What if you listen to the whole Lou Reed Metal Machine Music album?

I heard about Lou Reed’s “Metal Machine Music,” and that it was one of the worst albums ever on several websites, and that the maker himself did not ever even listen to the whole thing in one sitting, so I decided it would be proper to challenge myself to listen to the entire album. I wasn’t really aware of how crazy that idea would be.
It was a bit scary to press the play button. (I would have preferred to throw the needle on the vinyl but alas, that’s not possible right now)
Here’s my log of what happened during this hour-long auditory torture session:

Minute Number:
1: It’s noisy guitar feedback loops at different frequencies. Kind of cool. Kind of boring.
2: This is going to be hard. It’s so repetitive.
3: Gosh this is weird. There’s way more variety than I originally anticipated. It’s like he suddenly threw in a bunch of random stuff, which I’m very thankful for, if things stay on this track it might not be so hard to get through the whole thing
4: Really strange and quiet sounding. Weirdness. I just thought of robots.
5: Thought I heard a national anthem for a few seconds. There’s this really grating noise that just won’t stop, above the variety of all the other loops. MAKE IT STOP
6: Horrible tinnitus and helicopter sounds. A bit of insanity and old video game connotations. I just heard one snippet of jazz piano. Then nothing. Then another piece.
7: I need some water. I don’t even know what to this of this music… no, it’s noise I guess. I don’t know what it is. 
8: OWW THIS INFERNAL BEEPING. Almost got to song quality before fading into oblivion. There’s the Apache overhead again.
9: [Walk to get a bite of celery. Bump into the counter] I can’t make any remarks right now. Brain not functional. A monocled minimalist head with a top hat pops into my head. [The dog runs by from around a corner] AHH I’M SCARED [someone walks in the room and I internally scream]
10: I just hallucinated the dog or some face behind the kitchen table then he ran from the left to right, far away from my hallucination. I can’t tell which was scarier. My nerves are pretty messed up.
12: damn that was a creepy out of place sound. And the cursor on my computer–NO THERE”S SCREAMING IN THE ALBUM, STOP!! the sounds of bombs exploding and a man laughing.
13: I thought the tea kettle just looked at me.
14: This reminds me of Jimi Hendrix’s version of the Star Spangled Banner. This record is way more interesting than I originally expected. It got quite pleasant for ten seconds, much more minimalistic. 
15: crap I’m only 25.25% done with this. I have no idea what will happen. I hope my sanity stays intact.
16: Calm down, don’t get nervous. It’s OK. NO STOP SCREAMING
17: Crap, an ad happened which was just as scary as this messed up screaming sound. If the beginning of this album was this insane I would have probably stopped immediately. I’m compulsively checking the minutes to when this will end. I really expected to have more thoughts. This seems more to work like that middle school story about the dystopian society that nullifies smart people’s thoughts so everyone has the same net intelligence level. It’s like the noise is merging into my thoughts.
19: How can there be so much variety in something that’s simply just noise? Finally the torturing animal/screaming sounds are done. Or are they? Heard a few bright moments of an actual guitar solo. I feel a little more sane than before. What would happen if they played this in Guantanamo Bay?
20: I hear tinnitus again. Not from me. Things in the corner of my eyes are jumping slightly, creating a marginally jarring effect. A particularly cacophanous ephemeral clang arises. That’s old news I guess, the sounds are always changing and they’re not worth explaining too heavily.
23: Longest stretch without checking the time so far.  🙂  Woah, it almost went quiet. That was a relief. Why didn’t Lou Reed hear the damn thing? It’s not THAT bad. I guess he was more afraid than me? Or just wanted to guarantee the safety of his brain? Why would you make something and not listen to it? I hear my own compositions 50-200 times for God’s sake. There was just a very pleasant little riff. This would be surprisingly good musical inspiration for an EXTREMELY subtle-eared musician. Cool patterns can occasionally be plucked out of the chaos. 
25: Thought I saw a phantom after I opened my eyes after keeping them closed a while. Not afraid though. My brain seems to be in a sense accepting this ruckus as normal except when something like that morse code sound happens.
26: I really want to do something fun. This is making everything else seem better. It must  be rock bottom in the record world.
27: Why did I sign up for this? But it’s too late to stop now. Even the screaming and terrible morse code sounds are beginning to feel normal somehow. I wonder if I’ll keep hearing this crap in my head until I go to bed. I wonder what I’ll dream about. 
30: Heard The Marriage of Figaro. Will Metal Machine Music have a positive or negative result on a composer like me? Or is it just a waste of time? [90’s cheesy film trailer voice] Only time will tell.
32: How many other people have even done this? It’s crazy people actually listen to noise on purpose, although in some bizarre way, I kind of get it. It’s absolute randomness. (* or at least something vaguely similar)
34: I’m even used to that screaming sound. It doesn’t seem super expressive anymore.
35: quietness, please get stronger. I need you. Against the backdrop of this sound my humanity feels much more concrete and beautiful in a sense. I’m a meaningful pattern compared to all this auditory chaos.
37: This is quite a while to sit down and just write. But somehow I managed to make it more than halfway through. It seems I can, at last, make a few observances: #1 I’m not going insane. #2 I was going a little insane temporarily, earlier on. #3 It will be nice when this is done but it might circulate in my head more. #4 I took a lot of B12 for brain function today and if this sound somehow messes up my brain instead of helping it, and uses the power of the B12 to make a larger impression than it otherwise would, then damn it and I would really regret this experiment.
39: Few notes of a song again. What if someone listened to this in headphones at school to drown out the teacher? It would work better than white noise.
40: Up until now, not too much of the album has actually been repeated. I have a lot of respect for this guy, because instead of looping the same noise over and over he actually put in the effort, although maybe talent isn’t required, to make something that is quite varied. Not that the average person would notice all the variety. It’s pretty subtle.
41: I’m turning the volume down slightly so my ears don’t get damaged. It seemed like a big difference at first but now it sounds about the same. This would not be the sort of thing I would consider getting tinnitus worth. Is that a sentence? Can I English?
42: Thinking about life a bit.
44: My brain’s gone pretty quiet again. I seem to be aware of everything I do and every movement I make on a much more sensitive level. It’s interesting. It really wouldn’t surprise me if some unforeseen side effects occurred from this.
48: Longest stretch without a comment. I feel pretty peaceful. Music is so subjective that I feel like a culture could consider this music. It seems to be meshing with my brain, after 30 minutes. It took 15 minutes for Trout Mask Replica to, and only a few minutes for The Shaggs. So it seems that the more noise something has the more alien to the nervous system it is. But anything will become normalized with sufficient time and effort, depending on the resistance of someone to it.
50: It’s not that I’m actually tuning the music out, but it just isn’t producing much of a response. I actually feel quite calm and happy to be writing. I wonder if I would feel that way if I wasn’t listening to any music at all, probably. Is this music? Lou says so.
52: Thankgiving’s tomorrow. That’s exciting. I’m excited about life. That rarely happens. Is the music part of why? Wow.
53: Those things you hear on TV test programs, a low sine wave followed by a high one, I just heard one in the music. Why is this called Metal Machine Music? Heavy Metal? Not check. Machines? Sorta check. Music? Not check, not really.
Metal Machine Music, combined? I guess it kind of qualifies but I probably would entitle it as “feedback: the album”
54: I don’t know what would happen to my sanity if I didn’t check the time. I think it would be 5x harder an experiment. I challenge you to try. It’s almost the only thing holding any of this together. It’s almost done! Finally!
55: Just heard a quite pleasant section. Thought I saw something billowing in the window curtain. Shouldn’t think too much about it. Probably from the heater that may have just turned on, I couldn’t hear the difference with this sound playing anyhow. I have the feeling that playing Metal Machine Music is causing a bit of split personality in me.
58: It reminds me of Purgatory. It’s so neutral that this album is like an unaffiliated place in which you can think about other things fairly. I have a slight headache. This would be a bigger issue if it had happened a while ago, now I’m almost finished.
59: How can I possibly consider this normal? It dawned on me freshly. This is truly bizarre.
61: I like when this sounds like music but I still dislike the screaming. He should have taken it off if he didn’t want people to get freaked out by this album. And the bomb sounds. And the abrupt starts and stops.
-END-
My review: 2/10. It has some interesting possible side effects from horrible to good, roll the dice if you want to. Listening to the whole thing is pretty crazy, but YOLO.

Thank you!

AJ

 

 

 

 

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my new album

I have created my first music album— an experimental piece featuring analog Moog synthesizers among a few other instruments.

“Raw music played on Moog synths and other instruments. I am to create a unique world in every song and try to use the rough, limitless and somewhat imprecise nature of analog synths to that end.”
released March 31, 2017

Description & Analysis of musical intervals (third/sixth/second et c.)

Interval            Consonance/Dissonance       Waveform                        Character
Unison             perfectly consonant                    simple                     plain
Second               dissonant                            quickly pulsating       wants to be resolved
Third                 consonant-                                pulsating            pleasant, richer
Fourth               consonant                                 stable                 pre-classical connotations,  sound slowly cycles
Fifth                   consonant+                              stable         classical connotation, halfway between tonic/dominant
Sixth                  semi-consonant                  pulsating     less frequently used, harder to identify, not simple like 5th
Seventh            dissonant                       pulsating quicker              wants to be resolved, unusual interval
Octave          perfectly consonant      more complex than unison,stable               richer than unison
Ninth            semi-dissonant                       pulsating                                   more pleasant than second
Tenth            consonant                                   stable                                     complex, somewhat similar to third, happy

Tuning Ratios for Just Intonation:

Unison= 1:1 Second=9:8 Third=5:4 Fourth=4:3
Fifth=3:2 Sixth=5:3 Seventh=15:8 Octave=2:1

The Banjo King

A folk song was playing on the radio as my friend Joe babbled on about whatever was on his mind. We sat on the chairs in the living room, killing time and having a drink.

“The piano sounds nice on this song.”

“Yeah. I tried to play the piano once, but it never worked out too well. I guess I’m just not cut out for playing music,” I replied.

“Hmm. My cousin plays the banjo. He lived in West Virginia for a while, and was always saying some legend that people used to talk about down there. Not sure exactly what it amounts to, though.”

“Interesting,” I said. “What is it?”

“Apparently, there’s some musical legend down there. No-one knows exactly who he is. He plays the banjo and he has a nickname, though.”

“What?” I asked.

“The Banjo King of Madison.”

I laughed to myself.
“Madison, West Virginia. When you hear him, you’ll know. There is nobody alive that’s as good as him.” Joe was quite serious.

“Where does he play?”

“No-one knows. It’s a secret.”

“I bet someone just made that story up. It can’t possibly be true.”

“I think it is true, myself. Can’t be super sure, but it seems possible that some random guy out in the country could get amazing good at the banjo and no-one would even know. Definitely possible.”

“Maybe,” I said. No matter how I tried to resist it, the seed was planted in my mind, and it would only grow bigger from there.

At first I shrugged it off, thinking it was some myth to entertain children. There are no kings anymore, anyways, and if there were, wouldn’t they be famous already? There’s no such thing as a “secret” master musician. That would be ridiculous.

I went through my life normally, but had a sort of hollow feeling inside. The feeling began to slowly eat away at me. Some small part of my soul was urging me on, like an enthusiastic childhood friend.

Finally, I gave in and talked to Joe about it again.
“I want to know. Are you really sure about this Banjo King? You aren’t just making it all up?”
“Nope.”
“Well I bet I can find out if that is a true story.”

“You’ve definitely read a lot of Sherlock Holmes. That would help.” We laughed.
“I’m serioud, though.”

“Really?”

“Yep.”
A few weeks after that, I departed. It was a long, tiresome drive into the town of Madison. There was a motel I could sleep at to rest from the drive. The next morning, I had a nice breakfast at the Waffle House. I spent a few more hours exploring the local rivers and parks. After that, I scoped out all the buildings in the town and decided to start with the library. I got out of my car, and to my surprise, a man exiting the library opened the door for me and stood behind it as I entered the library.

“Thanks,” I said.

I walked in and took notice of the woman sitting behind the counter.
“Can I help you, sir?” she asked, rather quietly.

“Maybe. I’m from New York, and I just took the long drive down here. Nice town. My friend told me this legend about the Banjo King of Madison. Do you know anything about that?”

“Well, it’s been a legend for a good while,” she laughed. ” I used to hear such a thing when I was younger, but ain’t no-one’s been talking much about the Banjo King lately. I ain’t sure if there even IS a Banjo King, to be honest. And if there is, I ain’t sure he lives around here. I do know a banjo player that lives on State Street, not far at all from here. I suppose I could give you his address, and you could start there.”

“Thank you very much,” I said. After browsing around and looking at the rather unique books in the library, I returned to my car and drove to State Street, feeling somewhat like a fool. 

Shortly, I pulled up to the address and knocked on the door. The house was almost in the middle of town. Something about it did not look “country” at all. A middle-aged man named Nate answered.

“How are you?” I asked.

“Good. Lookin’ for something?”

“Well, it’s kinda funny, but I’m looking for this guy called the Banjo King. Do you know of him?”

“Nice. I might have heard of that a long time ago. I do actually play the banjo,” he replied, with a bit of pride. “Come in. Maybe I’ll play you a song.”

I wondered if this man was the Banjo King. There was a chance of it. We talked for a few more minutes, then he took his banjo out and played a tune.

He dug around for an ungodly long time for his music. Once he found it, though, Nate played a song that was highly technical, dark, and rather mystifying. I watched his left hand move up and down the banjo, playing many notes at a pretty quick pace. He followed the music precisely, with a stiff gaze. It sounded nice.

“Sounds good,” I said, as the song finished. There was something lacking, however. Maybe there just wasn’t enough soul in the music.

“Well I hate to take up all your time,” I said. “I’d better go. But do you know any other people that could possibly be…”

“Oh,” he replied, slightly disappointed. “I suppose you could go to my dad’s friend’s house. I haven’t heard him play, but my dad says he’s a great banjo player.”

“Thanks a lot!” I said. “Nice to hear that song.” But it didn’t quite feel right. Maybe I just don’t know good music when I hear it.

Next, I headed out into the sticks, somewhat excited at the prospect of meeting this banjo-playing hillbilly, but also nervous at the same time. The drive was actually quite far, and I got lost a number of times. Eventually, I found the old run-down house, which was beside a hill on the right and a valley on the left. 

I rang the doorbell, but it didn’t work, so I ended up knocking instead. An old bearded man who was somewhat slouched-over answered the door.

“Who the heck are you?” he asked rudely.

“Nate sent me here. I’m looking for someone called the Banjo King.”

“Ain’t never heard of no Banjo King,” replied the old bearded man. He spat some tobacco juice right on the rug. “Ain’t never heard of no Nate.”

“Don’t you play the banjo?” I asked. I felt increasingly desperate, and even scared.

Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.

“Hmmph.” The old man looked me over good. “S’pose I’ll play you jus’ one song. Shouldn’t just be prattin’ on about lookin’ fer some stinkin’ Banjo King that don’t even exist, though. Rude.”

I snickered at the hypocrisy. The man shut the door, hopefully searching for his banjo. I waited on the porch for at least ten minutes, enjoying the warm weather and vibrant natural wildlife in the area. The meadows and treetops were so lush and green, and I heard a chorus of bugs singing everywhere I looked.

After almost an eternity, the door opened, and my host appeared with a moderately-worn banjo in hand. He walked over to a chair on the porch and put the picks on. After some preparation, he began to strum an old-timey bluegrass song.

“Well I got all them chickens

got ’em in the coop

Well I got all my memories

sittin’ in the chair

But I ask you for some new ones

And you say love ain’t there

My wifey says I’m boring

her eyelids start to droop

And if you ask me

that’s some horse poop

Keep rollin’ on, creek

Keep rollin’ on

Keep rollin’ creek

from dusk till dawn”

There were a few more verses. The song was pretty engrossing, but just a little bit too hillbilly-like and trashy for me. I still liked listening to it, though. The music in the Appalachians was way different from what I was used to.

You’ll know it when you hear him. I thought.

“Maybe you wanna play another one?” I asked, instantly regretful of opening my mouth.

“No thanks. I said one song, and one song it is.” He spat again.

“Umm,” I replied, awkwardly. “I know you hate this whole idea, but are there any people you know that could possibly be considered the Banjo King?” I was at the end of my rope. I knew the man in front of me was not the Banjo King, even though he might be a good banjo player.

He looked at me with steely old eyes.

“Nope. You’ll have to go back to wherever yer’ from.”

“New York,” I replied.

“Yew Nork er’ whatever. See y’all later.” He shooed me off.

I drove away, honestly pretty happy to not be dealing with rude people anymore. A feeling of sadness sunk over me as I drive, however. I had not found the Banjo King. He was a myth, after all.

The sun was setting, and the temperature was dropping somewhat. I tried to find the main highway to take me back to New York but found myself lost.

Clouds moved in and it became stormy. The wind picked up significantly, and the visibility dropped until I could barely see past the windshield. I saw a figure avoid my car by a few inches. I started. It was a deer.

“This is way too dangerous. I’m gonna fall right off this mountain road and roll my car four times, if I keep this up.”

I pulled over and put the parking brake on one of the straighter stretches of road. Everything was pitch black and I was seriously out in the sticks. I didn’t even know if there were houses anywhere in the area.

“I’ll maybe just go to sleep in the car, if I can possibly manage,” I said, becoming increasingly nervous. Sitting there as the minutes dragged on and on, I never got any more tired. There was just too much sadness, anxiety, and fear in the air.

A horn honked loudly as a huge truck barely avoided my car. It jolted me. I reluctantly turned the car back on and kept driving. The road forked and I ended up taking the smaller fork in the turn. There was woods on both sides of the car.

Trees kept passing by the dozen. I hoped there weren’t deer, or worse, out. After a few tense minutes, a fallen log obscured the road in front of me.

“Darn it all to heck,” I said. I stopped the car and decided to roll the log out of the way. It was quite small.

Suddenly a flashlight shone on me.

“Who are you?” said a young voice.

“Don’t mind him” said an older voice.

I turned around, and made out two figures, a younger boy and his father.

“Sorry. I was trying to get down this road, and got stuck. I’m trying to find the interstate.”

“Good luck!” said the father. “Good thing we found him, right, Billy? Sorry. What’s your name?”

“Well, I don’t really need to talk right now. Sorry. I’m just trying to clear the road up.” I stumbled over the words.

“It’s fine. You won’t be gettin’ anywhere with this storm as it is. The Almanac predicted it would be bad.”

“Yep,” echoed Billy.

“Come inside for a spell.”

“Ain’t it a little late?” I asked, surprised by my sudden decrease in verbal literacy.

“No. Just barely eight. And it’s fine with us if you come.”

“All right,” I reluctantly agreed.

I walked through the mud to the porch, took my boots off, and walked into the large, square living room. There was an old TV and a few couches in it and a frail old man who might be the grandpa of the little kid.

“Getcha’ somethin’ to drink,” said the father. “Pepsi or sprite or beer?”

“Pepsi,” I replied. “If you don’t mind.”

I got my drink and sat down on the couch. The little kid, maybe ten or twelve years old, talked to me constantly about his friends, his school, hunting, the television, and whatever other things entered his mind.

“Who is this ‘ere person?” asked the old man.

“Some stranger,” said the kid. “Car got stuck.”

“Oh. What’s he look like?”

“Got black hair and ain’t that tall,” replied the kid.

What a strange conversation.

“Yeah, mister. So my friend said you shouldn’t do that to frogs. I don’t really care, though. Oh, and I play the banjo. Some people call me the Banjo King. Pretty cool, huh?”

Wow! Maybe it’s true! thought my inner believer. That would be great.

“I’ll take it out and play something.” I wondered if the kid was telling the truth. He seemed sincere. A few minutes later, the kid was holding an extremely antique, beautifully-made banjo and plucked a few notes on it. He started to sing an out-of-tune and very slow version of Blue Moon of Kentucky. I yawned.

Nope. He isn’t. Now, can I please get out of the darned house? I thought spitefully. I was getting very homesick, and completely regretted wasting all my money on such an ill-advised trip.

The kid finally finished his aggravatingly bad song.

“Do your relatives call you the Banjo King?” I joked.

“Yep,” said the kid, smiling. I laughed quietly. Suddenly, the mood shifted.

“Give me that darned banjo,” said the old grandpa, grabbing around blindly in front of him. “Where is it?”

He must be as old as Abraham, I thought. This’ll be funny.

“My grandpappy’s blind,” said the kid. “Needs a cane too, but I love him anyways.”

Here it goes. Another stupid-ass banjo song. If he can’t even see, how could he possibly play anything good? I thought.

The kid handed the banjo off to the old man.

“Didn’t know you could even play banjo!” the kid said. “Can you?”

“Shh,” whispered the old man, cradling the banjo like a precious baby. He patted it lightly. The mood shifted more.

I heard a beautiful, shimmery sound as he twisted the tuners and got the strings in perfect alignment.

Cool, I thought. It’s something.

The old man grunted, and there was a tense, waiting moment of silence.

Suddenly, a raucous cacophony of beautiful sounds started to burst out of the banjo like the choirs of Heaven itself. I felt tears well up in my eyes as the beautiful melody emanated from the banjo, starting fairly simple, but then becoming more and more complex. Waves upon waves of complicated maneuvers built on each other, gradually increasing the intensity of the song. After the music had almost reached a beautiful climax, there was a moment of silence. Then, the song began anew, with even more rapidity, as the man’s fingers moved with otherworldly speed and viciously attacked the strings. His left hand moved up and down the fretboard in a frantic blur. Each note blended into the others yet improved the whole of the song at the same time.

The kid, who had previously considered himself a good banjo player, stared blankly with his mouth wide open, unable to even comprehend the profoundness of the music.

The song became even swifter and more intricate. I was totally lost in the impenetrable complexity of it. I could barely even breathe. Then, there was a change. The old man played the Grand Finale of the song, a lighting-speed finish to put the icing on the cake of the most amazing banjo song ever. It ended with the highest note a banjo had ever played, which was so high that not your ears, nor your brain, but only the depths of your soul could hear it.

After the song was a long moment of silence.

“Wow.” I said, flabbergasted. I felt unworthy to even interrupt such a sacred silence.

You are the Banjo King.”