Sunday, January 31, 2016

Music Confession, Johnny Dollar, Query Blues

On one of the many podcasts I listen to, the host huffily insists on a weekly basis that he doesn’t like music. As heretical as it sounds, I don’t think I like music, either. Over the years, there have been albums that have been very important to me and have gotten me through some hard times. And I write poetry, which is a close cousin to music. But lately my personal approach to music is ruthlessly utilitarian: When I  listen to it, it’s only to enhance whatever it is I happen to be doing at the moment: upbeat pop or heavy metal for working out, ethereal new-age ear candy for writing and creative work, or light techno for gaming. (Speaking of which—“Rise of the Tomb Raider” came out for PC, and it is glorious, but more on that next week when I’ve had a chance to play further into the game.) For me, music has a always been a tool, rather than an end in itself. And with the podcast explosion, over the years, I’ve come to prefer the sound of human voices talking. Hearing interviews, conversations and monologues comforts me and makes me feel connected to humanity in a way that listening to music doesn’t.

Speaking of podcasts, Mr. Typist and I recently got into listening to the old-time radio show “Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar”, described in the opening credits as "The transcribed adventures of the man with the action-packed expense account — America's  fabulous freelance insurance investigator!" Johnny Dollar is known for his detailed and often editorialized expense reports, which he reads off at the end of each show after he’s nabbed the latest grifter, firebug or flimflam man trying chisel his client. The stories aren’t earth-shattering in terms of originality, but they’re well-acted and a lot of fun to listen to. One of my vague goals is to someday write an old-timey radio serial—even if it’s just a two or three part series. The format offers a lot of potential, and with podcast equipment being so cheap and easy to use these days, why, it’d be a cinch to pull off of a recorded version.

On writing: I sent out two queries over the last two weeks on my novel, but I’m feeling too demoralized to send out another one this weekend. I know you’re supposed to keep going with these things, and I haven’t given up, I just feel all mopey and dream-muffled about it right now. Sending out a query feels like launching my baby down a river on a raft in the hopes that it gets found and adopted by a good family. The agencies all make it clear up front that they won’t respond unless they’re interested, so that leaves me with nothing to do but stand in the echo of their disapproving silence. I’ll try again next week.   

I know I spent the first of part of this post talking about how I don’t like music, but nonetheless, I went down a Nick Cave rabbit hole this week, and I came across the video for “The Weeping Song”, which is a song I’ve always loved despite its heavy-handedness. I had never seen the video, and I thought it was stunning—but I do recognize that neither the song or the video are for everyone. So I included “The Ship Song” as a palette cleanser. Enjoy!

--Kristen McHenry

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