field report: bridges

For once the speakers outside Hard Rock Cafe are playing a song I want to hear so I stand leaning against the bricks and listen to the lengthy bridge from ‘How Soon Is Now?’ It’s the part of the song I have always particularly loved. Just as Morrissey starts to sing for the last time ‘I am human and I need to be loved’ a generic man in fancy slacks and blazer walks by mouthing the words. The song fades out and I walk to the suspension bridge that always buckles in the wind. As I reach the bridge a man visibly down on his luck addresses me. He asks me if there is a mission where he and his wife can get a hot meal and I tell him there is one on the Fallsway. He replies that it’s closed. So I say there’s also one on Gay Street. He responds that it too is closed. I have no money with me so I tell him I can’t help him and wish him luck. He says nothing and turns away. I continue across the bridge and then I walk across the map of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, sometimes cordoned off and sometimes not, that is etched into stone in front of the fish prison. I make a halfhearted attempt to look for birds in the habitat islands but I feel like I have experienced way too much in the past few minutes so I return to the office and read a few more pages of Konwicki.

monday dirge

spiral of silence — ‘across’

Belgian coldwave band Spiral of Silence.

personality and musical preferences

Do you love folk music? It may be due to your empathetic nature. A new study in PLOS One shows there is a relationship between musical preferences and personality, as well as how we think.

(That is clearly the most journalistic lead I’ve ever written on this blog. Absurd! Who do I think I am.)

Recent reports on the study have appeared in The Atlantic, the BBC, and on NPR.

Says The Atlantic:

[Study author] Greenberg found that people who scored high on empathy tended to prefer music that was mellow (like soft rock and R&B), unpretentious (country and folk), and contemporary (Euro pop and electronica.) What they didn’t like, meanwhile, was “intense” music, which he classified as things like punk and heavy metal. People who scored high on systemizing, meanwhile, had just the opposite preferences—they kick back to Slayer and could do without Courtney Barnett.

To get even more specific, the music empathizers liked tended to be softer, more depressing, and have more emotional depth. Systemizers, meanwhile, grooved to things that were high-energy, animated, and complex. Empathizers liked strings; systemizers liked distorted, loud, and “percussive.”

Loving both mellow and intense music apparently indicates my empathetic systemizing nature. I straddle the line, which I already knew. But what I’m curious to know is if at any given moment musical preference can indicate current capacity for empathy. For example, if I’m listening to Skinny Puppy would I be less inclined to listen to someone’s troubles than if I were listening to Nick Drake?

ravine trail

The new trail opens up the wildest area in this urban forest oasis. Clusters of mushroom sprout from the center of the path. Few have walked here yet. It is high summer and the wood thrush yet sings. Cicadas offer up a constant backing drone. Point of fact: dogs don’t process the switchback concept. It conflicts with their innate knowledge of the shortest distance rule. As the trail climbs from the deepest shaded low point, the morning heat barges uninvited into the cool air space. Sounds of the nearby freeway intrude. As I struggle to adapt, a certain chorus tears through my head in response. This walk is soon over.

words and music from john fahey

“All I have ever done with music was to depict various emotions in an organized and coherent musical language, especially hate, fear, repulsion, grief, depression, or feeling nothingness.”

John Fahey, liner notes to The Legend of Blind Joe Death (1996 reissue of his first record Blind Joe Death)

 

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