Sunday, February 22, 2015

Smokelit Flashback I

"Fortune Teller Eyes"

[This is one post in a series about my music mixes.  The series list has links to all posts in the series and also definitions of many of the terms I use.  You may wish to read the introduction for more background.

Like all my series, it is not necessarily contiguous—that is, I don’t guarantee that the next post in the series will be next week.  Just that I will eventually finish it, someday.  Unless I get hit by a bus.]



Smokelit Flashback is the first of the “modern mixes,” by which I mean the first one that I really developed as a digital playlist, as I described when I first told you about my mixes.  I have older mixes, true, but they’re all recreations of old mix tapes I made (mostly in college).  But this was the first time I heard a song and said, “whoa ... I need to make a mix based on this.”

The mix starter in this case was “Seven Months” by Portishead off of Portishead, and it was the culmination of my discovery of chill and trip-hop.  I had recently started a new job, and part of that for me is always exploring the musical tastes of my co-workers and figuring out what they know that I don’t.  I had already discovered Modest Mouse, Pinback, Mogwai, and Cat Power from one person there, but it was to be my fellow programmer, a fellow with tastes as eclectic as mine (only in different directions), who would lend me his Lemon Jelly EPs and two albums he’d found on iTunes by an obscure German band called Naomi.1  This was the first time I’d been exposed to proper chill, also sometimes called downtempo.  I knew techno, of course, and I liked a bit of it (e.g. “Something Good” by Utah Saints), and I knew electronica and liked a bit more of that (e.g. Chemical Brothers, Fatboy Slim, etc), but I’d never really heard anything like these four albums.2  And, in trying to find more like this, I stumbled onto Portishead.

Now, trip-hop is not the same as chill, but they share certain characteristics.  And the second I heard “Seven Months” (really from the opening bars of “Cowboys,” which would become the opener for Smokelit Flashback II), I knew that this was something which was just totally outside my experience in music.  See, I’d heard some music which pushed the boundaries of what constituted “music” altogether, and I’d heard some music which might be difficult to distinguish between music and comedy, and I’d heard plenty of music that tried to be a story in musical form, but among those things which were undeniably music, there were 3 pretty hard delineations in my head: there was classical, and there was popular, and there was cinematic.  Oh, sure, prog rock (among other forms) uses classical ideas, but it was still popular music in my mind.  And movies often use popular songs, or even classical songs, but that doesn’t make them cinematic.  Cinematic music is music composed for soundtracks, and it isn’t classical, and it isn’t popular, although it generally leans more towards the former than the latter.3  But here I was listening to something I could have sworn sounded like it fell out of a Sean Connery James Bond movie, kissing cousin to Shirley Bassey’s “Goldfinger”.  And yet ... not.  Undeniably popular music, yet so strongly cinematic you could almost see the movie playing behind your mind’s eye as you listened.  To my mind, Portishead presaged those artists who would produce exclusively cinematic music that just lacked a movie to go with it, such as Chris Joss.  But Portishead was true trip-hop, of cinematic nature but fused with something unquestionably popular as well, with the strong hip-hop-influenced beat and the electronica-derived swirling melodies, and the washes of sound that owed something to dream pop.  It was the production more than anything that gave it its cinematic flair.

I felt like was I in a black-and-white film noir movie, listening to a jazz singer in a smoky club, with the only color provided by the raging acid trip that I was on.  Thus: Smokelit Flashback.

At the time, I hadn’t formulated my concept of mixes yet.4  I basically just wanted to take the best songs from these 5 great new albums I’d found and put them in some interesting order and listen to them whenever I was in that sort of mood.  You know: the sort of mood when you’d like to feel like you’re having an acid flashback in a smoky bar in a black-and-white spy movie.  I rapidly realized that I had enough songs here for two full albums’ worth of listening, although it needed a bit more to flesh it out.  So I started traipsing through my collection.  The first track that jumped out at me was from Norah Jones’ excellent Come Away with Me.  Her music is often more jazzy and upbeat than is required for this mix, but she can do smoky bar with the best of ’em, and “I’ve Got to See You Again” is the best of those.  I was also listening to Chris Isaak’s Heart Shaped World a lot back in those days, which is as close to country music as I ever get.  “Kings of the Highway” feels like something that would be playing in the background of the scene where the film noir detective walks along the deserted desert highway, trying to get back to the city in time to save the dame.  And so forth, with a handful of others that stood out from their surrounding albums as having just the right quality to fit in here.

Being that it started out focusing on just 5 albums by 3 artists, this volume (and the following one) has much less variety than nearly all my other mixes.  After these first two were in the bag, I started trying to adhere to my rule for mix tapes back when I was making those: a given artist should only appear in a mix volume twice at most, and those two appearances should be spaced out as much as possible.  I haven’t always adhered to that guideline of course, but I’ve never broken it quite as badly as I’ve done here. 


Smokelit Flashback I
    [Fortune Teller Eyes]


        “Seven Months” by Portishead, off Portishead
        “Kneel Before Your God” by Lemon Jelly, off Lemonjelly.ky [EP Compilation]
        “Paravent” by Naomi, off Pappelallee
        “I've Got to See You Again” by Norah Jones, off Come Away with Me
        “Kings of the Highway” by Chris Isaak, off Heart Shaped World
        “Freshly Squeezed” by Angelo Badalamenti, off Twin Peaks [Soundtrack]
        “(---) [5]” by Swans, off Love of Life
        “Pity” by The Creatures, off Boomerang
        “Curious” by Naomi, off Everyone Loves You
        “Keep the Change” by Banyan, off Anytime at All
        “Over” by Portishead, off Portishead
        “Chaldea” by Transglobal Underground, off International Times
        “(---) [2]” by Swans, off Love of Life
        “Homage to Patagonia” by Lemon Jelly, off Lemonjelly.ky [EP Compilation]
   
Total:  14 tracks,  58:13


Two of the three bridges come from the Swans’ excellent Love of Life, which is more gothic than trip-hop, but suitably weird for inclusion here.  This album contains six distinct tracks named ”(---),” which can be quite confusing when you’re trying to reference them in, say, a mix list.  Here I’ve chosen to just add a bracketed number which represents which instance we’re talking about.  So ”(---) [5]” is the fifth such track (track 12 on the album) and ”(---) [2]” is the second (track 4).

The third bridge is “Chaldea” from the world/electronica/trip-hop-influenced International Times, by Transglobal Underground.5  The other bridge from that album, “Sumeria,” will show up on Smokelit Flashback II.

The volume title is a line from “Keep the Change” from Banyan.  Although Anytime at All is a jazzy, almost prog-rock-like album, which normally wouldn’t catch my attention too much, I had checked it out because it was the side project of Jane’s Addiction drummer Stephen Perkins, and I sort of fell in love with it.

The collection is rounded out by a track off Angelo Badalamenti’s amazing soundtrack for Twin Peaks, and a vaguely eerie track from Siouxsie Sioux and Budgie’s side project, the Creatures.


So that’s my first modern mix, although it really was made simultaneously with Smokelit Flashback II.  But that’s another post.  In the meantime, feel free to make your own copy of this one.  Hopefully you’ll enjoy it as much as I have.






__________

1 Any time I mention a band that I can’t find a decent AllMusic page to link to, and the Wikipedia article for them is essentially a one-liner, you can be sure I consider that an obscure band.

2 Specifically, they were: LemonJelly.KY, Lost Horizons, Everyone Loves You, and Pappelallee.

3 Presumably due to the habit of using a full orchestra for cinematic music, although one sometimes supplemented with popular instrumentation such as electric guitars.

4 In fact, my experience making Smokelit Flashaback I & II is how that concept came to be.  Which is why I wanted to start with this one.

5 Another album introduced to me by that same fellow programmer, as it happens.









Sunday, February 15, 2015

Re-exploring the Whedonverse


I just watched one of the best ever episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Now, if for any reason you just turned up your nose, or perhaps snorked milk through it, I will assume you’ve found it difficult to appreciate Buffy for what it is.  Let’s start with its pedigree: there are essentially three television show creators for whom I will watch basically anything they create:1 Alan Ball, Aaron Sorkin, and Joss Whedon.  At this point, I’ve watched almost everything those three gentlemen have ever done,2 although sometimes I have to go fill in gaps.  A couple of years ago I had to sit down and watch/rewatch the entire 7-year run of West Wing.  And, currently, I’m embarked on the same mission for Buffy.

Now, as it happens, I saw most of the Buffy episodes when they went into re-runs the first time, which I believe would have been before its original run was even complete.  But that was 15 years (and three children) ago, and I certainly don’t remember all the ones I watched, and I never watched them all.  Plus I never watched a single episode of Angel, which means I totally missed out on all the crossover fun.3  And, somewhere in my various and sundry pokings around the Internet, I discovered the excellent Watcher’s Council viewing guide, which tells you exactly what order to watch every episode in, and, as it mentioned, the entire run of both series is available streaming on Netflix, so it doesn’t even cost me anything.4

Buffy is an interesting story in Whedonosophy.  First there was the movie, which Whedon wrote but then didn’t have much else to do with.  I had seen it: I thought it was an interesting enough piece of fluff entertainment ... nothing to write home about, perhaps, but a not unenjoyable way to kill an hour and a half.  If nothing else, it’s always fun to see Pee-Wee Herman playing a vampire.

Reportedly, Whedon said he didn’t like the studio’s treatment of the Buffy movie because they had made it too campy.5  Which is kind of funny, because there is no way to take Buffy completely seriously.  The trick is to understand that you don’t have to take it completely seriously to have fun with it, come to love and empathize with its characters, and appreciate the genius of its creator.  When I first saw my roommates gathered around the television, excitedly watching a show based on a movie about a cheerleader who chased down vampires, I thought, man, that’s silly ... how can you really get into something like that?  But the more they watched, the more dialogue I heard just passing through the room, and the more I got sucked in.

See, dialogue is Whedon’s true talent.  Very like Sorkin, and to a lesser extent like Ball, Whedon writes sharp, clever, engaging dialogue.  Oh, it’s completely unrealistic: listening to a conversation between two Whedon characters is like listening to two people re-enacting a conversation they had yesterday, only now they’ve had time to think of all the witty comebacks they couldn’t come up with at the time.  No one really talks like that, but it’s oh so entertaining to listen to.  Just as Sorkin sucked me into Sports Night even though I hate sports, the words that Whedon put into the mouths of his characters easily overcame my reservations about the subject matter.

Now, this was Whedon’s first show, and you can tell.  It’s great, but it does take a little time to get there.  The first two seasons are good, definitely, but you have to stick with it until season 3 for the greatness to kick in.  Once it does, though, it becomes a bit of a thrill ride, and it’s difficult not to binge watch it.

While the snappy dialogue is the most often cited evidence of Whedon’s genius, it’s certainly not the only one.  Another thing his shows have is organic relationships amongst the characters.  His shows tend to have large casts of central characters (Buffy season 3 has 7, for instance), not to mention many more recurring characters.6  And yet all these people have particular relationships with each other that somehow never seem forced.  The best example is when he needs to introduce a new character.  In most shows, character A disappears at the end of season X, and character B magically appears in season X + 1, and everyone just accepts them with minimal adjustment.  One of the most egregious examples of this would be Criminal Minds (another show with a large cast), where Mandy Patinkin’s Gideon never really returns after season 2 and Joe Mantegna’s Rossi shows up out of nowhere in season 3 to replace him, and the team dynamic changes not a whit.  The writers attempted to explain this by giving Rossi the backstory of being Gideon’s old partner—the cofounder of the whole unit, in fact—so he was well-known to all the existing characters on the show.  Unfortunately, this sort of thing is easy to overdo: Rossi was apparently so well-known that, in nearly 50 hour-long episodes, no one ever thought to mention him before Joe Mantegna showed up on set.  The truth is, this is just the shit that happens when one actor leaves the show and is replaced by another.  We in the viewing audience just accept it.  What’s the alternative?

Well, Whedon has an alternative.  He doesn’t always have time to build a logical story arc around an actor’s exit,7 but a character’s entrance is always under his control. Let’s take Seth Green’s Oz.  Oz first appears in season 2, episode 4, for about 30 seconds.  He then shows up again in episodes 6, 9, and 10 for equally brief amounts of screentime, before becoming a pretty regular guest star in episode 13 and finally a series regular in season 3.  So, by the time you need to accept him as a full-fledged member of the group, you’re already used to having him around.  He didn’t just show up one day and become an integral part of the story.  He’s that guy we kept bumping into and then he struck up a relationship with one member of the group and then he started having plots revolve primarily around his character and he just naturally became part of the gang.  It’s all very organic and feels very real, which, if you think about it, is pretty bizarre for a show with highly stylized, unrealistic dialogue about high school kids fighting supernatural monsters.  But the reality of characters is something you just can’t fuck with.  You can have outlandish situations, and you can have over-the-top dialogue, but the people on the show must feel very real, even when they’re vampires.  If the audience doesn’t identify with your characters—doesn’t see in them people they know and love, or even themselves—then you’re done.  No amount of cleverness and ingenuity can save that show.

So the characters are the main thing I praise Buffy8 for, but not the only thing.  Being that it is a show about high school kids fighting supernatural monsters, it could either be a cool high school show, or a cool monster show.  But, with Whedon at the helm, it’s somehow both.  Sometimes it takes turns going from one to the other and sometimes it really does pull off doing both at once.9  It’s also a fun action-thriller show at the same time it’s a clever (not broad) comedy.  When it’s doing action, it’s blood-pumping, edge-of-your-seat thrilling.  And when it’s doing comedy, it’s tickle-your-funnybone funny.  And, again: he can even do both at once, sometimes. 

One thing it’s generally not, though, is scary.  With a premise like “high school cheerleader takes on vampires”10 you can do funny pretty easily, and you can do thrilling if you work at it, but scary requires taking the show way too seriously.  I said up at the top that you can’t take Buffy seriously and you don’t need to, and that’s true.  It’s also true that Whedon doesn’t try to take the show too seriously (just seriously enough to make it awesome), and for the most part that’s the right choice.  When creators try to take their stories too seriously, that’s when they become silly.  So with the writer not being entirely serious and the audience just in it for the fun (and the awesome), actual scary is a pretty unlikely outcome.

And yet, the episode I watched recently, that inspired me to write this post, is actually totally creepy.  It’s not going to give me nightmares or anything, but damn if the monsters in this particular episode creep me right the fuck out and give me a serious case of the shivers.  The episode is called “Hush”, and, while following that link will show you a picture of the monsters in question, it’s not just their appearance that made them so damn freaky.  It was also the way they moved, and their expressions—one of the main monsters is played by Doug Jones, and, if you don’t know who that is, go back and watch Pan’s Labyrinth and the Hellboy movies again.  So we’re talking actors who are gifted at expressing emotion without talking, which is handy, because the gimmick of these monsters is that they steal everyone’s voices.  After the first 15 minutes or so of the episode, no one gets to talk any more.  And that just makes the whole thing even creepier.

Which is not to say that Whedon shorts us on the funny, though.  The Buffyverse wiki article linked above says that one of Whedon’s inspirations for writing this episode was constantly hearing that his scripts hinged on the dialogue.  Well, if his intention was to show that an episode of his could succeed without the clever dialogue, he failed abysmally.  The scene where Giles explains the nature of the danger and how to defeat it (using visual aids since he can’t talk), is one of the funniest Buffy scenes in the series, in my opinion, and it’s all because of the painstakingly crafted11 pictures, gestures, facial expressions, phrases hastily scrawled on signs, and artfully placed silent mouthings of words, few enough that you can read their lips without any issues.  All Whedon managed to prove is that he can even write clever dialogue without using a single spoken word.

And on top of the creepy and the funny, there are still plenty of great character moments, including an unexpectedly sweet gesture between two characters just starting a romantic relationship, and the first appearance of a character who I happen to know will become a crucial part of the show in later seasons.  I’d missed this episdoe the first time around, and, now that I’ve had the opportunity to see it, my faith in the genius of Whedon is only reinforced.

So, if you’ve never thought to give Buffy a try, but perhaps you appreciate some of the other Whedon properties, such as Firefly or The Avengers, let me encourage you to fire up your Netflix and take it out for a spin.  For a show about high school kids fighting vampires and demons, it’s surprisingly enjoyable for adults and kids alike.



__________

1 Barring premature cancellation.  Television network executives being as moronic as they are, I often have to wait a season or so to make sure they’re not going to cancel the show out from under me before I get too invested.

2 Except for the premature cancellations (see previous footnote).  Specifically, Oh, Grow Up, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, and Dollhouse, respectively.  I don’t count Firefly because of Serenity (natch).

3 Not to mention I never understood where Cordelia went.  Now I get it.

4 Well, above and beyond what I’m already paying Netflix every month.  Which is a bargain, really.

5 Specifically what he said, according to Wikipedia, was: “I had written this scary film about an empowered woman, and they turned it into a broad comedy.  It was crushing.”

6 This is another characteristic he shares with Sorkin and Ball, actually.

7 Although sometimes he does.  The character who leaves in season 4 (no spoilers!) was a real blow, but I thought the exit was handled gracefully.  Less so the first actor to depart Angel, but, as I say: sometimes things are just out of your control.

8 And Angel.  From now on, let’s just pretend they’re a single entity, and every time I say “Buffy,” you translate that as “Buffy and Angel.”

9 See?  Balance and paradox.  No wonder I love this show.

10 Although, to be fair, Buffy was only really a cheerleader in the movie version.  By the time she hit the series, she realized her life was never going to allow her to do something as normal as cheerleading.

11 Obviously I don’t know that for sure, but as an aspirational fellow writer, I’d put money on that assessment.









Sunday, February 8, 2015

Too much/not enough


I don’t think I’m going to do a proper post again this week.  Oddly, my problem today is not having nothing to say, but rather having too much.  I’ve had several ideas for posts this week, but couldn’t settle on any one of them, with the result that I’ve got 3 or 4 half-finished* ideas and no hope of actually completing any of them.  I’ve been worrying at a technical post for my Other Blog for a couple of weeks now.  I’m also due for a follow up on my first full-length Heroscapers post.  I’m deep into my rewatch of the original Whedon brilliance, Buffy the Vampire Slayer intertwined with Angel, and it’s inspired at least two post ideas in my brain.  Plus I now have twice as much experience with the Iron Druid books as I did when I last wrote about them, so I feel an update there is warranted.  I’ve been pondering a much longer series-version of my salad post.  And several other less developed neotonous thoughtlets.

Of course, one of my richest source of blog posts is questions people ask me.**  Someone will ask me a question, then I give them the answer that springs to mind, and then I get to thinking about it, and pondering, and mulling it over, and worrying at it with my little mental teeth, and suddenly blammo! I’ve got a new blog post.  This weekend’s question was from my eldest, who I introduced to roleplaying games like Pathfinder and Darwin’s World at a fairly young age.  Now he’s a teenager and handling the GM duties for his own circle of friends.  Although in many ways he’s a typical teen, which means he spends all day in his room in front of his computer avoiding talking to icky parents and annoying little siblings, every once in a while he comes out for air and actually engages with me on some topic or other.  Yesterday, he asked me: which D&D/Pathfinder race did you think was the most exciting when you read it?  Quickly followed by, which class?  These are some weighty questions, and they could easily balloon into a whole series of posts, but I think I’d like to give them time to germinate a bit before I just leap into them.  Also, I want to finally get off my ass and put some of my homebrew classes up on the web somewhere so that I can reference them in these posts.

Anyways, that’s a long rambling way of saying that I’m fiddling around and not actually going to give you a full post this week.  Hopefully you’ll recover from the crushing disappointment.


* This is me being generous to myself.  They’re all less than half finished.  None of them are really a quarter finished, most likely.

** Most recently seen in my post on craftmanship.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

All Mixed Up


I’ve been working on my mixes today.

By “mixes,” I mean music.  Sort of like making mix tapes, back in the day, except these days we don’t actually use tape any more.  Everything’s digital: digital playlists of digital music, bought digitally, or digitized from CD.  More and more the music we listen to was even created digitally, especially if you’re into electronic, or chill, or ambient, or new age, or any of several dozen other genres and subgenres.  So it’s all manipulating files on disc, which, as a programmer, I’m not that bad at.

Of course, most digital music these days is inside programs like iTunes, or up in the cloud in services like Pandora or Rhapsody.  So few people have actual .mp3’s (or other file formats, if you’re more of an audio snob than I am).  I would love it if I didn’t have to keep lugging around my digital files, which my handy dandy space checker script tells me now total 81 gigabytes.  But there’s still too many things I have that the cloud doesn’t know about (or care about, in the case of some of my older and/or local band music).  So it’s a challenge keeping everything backed up and whatnot.  Of course, these days, you can get 128Gb thumb drives.  So it’s not as painful as it used to be.

I started making mixes back when they really were mix tapes, of course.  The art of the mix tape is somewhat lost these days, I fear.  It’s mostly replaced by music discovery services like Pandora, which has algorithms for choosing music you want to listen to (even when it’s music you never heard before).  And Pandora is great, don’t get me wrong: I’ve discovered some fantastic music by listening to Pandora.  It’s just that I then want to buy my own copies of that music and mix it up in my own ways.  That’s what “music discovery” should be: I discover some music, explore it further (e.g., was it just one great track, or is there a whole great album lurking underneath? or maybe an entire great new artist?), then I buy it, if the exploration proves fruitful.  Using music disovery as a personal playlist doesn’t really appeal to me, although I know it works well for some.  I’m a little more comfortable with curated Internet radio stations, like Radio Paradise, but I still like to take away what I learn there and mesh with other stuff I already have.

Mix tapes have played important roles in literature and movies, like Hi Fidelity or Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist, although in most of those (as in those specific examples), it’s all about making a mix tape for someone.  Which is fine.  For me, though, I make mixes for myself.  Or occasionally for parties, or other special occasions.  For instance, I made a mix for our recent week-long vacation in Las Vegas.  ‘Cause, I mean, we’re driving to Las Vegas for my eldest’s birthday, and I’ve just discovered the Weepies and their excellent song “Vegas Baby”, and how can you pass up an opportunity like that?  It’s practically begging for a mix.

But those are the minority.  Most mixes I do, as I say, are just for me.  I build mixes around a theme.  Generally, the themes are lyrical (all the songs have similar subject matter) or musical (all the songs have a common instrumentation or musical structure) or emotional (all the songs invoke a certain mood).  So then, when I feel like listening to a certain type of music, I just break out the appropriate mix.

How it usually works is, I’m listening to an album, and a certain song jumps out at me.  I think, hey ... that song reminds me of this other song, which is also like these three or four others.  That first song, that provides the inspiration, is what I call the “mix starter.”  It’s generally emblematic of the whole mix, for obvious reasons.  When I’m just starting out, I don’t even make a playlist yet: I just jot down the starting tracks in a text file.  As I stumble across other songs that might fit, I add them too, until the list is long enough to start working on in earnest.

Now, back in the days of actual mix tapes, mixes were about an hour long, and that was it.  Nowadays of course a mix is a playlist, and playlists can be infinitely long.  I have some mixes that are six or seven hours long, and still growing.  As I’m continually discovering new music (both new and old), I’m continually find more tracks that fit the existing themes, in addition to finding new themes.  So a mix can fairly quickly grow unwieldy—way too long to listen to the whole thing in a sitting.  So I divvy each mix up into “volumes”: about 60 to 80 minutes of music, which is, not coincidentally, exactly what can fit on a recordable CD.  I do sometimes burn volumes of mixes onto actual CDs, but usually not until the list has settled down a bit.

See, at the beginning of the life of a mix (or a new volume in an existing mix), I just throw songs at the list, constantly rearranging them according to rules (more like guidelines, really) that mostly only make sense to me.  Songs that sound alike go together, but not if they sound too much alike.  If I have multiple songs from the same artist (quite common, since some artists really embody certain themes in all their work), they have to be spaced out so that the mix doesn’t devolve into a greatest hits compilation.  It’s all about variety.  Likewise, not too many slow or fast songs in a row; in fact, I generally like to amp up gradually to a fast song, then back through a few mid-tempo tracks until I get to a slow song, then start over.  And one track needs to “flow” into the next.  Sometimes you get really lucky with this, like being able to butt “No One Knows” up against “Underneath It All”: if you use the album versions and you can manage gapless playback, you won’t be able to tell where the Queens of the Stone Age end and No Doubt begins.  Mostly you don’t get that lucky, but in this area I’m deeply influenced by Hearts of Space.  The first time I heard that show on NPR, I was blown away by how seamless the transitions were, and it’s been the goal I’ll striven for ever since.

Thus, I constantly fiddle with the ordering.  I keep little notes to myself in my text file about which tracks go together so perfectly they can’t be separated, which transitions are not bad but are still open to finding a better one, and which are mostly just wishful thinking.  As a result, none of my mixes are ever really “finished.”  But some I’m so happy with that it seems unlikely that I’ll change them.  For instance, 3 years ago, I presented volume I of my Christmas mix, entitled Yuletidal Pools.  That one’s pretty unlikely to see any changes.

Which brings me to the topic of mix naming.  All my mixes have pretty abstract names.  In fact, “Yuletidal Pools” is one of the more comprehensible ones.  The names are mostly two word titles, often with transposed syllables or other linguistic tricks, and they’re meant to evoke a vague feeling which might give you some hint about the theme of the mix.  So for instance, my mix which has songs which are not necessarily sad but a bit wistful-sounding is named “Wisty Mysteria,” which manages to wrap up “wistful,” “mysterious,” “misty,” and “wisteria,” with its associations with gothic architecture.  Or there’s my mix of songs whose lyrics are all a bit abstract and weird: that one’s called “Bleeding Salvador,” which is meant to make you think of Salvador Dalí, and perhaps picture some of his melting clocks dripping blood, for added effect.  Pretty much all my mixes have names like that.

On the other hand, the volumes within the mixes have names which are generally drawn from a line in one of the songs on that volume.  Typically not a line from a chorus—not a line that’s repeated over and over.  Just a single line, something that struck me while listening to the volume: a pretty turn of phrase that also seems to relate to the theme of the mix somehow.  For example, volume I of Rose-Coloured Brainpan (my mix that puts me in a nostalgic mood) is subtitled “Billion Year-Old Carbon,” which is of course a line from “Woodstock” that I always felt had a nice ring to it.  Sometimes I deviate from this general principle; the subtitle of Yuletidal Pools I is “featuring Michael Bublé,” which obviously isn’t a line from a song, but refers to “Elf’s Lament.”

So these are the things that I fiddle with when I fiddle with my music.  I like playing around with my mixes, and a lot of the time when I’m listening to music, I’m planning which mix to add the current track to, and what position to put it in.  Perhaps I’ll share a few more of my mixes here, from time to time.  I like talking about music.  And you, dear reader, apparently have nothing better to do.