The Return of eLf ideas

ideas of an eLven being in Canada

Tuesday, December 03, 2002

E=mc2; or, E Is Equal to Music Too!

(On the Other Side of Albert Einstein)

“If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician.
I often think in music.
I live my daydreams in music.
I see my life in terms of music.
I get most joy in life out of music.”

any people think of scientists as serious or weird individuals who do nothing but find solutions to scientific problems they themselves make. True enough, men and women of science or of other higher intellectual avocations are usually serious individuals, but I don’t see them as weird. We have to consider also that, stripped of their intellectual preoccupations, many if not most of these scientists and scholars are just like ordinary people, in the sense that they also spend time on nonscholarly activities.

To Attain a Balance Is to Allot Equity of Time
Depriving ourselves of hobbies, pastimes, and other leisurely activities and stressing out ourselves with too much work do not make us well-rounded and better persons. Every one needs to strike a balance between work and play, lest one’s life will become either miserably stressful or too carefree to a fault. One needs to allot an equity of time for each of his various activities—time to study, time to be with family and friends, time to go out and unwind, time to enjoy a hobby or pastime, time to be alone to be able to reflect on life’s progress, or time to listen to his favorite music. Attaining such a balance is a key to a successful and contented life.

The Wild-Haired Science Wizard Was an Ardent Violinist
One widely popular character in the annals of science is Albert Einstein, whose name has become synonymous with genius and extraordinary intelligence. Einstein is one of the best-known scientists who ever lived. His contribution in changing the way humankind understands the universe is immense. With all his scholarly works, one would be inclined to think that Einstein had spent most of his life inside a laboratory, working on all those mathematical equations and scientific experiments. But, this proved untrue. Albert Einstein had time also for things other than science—like music, for instance.

He found enjoyment in pursuing his musical interest throughout his life

The wild-haired science wizard, born on March 14, 1879, in Ulm, Germany, took to music every time he was mulling over difficult studies. It became not only an outlet every time he felt the pressures of work but also an inspiration for his mathematical and scientific ideas. For example, he appreciated the logical structures of Mozart’s sonatas, feeling that they resembled mathematics in their composition. Einstein’s love for music took shape when he was six. His mother, an accomplished musician, encouraged him to play the violin. As a child, Einstein disliked being forced to attend his violin classes; but by the time he was a teenager, he finally learned to love the instrument. He found enjoyment in pursuing this musical interest throughout his life, regularly attending musical recitals. He was often invited also to share his views on music. The following are examples of such music critiques that he wrote.

“[Johannes Sebastian] Bach, [Wolfgang Amadeus] Mozart, and some old Italian and English composers are my favorites in music. [Ludwig van] Beethoven considerably less—but certainly [Franz] Schubert. 

“It is impossible for me to say whether Bach or Mozart means more to me. In music I do not look for logic. I am quite intuitive on the whole and know no theories. I never like a work if I cannot intuitively grasp its inner unity.

“Schubert is one of my favorites because of his superlative ability to express emotion and his enormous powers of melodic invention. But in his larger works I am disturbed by a certain lack of architectonics.

“I find a few lieder and chamber works by [Johannes] Brahms truly significant, also in their structure. But most of his works have for me no inner persuasiveness. I do not understand why it was necessary to write them. 

“I admire [Wilhelm Richard] Wagner's inventiveness, but I see his lack of architectural structure as decadence. Moreover, to me his musical personality is indescribably offensive so that for the most part I can listen to him only with disgust. 

“I feel that [Richard] Strauss is gifted, but without inner truth and concerned only with outside effects I cannot say that I care nothing for modern music in general. I feel that [Achille-Claude] Debussy is delicately colorful but shows a poverty of structure. I cannot work up great enthusiasm for something of that sort.”

Final Note
A peak outside the “lablife” of Einstein makes one realize that music had indeed been a potent inspiration for one of the most mathematical minds who ever lived.

Look through the Window, It’s Time to Cry

(On the Updated Definition of Ballad or Love Song

n the olden days of music, a ballad or love song was generally described as a sentimental, narrative lyric set in mellow and slow-tempo music whose theme was love in any of its guises—joys, pains, heartbreaks, disappointments, longing, yearning, and expressions of resentment because of unreciprocated romantic feelings. To this day, many people still cling to this age-old description of ballad or love song—“mellow and slow songs of love.” To them, a ballad can never be fast nor can it take the form of a Rock-styled composition. However, this no longer holds true. Since the evolution of classic Rock n’ Roll music as early as the 1940s, which ultimately led to the development of modern Rock music in the 1960s, the meaning of ballad or love song has also evolved significantly. Just as the acknowledgment of the Rock genres of music has become popular and widespread, the parameters of ballads and love songs have also been expanded and liberated. The current, modern description of ballad or love song is no longer confined to being simply mellow and slow songs of love. Although the theme of the lyrics remains practically the same, the music on which this particular form of songs is set has become diverse. It can now be fast and intense and may take the form of perhaps any genre of music.

Therefore, while ballads or love songs can be mellow and slow like “Woman” (1980) by the late ex-Beatle John Lennon, “Somewhere Down the Road” (1981) by the American Pop artist Barry Manilow, and “My Heart Will Go On” (1997) by the Canadian Pop diva Céline Dion, they can also be as intense as “All that I Bleed” (1993) by the U.S. Metal band Savatage, fast as “Get the Time” (1986) by the U.S. Punk Rock band Descendents, or even comical as “If You Love Somebody, Set Them on Fire” (1993) by the U.S. Punk Rock band The Dead Milkmen and morbid as “I Love the Dead” (1973) by the U.S. Glam Rock band Alice Cooper.

Here are some more notable examples of ballads or love songs, grouped according to genres to highlight the modern concept and the diversity of the musical form known as ballad or love song.

File under Punk:
Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)” – Buzzcocks (1978)
“Kiss Me Deadly” – Generation X (1978)
“Barbed Wire Love” – Stiff Little Fingers (1979)
“The KKK Took My Baby Away” – Ramones (1981)
“Prove My Love” – Violent Femmes (1982)
“Woman” – Anti-Nowhere League (1982)
“Atari Baby” – Sigue Sigue Sputnik (1986)
“Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” – Green Day (1997)
“Hopeless Romantic” – Bouncing Souls (1999)
“Everything Sucks (When You’re Gone)” – MxPx (2003)
“I Miss You” – Blink-182 (2003)
Sending Postcards from a Plane Crash (Wish You Were Here)
– Fall Out Boy (2003)
“Pieces” – Sum 41 (2004)
Untitled (How Could This Happen to Me?)” – Simple Plan (2004)
“It Ends Tonight” – The All-American Rejects (2005)
“For the Nights I Can’t Remember” – Hedley (2007)
“Fallen and Alone” – Rockwood (2010)

File under New Wave / Postpunk:
“Heart of Glass” – Blondie (1978)  
“Kissing ’round Corners” – The Models (1980)
“Love Will Tear Us Apart” – Joy Division (1980)
“Fall in Love with Me” – Japan (1981)
“I Melt with You” – Modern English (1982)
“Hold Me Now” – Thompson Twins (1983)
“Love Moves in Strange Ways” – Blue Zoo (1983)
“Make a Circuit with Me” – The Polecats (1983)
“Punish Me with Kisses” – The Glove (1983)
“Are You Ready to Be Heartbroken?” – Lloyd Cole & the Commotions (1984)
“The Ghost in You” – The Psychedelic Furs (1984)
“Whatever Possessed You” – Care (1984)
“Like One Thousand Violins” – One Thousand Violins (1985)
“Smiles and Jokes” – White China (1985)
“Total Recall” – The Sound (1985)
“Walk Forever by My Side” – The Alarm (1985)
“You Move Me (One Good Reason)” – The Comsat Angels (1985)
“Blushing Girl, Nervous Smile” – The Wallflowers (1986)
“I’ve Been in Love Before” – The Cutting Crew (1986)
“Kiss Me Now” – Fruits of Passion (1986)
“Never to Forget You” – The Lover Speaks (1986)
“Tears” – The Chameleons U.K. (1986)
“One Last Kiss” – The Cat Club (1987)
“Plastic Flowers” – The Wake (1987)
I Say Nothing” – Voice of the Beehive (1988)
“The Last Beat of My Heart” – Siouxsie & the Banshees (1988)
“Only for You” – The Essence (1988)
Things We Do For Love” – The Darling Buds (1988)
“I Found Love Today” – The Painted World (1989)
“Butterfly on a Wheel” – The Mission (1990)
“I’m a Lighthouse” – The Wild Swans (1990)
“Burst” – Shelleyan Orphan (1992)
“For You” – Electronic (1996)
“Fall on Tears” – Love Spit Love (1997)
“When I’m Thinking about You” – The Sundays (1997)
Speak to me, Rochelle” – The Desert Wolves (2000)
“The Only One” – The Cure (2008)
“I Still Feel the Same” – The Lightning Seeds (2009)

File under Metal:
“You See Me Crying” – Aerosmith (1975)
“Goodbye to Romance” – Ozzy Osbourne (1980)
“Love Walks In” – Van Halen (1986)
“Always with Me, Always with You” – Joe Satriani (1987)
“When the Children Cry” – White Lion (1987)
“Kiss Me Deadly” – Lita Ford (1988)
“Patience” – Guns n’ Roses (1988)
“The Ballad of Jayne” – L.A. Guns (1989)
“Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)” – Mötley Crüe (1989)  
“Everybody Loves Eileen” – Steelheart (1990)
“For the Love of God” – Steve Vai (1990)
“High Enough” – Damn Yankees (1990)
“Love of a Lifetime” – Firehouse (1990)
“More than Words” – Extreme (1990)
“More than Words Can Say” – Alias (1990)
“Silent Lucidity” – Queensrÿche (1990)
“Just Take My Heart” – Mr. Big (1991)
“Love Is on the Way” – Saigon Kick (1992)
Until You Suffer Some (Fire and Ice)” – Poison (1993)
All about Lovin’ You” – Bon Jovi (2002)
“Love Strikes like Lightning” – Warrant (2006)
“My Love (I’ll Always Show)” – Stryper (2009)
You and I” – Sweet Sybil (2010)

File under Pop:
“First of May” – Bee Gees (1969)
“Father and Son” – Cat Stevens (1970)
“My Love” – Paul McCartney & Wings (1973)
“At Seventeen” – Janis Ian (1975)
“Take a Chance on Me” – ABBA (1977)
“Fallin’” – Teri DeSario (1979, written by Carol Bayer Sager and Marvin Hamlisch)
“Honesty” – Billy Joel (1979)
“I Just Called to Say I Love You” – Stevie Wonder (1984)
“Knife” – Rockwell (1984)
“Because of Love” – Menudo (1984, by Carlos Villa, Eddy Guerin, and Juli Seijas)
“Where Are You Now?” – Synch (1986, by Jimmy Harnen and Rich Congdon)
“Superwoman” – Karyn White (1988, by Kenneth Edmonds
“Rush Rush” – Paul Abdul (1991, by Peter Lord)
“All that She Wants” – Ace of Base (1993)
“’Til They Take My Heart Away” – Clair Marlo
(1998, Antonio Reid and Daryl Simmons)
“First Love” – Utada Hikaru (1999, by Kei Kawano)
“Eyes on Me” – Faye Wong (1999, by Nobuo Uematsu and Kako Someya) 
“Hero” – Enrique Iglesias (2001, cowritten with Paul Barry and Mark Taylor)
“Through the Rain” – Mariah Carey (2002, cowritten with Lionel Cole)
“Catch Me when I Fall” – Ashlee Simpson
(2005, cowritten with John Shanks and Kara DioGuardi)  
“Eh, Eh (Nothing Else I Can Say)” – Lady Gaga
(2008, cowritten with Martin Kierszenbaum)
“The One that Got Away” – Katy Perry
(2010, cowritten with Lukasz Gottwald and Max Martin)

File under Hip-hop:
“I Can Give You More” – LL Cool J (1985)
“Cold Summer Nights” – Francis M (1990)
“I Ain’t Mad at Cha” – 2Pac (1996)
“Ready or Not” – The Fugees (1996)
“All that I Got Is You” – Ghostface Killah (1996)
“I'll Be Missing You” – Puff Daddy and Faith Evans (1997)
“Let Me Love You (Until You Learn to Love Yourself)” – Ne-Yo (2012)

File under Filipino Alternative Rock/Pop:
“Keep Our Love Alive” – RP (1985)
Sana Hindi Minsan Mo Lang Akong Tingnan” – WUDS (1985)  
“Love Will Set Us Free” – The Dawn (1988)
“Paglisan” – Color It Red (1994)
“Pagsubok” – Orient Pearl (1994)
“Your Love” – Alamid (1994)      
Ang Huling El Bimbo – Eraserheads (1995)  
“Sirang Romantiko” – Pu3ska (1995) 
“Bilanggo” – Rizal Underground (1995)
“Kapalarang Kuwago” – Half Life Half Death (1995)
“Ikaw Na Nga” ­– Immaculate (1995)
“Puting Ilaw” – Advent Call (1996)
“Hinahanap-hanap Kita” – Rivermaya (1997)  
“Harana” – Parokya ni Edgar (1997)
“Torpe” – Hungry Young Poets (1997)
“Comfort in Your Strangeness” – Cynthia Alexander (1997)
“Torete” – Moonstar 88 (2000)
“Ewan Ko” – Soapdish (2005)
“Kung Ayaw Mo Na sa Akin” – Sugarfree (2006)
“Will You Ever Learn?” – Typecast (2006)
Alam Mo Na ’Yun” – The Bloomfields (2007)
“Lumapit” – Archipelago (2009)
“Love Me Forever” – Juan Pablo Dream (2009)  
“Ang Huling Yakap ng Mundo” – Imago (2010)
“Di Na Magdaramdam” – Top Junk (2010)

File under mellow Filipino Pop:
“Dahil sa ’Yo” – Pilita Corrales
(1973, written by Mike Velarde Jr. and Dominador Santiago)
“T.L. Ako sa ’Yo” – Cinderella (1975, by Snaffu Rigor)
“Pers Lab” – Hotdog (1975, by Dennis Garcia and Rene Garcia)
“Bakit Labis Kitang Mahal?” – Boyfriends (1978, by Gary Arriola)   
“Oh Babe” – Singsing (1978, by Renato Santos)
“Ako ang Nasawi, Ako ang Nagwagi” – Dulce (1979, by George Canseco)
“Tell Me” – Joey Albert (1984, by Alan Ayque and Louie Jocson Ocampo)
“Somewhere in My Past” – Julie Vega (1985, by M. del Rosario)
“Magkaisa” – Virna Lisa Loberiza
(1986, by Vicente C. Sotto III, Ernie dela Peña, and Homer Flores)
“Hey, It’s Me” – Jaime Rivera (1987, by Jimmy Antiporda)
Sana Maulit Muli” – Gary Valenciano (1987)
“Hindi Magbabago” – Randy Santiago (1987, Tats Faustino)
“Tamis ng Unang Halik” – Kristina Paner (1989, M. del Rosario)
“Hindi Ko Kaya” – Richard Reynoso (1990, by Aaron Paul)
“Narito Ako” – Regine Velasquez (1990, by Nonong Pedero)
“Just a Smile Away” – Jaime Garchitorena (1990, by Danny Morales Javier)
Sana Dalawa ang Puso Ko” – Bodjie’s Law of Gravity (1991, by Bodjie Dasig)
“Miss na Miss Kita” – Father and Sons (1991, by Rico G. Soliman)
“Closer You and I” – Gino Padilla (1991, by L.J. Ocampo)
“Forever Blue” – Cacai Velasquez (1995, by Jingle Sayson-Buena)
“Honey, My Love (So Sweet)” – April Boys (1999, adaptation of “Itoshi no Ellie”
(1979) by the Japanese Pop band Southern All-Stars)
“Basang-basa sa Ulan” – Aegis (1999, by Celso E. Abenoja)
“Pagdating ng Panahon” – Aiza Seguerra
(2001, by Moy Ortiz and Edith M. Gallardo)

File under Western Classical:
“Air,” or the second movement of Johann Sebastian Bach’s
Orchestral Suite no. 3 in D Major (written circa 1717–1723)  
“Für Elise,” or Bagatelle no. 25 in A Minor for Solo Piano
Ludwig van Beethoven (publ. 1867)
Canon in D MajorJohann Pachelbel (written pre-1700; first publ. 1919)
“Madeline’s Theme” – Giorgio Moroder
(1984, from Electric Dreams’ film score)
“For the Right Reasons” – Stephen Hague
(1987, from Some Kind of Wonderful’s film score)

A Life So Changed” – James Horner (1997, from Titanic’s film score)

“Chuck’s Lament / What the Tide Could Bring” – Alan Silvestri
(2000, from Cast Away’s film score)
Final Note

Considering music taxonomy as it is recognized today, ballads or love songs are no longer just the mellow and slow tunes which many people used to know; they can now be intense, fast, morbid, or even comical, and may take the form of perhaps any music genre.

Play the Old Phonograph Once Again

(On a Page in the Diary of a Passionate Music Enthusiast)

n acquaintance of mine said, “What gives you the authority to write about music?” He was referring to my music column in Winnipeg’s local newspaper Filipino Journal. Considering that I’m neither a Music teacher nor a professional instrumentalist—in fact, I could barely read a sheet music or a musical score or play the guitar—my starting a music column, to some people, might really seem incredible.

The unexpected interrogatory remark made me question myself as well. Yeah, what musical capacity do I have to be able to write about music?

“Why not write an article that will give the readers an overview of who you are as a musical person?” He suggested. Brilliant suggestion, I said.

So now, here is my brilliant answer.

I consider my life not only a fantasy-fiction novel—which has its own maps, worlds, characters and creatures, history, languages and cultures—but also an epic movie—comprised by a complex plot that runs on a backdrop of diverse landscapes and has a soundtrack of its own. Yes, every chapter of my life has a corresponding theme song.

Our Phonograph. Since childhood, my life has already been musical; I can still remember, in the early 1970s, many of the artists and tunes that played almost every day on the phonograph in my family’s home in Makati City. Every morning, Mother would let me sit beside her in the living room as she listened to her favorite songs by The Carpenters, The Cascades, Engelbert Humperdink, Fifth Dimension, Matt Monro, Patsy Cline, Petula Clark, and The Ventures. When Father was at home, he would gladly have me as his audience as he sang along to the songs of ABBA, Barry Manilow, The Beach Boys, The Beatles,
Bee Gees, Elvis Presley, Tom Jones, and The Zombies. He would also delight in reading to me the notes written on the cover sleeves of the countless vinyl records that we used to have. From him I did learn the importance of knowing not only the titles of songs but also the names of the artists who wrote or sang such masterpieces. He used to tell me that without such composers and singers, there would be no wonderful music to listen to or to sing along with.  

When it was Grandfather’s turn to use the phonograph, usually in the afternoon when everyone else was busy with the chores, I would quietly sit by the stairs and listen to the wordless tunes that he used to play—Classical and Military music which I eventually learned were the works of composers like Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Paganini, Rachmaninoff, John Philip Sousa, Tchaikovsky, and Vivaldi.  

On weekends, uncles and older cousins would play their kind of music—Country, Folk, Garage Rock, Psychedelic Rock, Progressive Rock—songs by Bob Dylan; The Byrds; Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young; The Doors; Eagles; Emerson, Lake & Palmer; Gentle Giant; Grateful Dead; John Denver; Nazareth; Pink Floyd; The Rolling Stones; Rush; The Steve Miller Band; Supertramp; The Velvet Underground; The Who; The Yardbirds; and Yes. Another uncle would also spin his own vinyl records—albums by Filipino artists like Anak Bayan, Asin, Florante, Freddie Aguilar, Juan de la Cruz Band, Maria Cafra, and VST & Company.

Our Jukebox. In the late ’70s to the early ’80s, we had a jukebox in the restaurant which my family used to own. That wonderful sound machine transformed many of my childhood nights into magical moments. I remember inserting one coin after another into the jukebox, pressing the combination of letters and numbers, and then listening in bliss to the songs that played in sweet succession. There even came a point when I was able to memorize most of the songs our jukebox played. Father and I would sometimes play a game—for every song whose title and artist I could guess correctly, I would win a prize.

From Phonograph to Radio to Turntable. In the early 1980s, my family’s radio became my usual companion. I discovered mainstream R&B and Pop music—Angela Bofill, Kenny Rogers, James Ingram, Madonna, Menudo, Michael Jackson, Olivia Newton-John, Phil Collins, and Tina Turner.

In the mid-’80s, a surge of new British and American music suddenly exploded worldwide. House parties powered by mobile sound systems were the order of the day. Some cousins and friends put up a mobile disco, and we got to provide lights and music for countless parties. While my older cousins were busy mingling with the party people on the dance floor, I was there manning the turntable. Overtime, I was spinning vinyl records with ease. With my discerning ears and eclectic musical influences, I developed the knack in categorizing songs according to style.

From Spinning to Singing to Writing. In the late ’80s, I and some likeminded schoolmates formed a band. We started with covering songs and soon we were composing our own. Invitations to perform at private parties graduated to public concerts, radio and TV guesting, and finally—in the mid-’90s—a recording contract! In those recording sessions did I acquire the ability to listen to music multidimensionally. It enabled me to mentally dissect songs into the different instruments and melodies that comprise them. It was also during this period when I started writing album reviews for a particular music magazine. Naturally I began collecting cassette tapes, CDs, vinyl records, and books about music. As the 1990s came to its end, the Internet has arrived. Among its many benefits, it has freed all kinds of music from the vaults of recording companies and record collectors all over the world. It let people discover and rediscover music that, without such technology, might have remained obscure and unheard of to this day.

And now, here in Canada, playing in a band, composing and recording songs, collecting records, and listening to music continue to be some of my hobbies.

Music soothes my spirit. It makes me feel young. And most of all, it can take me back to whichever chapter of my life I want to remember. Like now, I just close my eyes and I can see our old phonograph spinning a record…there in the living room of my family’s old home.

Final Note

One does not need to be a holder of a bachelor’s degree in Music, a Music professor, or a highly skilled musician to be able to understand the whole music phenomenon and to write about it. More than anything else, all one needs is a burning passion in listening to music and digging, understanding, and appreciating the roots and branches of its various genres.