Tuesday, January 27, 2009

"I write in the night to bring truth to the light."

Putting work in on a script this evening, so I'm going to dig in the archives. I've already gone in to a small degree of how music influences me with my writing, but back when I was bright-eyed and optimistic yout' (read: three years ago), I actually started a project that was directly linked to a piece of music. J. Dilla's music touched a lot of people, and what's arguably his most inspirational work was his swansong, Donuts, a set of dusty and raw instrumentals that was released just three days before his passing. A lot of people have paid tribute to Dilla using stuff from this album as a basis, and I wanted to do the same. Trouble is I don't rhyme, make beats or any of that rot. So I decided that I was going to try and write tiny narratives for each of the tracks on the album. I didn't get very far in due to time, and tons of other factors I can't recall right now, but I always think about revisiting the idea. For now though, I'll a couple of pieces I did, starting with this micro-joint for Waves:

 I was in the middle of a sea of bodies at high tide. Undulating back and forth all in unison, the DJ so adept at robbing them of their sense of self that they ceased to be anything but the mass of humanity, crowded into the disco. Everything that each individual was before they came hung heavy in the air with each wave.

 Desires, fear, hopes, loves, hate. Even every hesitation to give in to the swell was so palpable you could taste it. You could practically pick out each as a scent, or a flush of sensation over the skin. I couldn't help be overwhelmed by it all as I stepped further into the dance hall. My heart raced at first…but gradually it kept time and became one with the drum as I let go.

This next joint I wrote to go along with "The New" features a character I created for an RPG community (don't worry, I've held off Nerd Stuff from this post, the nerdiness of this post itself notwithstanding) that I was apart of. He was a DJ and I had the idea of him being transported to some strange alternate past. I originally had the idea to have his story continue throughout the project in the songs "The Twister (Huh, What)" and "Gobstopper" respectively.

"The New" by J. Dilla

 "I'm Korean, actually…"
 Considering the lambasting that follows, perhaps that wasn't the best response to being called a "jivetime, hippie-lookin' Chinaman" but I was too dumbfounded at the time for much else. Now that I've had time to really take in my new surroundings…I'm still fairly stunned. I've been in jazz clubs before, but this place was strangely authentic. The acrid weed smoke in the air that you could cut through…and how young the crowd is. Real well dressed too, and not in that hipster, "look at this suit jacket I stole from my dad, and my hundred dollar haircut" sort of way. Genuine, real put together.

 I’m pretty sure I saw a sailor or two in the back of the crowd that eyed me with a helluva lot of malice. Everyone's restless. They're clamoring for music and I'm apparently disrupting the show. I don't know how I managed to get backstage, and I definitely don't know why the bandleader is cursing my presence as though I were a new addition to the band…oh, because the bassist has brought me into the band as a last minute replacement for the drummer. I see.

 How nice of him to stick up for me. I'm sure that when we're being beaten to sleep by navymen with chips on their shoulders about the Japanese Zero that wasted their buddies, we'll be looked upon favorably in the afterlife.

 A doddering old man begins shoving us out onto the stage hurriedly, chastising me for my "busted threads" as he fights the shakes to keep his coke-bottle lenses on his face. Until I’m out on stage with the rest of my bandmates I don't know what he's talking about, but once I'm able to see their slick suits and even slicker pomade-laden hair…I feel practically naked.

 "Lay the beat down for 'em Scratch." The bassist whispers to me from across the stage. It takes this guy knowing my name catches me so off guard that I almost don't notice what he's nodding towards. The strangest setup of decks and a mixer that I've ever seen. Every inch of it, the tables, the mixer…even the records are brass and just a little tarnished. The coffin's warn brown leather with tags from customs agencies from all over the world. Some of the countries, I couldn't even spell, let alone ever claim having been to any of them. The scent of valve and slide oil emanates from the whole rig and when I put my hands on the records they feel like taut drum skins. First time I've had butterflies about music in quite a while.

 "Here goes nothin'," and I give a few scratches, sorting out a drumbreak…the band jumps right in, somewhere between following my lead and letting me take control. Every sample I bring in is a new riff that the sax, trumpet or piano stretch out. Just the same, the bandleader yelps, shouts, scats and sings in time with my cuts. The whole room seems to move with my hands. Dancing couples seem to be locked in a loop until I change tempo or sample. Stopping when I pause, even reversing when I backspin. The sailors are getting into the act. The bass player gives me a wink when our bandleader calls back to me.

 "We gonna have to get the Ko-ree-in fitted for a suit!" Comforting as it is, I still don't know where in the world I am…but I'm not in a hurry to leave.

Who knows if I'll revisit the project in earnest, but I had fun with the few joints that I did get around to doing. I'd definitely like to think that Dilla himself would've gotten a kick out of people being moved enough by his work that they had to do something to show their appreciation, even if it wasn't directly related to music.

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