24 February 2009

Jelly Beans, Dream Pop & Trumpets.

Gah, studying cross-sectional anatomy of the pelvis is crazy. I've been trying to make sense out of images that look like this:

The thing looks like a terrain map from some reject 8-bit Nintendo game.

While I can identify the larger, more obvious parts, I have a bit of trouble with the blood vessels that course throughout our bodies. How am I supposed to differentiate between the femoral veins and arteries if they look like someone smashed together a couple of jelly beans and smeared them across a tabletop?

Anyway I soothe my frustration and confusion with music. There's been debate and research on whether listening to tunes helps or hinders the learning process, but I'm convinced that pleasant background sound has had positive effects on my study sessions. (It definitely hasn't hurt.) I usually throw on some Miles Davis in the background -- Relaxin' and Kind Of Blue, along with some other select albums, have been in serious rotation over the last year -- and it helps me focus on the subject matter at hand. I don't know, something about the natural improvisational quality of jazz transforms my brain into a sponge and I find myself very receptive to new information.

Once in a while I pipe some new sounds through the speakers for some variety. Although I've been a fan of the "downtempo" subgenre of electronic music for years, lately I've been listening to M83 for a refreshing auditory change. They're commonly classified as "dream pop" or "shoegaze", which Wikipedia defines as having
"two distorted rhythm guitars [that] are played together to give an amorphous quality to the sound. Although lead guitar riffs were often present, they were not the central focus of most shoegazing songs.

Vocals are typically subdued in volume and tone, but underneath the layers of guitars is generally a strong sense of melody. However, lyrics are not emphasized; vocals are often treated as an additional instrument. While the genres which influenced shoegazing often used drum machines, shoegazing more often features live drumming."
Saturdays=Youth, M83's latest offering, is an awesome listen all the way through, and more than suits my needs for interesting background study music. Granted I keep the volume relatively low to keep from actively paying attention, but the songs on the album serve as a nice complement to the material in my textbooks. One particular track, "We Own The Sky," is a favorite. The band is actually accepting YouTube submissions from fans who want to interpret the song, and the winning video will be played on PitchforkTV later this year. I like this submission:

Go hipsters go!

A far cry from Miles' smooth trumpet, to be sure, but just as stimulating to my mind. And just maybe it'll help me distinguish jelly beans from arteries.

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