Theme Songs: Beginnings and Endings

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Every music record played is a journey. You begin on the first track, your essential introduction as to where you might be heading and how you might get to your destination. The songs that you pass by on your way there are significant, as they represent the journey itself and all of the wonders–be them expected or unknown–that come with any adventure. However, it is the final track that epitomizes why you went on this musical journey in the first place. It is no more valuable than the first or the second or the third (and so on), but it seals the sounds of the record–from the very first to the very last–into memory, emotion, and thought. On the outside, this theme may come off as a simple concept, but it has a much deeper meaning once you recognize the value of beginnings and endings. First and final tracks keep the record together like a bookend supports books, while lighting the adventurous spark that illuminates the experience to come and the experience that has passed, respectively.


The first three songs are all first tracks off of albums that we believe to be significant. These songs will begin to move you in many ways, ignite a golden age that is flourishing with adventure, and send you sailing over the endless wave forms of music that these respective “Track 1s” represent.

Owen’s Showin

Mike’s Like

Erik’s Pick


The next three songs are all final tracks off of albums that we believe to be significant. These songs will leave you grinning and lighten your heart as the journey comes to an end, but remember: they may be the last tracks, but they certainly aren’t the least.

Owen’s Showin

Mike’s Like

Erik’s Pick

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Theme Songs: An Introduction

Every Monday morning, I head over to the CKCU-FM 93.1 studio at Carleton University to broadcast the weekly episode of Theme Songs. My co-hosts–Michael and Owen–and I have been broadcasting this show for several weeks now, and continue to excitingly do so. The title of our show, Theme Songs, is based off of the weekly concepts and subjects that we use to categorize the music we play. Ranging far and between countless artists, genres, and decades, we have been using the show to not only play a myriad of wonderful music, but also to connect listeners with the music through the aforementioned concepts and subjects that we establish. The categories that we use as foundations can be anything from local events to national holidays to personal reflections, all of which we illustrate further with our weekly musical choices. To maintain balance and diversity, our choices are divided equally between the three of us in the form of Mike’s Likes, Owen’s Showins, and Erik’s Picks. This allows for us each to contribute music that we feel passionate about, which helps to colourize the weekly theme that much more.

"And this week's theme is..."

Starting today, I will be writing brief posts about each episode that Theme Songs broadcasts. This will include sharing three songs played that best illustrate the episode, a personal description of what the episode meant, and direct links to the on-demand segments of the episode being discussed. I consider this a slight extension of Theme Songs, but one that will only serve for me to express my opinions and thoughts about our radio adventures. In the intricate words of Malcolm Turnbull, “you can’t see it, but equally importantly it can’t see you,” and I intend to let others have a glimpse into Theme Songs through my posts while I myself look deeper into the experiences of being on the radio.

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Seeing the Forest for the Tweets

If a tweet is posted on Twitter and no one is online to retweet it, does it make a difference?

I am sure that this phrase may sound similar to many of you, but its original context can be applied to modern conventions. This is a question that I ask myself each and every time (or at least in a similar fashion) that I share my thoughts and opinions in 140 characters (or less) on the social media hub, Twitter. Although that is where I frequently make updates and stay updated, the same philosophical inquiry can be raised with Facebook statuses, reddit submissions, or even WordPress posts. Each of these digital publications are dispatched into their respective media streams, flowing into networks amongst thousands of other statuses, submissions, and posts that comprise the ever-growing social media plantation. It is truly a bountiful notion, but one that endlessly echoes the aforementioned question.

A land covered in trees and vegetation–no matter how alluring and contrastive it might be–is still considered a forest. And regardless of how vast that forest may be, if a tree happens to fall down and there is no one around to hear it, the sound would only be relative to the tree itself. Even then, the tree as a perennial plant is simply there.

This is where I face my predicament, as I see my tweets (including all of my other extensions into social media) in the same vein: they are simply there.

Thousands upon thousands of people from across the world share their moments with the rest of us via Twitter, Facebook, reddit, WordPress… and the list goes on. The social media plantation never stops growing, as there is always somebody somewhere tweeting about their first break-up, or using Instagram to share their dog’s new trick, or uploading videos of their excessive pride in the form of excessive drinking. Like an aging tree, these different forms of digital activity ripen within their respective networks. Eventually they rot away into the social soils, only to leave behind seeds that grow into an overwhelming amount of tweets, statuses, and other mediatized saplings. These not only illustrate the excessive growth of the social media plantation, but also shape the online environment into something more sundry yet orthodox. This is bittersweet, as the social media landscape continues to become more and more like a forest that is so rich in creation but loses much of its vast distinctions as the forest grows and generalizations begin to trump idiosyncrasies. We stand looking inward to avoid becoming lost in the endless roots of social media, but we end up seeing the tweets collectively and miss the uniqueness that each one resonates. This is essentially what social media is, and here I sit thinking: how am I different? Are people hearing the sounds of my tweets and other contributions to the social media plantation?

Coincidentally, this WordPress post will also act as my 3000th tweet. Will people see it? Maybe, but I have learned that I do what I do on social media not to make a difference, but to create a difference in others by first creating a difference in myself.

I share what I do in hopes that I might spread bits of growth and nourishment with friends, followers, and digital strangers. However, that is not my ultimate objective, as I amplify my social media persona as an extension of myself to better see the forest for the tweets, be those tweets mine or not. Trees will always fall just as tweets will always be tweeted. As I continue to extend myself into social media, I understand that the quantity of listeners is only second to the quality of the message being shared. The echoes of my digital substance may not always be heard, but I assure you there is always a sound. Even if no one is online to retweet them, I am hearing myself through my tweets, posts, and statuses loud and clear to better hear the rest of the forest around me.

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Feelin’ the Bluesfest: Part I

In my absence from writing posts and uploading photographs, I have been spending a majority of my time attending the the 2014 Ottawa Bluesfest that began on July 3rd. Not only is this the first music festival that I have attended, but it is also a culmination of all of the things that I am most passionate about. The live music, the sheer amounts of people, the cityscape on the horizon, the delicious (yet horrifyingly overpriced) beer, and the uplifting atmosphere of constant energy all have made for an experience that won’t be soon forgotten. In short, Bluesfest–for me–was all about music, mayhem, and memories. On top of that, each day not only varied in performances, but also in who I experienced those performances with. Who was on stage and who I stood with in the crowd went together hand-in-hand as they shaped the Bluesfest atmosphere and coloured each day disparately.

With that being said, I have decided to reflect upon the first half of my musical journey and the various artists that have filled my mind, heart, and soul with the sounds of their unforgettable performances.

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It all started on July 3rd as I entered the Lebreton Flats, eager to witness my first Bluesfest performance. The first artist lined up was Tegan and Sara, the Canadian indie pop sisters who I was lucky enough to be seeing for a second time. Although their show was minimalistic, they proved that adorability along with catchy melodies could uplift a crowd that varied more than a bag of mixed nuts. I knew that Bluesfest was going to be an experience not just for myself, but for all other music fanatics who were anticipating their favourite artist or sought something fresh, unorthodox, and unknown. It was incredible to see such a variety of different people, and you could truly feel their energy merge together when Tegan and Sara played through their recent releases. I myself was more eager to hear their classics, but it was refreshing to hear such a unique variety in their sound that coincided with the diversity of the crowd.

Although my first evening at Bluesfest ended shortly after Tegan and Sara finished their set, I was able to catch moments from the other performers. What was so incredible about this was that I was able to walk between artists such as Blake Shelton (country rock), Gary Clark Jr. (blues rock), and Adventure Club (electronic dance) in mere seconds. I love musical variety, and I shuffled between these unique artists like I do my own iTunes library, going from one end of the genre spectrum to the other and back almost instantaneously.

Going into the next day, I was preparing to see another band that I had already seen once before: Journey. Luckily for me, the rest of the week would be filled with uncharted territory, although it was pleasant to have a chance to see the classic rockers once more. It was also the first act I was preparing to see with my friend and fellow music lover Alex, who was kind enough to reflect on the music we experienced throughout the weekend, saying that she “felt like [she] experienced a years worth of music.” With the energetic Arnel Pineda at the helm, Journey put on the rock show that everyone expected, playing a fair mix of anthems, deep cuts, and recent singles. It was rocking, and as they left the stage after having played their encore, the crowd became drastically adjusted. As the older concertgoers pushed their way out, the reckless youth shoved their way as close to the front as they could in anticipation of Zedd, a renowned disc jockey with an abundance of recent hits. It was a hilarious sight to see as the shift in musical preference was changing not just on the stage, but in the conflicting movements of the crowd.

IMG_0968I ended up sticking around for Zedd, as I had never truly seen any electronic dance music performed live. And wow, what a choice I made! It was during his performance that space bubbles became obsolete and nothing else mattered but the raving visuals and sounds. Thankfully, I have no problem with getting close to people, and I had a blast jumping in one place simultaneously with those who were sweatily clinging next to me (I promise that I am only being slightly sarcastic). I also believe that Journey were Bluesfest prophets, as their encore song to lead into Zedd was rightfully Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’. There was an unnecessarily uncontrollable amount of me being loved, touched, and squeezed… and it was awesome.

Although I was dazed from the Zedd craze, I went into the next day with the utmost excitement. Why, you ask? Because it was one of my most anticipated days of the festival because Lady Gaga was coming to the capital. Once upon a time, I had something of an obsession with the unconventional pop star, although that slowly faded as my musical horizons continued to expand. I won’t go deep into my fixation, but I will admit that her style, her lyrics, and her artistry have inspired me and still do. She is a one-of-a-kind entertainer who translates polarity and hardship into rhythmic dance music that just about everyone can connect with, and it was more than a pleasure to have been able to finally see her live. It was incredible–her energetic dance routines and audience interaction proved that she doesn’t do what she does for the hell of it. Furthermore, she was delightfully personable in-between songs and showed Canada her endless love with a passionate rendition of Born This Way. I won’t lie, I got a little teary-eyed during this moment; I felt connected to each other person in the crowd through her expressiveness, and it was beautiful. At one point during her show, Lady Gaga described it perfectly herself and for my friend Alex: “And in this moment, we are not individuals. We are the music, we are one Canada.”

Although Lady Gaga was everything I expected her to be and more, she was the only act I saw that day. This was unfortunate for me, as I missed out on seeing one of my favourite up-and-coming local Ottawa artists: BlakDenim. I had the chance of randomly catching them at GlowFest several weeks prior, and I was very lucky to have done so. They play with a seamless integration of jazz, funk, hip-hop, and R&B that got my feet moving the second they started their wonderful set. With their catchy brass and smooth rhymes, BlakDenim is bound to be one of the bigger names you’ll hear out of Ottawa in the coming months, so give them a listen to make up for me having missed them!

The first phase of my Bluesfest experience was coming to an end, as the Sunday marked the day prior to the full-day festival break. No live music for a whole day… it still depresses me to remember it. Looking back, I recall how uncertain I was about the line-up that evening. There was an abundance of relatively unknown artists (at least to myself), which was not unfortunate in any way. However, as with anything that remains unknown, you must go in with a grain of salt and be prepared for anything. And when I say anything, I mean ANYTHING. The evidence rests in the first act that I saw, Shantel and Bucovina Club Orkestar, who came all the way to Ottawa Bluesfest from the middle of Europe to provide us with an intricate taste of Balkan music. I had never seen anything like them before, and I was pleasantly surprised as I found myself jumping around to their fast-paced, stylistic beats. It was very reminiscent of ska, but it was also so incredibly fresh and started the day off on an amazing note.

IMG_0992Following the fantastic performance of the Club Orkestar was Vintage Trouble, a traditional blues rock band from California. However, their act was far from traditional and I make the claim that after having experienced an assortment of artists throughout the festival, they were one of the best–perhaps even THE best–performance I saw. It was so obvious that the lead singer was energized to have a rocking time, and it uplifted the crowd to his level. Towards the end of the set, he leapt off of the stage and ran through the captivated crowd toward the other side. Spontaneously, he climbed the stand where the cameraman was positioned and continued to vigorously rock out, claiming it–and the remainder of the crowd–like a kingdom of his own. When Vintage Trouble walked off stage, I felt that I had not only seen a performance, but that I was also a part of a damn amazing one. Their studio recordings do not do them enough justice, and I highly recommend their feisty, raw live performance to any and all music lovers.

Two were down, two more were to go. It was at this point in the evening that choices had to be made, and I was faced with a decision where I would give away an experience to gain another. These were the difficulties that stemmed from the festival dilemma that became more significant as the week progressed: who will I see next? Do I choose to see the Canadian advocate of strong beer and modern country licks, Tim Hicks, or take a step back in time with the acoustic punk of the Violent Femmes? Do I really need the country-pop trio Lady Antebellum now, or should I delve into the experimental indie-pop, guitar-driven sounds of St. Vincent? Yes, these are first-world festival problems, but ones that could be devastating if you put what you know ahead of what you think you might like, or vice versa. For all you know, the headlining band you were so eager to see just might not be as fun as the independent band down the ways on the smaller stage. Sadly, no one will ever know about any experience but the one they chose, but no one should regret at least being able to have experienced. As for me, I gave the Violent Femmes a shot, and they were far more exciting than just the band that recorded Blister In The Sun. It was simple rock and roll that relied on acoustics and snare hits, but it managed to keep the entire crowd engaged in their fast-paced efforts.

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My already amazing Sunday ended with St. Vincent. She is hard to describe with words, but as mentioned previously, St. Vincent utilizes her guitar as both an instrument and a weapon in blowing up our minds with fantastical riffs that shoot toward us like laser beams. She echoed Lady Gaga in many ways, especially in her odd stage crawling scene, but she truly gave an original–and very memorable–performance that makes her stand out from the modern pop queen. Her presence was also very timid and she spoke very little, letting her music speak for her and the other band members instead. The act truly was “out there,” but it is something that had to have been seen, heard, and felt in order to fully grasp St. Vincent’s otherworldliness.

As the first four days came to an end, there was nothing more that I could have asked for. Although there was a significant lack of true blues at Bluesfest, it was phenomenal to see so many different acts from varying decades who perform under many genres come together to give music to the people of Ottawa. In my opinion, Bluesfest is evidence that music is becoming distinctively shaped, branching away from the foundations of musical standards to connect different kinds together and explore sounds that were once unknown and unheard of. It is something like an experiment, where many individual elements are taken and combined together to create a final product that is exciting, gratifying, and leaving you wanting more. My friend Alex said it best: “the variety of the acts was eye opening. From ska-jazz, to classic rock, to indie rock, and even to debatably the most popular pop star of our time, Bluesfest really had something for everyone. The music was a great experience, and I really enjoyed seeing all the acts, but what really spoke to me was how the music could bring people together.” And how incredible of an experience it was to not only see and hear these artists, but to be a part of their performances that brought together people of all kinds in a place where we found solace in the sound.

 

 

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What You See Is What You Get (But Not Quite)

Open your eyes–what do you see?

Many people will acknowledge their literal surroundings, including the physical objects that appear within their sight. And of course, any walls or other obstructions will prevent a person from seeing what lies beyond and thus limits the depth of what their eyes can truly see. However, what we truly see equates for only a small portion of what perspective is.

Think of it like watching a film or television show. The screen plays out specific events frame-by-frame that we visually ingest, which we almost subconsciously become fascinated by. It is through our fascination with the colours, editing, actors, and other visible factors that allow us to distinguish what is truly beyond the screen. In other words, we grasp a glimpse of what is off-screen and perceive worlds and meanings from what we feel that supplement what we already know. In this sense, the screen acts like a wall that restricts our visual sight but stimulates a more complete perspective.

(This is one of the countless reasons that I appreciate the art of film, and similarly, the art of photography. An assortment of frames (in film) or a single frame (in photography) can only display so much as the screen permits, but that is only half of the actual perspective. Take this image below for instance:

across the bay

This is a simple capture of Hog’s Back, Ottawa from the other side of the calming Mooney’s Bay. In its simplicity, it is a photograph that captures the unique comparison of an environment that is as urban as it is rustic. An additional sense of understanding may come to those who know the area, or even live in one of the many complexes that are scattered around. The above photograph can represent any number of things (as any picture can), but I believe that it fully illustrates the concept of perspective.

I have lived in the photographed area since September of last year, and only recently did I see it from this perspective. Last week, after I repaired my bicycle, I decided to go for a midnight ride around Mooney’s Bay, a route that I had not travelled previously. Knowing that I was soon moving away from the place that I currently call home, it was refreshing to see everything in wholeness from afar rather than in segments from within. Like the aforementioned comparison to film, there is only so much that you can see within specific frames. Similarly, the movement of your mind to create and amplify worlds and meanings in these visual mediums correlates directly to the movement of yourself. What you see and how you decide to see it are two different ideas of perspective, with the latter giving you the ability to surpass your obstructions and create for yourself significations. Once you move beyond the frames–beyond what is–you can get a glimpse at a new perspective, a new meaning, and a new world.

What you see is not quite what you get, as you can get whatever meaning or world you desire as long as you choose to see it.

My eyes are open–are yours?

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