myself to more ideas about what music can be. Listening to Happy End of Youd this second time around I find myself navigating the styles with a greater familiarity and being able to appreciate all of the musical extremes, from 808 State's bouncy synthesizer-packed remix of Trailer Music, to Gusgus's moody, building whomp-whomp remix of Porno 3003, to the dissonant plunderphonic remix of It's a Beautiful Day by John Oswald; they all have elements that I recognize or can categorize with other music I've heard and learned to enjoy.

I can't help but connect this to my thoughts about teaching. If my goal as a teacher is to make my kids more fully appreciate physics, my work has to include exposing them to memorable experiences that they can analyze using the scientific principles I teach them. But that's a topic to be developed on another day. It's time for bed now.

(One of my colleagues told me that today, Saturday, is Childrens' Day in India, and that her daughters are performing for thousands of Indian expatriates in Shanghai today. I am jealous.)


Post a Comment

Post a Comment

« Home