Music to Write By: Looping Sounds

I do my most satisfying writing when listening to looping sounds. Around and around, on repeat and again.

My love for repetitive music started when I was a kid. My favorite song from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Chris Superstar wasn’t I Don’t Know How to Love Him or Superstar but Trial Before Pilate (including the 39 Lashes).

39 Lashes features counting, whip Foley and a guitar riff that goes around and around. That’s basically it. I felt weird about liking it so much. Did I enjoy hearing a man being whipped? No, it was the sound. It went around and around. I liked that.

I discovered more looping magic over the years in the music of John Coltrane, Ravi Shankar, The Penguin Cafe Orchestra, Fripp and Eno, Eno and Byrne, Godspeed You Black Emperor, NIN, Stereolab and My Bloody Valentine.

My Bloody Valentine, Hammerstein Ballroom, 2009

Bandcamp now feeds my addiction, offering an endless ebb and flow of the sounds, such as Off the Sky, Alex Bober, Drape, Keith Berry, Green Kingdom. The list goes on.

There are times I find these sounds in the city, a distant jack hammer, air conditioner units, honks, whirring and yelling, but it never holds and dissipates into a mess.

There just has to be a sound – preferably electronic – that goes around. I will listen to that on repeat, the song of the repeated sound again and again. There is something pure in that. Something divine. Something definitely to write by. The problem can be coming up for air.

Cassette Tapes: A Window to the Past

I was in an electronics store yesterday looking for new pair of headphones and stumbled across an interesting device: a cassette-to-MP3 converter. Cassette Tapes: A Window to the PastI was dubious, but it was only $30. And there was only one left. I took it home and dug out my stack of long-forgotten cassette tapes – 25 in all – and began the transfers. These took real time; a 90-minute cassette takes 90 minutes to download, almost like the old days of making tapes, timing the starting buttons and checking levels. Some of the cassettes have that bad warbling sound but many of the songs are pure nostalgia: Mr. Love (Vehicle), mr loveZoolook (Jean Michel Jarre), Cassette Tapes: A Window to the PastAlibis (Moev), Cassette Tapes: A Window to the PastUncertain Smile (The The) Cassette Tapes: A Window to the Pastand Now Nothing (Penguin Café Orchestra). Cassette Tapes: A Window to the PastAh, yes, cassettes…I wonder how long this will hold my attention. (The 45s would be next if I’d hung on to any of them.)