Saturday, June 14, 2003

A digression on music theory
So you've probably noticed that Coldplay's "Clocks" is pretty much omnipresent on the radio stations at the moment. Despite this, it's a surprisingly good song.

I'd like to talk about why I think this is an excellent song. This generally proves to be a frustrating exercise for both me and whoever I'm trying to talk to, since I always find myself unable to articulate exactly what I like and dislike in songs. I think that this is partially because, after years of listening to and playing classical music, I've developed an ear for the kinds of harmonies, cadences, and such which "sound good", but despite the rather surprising amount of music theory I've picked up, my pitch recognition skills are inadequate to say "oh, that was a very nice V-ii-I sequence" or somesuch. Heck, most of the time, without thinking about it extensively, I have difficulty picking up the key of a given song. Anyway, I'm sure what I'm going to say is probably somewhat wrong in the details (my music theory skills being quite rusty), but I hope it conveys the feeling well.

But anyway, what I like about this song:
1) It has a very nice sense of motion. This is the quality I most often look for in a song, and yet it's often very difficult for me to explain just where it comes from. Here, though, it's not too difficult: the arpeggiated chords (really, an underappreciated device in my opinion; another example of a song which uses this to great effect is the Doves' "Sea Song") keep the song moving forward, and do so in a very harmonious way. Something you also won't see very often in a song on the radio is this 3-3-2 rhythm (which I guess would be best classified as 8/8), which I think also lends itself to a feeling of motion.

2) It's very harmonious. Like I said, I can't really elaborate on this too much, but the chord progressions are, fundamentally, pretty. Since the harmony is a little more prominent than normal (the melody being pretty nondescript, when it comes right down to it), it's important that it fit together nicely for the resulting product to sound good.

That's really all I have to say. I'm going to go off and listen to it again now.
Irony of the day
So, as many of you know, I recently switched research groups up at LBL, moving me from ATLAS to CDF (if you actually care what those acronyms mean, feel free to ask). My new lab is almost directly across from my old boss' office, with the amusing result that I now see him much more often than when he actually was my boss. (Also, it surprises me just what a small percentage of the time he's actually in his office. It always surprised me when I went to his office and he wasn't there, but apparently that's just par for the course. I suppose particle physicists are very often not around, since they're often visiting, or at least videoconferencing with, a remote site.)
Behold the power of the Internet
So I was just engaging in some ego-surfing the other day, and was pleased to note that I have now achieved almost total domination of the top 50 or so hits (I don't remember exactly at which point I got bored, but it couldn't have been too far). What surprised the heck out of me was just how many of those hits came from this piece I wrote about ants infesting my hub. It kind of makes me wish I had crafted it a little better to withstand the ravages of posterity, but I'm still amused at just how much it got forwarded around.