Spoonful
  • Musical Interludes, by Hannah Stephenson
  • October10th

    1 Comment

    This song has been stuck in my head for the past two weeks, and I’ll tell you, it’s completely pleasant. “Zorbing” (by Stornoway, a band I’ve only recently become acquainted with) is ridiculously charming and cheerful. It’s a playful little earworm–I think you two will get along just fine.

    FYI: This is what Zorbing is. It’s a real thing!

    ——

    In these interludes, poet and singer-songwriter Hannah Stephenson invites you to eavesdrop on the music bouncing around her brain. She’d love to hear your thoughts, your inner soundtrack, and what band inspired that shrine in your bedroom.

  • September16th

    No Comments

    Lovely, intense, moody, and utterly soothing–Balmorhea’s “Pilgrim” is my current creativity stimulant. Sometimes, it does us good to listen to music without words.

    The next time you need some mental stillness, try playing this.

     

    s

    ——
    In these interludes, poet and singer-songwriter Hannah Stephenson invites you to eavesdrop on the music bouncing around her brain. She’d love to hear your thoughts, your inner soundtrack, and what band inspired that shrine in your bedroom.

  • August14th

    No Comments

    Somehow, it’s been twenty years (?!) since Portishead’s Dummy was released.

    13-year-old me LOVED this album. I’ll tell you, it holds up really well. I almost spat my coffee out with joy upon reading in Consequence of Sound that Dummy will be reissued in fancy, moody blue vinyl.

    Oooh….

    To celebrate, here are my three favorite songs from Dummy.

    “Sour Times” (Obviously. And how I loved that creepy-cool video!)

     

    “Strangers”

     

    “It’s a Fire”

     

    ——
    In these interludes, poet and singer-songwriter Hannah Stephenson invites you to eavesdrop on the music bouncing around her brain. She’d love to hear your thoughts, your inner soundtrack, and what band inspired that shrine in your bedroom.

  • July10th

    No Comments

    The only two competition shows I watch: Project Runway and So You Think You Can Dance. Both are new this summer, much to my geekish delight.

    My husband and I both adore SYTYCD….we saw this video from Season Two online, and were hooked. Although there are silly reality elements involved, the best parts of the show are watching some fun, beautiful dance and choreography (it’s too hard to choose a favorite–but just look at this one or this one or this one!) I admire how the show makes dance so accessible–as a poet, I can’t help but think that some kind of show featuring poets reading their work would help gain more readers (I might get chased through poetry village with torches for saying that, but I would totally watch America’s Next Top Poet).

    I love how choreographers (who are dancers themselves) use dancers’ bodies and music to make their art. I try to imagine how a dance starts for a choreographer–perhaps they envision a piece of movement, or hear a song that conjures a strong image.

    Sometimes, when I hear a beautiful song, I think, “Ugh, that’s gorgeous, I wish I could see a dance to this.” So here are five songs I’d submit to the suggestion box for choreographers of SYTYCD.

     

    “Blood,” The Middle East
    Oh, this song begs for a gorgeous contemporary routine….

    “Animal Arithmetic,” Jonsi
    Weird and joyous group number, please!

    “It’s Oh So Quiet,” Bjork
    Broadway! It can count as Broadway, right…?

    “Concrete Schoolyard,” Jurassic 5
    C’mon, Nappytabs….I see a playground theme here….

    “Ribs,” Lorde
    There’s a cool jazz routine in here somewhere. And you already know my feelings for Lorde…

    Any other fans out there with a wish list?

     

    ——
    In these interludes, poet and singer-songwriter Hannah Stephenson invites you to eavesdrop on the music bouncing around her brain. She’d love to hear your thoughts, your inner soundtrack, and what band inspired that shrine in your bedroom.

  • June15th

    3 Comments

    If you knew a female singer in the 90’s, chances are she spent most of the decade singing alone in an apartment. To be a Woman Singing Alone in an Apartment, here is what it takes:

    1. Female artist must also be the main performer in the video

    2. Female artist must “sing” at least some of the words

    3. Female artist must acknowledge the camera

    4. Female artist must be in an apartment of some kind–we must see furniture, decoration, and/or architectural detail to distinguish this place (“Woman Singing Alone in Warehouse” or “Woman Singing Alone in Car” would not count)

    5. Other people may appear in the video, but their screen time must be limited

    6. A love interest may appear in the video, but must not be a focal point

    7. We may see flashbacks or outside of the apartment, but the majority of the video must happen inside the apartment

    8. Female artist must appear appealingly disheveled but still sexy (her look may include messy hair, tank tops, sandals, belly chains, etc.)

    The Cranberries, “Linger” (1993)

    Variation: “Woman Sings Alone in House and Won’t Look at Camera”

    Janet Jackson, Again (1993)


    Lisa Loeb, “Stay (I Missed You)” (1994) 


    Tori Amos, “Pretty Good Year” (1994)

    Variation: “Woman Walks to an Apartment and Then Sings Alone In It”

    Everything But The Girl, Missing (1994)

    Variation: “Woman Sings Alone in Abstract Apartment”

    Jewel, “You Were Meant for Me” (1995)

    Toni Braxton, “I Don’t Want To” (1996)

    Natalie Imbruglia, “Torn” (1997)


    Fiona Apple, “Criminal” (1997)

    Meredith Brooks, “Bitch” (1997)

    Variation: “Two Women Sing Alone in Their Respective Apartments”

    Brandy and Monica, “The Boy Is Mine” (1998)

    Variation: “Woman Sings Alone in Apartment and Then Goes to Club”

    Lauryn Hill, Ex-Factor (1998)

    Who did I miss?

    (Note: This may also be of interest–“Women Laughing Alone With Salad”)

    ——

    In these interludes, poet and singer-songwriter Hannah Stephenson invites you to eavesdrop on the music bouncing around her brain. She’d love to hear your thoughts, your inner soundtrack, and what band inspired that shrine in your bedroom.

  • May9th

    No Comments

    friendsimage by the amazing Amanda Mabel

    When I first learned about Pandora Radio in 2005 or 2006, I was hooked. Part of this was the name–Pandora had been (I’m somewhat embarrassed to say) part of my first AOL screen name and email a decade earlier, back in The Old-Timey Internet Town of 1995. I think I’d misunderstood the myth somewhat, and had seen Pandora as this empowered woman wielding chaos (“It’s HER box, dang it! She owns chaos and destruction! Now let me get back to watching Welcome to the Dollhouse and making this beaded choker…”).

    But back to Pandora. I’m not sure how I found it, but I thought it was an amazing concept: type in a musical artist that you like, and Pandora (based on The Music Genome Project) will begin to stream artists that it thinks you will like. I’d type in M. Ward, and it would recommend Magnolia Electric Co. or Grandaddy. Type in Bjork, and Pandora would play Frou Frou. This blew my mind. Up until then, I depended on a few different sources for music recommendations: the other artists carried by labels I loved (Helloooooo, Secretly Canadian), blogs and magazines, the occasional lucky radio/soundtrack moments, and most importantly, suggestions from friends and family.

    From 2000-2010, I burned and exchanged hundreds of CDs (and maybe a few cassettes–I do believe I had a walkman in 2003, which seems absurd now). Wherever we moved, my friends and I would mail one another CDs, lovingly scribbled on with Sharpie. Collections from my friend Ryan would skew a little electronic and romantic (Her Space Holiday or Sneaker Pimps or Death Cab for Cutie). My Uncle Jerry sent me a tape with Freedy Johnston and Damien Jurado on it, and I’d listen to it as I walked to class (I sent him either a tape or CD that had Badly Drawn Boy on it).

    In the mid 2000’s (what should we call those? The mid-aughts?), I was part of a CD exchange group. I remember buying blank CDs in stacks of 50 or 100. A group of us would meet every few months, and create a CD around a certain theme (there was “Rites of Passage,” and “Love,” and a Halloween-themed one). We’d make a dozen of them, and leave with a dozen new beloved collections. Nerdily, I’d slave away over mine, my husband cracking up at how painstakingly I’d arrange and rearrange the order of the songs. I continue to be grateful for people who love music (or art, or poetry, or anything) this much.

    Now, I listen to Spotify regularly, as well as Pandora. It’s helpful and entertaining. I’ll continue to use it, and don’t wish to criticize it. Sometimes, I forget whether I’m listening to Spotify or to my own music. Customized radio will play you what you already like. Sometimes, that’s exactly what we want (when we want background music, for instance). But other times, I crave hearing or reading or absorbing new sounds or ideas. And nothing scratches the “discovery” itch for me like a good, personalized recommendation from a friend does.

    When a person tells me about a book I should read or an album I should hear, I take it very seriously. I treasure that recommendation. They aren’t recommending what is similar to my tastes, necessarily (a la Netflix or Youtube)–they are recommending something that they love, that they think I might love. Often, it’s unexpected, and not always what I’d select for myself. There is a bit of a risk here–I want you to try this experience, they are saying. I still remember friends of mine driving over with a CD, walking in, and telling me that I had to listen right then and there (and proceeding to play me “John Wayne Gacy, Jr. ” by Sufjan Stevens). That day, I must have listened to the song twenty times, trying to get at its warbly, sad, balladeer-esque magic. I hadn’t heard anything like it.

    What recommendations have you been grateful for? What have you recently recommended to a friend?

    ——
    In these interludes,  poet and singer-songwriter  Hannah Stephenson invites you to eavesdrop on the music bouncing around her brain. She’d love to hear your thoughts, your inner soundtrack, and what band inspired that shrine in your bedroom.

  • April14th

    2 Comments

    Each of these covers is a lovely surprise, both in song selection and in arrangement. These are such terrific, inventive versions that they somehow make me fonder of the originals.h


    CHVRCHES covers “It’s Not Right But It’s Okay” (Whitney Houston)h


    James Vincent McMorrow covers “Higher Love” (Steve Winwood)

    h

    John Legend covers “Dancing in the Dark” (Bruce Springsteen)

    ——
    In these interludes,  poet and singer-songwriter  Hannah Stephenson invites you to eavesdrop on the music bouncing around her brain. She’d love to hear your thoughts, your inner soundtrack, and what band inspired that shrine in your bedroom.

  • March11th

    No Comments

    I’m willing to bet that Kermit makes you melt, too. Jim Henson-as-Kermit has such a poignant, earnest quality to his voice….it sounds slightly constrained and a little warbly (as with someone who is trying not to cry). Gets to me every time.

    (Note: There’s also this video of the song, which is beautiful, but just know that you will cry if you watch it.)

    And here’s Andrew Bird’s take on this adorable tune.

    Which songs, much like “Bein’ Green,” make you melt?

    ——

    In these interludes,  poet and singer-songwriter  Hannah Stephenson invites you to eavesdrop on the music bouncing around her brain. She’d love to hear your thoughts, your inner soundtrack, and what band inspired that shrine in your bedroom.

  • February8th

    No Comments

    Screen Shot 2014-02-08 at 11.52.34 pm
    image by Tony & Sasha Green

    Instructions for enjoying Michael Kiwanuka’s “Bones”:

     

    > Press play in the video below.

    > Adjust volume as needed. A little louder, please.

    > Think about how this song hits the exact same place in your heart as Sam Cooke’s ” Bring It On Home to Me.”

    > Feel shocked that this song was released in 2012.

    > Feel shocked that Michael Kiwanuka is in his 20s.

    > Say “Oh, wow” out loud.

    > Swoon.

    > Press play again.

    > Slow dance in the living room with someone you love.

    > Appreciate how subtle the song is.

    > Press play again.

    > Feel inspired to make heart-shaped pancakes.

    > Hum/sing along as you mix the batter.

    > Eat the blobby pancakes that definitely do not resemble hearts.

    > Press play again and notice how all is right in the world.

     

    > Repeat as necessary.

     

    ——

    In these interludes,  poet and singer-songwriterHannah Stephenson invites you to eavesdrop on the music bouncing around her brain. She’d love to hear your thoughts, your inner soundtrack, and what band inspired that shrine in your bedroom.

     

  • January8th

    No Comments

    Recently, and along with throngs of other listeners, I’ve been enjoying Lorde’s album, Pure Heroine. I admire its restraint. Lorde’s songs carry a weird, authentic-feeling weariness, and the production sounds fresh but not at all heavy-handed.

    I just want to keep listening to it, especially “400 Lux” and “Ribs.” While listening to “Ribs,” I was thinking about what makes this song so appealing–my favorite part is how each verse gets reinvented after the chorus, becoming more insistent, energetic, and high-pitched. The growling opening lines, “The drink you spilt all over me/“Lover’s Spit” left on repeat…” get transformed by that chorus, speeding up, gaining a new, octave-higher layer.

    h

    In this TED talk (from TEDx MIA), professor and mathematician Scott Rickard discusses where “beauty” and “ugliness” come from in music (from a mathematical standpoint). He attributes these qualities to a song’s repetition, and argues that repetition (and pattern) is beautiful. Toward the end of the video, he has a pianist play a song that has been designed to be “ugly”–that is, without pattern.

    Thinking back to “Ribs,” what is most enjoyable is that we, as listeners, can appreciate the slight variation within the repetition (and how this repeats throughout the song as a pattern).

    I’m wondering: is repetition necessarily inherent within every song (if it has a melody or rhyme, there must be repetition)?

    Why is the ear so pleased by what repeats?

     

    Bonus: Here’s a delightful conversation between Lorde and Tavi Gevinson.


    In these interludes, poet and singer-songwriter Hannah Stephenson invites you to eavesdrop on the music bouncing around her brain. She’d love to hear your thoughts, your inner soundtrack, and what band inspired that shrine in your bedroom.

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