The way I figure it, most Ally McBeal
watchers can be pigeon-holed into a few categories: Women
their significant other
s, and Single men who like mini-skirts
and wait on the edge of their sofa-bed
s for those few blissful moments when Ling
smiles. I am not ashamed to say that I fall into the last of these three categories. Recently, however, I started watching the show with the volume on, thus giving me an insight into the plot, which, unlike shows like V.I.P.
, actually adds to the viewing experience.
The sexual tension
between, well - everyone, is great, but in my opinion the saving
grace of the show (aside from its inspired wardrobe department) is its attitude towards music.
Now, I'm not talking about Vonda-fication of every seventies pop song
into some easy-listening-sitting-down-at-the-Elton-John chum
. I'm talking about Ally hearing music in her head, and about Tracy Ullman urging her to find a theme song. Right on Simpsons-spawning sister!
I mean, who hasn't been walking down the street, you've just found a great parking space, you're going to a bar to meet your best friends
, you're dressed nice, you smell good, you got nothing in the world to worry about. You take a look at yourself in a shop window and realize your walk has turned to a strut. Oh yeah, you're feeling the flow.
That's when I
hear it, sometimes with a blast of a full horn section, always with a low Chameleon
-like bass line. Sometimes I throw in the jumping B-3
of Medeski Martin and Wood
's Chub Sub
. That's when you're not walking
, you're not strutting
, you're groovin'
You are Richard Roundtree
That's what's great about this entire Volkswagon
"Drivers wanted" campaign. "Da, da, da
" melded perfectly an over-lighted, almost documentary filming style with an obscure '80's eclectro-pop song creating the perfect drab, happily bored reality
They took it step further with a spot called "SyncroniCity
" which features a thirty-something couple driving down a rainy New Orleans
street who find that their windshield wipers, a guy sweeping the sidewalk, some box tossing young men, a dribbling basketball, their turn signal and well, everything is perfectly in sync with the music they are listening to. Brilliant
. I can't begin to tell you how many times I have experienced the exact same sensation.
It's better than déjà vu
When the bartender lays down a row of shots in front of you, you turn to your friends, toast, down 'em, then slowly turn around and Tom Petty
's American Girl
starts up on the juke box just as you see her
walking down the stairs. When you walk into a room just as the first strains of any song George Clinton
played a role in begins to throb from the speakers in the corner.
It is akin to cherry blossoms in a bath of recent rain.
Speaking of such things (arriving to music
not floating flora
), a friend once asked me which I would prefer, to live in a country whose national anthem
or to have Darth Vader
's theme from Star Wars
play every time I enter a room.
Needless to say, I thought long and hard.
Imagine the Olympics
, all the athletes filing in country by country. Countless God Save the Queen
type songs play and then a piercing electric guitar rips through P.A. system and the crowd starts chanting
"Thunder, na-na, na-na, na-na-na, na, Thunder..." Brings tears to the eyes don't it?
Now imagine your High School Graduation
Then again, the thought of having a theme song play wherever I go is incredibly tempting, but something as sinister as Vader's music would definitely get me down after a while. All sorts of movies have made jokes about personal theme music - from Monty Python's Holy Grail
to I'm Gonna Get You Sucka
I'm convinced that the Ghetto Blaster
craze of the eighties came from the same desire to make your presence know to all not merely by what you wear, say, or in some cases smell like, but by music. What if we all had our own personal whale song
? Not really practical, but a fun thought.
But then again, a soundtrack can be very telling. I have never seen the movie Superfly
, and part of me doesn't ever want to.
I bought the album after hearing a band cover Pusherman
with such gusto and rhythmic intensity that I ran to the soundboard after the show and badgered the people there about "that pusherman song" until I someone told me it was a cover of a Curtis Mayfield
tune from some movie. The next day I went out, found the Curtis Mayfield section of the record store and bought the Superfly soundtrack. I have since listened to it countless times. Curtis Mayfield's work on this album is superb. Through this music I know the plot of the entire movie, or at least I know a plot of some movie. I know about the martyrdom of Freddie and about Superfly's self doubt and eventual triumph. I got it all from the music.
I remember a phone call I participated in a few years back. I had called a friend I hadn't talked to in a few months to see how he was doing. He answered the phone and the defeat in his voice was apparent. After a quick recounting of recent adventures I asked him.
"So, how ya' doin'?"
"Man, it's the same scene every day, just different music."
"Could be worse."
Now is when you typically would hear a that's-when-it-hit-me. You know, like "there I was hacking through the field of sugarcane when it hit me" or "He was in her thirty-fifth minute of non-stop rambling when in hit me." Well, I'd like to say that talking on the phone to my friend that time was when it hit me, but it's not. It didn't hit me till right now.
I had set out to write about how we'd be so much better off we all had a theme song, or at least a soundtrack. Well, now
is when it hit me - the two are vastly different.
The way I look at it, a theme song just stays the same. It will always define its subject and the two will be like Siamese twins joined at the waist, independent yet always connected. Darth Vader's music, Also Sprach Zarathustra
(the theme from the late Stanley Kubrick
's 2001: A Space Odyssey
), Apocalypse Now
and The End
- you can't hear one without thinking of the other.
A soundtrack, on the other hand, can be part theme song, but mostly it's just the incidental
stuff - the swell of music between scenes. When I'm walking down the street feeling so good you can see it, I here my sound track. When the party just isn't going that well then someone changes the CD and suddenly the place is jumping - there's your soundtrack.
Whether we like it or not, music makes us feel stuff we don't always want to feel. Sometimes, though, what we are feeling and seeing and doing and what we listen to match up in such sublime unison that we can't help but take notice. That's your soundtrack.
So pay close attention to your what hits your ears. Next time you're staring at the rain hitting a window, throw in Tortoise
. Like the rain, it warbles between similar rhythms, driving on and dripping gently down, inches from your face.
Okay, here's the moral of the story.
Someone once said that the Buddha's smile is one of recognition.
It is a grin of knowing or seeing, the grin of a sculptor in a quarry
. It is the smile that comes from understanding or noticing a connection that wasn't there before. It is a student understanding fractions for the first time.
Those moments when we can see the web connecting our surroundings and our mood make up the smile of the Buddha
. These are moments we can merely notice, but we can also align ourselves so as to create them.