By Wil Forbis
Jan 1, 2010
Years ago I attended classes at the Musicians Institute of Technology in Hollywood, California. One of the classes I took was on the subject of composition and was taught by an eccentric but infinitely knowledgeable fellow named Carl Schroeder. At one point during his tutoring, Schroeder let slip that he had written the score for an adult movie. My ears perked up --- here was a teacher discussing my two greatest loves: music and porn! And I had intellectual reasons for my interest as well; I was genuinely curious how exactly one scored a porn film. Were you limited to only using bad 70s funk? "Oh, they just wanted some big crescendos while the guy was coming," Schroeder explained, waving his hands in the air to represent either a symphonic conductor cueing his musicians or ropey beads of ejaculate flying off screen.
The point Schroeder was hinting at --- that the peaks and valleys heard in music are analogous to the sex act --- was hardly original, but it was original to my ears. And it's a thought that resurfaced in my brain recently while I was thinking about the topic of what makes us like some music compositions, and dislike others.
Let me give some background. Recently I've become fascinated with the first movement of Beethoven's famous fifth Symphony, and have been spending my rum soaked evenings playing it over and over, attempting to dissect what makes it work, what makes it operate as such a cohesive whole. Unlike so many classical compositions that I find weighted down with ornamental fluff, there's very little in this piece that seems extraneous. It ends not a measure to soon, nor a measure too late. That Beethoven could architect such a masterwork, that he could work on granular detail (say, constructing the exact melody for bar 214) while keeping an eye on the greater whole is something I find mind-boggling impressive.
So what is the glue that holds the piece together? I would argue that in his Fifth Symphony, Beethoven offers a perfect balance of the familiar and the unfamiliar. He starts out with the classic melody everyone knows: Duh nuh nuh Nuh! He then repeats it a few times to drill it into your skull. Then he takes the basic rhythmic core of the melody and builds new musical material off it. The new material is clearly descended from the original motif but it's undeniably new, and that unfamiliarity --- that sense of "where's he going to take this?" --- is what makes it enticing*.
* Music propeller heads have doubtless noticed that I'm describing the technique of "theme and variation" which is the spine of much of classical music.
How does this relate to sex? Keep your pants on (presuming they were on to begin with.) We're getting there.
About 20 years ago I got into a big blues phase. Having been raised in a household that primarily listened to classical music, and then having spent most of my teens listening to pop and heavy metal, the blues was a genre that was largely unfamiliar to me. I spent a decent chunk of one summer driving around the Northwest listening to a compilation tape that included songs like Lowell Fulson's "Reconsider Baby" and Sonny Boy Williamson's "Don't Start Me Talkin." As the years went by, I expanded my listening repertoire, and even played guitar in several blues bands. But fast forward to now and you'll notice one thing about me (aside from my stunning good looks): I almost never listen to the blues.
It's not that I don't like the blues anymore, it's simply that I listened to so much blues--- I so thoroughly digested its form and content and clichés --- that it became too familiar. There were no surprises left. And I suppose if I heard "Reconsider Baby" today, having somehow magically missed it during my formative blues years, I would not be particularly impressed. Because while the song would be new, the bits and pieces it's made up of --- the chords, the riffs, the rhythms --- would be pieces I've been exposed to in numerous other songs.
And this is where I think music is analogous to sex. To be interesting it must be both familiar and unfamiliar.
Let me paint a scenario for you: it's late one Saturday night and you find yourself wondering into a local bar, say Los Angeles' The Cinema Bar, which is a known congregation point for people with low sexual mores. You meet someone, and end up having hot monkey sex for several weeks. Then a little more time passes and you find yourself hoping the phone doesn't ring for that late-night booty call. The appetite that was so initially whetted, seems timid. And you realize you've gotten bored of sex with this particular person. (Perhaps they feel the same way.) At which point, you have two choices*.
1) Break up.
2) Try to revitalize interest in bedroom activities with a variety of instruments and practices: nipple clamps, anal beads, electro-stims, dildos, French ticklers, water sports, choking, fisting, role-play, public sex, orgies, felching, snarking, beaking, etc.
* Actually, there is a third option. You can attempt to broaden the scope of your relationship from the simply physical to include an emotional, intellectual and perhaps even spiritual component that can complement and even augment the sexual to such a degree that you feel a profound connection with your partner you arrive at new heights of personal bliss and finally obtain a sense of contentment and completeness. Never tried this myself.
It's important to understand that I didn't add the topic of sex as an appendage to this article merely to generate a catchy title. I wanted to make the point that we grow tired of routine music in the same manner we grow tired of routine sex. It's not an intellectual decision we make, it's something that occurs in our subconscious. Often, especially in the case of boring sex, we'd rather it not be so for the sake of the relationship. But it's something beyond our power.
Think of it this way: none of us listen to "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" anymore. Why? Well, partly because it's an insanely stupid song, but also because it's too familiar, too mundane, too boring. Even if you're not a musician, I think you can understand that the harmonies behind the song have been repeated in an infinite amount of songs, and the melodic content is childishly simple to ears that have been exposed to the amount and variety of music as most of ours have. When you were a kid, when everything was fresh and new," Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" was interesting, as were several other classics about teddy bears, puppy dogs and spiders going up water spouts. But sooner or later, we all have to grow up.
Wil Forbis is a
well known international playboy who lives a fast paced life attending
chic parties, performing feats of derring-do and making love to the
world's most beautiful women. Together with his partner, Scrotum-Boy,
he is making the world safe for democracy. Email - firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit Wil's web log, The Wil Forbis Blog, and receive complete enlightenment.
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