Thursday, December 15, 2011

[ BtS ] Stolen (1.375)

It wasn't till my fourth year (out of six) at Oberlin that I finally started to put my own concept album project - Project::in•fin•i•ty - together.

I forget exactly how we came together. I'd already known Christopher (keyboards/production) a little and he was my RC. Charles (drums) lived at the end of the hallway and somehow he knew Jonathan (guitars). Something something something [cue flashback video montage] and I recruited them for my winter term project.

One of the songs from this unholy union was "Stolen (1.375)" - a quirky and fun tune in a lilting 11/8 (3 + 3 + 3 + 2) and 8/8 (3 + 3 + 2)[*]. The two riffs were something Jonathan had already developed and, as soon as he played the 11/8 one, I knew it was something I wanted to pursue.

By now I'd had three years of Oberlin under my belt and I was quite content with myself for being queer. There were still lingering issues, though.

First off: being queer is one thing. Being openly so - quite a different ball game. I was desperately trying to reconcile my progressive, activist leaning and the desire for a "normal" life. Could I find and live your Hollywoodified, picturesque house/picket-fence/kids fantasy(*cough*lie*cough*) when my mere existence was still illegal in some states?

Did I want to?

The second part? My own horrible attempts at meeting guys and dating.

I've always been on the shy and timid side. My taste always leaned towards the emotionally unavailable and usually straight guys. Approaching a guy... was something to be avoided at all costs - even the cost of my happiness.

Yes, it was many a cold and miserable night at Oberlin. [cue: lonely, sniveling shot in bed]

Ultimately the project never quite went where I conceived it. But the process and result were both still fun and worthwhile regardless. As tattered hat we recorded a total of six or seven songs - all of which I'm rather proud of. Though we only performed once as a duo on my senior recital.

  • We wound up recording this song twice in our year and a half together. The second time around, in the process of recording, we realized the verses were 11 bars of 11/8, a twelfth bar of 12/8 and the chorus was 8 bars of 8/8. FREAKY!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

[ BtS ] "If You Want Me To (I would run to you)"

My first year at Oberlin brought me a new experience: the opportunity to date _guys_ - the gender I am attracted to.

For the young ones today in a seemingly more progressive and queer-friendly field, perhaps it isn't a big deal. But for me - someone who grew up in this conservative and strange "normal" reality of the 80's and 90's in a backwater town of California... It was a second adolescence.

I wasn't completely in the closet in high school but neither was I exactly out. There were a couple guys - straight, of course - whom I'd developed strong feelings for but none of it was requited in the least. There were no other queer folk present or visible. The internet for the most part was still a few years away.

It was a bit of a lonely existence. But loneliness is a part of me.

Well here I was at a very liberal college[1] and dating was now more than possible[2]. All of a sudden feelings, urges, and complexities I hadn't ever had to deal with became very much a real roadblock to my personal life. Sex, intimacy, flirtation, pain, rejection... in a blink they all switched from something theoretical and abstract to a highly tangible and terrifying reality.

Most of my dating life at Oberlin can be summed up as: dismal. Only one song have I ever written pertaining to love during that time and that song wasn't till years later. But more on that later.

David was the first guy I *ever* dated. And... being me, it was both short and emotionally intense. For me.

He was kinda shy, awkward, and dorky - studying bio-chem if I recall properly. We were both outsiders of our own. Totally drew me in.

I think we dated for all of a week - around fall break. I certainly remember him coming back from it and calling it off. Just seven days or so. We never even had sex! (I don't remember if we even kissed...)

But of course in the intensity of my hot house-esque brain something went... further. I remember one "vision" or daydream I had - this image of us reuniting at some point in the future, he'd contracted HIV, and I was devastated.

The emotional response I had to that was pretty intense. The following break-up was also kind of intense. It was also my first, after all.

It wasn't a huge fight or some silly drama. No, that's not the way I tend to function. My feelings for him were fairly genuine. Instead of anything else, what would unfold to be my manner of coping, I turned inward. I withdrew a bit trying to figure out how to handle this new and rather unpleasant predicament with my emotions - how do I process and manage this new searing sadness?

Well by writing a song, of course!

I actually remember quite a bit from the time. I remember listening to The Magnetic Fields' "Charm of the Highway Strip" on repeat ad nauseum[3]. I remember the bitingly cold winter air turning to snow - another first. I remember a brief rebound-esque fling with another David...

But the song follows the hypothetical narrative of a purely mental sequence that never left my brain. It haunted me for some time. At some point I made the mistake of telling David about it. He assured me he wouldn't be catching HIV.

We tried to stay friends but not too long thereafter we lost touch. I don't remember much of him my sophomore year if at all. He graduated a year early and I two late. I suppose there would be some irony if we were to reunite and any of this were to transpire.

As a note, along with Diamond Rise and Half Moon Bay, this demo wasn't recorded for many years. It wasn't until eleven years later in 2006 or so - when I was in a VERY different point in my life - did this song ever get past my own ears.

  1. There are two particular points of amusement for me on this.
    1. I didn't choose Oberlin for the political landscape - I was quite unaware of it, in fact. I chose it for the ranking of the composition department
    2. Though I proudly thought of myself as liberal growing up, my arrival and exploration of politics brought me to a bewildering and embarrassing realization that I was still rather conservative.
  2. Though not necessarily probable! LOL
  3. It's still my go-to album for times of romantic crises and heartache.