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Entry date: 4-19-2024 – It’s the End of the Week and the work Can begin – Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends,

 

So, funny story. A couple of days ago, we started reading Charlotte’s Web at school. If you are familiar, it’s a beautiful story. Much of it is set on a farm in a barn. I wanted to have a little fun with the kids, so I had them answer a few general questions about the characters, main idea, theme, and setting as a “pre-test.”

 

This got a lot of groans and questions about what they should write if they hadn’t read the book before. Even though I assured them there were no wrong answers if they had never read it, many struggled to make that leap of faith and just guess. A few of my students, though, were familiar with the book and answered the questions pretty well.

 

One of my favorite students left off a key letter in her description of the setting. She wrote, “The story mainly takes place in a bar.”

 

I enjoyed this so much. I called her over and asked if she was sure about her answers and she said, “Yes, I’m sure.”

“I think you might have read a different version than I did,” I replied.

 

Now this young lady loves to give me looks of pure exasperation during the day. She thinks my little jokes are super corny and because of this, I tell her a lot of them so I can see that face. I love that she thinks I am a fucking idiot.

 

Anyhow, she did not think it was funny that she wrote “bar” instead of “barn,” but I did. For the last couple of days I’ve been getting a kick out of how the story would change if these were characters who hung out at a bar together. The kind “spider lady” who builds a young lush’s confidence so he won’t kill himself. Very touching.

 

Maybe this is an idea for The Bet. Could I figure out a way to work this into the story somehow? I think I can.

 

*****

 

If you have ever seen a huge lightning storm, you know it is a pretty impressive thing. Out here in the desert, we see them every once in a while. It almost seems like the sky is exploding, they are sometimes over almost as quickly as they begin and other times, they last for over an hour, but you’re left shaking your head and wondering what you just saw.

 

This is how I felt when I first heard Endtroducing by DJ Shadow. I wasn’t exactly sure what I was listening to, but the CD I had purchased at the insistence of my friend, Alex, was equally disorienting, full of strange energy, and massive. It still stuns me to this day.

 

The first thing I thought of then and still think of now is: I wish I had this kind of patience. I can’t imagine what kind of focus on beats and sounds it takes to put together a sound collage as impressive as this.

 

This motherfucker is about as simplistic as it gets from a hip hop standpoint from what I’ve read over the years. DJ Shadow layered samples and beats for a couple of years in San Francisco putting it all down into the radness that exists for about an hour (and three minutes, to be almost exact).

 

The first three tracks full tracks, “Building Steam with a Grain of Salt,” “The Number Song,” and “Changeling/Transmission 1” are sofa king good. I particularly love the drum breaks in “The Number Song” towards the end. The bass in “Changeling” is, for lack of a better term, fat. Maybe I should write, “phat” but I can honestly say I haven’t used that term before to the best of my knowledge.

 

To say Endtroducing is atmospheric is an understatement. Admittedly, I have fallen asleep to it many times, but not because it is boring. Some of the tracks are quite relaxing. It’s wild to think that some make you want to shake your booty and others put your booty to bed.

 

“What Does Your Soul Look Like (Part 4)” is another one that combines these killer bass lines with ridiculously head-bobbing beats. As I listen now, I remember being quite pleased with myself that I was in on this early on. Little did I realize that there was a whole scene that was extolling the virtues of DJ Shadow before I even knew his name.

 

The key was that very few people I came across knew about Endtroducing in 1996 and DJ Shadow was not a hero in the punk community. Now, though, a good handful of people dig him and he’s still cranking out music.

 

I read that this was the first ‘entirely sampled’ record. That blows my mind. How cool would it be to do a whole “Being John Malkovich” thing with DJ Shadow’s brain and see how he puts these songs together. How does he hear a drum beat or a piano line or whatever and think, I’m going to slap this piece here and that piece there between this crazy jazz riff from a record I found at Goodwill? I just don’t get it.

 

Maybe it would be a scary place and being in there would drive you crazy. Clearly, he hears the world differently. It gives me an idea for my story about sound monsters from another dimension.

 

“Organ Donor” is another track I like a lot. It kind of starts off building around this wild organ riff and makes you think it is going to break into something bigger but stays home. I don’t know why I like that it keeps a low profile in comparison to much of the record, but I do.

 

The last third of the record is basically perfect. “Midnight in a Perfect World” is one of the coolest song names ever. Super relaxing and chill, “Midnight…” taught me that hip hop can be a lot more than what I had thought it was prior to this. There are layers of feeling happening here.

 

I had no idea it was the ‘single’ off this record. Not one radio station in Phoenix was playing this. Not one.

 

The party continues, though, with “Napalm Brain/Scatter Brain” which has more great drum breaks. DJ Shadow puts on a freaking clinic on Endtroducing when it comes to sampling drums. For the better part of 9 minutes, it’s just great drums manipulated to be even greater.

 

Make sure you listen all the way to the end if you want to get a glimpse of how the man does his thing. It’s just a glimpse, but it is worthy of your time if you stick around some great bass dives and blasts of jazzy hip hop drums.

 

*****

 

See you tomorrow.



Wilbur?

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