Sunday, November 30, 2008

"Head Down. Power Through."

It is officially tenth week here at LU, which roughly translates to a period of utter misery in which over-caffeinated, sleep-deprived, highly-stressed students stumble around like cast members from Night of the Living Dead. Eating, sleeping and brushing one's hair are put on hold, and conversations disintegrate into incoherent grunts on the way to the fourth floor of the library.

I know that it is hard to keep your shit together amidst the flurry of papers, projects, recitals and studying, but don't worry, The Muse is in your corner.

Over the next week, I will post things that will hopefully offer a little bit of stress relief or at least an awkward library laugh for those of you who are in need. Good luck! Only two more weeks!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Numa Numa Eh, Eh, Eh

Get this: TI and Rihanna did a remix of "The Numa Numa Song."

I heard it as I was returning to school. Riding along, staring out the window and daydreaming, I suddenly became aware that a new song was playing on the radio. I listened, perplexed for a moment. That's definitely "The Numa Numa Song"...that's definitely head started spinning with this new information.

When I got back on campus, I Youtubed it and indeed, Rihanna and some guy named TI have released a remix of "The Numa Numa Song." And just when you thought things couldn't get any more strange.

Here's the music video. Please ignore the weird advertisments. Pretty sure somebody video taped this off their TV:

Of course, nothing will ever quite compare to the "original" music video:

Sometimes, life is just deliciously ridiculous.

Friday, November 28, 2008


Today, I heard "Bring a Torch, Jeanette Isabella" playing in a store and was instantly transported. It is my favorite Madrigal and perhaps one of the only ones that can get me as emotional as "Silent Night" (if you went to my high school and were in any way, shape or form acquainted with the vocal department, you will know that any mention of "Silent Night" will elicit hysterical tears from even the most stoic of Madrigal Singers).

It was really weird. I have been away from all that for so long that it took me a while to figure out the name of the song, and yet, I can remember the way it felt to sing it distinctly.

When I think about it, it really shouldn't surprise me. To my high school self, being a Madrigal Singer was one of the most important things in my life. It was a childhood dream fulfilled; a validation that I deserved to be where I was, that I was a part of something real and valuable. "Bring a Torch, Jeanette Isabella" was the song that I, for some reason, associated with being a Madrigal Singer and thus, singing it for the first time was when I realized that I truly was one.

Author's Note: At this point, I had written an explanation of the whole Madrigals phenomenon, but then realized that it was long and dull. Here's a shortened version: 16th century-style dinner, pretty costumes, pretty music, not so pretty-tasting (though trying to be historically accurate) food, group of 16 singers at the Head Table, top vocal ensemble, bonding, tears, unforgettableness. If you want to know more, just ask.

Being a Madrigal Singer is magic. There really is no way to describe it other than that 'Madrigal Season Feeling' we'd all get once December rolled around. My high school self never felt more important than when I was walking around in a Renaissance dress with a hoop skirt and two crinolines, escorted by a man in tights, singing as if every song was a treasure that had been given to me (because it was)and feeling a unity between me and my fellow singers as if we were made of one breath, one heart.

It is amazing how music can transform us. It was able to transform a tacky cafetorium into a castle, an awkward teen into a lady and 16 singers into something truly special.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


I was listening to earlier, when "Brandy Alexander" came on. Thinking that it was written by Leslie Feist, I was confused that it was being sung by Ron Sexsmith. That was a cover? I thought, feeling slightly like I had been had. I later found out the Feist and Sexsmith co-wrote it and recorded separate versions, but by that time, covers were already implanted firmly in my mind.

I've never been quite sure where I stand on the issue of covers. On the one hand, they are (in some cases) the byproducts of cocky, young pop artists "messing" with classic songs that really had nothing wrong with them in the first place. They can seem like more of an insult than a tribute. (For more on this, see this blog) On the other hand, it is really cool how covers reimagine and reinterpret their predescessors. Just as there can be many sides to an issue, there can be many subtexts to a song.

Covers definitely toe a thin line. Some are artistic masterpieces, others, sheer pain. Here are some selections for you:

a few covers I think are well done:

"Such Great Heights," Iron and Wine covering The Postal Service
I actually like this cover better than the original, which is very good in its own right. Sam Beam's (Iron and Wine is his stage name) version makes you want to lose yourself in the delicate guitar picking and breathy melody, and lends a sweetness that is lost in the fast tempo of the original.
Such Great Heights - Iron and Wine

"Across the Universe," Rufus Wainwright covering The Beatles
For the most part, I am not really a fan of Rufus Wainwright, but he hits this song just right.
Across The Universe - Rufus Wainwright

"American Woman," Lenny Kravitz covering The Guess Who
A funky interpretation of the classic.
American Woman - Lenny Kravitz

"Night and Day," Sondre Lerche covering Cole Porter
LOVE this
Night And Day - Sondre Lerche

and for fun, a few that I can't stand:

"(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," Britney Spears covering The Rolling Stones
Oh, Brit Brit. I hated you before, but after you did a lousy cover of the Stones? There are no words.
(I Cant Get No) Satisfaction - Britney Spears

"Take My Breath Away," Jessica Simpson covering Berlin
Jessica Simpson, why?! Although I agree on the use of the convertible in the music video in accordance with the title of the song. I can't breathe in those things, either. (Though somehow, I don't think that was what she was going after)
Take My Breath Away - Jessica Simpson

So where do you fall on the issue?

Monday, November 24, 2008


I. cannot. help. myself.

ice ice baby - Ben Kweller

P.S. - Anybody else remember him doing this at the LU concert?

"The Flower That Blooms in Adversity Is the Most Rare and Beautiful of All"

I came across an article today in The New York Times about an all-female rock band in Saudi Arabia. The members of the band, rebels in their own right, are fighting to do what they love within a culture weighed down by stringent restrictions.

I felt that this is something that should be acknowledged, because it really does take a special kind of courage to express who you are when others try to keep you down. The band faces unnumerable obstacles, even dangers, as they establish themselves as musicians. The members of the band represent a much-needed voice for all people who are oppressed in one way or another, and are remarkable women for fighting to share that voice.

Read the article here

The band's Myspace page

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Top Ten: Walking to Class

I have a confession to make...I'm organized. For those of you who met me in college, this is no big surprise. For those of you who knew me in high school, this is probably somewhat unbelievable.

It's true, though. Somewhere in between Prom and professors, I went from being the girl with 3-month-old lunches in the bottom of her backpack (I probably shouldn't have told you that) to the girl with the closet organized by clothing type and color (it makes finding something to wear go faster, shut up)

Somewhere amidst my transition into organizatioland, I discovered my love for making lists. I thought that it would be fun to apply this love in a series of top ten lists for the blog. Now, as a disclaimer, I am not trying to say that the songs that I include on the lists are the best songs, simply my current favorites in the given category.

Enough blathering, though. Without further ado, the top ten songs for walking to class:

"These Boots Are Made For Walkin'," Nancy Sinatra
This is the classic strutting song. The white go-go boots, the've gotta admit, Nancy's got it goin' on.
These Boots Are Made For Walking - Nancy Sinatra

"Walking To Do," Ted Leo and the Pharmacists
It has 'walking' in the name. Plus, it's just a fun, upbeat song.
Walking To Do - Ted Leo & The Pharmacists

"I am the Walrus," The Beatles
Perfect for those times when you want to weird out before class. Be careful, though. This can make for one trippy class if you get it stuck in your head.
I Am the Walrus - The Beatles

"Bang a Gong (Get It On)," T Rex
Just freaking fun.
Bang A Gong (Get It On) - T. Rex

"Crystalline Green," Allison Goldfrapp
This is a good strutting song, and...yet another one about drugs. I swear, I didn't plan that.
Crystalline Green - Goldfrapp

"Falling," Ben Kweller
Something about the simplicity of this song makes it just right for walking.
Falling - Ben Kweller

"Young Pilgrims," The Shins
Mellow and contemplative. The kind of song to listen to while walking through the leaves.
Young Pilgrims (Album) - The Shins

"Take Me Out," Franz Ferdinand
This song has such a good beat. I love the slowing of the tempo in the beginning.
Take Me Out - Franz Ferdinand

"Bennie and the Jets," Elton John
Classic. Although it took me forever to figure out what he was saying.
Bennie And The Jets - Elton John

"Alice Childress," Ben Folds
Sad and hopeful at the same time. Puts sitting through an hour and 50 minute class into perspective.
Alice Childress - Ben Folds Five

Friday, November 21, 2008

Upcoming Music Events on Campus

Saturday, November 22
10 p.m. - Sturdy Beggars
student band
Harper Hall

Sunday, November 23
9 p.m. - Soundboard: Alex Schaaf
pianist, singer/songwriter
Underground Coffeehouse

Monday, November 24
8 p.m. - Jazz Small Groups Concert
small groups from the jazz department
Harper Hall

Thursday, December 4
9 p.m. - The Chairs
student band
Underground Coffeehouse

As far as I know, none of the events have a cover charge.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

"The Union Forever"

A while back, my film professor made a comment that the White Stripes song "The Union Forever" alludes to Citizen Kane and uses some of the lines from the film as lyrics. I made a note to listen to it and of course, promptly forgot about it.

Fast forward to a few weeks later. I'm walking out of Main Hall, when all of the sudden, "The Union Forever" comes up on shuffle. I give it a listen and immediately start geeking out.

The creepy, driving melody of the song provides a sort of post-apocolyptic feel, like the kind of music one would hear as they stand alone amidst destruction and desolation. It has a breakdown in the middle that transforms the rather annoying and over the top chorus girls' song into a sort of poetry rock.

It was really interesting to hear such a different interpretation of the film. The song simultaneously stayed true to the general themes, but also provided a different perspective.

Here's the song
The Union Forever - The White Stripes


Courting the Muse passed the 100 hits mark! I want to thank all of you who have been visiting the blog - it means so much to me. I'm pleasantly surprised that it has passed this landmark in such a short period of time. Unfortunately, the number is a little skewed, because the ticker counts when I visit to update and fix things, but I still feel like you readers deserve some recognition for helping me reach this point.

Man, I feel like I should throw confetti or something.

"I Will Follow You Into the Dark"

Okay, I'm giving in to my psyche. This song has been in my head all day, so I thought I'd share it with you:

I Will Follow You into the Dark - Death Cab for Cutie

I have to admit that I am a hit or miss Death Cab fan. I'm not sure what it is - sometimes they are broodingly lovely; other times, they are just too fucking emo for me to handle.

I love this song, though. It is so odd, and yet, so incredibly romantic. When you think about it, it speaks of such...devotion. And since none of us really knows what we will find when that time comes, it really is a comforting notion to imagine having a hand to hold when it does.

Augh, I think the wine is making me all sappy.

P.S. - I know, I know, the image is Sigur Ros, but don't you think it kind of fits?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

"Your Music Fills the Holes in Mine"

A friend of mine - let's call her "Cole" - was exchanging music with a guy. They were hanging out in the common room, looking at each others' iTunes libraries, when he told her,

"Your music fills the holes in mine."

Now, maybe it's just my romantic heart (but seriously I doubt it, because by and large I do not have an overly romantic heart), but I think that that is beautiful.

When you think about it, music is such a personal thing. Old mix CDs are like memories etched on rainbowy disks and songs are like old friends that you can visit whenever you want. Some days, I'll be going about my business when a song will come up on shuffle from an old mix CD and I'll instantly think of the person who gave it to me.

If that doesn't convince you, here's more solid evidence - I bought (and like) "I'm Your's" by Jason Mraz. Yep, that horribly corny song where he fake scats, does the weird pop star laugh and talks about nibbling some poor girl's ear. (Ew) Why you ask? Because it reminds me of the place where I spent last summer. When that song comes on iTunes, I don't think about all of the reasons why I am ridiculous for liking it. Instead, I think of drives through the country, windows down, singing as loudly as possible and feeling the freest I've felt in a long time. And I sing along.

Isn't music wonderful?

Just for embarassment's sake, here it is in all of its glory:

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Muse Goes Techie

At the suggestion of a friend of mine, I am trying to add some more multimedia elements to the blog. For anybody who knows me, this is clearly quite the task (Technology and I do NOT get along).

However, in the war between Katy and Technology, I am happy to report that the score is currently Katy 1, Technology 0.

The links should be working now, and there is a nice little player for "The Island" in the Crane Wife review. Also, while you're perusing the blog, listen to the radio in the corner. The radio station is based on my favorite artist Sondre Lerche and includes lots of fun stuff like Belle and Sebastian, Kings of Convenience, Ben Kweller and Iron and Wine. (You can personalize the radio to play similar songs if there is one by an artist you particularly like and you can skip songs by hitting the button in the upper right hand corner)

Let me know if there are other techie things that you'd like to see in this blog and I will happily duke it out with Technology again for your reading pleasure.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Album Review: The Crane Wife

A while back, I was comforting myself for not being able to get tickets to a concert that I really wanted to go to. I put on my pajamas, broke out the Scotch and settled in for a night of buying music. In my hand, I had the music lover's equivalent to gold - an iTunes gift card.

Along with a classic I couldn't believe I was missing ("Piano Man" by Billy Joel), a token frivolous pick ("Umbrella" by Rihanna. Don't judge) and a few other songs, I bought The Crane Wife (2006), The Decemberists' fourth full-length album.

It was one of the best purchases I've ever made.

The Crane Wife is based on a Japanese folk tale, although the album references other time periods and musical traditions as well. According to the official website, "Decemberists songwriter and frontman Colin Meloy first came across the story of The Crane Wife several years ago, in the children’s section of a bookstore in Portland."

The other members of the band - multi-instrumentalist Chris Funk, keyboardist Jenny Conlee, bassist Nate Query and drummer John Moen - collaborated with him to translate the folk tale into a collection of songs. The result is a haunting album full of achingly gorgeous melodies and thematic lyrics.

The Crane Wife is one of those albums that works best as a whole. The transitions between songs are seamless and provide as much enjoyment as the songs themselves. The transition between "The Crane Wife 3" and "The Island" is the most masterful that I have ever heard. The notes blend together, fading and appearing like mist, until the first guitar chord takes over and pulls the listener completely in.

Of course, I cannot write about The Crane Wife without mentioning "The Island." The 12 minute and 26 second-long track is actually a combination of three songs ("Come and See," "The Landlord's Daughter" and "You'll Not Feel the Drowning"), and is the jewel of the album. It is the very definition of epic. Layering varied shades of sound, the song builds in complexity and ass-kickingness until it climaxes about three-fourths of the way through in a fit of Nintendo-like synthesizer, organ, guitar and drums. Cymbals crash like waves in a storm, as the listener gets swept up in an auditory frenzy. It finishes with the creepily restrained "You'll Not Fear the Drowning," complete with strings and acoustic guitar. Like the calm after the storm, this part of the song is not particularly comforting, but is a respite in which the listener can recover.

The only track that I do not think is as strong on the album is "The Perfect Crime #2." Although the melody and beat are catchy, the redundancy of the lyrics ("it was a perfect, perfect, perfect, perfect, perfect, perfect, perfect, perfect crime") can get a little tiresome. I would recommend the CONNECT set version of this song, in which the band offsets the lyrics with accordion, mandolin and viola, creating a much more interesting sound.

However, there is not much else that I can say to criticize this album. It was an immediate favorite from the moment I first listened to it, and one that has stuck with me ever since. I highly recommend it.

Favorite tracks: "The Island," "O, Valencia!," "Summersong," "The Crane Wife 3"

The Island - The Decemberists

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Apparition of the Eternal Church

I walked out of the Chapel with a glazed stare on my face. The only words that I could bring to mind were "holy. fuck." My body was numb, my head was fuzzy and all I wanted to do was give somebody a hug.

Mine was only one of the many reactions to the film Apparition of the Eternal Church by Paul Festa. In fact, the film was based on reactions - Festa had people from all walks of life listen to the song "Apparition de l'Église éternelle" or "Apparition of the Eternal Church" by Olivier Messiaen. The listeners were asked to give their reactions to the music while they were listening to it. What is produced is unexpected, real and altogether human. The film plays on the themes of torture, violence and sex in religion. It closes with quotations by William Blake and Friedrich Nietzsche, followed by a list of the gruesome ends that people have met for the sake of religion flashing like gunfire on the screen until the words become imperceptible.

The film showing was synced with a live performance of "Apparition de l'Église éternelle," played on the thundering organ. As the sonorous chords echoed throughout the Chapel, it was the closest thing to complete and total abandon I have ever felt. I was no longer aware of myself or the people around me, but was overwhelmed by a sense of awe. It was beautiful and terrible at the same time.

Here is a link to the film's website.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Miriam's Song

Every once in a while, an artist comes around that is so organic that you can't help but believe them. Unlike those who try too hard to convince you that 'they know what it's like,' this artist lives and breathes their music, communicating something so personal and real that you connect with them instantly regardless of genre, language or country.

Miriam Makeba, who died on Sunday at the age of 76, was one such artist. The South African singer, known as "Mama Africa," sang of the Africa that made her who she was, while fighting against the Africa that denied her the freedoms she deserved.

Though I have to admit that I was not previously familiar with Makeba, I came across an article in The New York Times about her and, after learning her story and listening to her music online, could not help but feel that this was a very special artist. I hope that you'll check out some of her stuff. (I especially recommend "The Click Song," "Oxgam," "Amampondo" and "Jinkel E Maweni")

Read the New York Times article here

Monday, November 10, 2008

"Thank God It's You. You Know, Your Timing Is Impeccable"

There is nothing like the hearing the exact song that you want to hear at the exact moment you want to hear it. It happened to me tonight; I was hanging out with one of my friends when I got a serious craving for fried food. We trekked to the grill and were sitting at one of the tables enjoying our orders and laughing about random stuff when all of the sudden, it came on - the song. The one song that my subconscious had been dying to hear, streaming from the speakers of the crappy grill radio with the aluminum foil-wrapped antennae.

The song was "Jackie Blue" by the Ozark Mountain Daredevils. Cool, mellow with an edge, a little sassy, a little sad. The perfect mix of blue. Here's a video of it for you:

P.S. - Check out that sweet slide on the guitar.

"The Art of the Muse"

Might as well get all of these hairy introductions out of the way.

I'm a senior at a small liberal arts university. This blog was started as a project for an academic internship that I'm doing called "Journalism and the Liberal Arts," but I hope to continue it after the internship ends. My goal is to eventually become an arts and entertainment writer, so this is a project that I'm really excited about.

Music is rather indescribable for me (as evidenced by the difficulty I had in choosing a title for the blog). It is something that is ever present - whether streaming from my computer, iPod or car speakers, stuck in my head, or filtering out from everyday sources. It is an escape, a catharsis, an auditory expression of an inner feeling - but it is also so much more than that.

The title of the blog, Courting the Muse, was inspired by both the sporadic, frustratingly uncontrollable nature of the creative process and the term mousikê, which is Greek for "the art of the muse."

Since this is my first blog of this nature, I would really appreciate any feedback that you can provide (though please be nice). Happy reading.