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Ways To Listen

Last December, a couple rounds into the night, a friend and I decided to go to Barcelona in the spring for Primavera Sound. Unlike a lot of semi-drunk good ideas, we followed through on this one, and now the trip is just a little more than a week away, so I'm spending a lot of time with the festival-curated Spotify playlist, mostly in my office in the gaps between meetings. Listening to music at work these days is something I do on a pretty nice set of speakers (with a subwoofer even!) that were a gift for Andy about 13 years ago. They're good. So good that Andy won't use them at home because they'd annoy our downstairs neighbor, who does not deserve to be annoyed. So we use an even older, weaker set of speakers at home, from a computer that I had in college, only now we plug iPhones into it instead of a beige desktop computer tower, and the nice speakers live in my office. I arrive later than most people to work, and stay later too, and sometimes when everyone is gone but I'm still around, I turn the volume way way up and get startled when someone pokes their head through my door to ask what I'm listening to. I've stuck post-it notes to one of the speakers, with lists of songs that I like, maybe candidates for a mix, and the most recent post-it reads "Geographer, Brighton Music Hall 5/19." It was placed initially to remind me to buy a ticket to the show, and now it's there to remind me to go to the show.

Since changing jobs, I have mostly traded my 20-ish minute bicycle commute for a 20-ish minute walking commute, along side streets in Mid-Cambridge that are quiet at 9 AM and give me the mistaken impression that I am alone in the city. The thing to do with a nominally-empty city street, if you are walking to work with earbuds in, is to find ways to walk while also dancing. Adjust your stride so that your footfalls keep time with the beat. Lip-sync, of course, with greater or lesser enthusiasm depending on the risk that you'll turn a corner and come face-to-face with another late-riser. Nod your head intently and maybe gesture with your hands abstractly, or beat a rhythm against your thigh with an open hand. Pause at corners to wait out traffic or a red light and take the opportunity to involve your hips. But subtly. There are people looking. Or maybe less subtly, because there are people looking.

On account of all the walking, I naturally chose the 'Make a Music Video' option for the final project in my class this semester. I managed to recruite a couple of people to let me film them in a crowded city park, and on streets around Central Square, doing that Dance Like Nobody's Watching thing. Except, of course, that everybody is watching, even moreso because there's a camera involved. They were heroically game. "What should I do next?" one asked, after I'd gotten footage of her head bobbing and foot tapping, and I said "So, uh, would you climb up on top of this picnic table and, like, kick this plastic cup off the table, and throw the paperback book you've got in your hand?" and she said "Hell yes." Eventually it was her and me and her two kids all dancing on the picnic table, and Andy behind the camera while a dozen picnickers tried to be subtle about their staring. A week later, a similar conversation, a "You're lucky I've been drinking all afternoon!" and waving pedestrians right through a shot because it looks even better if you know that there are other people around to see it all. We did three or four passes on one chorus in front of a mural, and every time I stopped recording she'd say, hopefully, "Should I do it again?!" and I said "Of course!" but ended up using the first take in the end. That's the one where she threw her purse to the ground so her arms would be free as she spun in semi-sober circles in impractical shoes. I get carried away... the chorus begins, and though it's not really about getting carried away that way, it's still the moment where smaller gestures turn big, and I cut to a wide shot, and behind the camera, every time, I danced too.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 15th, 2015 12:57 pm (UTC)
Love how you write.

And I also dance while walking if I have headphones on.
May. 20th, 2015 01:21 pm (UTC)

One of the things that was fun about making the video was just seeing how different people manage dancing and walking at the same time.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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