Lyrics and Life
By Caitlin Ward
Suzy’s flashing on dance floor and
Recently, my sister commented that the main motivation behind her desire to have a grown-up career is that it offered the potential of not having to share a wall, a floor or a ceiling with other people. That is, she wouldn’t have to live in a tiny flat with a bunch of flatmates and noisy neighbours. It was the third night in a row the carryings-on of her neighbours had kept her up past midnight.
Really, though, it’s not my neighbour’s fault. Though my
apartment is ideally suited to my living situation in many ways, the
building’s walls are painfully thin. I know when my neighbour is
using his microwave, or when he’s watching television or even when
he’s opening and closing drawers in his kitchen.
Here’s the thing, though: unlike my sister, I don’t get annoyed
at the sound. Instead, I get completely paranoid about being too loud.
Every time I move, or cough, or watch a film, I live in fear that I am
disturbing my neighbour. Especially if it’s early in the morning,
when he’s trying to sleep and I’m trying to exercise before
It’s not just my apartment: the walls between offices at work are
thin, and I recently realized that when I talk to myself, it’s
very likely that my office neighbours on either side can hear me. And
I’ve got to tell you, when I’m talking to myself, it ain’t
It’s not only my office and my apartment, either. My cone of silence
has always been my car: the place where I can listen to the music and
sing the songs and not be disturbing anyone. Well, mostly. My car is
not soundproof. In general, I tend not to listen to music that is particular
invasive, but every once in a while there’s a hiccup. Right now,
that hiccup is Electro Swing.
Now, Electro Swing is pretty much exactly what it sounds
like: a surprisingly competent marriage of electronic music (in this
case, house) and swing. As a genre, it’s been around for less than a decade, and there
are probably only half a dozen artists who make it. For some reason,
they all seem to be European. The concerts seem a little epic: there’s
a DJ on stage, but most of the time there’s most of a swing band,
too. In the songs, the genres of swing range from 1920s Gypsy Swing to
1940s Big Band. The lyrics are either sampled from songs of the era (as
in the case with Parov Stelar), or they don’t make a heck of a
lot of sense (as in the case with Caravan Palace). Let’s be honest,
though — a lot of swing songs’ lyrics didn’t always
make a lot of sense, either.
The trouble with Electro Swing, though, is that like most
electronic genres, it has a very heavy drum and bass line. Even when
I listen to the music at a perfectly acceptable decibel, the thumping
bass bleeds out of my car. I didn’t realize quite how badly until this past
week, when I got dirty looks from everyone around me at one stoplight,
and an elderly woman looked at me from the sidewalk as if I was the devil
incarnate at another stoplight. Unwittingly, I had become one of Those
People. I don’t want to be one of Those People, so I’ve since
started listening to Caravan Palace in my car very softly. So softly,
in fact, it’s actually a little hard to hear.
Between the apartment, the office, and my car, I’ve been thinking
about this idea of being quiet. I’m thinking about it mostly because
I’ve spent a good portion of my life being apparently too loud,
and now I’m getting more than a little paranoid about it. My music
is too loud, my films are too loud, my voice is too loud. Sometimes that
gets a little depressing.
I’m fairly confident this is a rather hyperbolic rendering of events, but the upshot of it is that this dramaturg was very firm on the point that I shouldn’t lower my voice if it meant I was going to kill myself. Which, clearly, I’m not — but it does make me think that occasionally, perhaps I should just ignore the paranoia about my neighbour and at least enjoy listening to Parov Stelar or Caravan Palace. Life is too short, and anyway, I’ve listened to that neighbour play the explode-y game for four hours in a row.
Ward is a freelance writer and aspiring documentary filmmaker based in Saskatoon. You can find her short bursts of insight and frustration at http://www.twitter.com/newsetofstrings