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Sleep unwilling.

I live in a poorly insulated home in New Jersey with a natural gas heating system.  I also live on student loans, so I’ve been reluctant to turn on the heat because natural gas prices suck.  So I don’t mean I’m hesitant to turn it up past 60, rather I’m opposed to turning it on at all.  The dial currently rests all the way to the left, where it’s met below by the thermostat’s dial, frozen in place around 55, a vestige of past residents more willing to trade up for comfort.

But this is a post about sleep, not about frugality in the face of hypothermia.  So sleep.  Perhaps it’s a symptom of SAD (I only link to the pages, I don’t necessarily read them), but as we move further from warm weather, my inclination to go to sleep lessens, leaving me to wake up later and later each day, thereby reinforcing the negative shift in my circadian rhythm.  Eventually it turns into a case of can’t fall asleep and can’t wake up.

I can feel it coming on.  My very own Jekyl, hiding behind countless unheard bands, songs I haven’t written yet, comics I haven’t read, cool mint Cliff Bars I haven’t eaten, and a myriad of totally unnecessary tasks that always, at the time, seem more important than calling it a day.  Here’s where the lack of heat comes in.

It’d be a solid guess to assume that to avoid the bitter cold that has taken up residency in my house, I’d hide under the two down comforters, one fleece blanket, and one knit blanket on my bed to stay warm.  Wrong.  I’ve just taken to putting on two sweaters, thermal underwear, fleece lined pants, and a couple pairs of socks, with gloves and a hat to cover what’s left.  Nothing, not even a chill to my bone marrow, can stop my decline into near insomnia.

I’m hoping this infinitesimally small corner of webspace will help tire me out, so until I find a way to fall asleep at a proper time, I’m going to tell it to my blog, consistency willing.

The Dandy Warhols – Sleep

Sufjan Stevens – Adlai Stevenson (Adlai Video compilation)

This guy shot someone and he did fine, so I like my chances.

Elliott Smith Live @ Maxwell’s, 7/16/96

Some nostalgia, a touch of late night flirting with insomnia, and an ill-advised social networking visit.

Set list:
01 cupid’s trick
02 angeles
03 southern belle
04 between the bars
05 speed trials
06 coming up roses
07 alameda
08 division day
09 easy way out
10 last call
11 say yes

Oh Canada.

Constantines – Brother Run Them Down

I sing so I can sleep. Here’s to that.

Route 46.

Fountains of Wayne – Radiation Vibe

One of my favorite tapes in high school had Fountains of Wayne’s first record on one side and Superchunk’s No Pocky for Kitty on the other side. I think the essence of that tape describes not only my broader taste in music, but probably every song I’ve ever written.

Ryan Adams – Amy (Live @ World Café, Philadelphia, PA, 2000-09-28)

“John, I just started listening to Elliott Smith.”

John crooked his head, pushed his hair from his eyes (this guy had bangs before they were cool) and looked at me. With complete seriousness (at least that’s how I remember it), he asked me, “What, did you just break up with your girlfriend?”

Pavement – Rattled By The Rush

My back was to Jersey, but I made do. There was a clear reflection in her glasses of the high rises, the sunset, and that Lackawanna building. She’d laugh whenever I’d shiver. The wind chill ruined my cool.

In breaking a bit from my usual ‘I don’t know art (or much else), but I know what I like’ fashion, I know almost exactly why Sylvia Plath is one of my favorite songs by Ryan Adams. Now watch my flail a bit trying to explain it without knowing any music theory.

I’m a total sucker for chord progressions with a very resonant tonal center. Think of the center of a hypnotist’s wheel that doesn’t spin for suggestions or repressed memories, but just to slip you off into a dreamless trance. Go ahead and drown your sorrows in literal renditions of real life screw-ups, I’d rather zone out for as long as it takes to forget. What else could be more therapeutic than a musical induced waking coma? I find progressions like the one in Sylvia Plath slow everything down to a pace where you can stand anything no matter your mood. They climb or fall so gently and reach a resolution so quickly, that repetition doesn’t strip them of their potency. I’d equate it to the calming effect of having your hair stroked by a parent as a child. I believe Daniel Levitin touches on this in his most recent book This Is Your Brain On Music.

By hammering around on my Casiotone CT-360 I was able to pull out the basic progression of Sylvia Plath as Bmaj – F#maj – Emaj (inverted). The chorus diverges a bit from this, but the center still remains: it’s the B note that is holding my attention, you know, basically. I think.

My untrained ear finds much similarity in the progression for Willie by Cat Power (Gmaj – Dmin – Cmaj so says my casiotone). The major difference for me, is how the progression resolves. The Cmaj is a more solid landing than the Emaj inverted from Sylvia Plath. Willie is all repetition though. The song never strays from the three chord descent and there is no particular A-B-A structure to the song.

Putting all of this fractured and most likely incorrect musical analysis aside, the final noteworthy (hardy har) and most obvious characteristic I love about these sorts of progressions is their simplicity. They don’t require a great deal of attention, effectively boring most of your brain into sleep mode, leaving neurons to bounce around your skull like the animation from a paused DVD player. Instead of just knowing what’s coming next, you anticipate it and feel momentarily satisfied when it arrives. That they’re so simple though allows for a greater shelf life and a spot for their host song on your ‘Most Played’ playlist.

As mentioned before, one of these days I’m going to get around describing all the things I love about Glassworks by Philip Glass. Consider this the preface.