Saturday, March 26, 2005

Hooks, Pop and Popular

Sure we all have favourite songs, but what I also have is favourite parts of songs. In some cases I like the whole song, but sometimes the reason I like the song is mostly because of "the part". Maybe these parts are what people call "hooks". For people who don’t know, a "hook" is a part of a song that draws you in and captures your attention. It doesn’t have to be dominant or loud to capture your attention either. It can be a quiet or subtle part that has a distinct quality.

"Hooks" are probably what makes a song a "pop" song or not, but not always, as there are many great and loved songs that are not hugely "pop"(ular). But personally I have always been drawn to "pop" songs not necessarily popular songs. It is confusing, yes. Just because a song is popular doesn’t automatically mean that the song is a "pop" song. The confusion is in the definition. "Pop" was originally short for popular, but over time and mass media communication it has changed to mean a certain sound. If you ask people what is a "pop" song, they might say: it’s a song that is "catchy"; it gets "stuck in your head". These are the "hooks" at work.

Sometimes a "hook" is a beat or rhythm that is repeated in parts of the song. But sometimes it’s a moment, when the song’s "feel" changes. The song was moving along a certain path and then it seems to be transformed by the change of tempo, rhythm, beat etc. Often it is the addition of a distinctive part to the mix of the song that creates these moments. For me they are bliss. But as these moments are rare, I am always on the search for more moments. It is an addiction.

Here’s a few songs off the top of my head, that have these moments:

"Catch the Sun" – Doves (Lost Souls LP)
"Mousetrap" – Ride (Going Blank Again LP)
"Bury Me" – The Smashing Pumpkins (Gish LP)
"My Sharona" – The Knack (Reality Bites soundtrack LP and Get The Knack LP)
"This Is The One" – The Stone Roses (The Stone Rose LP)
"Why Does It Always Rain On Me?" – Travis (The Man Who LP)

See if you can spot them…

Raves Circa 1992

When I was 23 and 24 y.o. I went to 2 or 3 raves in Melbourne, Australia. Raves were places where techno music was played and people danced and listened to the music. At this stage raves were still fairly small affairs. A big one might have 300-400 people. Some drugs were taken. People smoked those Indonesian clove cigarettes that smell sweet.

Some raves were held in dance clubs and some in warehouses. The warehouse where I went belonged to a community TV station that went on to become the Channel 31 community TV station. It was a cool old red brick building in a short street that ran down to the Maribyrnong River in Footscray. Between the building and the river was grass and trees for about 20 metres, so it was a nice spot.

I think the two raves I attended in Footscray were called "Every Picture Tells A Story". The first time a friend was to perform on stage and sing 2 songs. His girlfriend was in charge of the "sparklers", those sticks that you light and they throw off sparks. She handed me about 20 and asked me to hand them out. We lit them first, but half way down the stick. These things were sparkling alright. So I’m trying to hand lit sparklers to people in the crowd. People are backing away as the madman tries to shove lit sparklers at them. At this point they are getting hot in my hand as they were lit about 15cm from my hand. So I just threw them on the ground in front of a bunch of people. It was pathetic. I felt bad for my singing friend. Oh well, what are you gunna do?

The second time I took an LSD trip and had what people call a "bad trip". Everything was fine and I was on the dance floor with my 2 friends. The lights changed and I lost where they were. This made me a little anxious and then the music seemed to change. It got all foreboding and scary. Then the lights began to strobe (flash on and off at a fast rate). I could see snapshots of people dancing in strange poses with bizarre facial expressions. As people walked by on the edge of the dancefloor they were lit up for a second, so it was like being in a cloud of darkness with flashes of crazy people.

As I looked at the faces flashing before me I noticed some people look animalistic. One guy seemed to look like a goat crossed with a man and then I was staring at a guy who looked like a lion crossed with a man. As I was looking at him he turned his face right at me and kind of growled or snarled at me. I was thinking: fucking hell! I turned away and was looking at another face and it just melted like it was made of plasticine. Whoh. I was feeling a bit freaked out at this point, so I stumbled off the dancefloor and through the crowd and headed outside. I felt like I needed air. It was late autumn night so it was cool and I had on light clothing. I headed down to the river to clear my head. There was a person walking on the other side of the river which I thought was strange as it was all factories. I couldn’t even tell if they were male or female just a shape walking. I stared at them until I think I realised they were walking their dog. I sat down on a bench and hugged myself from the cold. I sat there for about half an hour.

Global Dimming and the World Trade Centre Destruction

For fuck’s sake. Global Dimming? I thought global warming was bad enough but global dimming? I heard about global dimming from a TV show on ABC TV Australia called Four Corners. This show has been running on the government funded channel since the 1960’s (I think). They only have one story that goes for 40 minutes, so they take a fairly good look at a subject.

Before we tackle Global Dimming what is Global Warming? Basically when you generate energy from fossil fuels such as mineral oil, natural gas and coal; you are burning it. When you burn something in an oxygen atmosphere it releases CO2 (carbon dioxide), amongst other gases. These gases mix with the atmosphere and change it. The energy (heat) from the sun cannot escape back out into space and is trapped in the atmosphere, which warms. This effects the natural flow of the atmosphere. Weather patterns that have evolved over a long period of time to keep the atmosphere in balance are disturbed.

So what is Global Dimming? Four Corners explained it was all about clouds. Clouds form when dust particles in the air attract water. More and more water clumps together until they become heavy enough to defy gravity and we get rain. Clouds reflect some of the sunlight back into space.

Global Dimming theory says that the very fine particles released when burning fossil fuels also attract water in the air. As there are many tiny particles attracting water, these clouds are denser and reflect more sunlight than normal clouds back into space. How do they know this? Some scientists analysed the results of many years of water evaporation readings taken each day. The results showed less water being evaporated as global temperatures increased. How could this be? If the atmosphere is warmer shouldn’t water being evaporating more? They found sunlight is the biggest factor in water evaporation, more than air temperature. Less sunlight was hitting the water so it evaporated less. At the same time the atmosphere has gotten warmer.

How does the World Trade Centre’s destruction come into this? Airplane vapour trails. When airplanes fly they leave a vapour trail (burnt fuel). This forms long thin clouds which block the sunlight. From September 12th to 14th most airplanes were grounded in the USA. A scientist who was studying vapour trail effects seized the chance to see what happens when there’s no vapour trails to block sunlight. What he found was a big jump in temperature for those 3 days when the airplanes were grounded.

So here’s the scary part. Global Dimming is hiding the true effects of Global Warming. If we stop emission of fine particles but still emit gases that warm the atmosphere the global temperature will increase even more than it has so far.

So basically; we’re fucked. Thanks for coming.