Archive | November, 2011

Answering Machine: A Retrospective

8 Nov

A few weeks ago I had the great displeasure of attending a resume workshop with a rather threatening representative from the Career Services Office. She wailed on about a lot of things we’re all probably doing wrong, but there was just one point that struck a soft spot in me. Your answering machine message. “I don’t care how much you like that Miley Cyrus song, prospective employers will just hang up the phone. Your outgoing message must be professional, ‘Hello, this is So-and-so, please leave a message.”

Does this mean I have to change my message?
Just for some stinking job?
I’ve been writing answering machine ditties since middle school. I’ve never had an outgoing message that wasn’t a song. I mean, my name is Melody, for God’s sake. Who would I be without my answering machine ditties?
While pondering these deep, philosophical questions, I decided I ought to put together a retrospective of all my ditties through the years. Perhaps an homage to a tradition I’ll put to rest. And in honor of the sad, sad day when I graduate from college and begin my job search with a fresh, new, “You’ve reached Melody, please leave a message after the tone,” I wrote a brand new ditty to grace my voicemail for the few remaining fortnights. It’s my best yet, I think.
But first let us look back.
It all began with a love for the late Green Day hit single, “Minority” back around the turn of the millennium. I set the words of your typical greeting to some version of the tune from the chorus of “Minority”.  Altering the lyrics so that they would vaguely rhyme never even occurred to me until my BFF Andrew (who surely listened to this message far more times than anyone else in the world) commented on the lack of rhyme. Nevertheless, this, the original ditty hung on for around three years before giving way to an updated, rhymeful version.
c. 2000 – 2003
Melody is not at home to answer your call,
Just leave a message after the beep,
And she’ll get back to you.
This next ditty, the longest running version of them all, showed some significant strides in my songwriting. The tune was completely original, and pretty catchy I must admit. It acquired additional acclaim when I was commissioned to record a personalized version for my friend Susanna’s outgoing message.
c. 2003 – 2008
Melody cannot reach the phone,
So leave your name and number after the tone,
And she’ll get back as soon, as soon as she can.
Finally, after 5 years I was inspired to write a brand new answering machine ditty. More complex than the last, this tune introduced a new level of variety into my melodic lines.
c. 2008 – 2010
You’ve reached Me-e-lody,
I cannot pick up presently,
But you can leave a message after the tone,
And I can reach you later on the phone,
I look forward to hearing from you,
I look forward to hearing from you.
By 2010, my musical aesthetic had evolved quite a bit. By now I was taking fiddle lessons and teaching myself to play the mandolin; I was active in the Brooklyn folk scene and completely enamored with early blues. I borrowed the melody here from the old spiritual “Motherless Child” for a darker, more soulful approach to the answering machine ditty.
c. 2010
Your call has missed me but I want you to know (x3)
I want to get back to you (x2)
That tune had but a brief jaunt, six months maybe, when inspiration struck again. The following tune reigned for nearly a year, until just today.
c. 2011
Well I’ve missed, I’ve missed your call,
But I don’t want to miss it all,
If you’ll just tell me why,
I’ll call back, yeah I’ll give you a try-y-y.
And finally, my crowning achievement, the “Please Call Me Back Blues”. Written in loving appreciation for the creative freedom childhood allows, and the stubbornness with which I receive societal conventions of professionalism.
c. 2011
Hello, it’s Melody,
Why have you called on me?
Tell me your name and news,
Sing me the, “Please Call Me Back Blues.”

Papa, You Know It’s Right

5 Nov
I’ve recently experienced a surge in musical inspiration. It’s incredible what a little momentum can do. After trying very hard to write a song that didn’t turn out so well, this one simply came to me, and I’m confident that it’s my best so far. 
One morning I was getting ready for school, half-listening to a Bessie Smith record. All the way to school I had this one misremembered line stuck in my head, “Papa, you know it’s right.” By lunchtime it was driving me insane, singing one line over and over again in my head, so I made a whole song out of it.
The lyrics feel a bit foolish now; when I wrote it, nearly a month ago, I had recently started seeing someone who I was very excited about. But as it turns out, Papa, it wasn’t right.

Self-Portrait in the Morning

4 Nov
In this, the last semester of my Bachelor’s degree, despite the overwhelming insanity of student teaching, I decided that squeezing the last drops of educational opportunity and studio space out of my degree was important enough to take a painting class I don’t actually need. And though my time and effort input has been less than ideal, I’m really very excited about the work that’s coming out of it.
I felt the call of oil painting. The simplicity of losing oneself in a completely predictable medium. Where I don’t have to worry about how it functions, how it balances, how it holds together, how it moves, what will happen if I do such-and-such. I am free to just pour myself into the creation of something beautiful. 
I have forgone any attempt at the conceptual. I am painting what I want to paint just because I think it is lovely. I am painting quiet, intimate moments from my daily life. Each painting in the series is 10″ x 10″ and began with the same jade green underpainting. Hopefully that will be enough to keep the series cohesive while I dabble about, exploring whatever I feel compelled to explore. But I suppose I won’t really know until they’re all complete.
The first painting is a self-portrait, braiding my hair in front of a mirror. I wanted it to have an early morning quality; I wanted my gaze to reveal a hazy quality, as if I’m still lost in my dreams, or some other thought. Not looking at the viewer, but looking beyond the viewer.
My intention was to take intermittent photos throughout the whole process. Unfortunately, I forgot until I was four or five hours deep, so this first image is after four or five hours of work.
Back in the classroom at my student teaching placement, my 10th graders were involved in a Post-Impressionist portrait project. Looking at Van Gogh with them I began to think, “This is beautiful. I’ve never done anything like this before.” The thick, impasto paint; the swirling strokes. And as I contemplated ways to separate the two figures as real and reflection, I thought, “Why not? No harm in giving it a try.”
So I went all impasto on my braid, and added an impasto mirror frame to balance the suddenly very left-leaning composition.

The painting is essentially complete, I think, though I’m still in the process of building up the surface of the mirror with a nice, glossy varnish to add to the illusion.

More to come!