Everywhere at the End of Time…Part 2 (my reactions)


(Continued from Part 1)

All artwork illustrating the stages of dementia are by Ivan Seal.

Yesterday I gave you a bit of background about Everywhere at the End of Time, a  musical and artistic masterpiece by “The Caretaker” (James Leyland Kirby), a British composer and musician who became deeply interested in Alzheimers Disease and the process of dementia, and composed a six album work of musical art depicting what the descent from near normality to the empty void of total memory loss would feel like.

I suggest you read both these articles first (and watch some video reviews about it first), before diving into this thing.  I will warn you right now:  it’s dark and at times both tragically sad and existentially terrifying.  You may feel overwhelmed or have strange physical sensations such as cold chills. You might feel scared or paranoid. You likely will cry.  In my opinion, listening to this is not a lot different from taking a mind altering drug like ayahuasca or another psychedelic.  You should set aside an entire day because you might need to focus on your feelings and thoughts and have time to process everything and think about what you just heard.  Some people prefer to listen to it over several days because it’s hard to take it all in in just one sitting.

I’ll post the link again for the entire six and a half hour long album.


It’s also on Youtube (you can also find it divided up for each stage if you prefer that).

All that said, let’s dive in.  I’m going to describe each Stage as best as I’m able, and talk about how each stage made me feel.

Stage One

Stage 1 and 2 correspond to the earlier stages of Alzheimers/dementia.  This is when a person begins to forget things, such as car keys or has momentary embarrassing memory lapses.

They may forget names, but usually this forgetfulness doesn’t extend to close friends or family members, and it’s fleeting.  The person is still functional, may still be able to work or drive a car, but may begin to realize something is wrong.

Stage 1 is composed of mostly upbeat ballroom pop songs, very similar to the haunting 1920s/1930s music from the movie The Shining.  In fact, Kirby was so inspired and haunted by the ballroom music in that movie that he decided the same kind of music would work for this album (in fact, he adopted the handle “The Caretaker” after the Jack Nicholson character in that film).  He liked the sense of nostalgia the ballroom music evoked, the echoey sound of it that made it seem like it was coming from empty, cavernous rooms, and also the feeling of it being “a long time ago,” since Alzheimers usually affects the elderly.  The music was just haunting enough, without actually sounding “off,” that while a pleasant listening experience, it could also be thought of as depicting the very earliest stages of Alzheimers, with the person displaying no symptoms yet but tending to focus on the past and losing themselves in nostalgic reverie about romantic interludes when they were still in their prime.

The album notes make the same observation in different words:

Here we experience the first signs of memory loss.
This stage is most like a beautiful daydream.
The glory of old age and recollection.
The last of the great days.

Stage 1 is definitely the most listenable stage, not at all offensive, but as the pretty music does sound like it’s coming from empty, cavernous ballrooms and I associate it with The Shining, one of the scariest movies I ever saw, it’s still a slightly unsettling listening experience. You also know what’s coming.  The very first song, here called “It’s Just a Burning Memory,” appears again and again in every subsequent stage, each time sounding less and less like the original.  Sometimes you can only hear a few of the chords behind waves of static, or the chords are so drawn and stretched out they sound like whale calls, or it just sounds really “off.”  I’ll explain more about this as we move on.  I think this particular song represents the patient’s most cherished memory, the one they never want to lose.  The struggle to hold onto this memory throughout the course of this disease is one of the central themes that makes the dementia experience so emotionally harrowing. 

Stage Two

From the album notes:

The second stage is the self realisation and awareness that something is wrong with a refusal to accept that. More effort is made to remember so memories can be more long form with a little more deterioration in quality. The overall personal mood is generally lower than the first stage and at a point before confusion starts setting in.

This is the last album in the series that one might call pleasant listening, though I found it HIGHLY unsettling and could not listen to it for more than a few minutes at a time because of how edgy and uncomfortable it made me feel.  While this stage still depicts early Alzheimer’s and the person is still more or less functional, we are at the point now where the patient is aware something is very wrong, may have received a diagnosis, and is terrified, knowing there is no cure and it will only continue to get worse. This existential dread and terror is evident in the music, which comes across as an unpleasant dissonance, rising waves of static (brain noise?), songs that appear to stop and start, and then stop again, as if something has been “forgotten” and the person is trying to remember.  The ballroom music here, while still pretty, sometimes sounds sour, off key, or as if it’s coming from inside the person’s head.  The song “What Does It Matter How My Heart Breaks” is a reprise of Stage 1’s “Just a Burning Memory” and while clearly recognizable as the same song, is chillingly distorted and diminished somehow.

The artwork used on the album cover perfectly captures the feeling of Stage 2.  It’s pretty, just flowers in a vase, but the flowers look sad and wilted, and the vase itself is just…wrong.  Like something in a state of decay.

I can’t listen to any of Stage 2 without feeling a sense of impending doom, though it’s hard to pinpoint exactly why.  I don’t like it.  But this is nothing.  Things only get worse from here.

Stage 3

Stage 3, in some ways, is the most terrifying to me.  At this stage, the dementia patient is beginning to have more severe memory lapses and may now need help with everyday activities.  They may fade in and out of being aware and outside awareness.

The album notes state that

Here we are presented with some of the last coherent memories before confusion fully rolls in and the grey mists form and fade away. Finest moments have been remembered, the musical flow in places is more confused and tangled. As we progress some singular memories become more disturbed, isolated, broken and distant. These are the last embers of awareness before we enter the post awareness stages.

This is the last stage in which the patient is still aware they have a problem.  They are standing at the edge of a bottomless abyss.

Stage 3 is nearly unlistenable to me.  Though it still can be classified as “music” rather than the “noise” that is to come, it’s increasingly disjointed, dissonant, chaotic, and garbled, at times edging into walls of static, which keep getting louder.  By the end of this stage, the wall of static and noise seems to be becoming dominant over the music, which fades in and out, stops and starts in fits, sometimes to be taken over by another snatch of a different song (melody), in a mighty struggle against this disease which wants to consume all memory.  “And Heart Breaks” is the Stage 3 reprise of the song that was in Stages 1 and 2, and like its shortened title (as if some words have been forgotten), it seems like a truncated version of its original.

To me, Stage 3 this depicts the person, still aware they are ill and will continue to get worse, desperately clutching onto memories, any memories, as they come up, but they are quickly swept away in the ocean of static, competing memories, and confusing, dronelike noise, leaving the person adrift in a sea of helplessness, despair and terror.

Stage 3 was very frightening to me.  It made the goosebumps stand up on my arms and I felt ice cold and shaken for a good hour or two after listening. I did not want to be alone, and felt so spooked I had to turn on all the lights and check to make sure the doors were locked. I was unable to continue listening that day, and had to save Stage 4 for the next.  I have no idea how I got any sleep that night.  Maybe I was just exhausted, as this music can do that to you too.

The artwork, once again, is very fitting and accurately evokes feelings of chaos, confusion, dread and terror.  While I think this is supposed to be a broken vase or a bunch of tangled weeds (or a vase exploded by the tangled weeds?), its spidery, sinister outlines and bizarre shapes remind me of dancing demons.  There’s a strong feeling of suffocating evil in this image.

After this Stage, the person enters the more advanced stages of dementia, and is no longer self aware.  They may be easily confused by things they used to understand and no longer recognize loved ones.

Stage 4

If you thought Stage 3 was chaotic, confusing, and scary, it’s nothing compared to Stage 4, which can no longer properly even be called music.  From this point on, the “songs” become long 20 to 30 minute pieces, exploring deepening phases of dementia and brain decay.   Three of the four pieces in this stage are called “Post Awareness Confusions,” which is exactly what they are.   While they are subtly different from each other, at times they remind me of nothing so much as a radio dial frantically trying to tune into any station at all, failing to pick up more than a few seconds of garbled memory (music) snippets, and disappearing into the maddening static.  The third piece, called, “Temporary Bliss State,” is really anythig but.   It seems to take a pretty, but repetitive and maddeningly pointless melody that goes nowhere and keeps repeating, and overlays it on top of the static and background noise.  It’s as if the person’s decaying mind is desperately trying to think happy thoughts to drown out the horror that is actually playing out, but failing miserably.   To call this a “bliss state” seems almost ironic, though it may still be a respite from the constant horror of a breaking brain that only keeps getting more broken.

According to the album description,

Post-Awareness Stage 4 is where serenity and the ability to recall singular memories gives way to confusions and horror. It’s the beginning of an eventual process where all memories begin to become more fluid through entanglements, repetition and rupture.

The artwork, depicting what appears to be a woman turned partly away from us, in close up, shows a masklike face without features.  I feel like this represents the fact that it’s during Stage 4 that a person may no longer know who they are or who they were, and may no longer recognize close friends and family members.

WARNING:  There is a “jump scare” in the transition from Stage 4 to Stage 5. As if you’re not scared enough already.

Stage 5

We’ve crossed the line into advanced Alzheimers/dementia and at this point the patient is no longer able to perform even the most basic self care, and is probably in full time nursing care by now.  They probably don’t understand or comprehend anything that’s going on in their environment.  If they still speak, they may have no idea what they are talking about.

Post-Awareness Stage 5 confusions and horror.
More extreme entanglements, repetition and rupture can give way to
calmer moments. The unfamiliar may sound and feel familiar.
Time is often spent only in the moment leading to isolation.

This is an absolutely terrifying stage, and the disease, which has reduced a feeling, thinking human being with a lifetime of cherished memories into an undead shell of what they once were, now sets about ravaging what’s left of the person’s brain in earnest.  Each of the 4 “songs” (again, about 20 to 30 minutes in length for each one) convey 4 horrifying stages of brain decay: two of “Advanced Plaque Entanglements,” followed by “Synapse Retrogenesis” (the synapses between neurons, which formed early in life, are now breaking apart) and finally “Sudden Time Regression into Isolation.”

This last is the most profoundly depressing and scary thing on this album so far.  The “isolation” in the title is significant, for after a harrowing 20 minutes of deafening static and ambient drone obscuring distorted and sometimes bizarrely stretched out snatches of ballroom melody that appear and disappear like ghosts in a black hole (I interpret the static here as the “zapping” and destruction of any remaining memories), only silence (isolation) remains.  The silence isn’t total silence though; there is still faint static, that infernal droning, and snatches of remaining memory that sound like they’re light years away. But there’s also a kind of peace that finally seems to descend into this howling wilderness: the blissful peace of oblivion. The peace of an empty, unthinking mind that exists now only in the present because there’s no longer any mechanism to retreat into the past.

The painting for this album is incredibly upsetting to me.  I’m not sure what it is, though it kind of looks like a woman standing on a staircase holding an umbrella or walking stick.  There’s also an object that might be a fan. But it also looks like something disgusting and organic, like a cancer or an infection, or a mysterious and dangerous sea creature from the hadal depths of the ocean.  I really can’t look at this image without the little hairs standing up on the back of my neck.

Stage 6

Post-Awareness Stage 6 Is without description.

At this stage, the last stage before death (most Alzheimers patients die of something else first), the person is bedridden, and cannot move. Everything has been forgotten, not just all memories and awareness, but also the primitive brain functions that tell the person how to breathe or swallow. The brain is so destroyed that the person may no longer be able to eat or breathe without medical intervention.

To give you an idea of the severity of the physical destruction that’s taken place, here’s a comparison of a normal brain with a brain destroyed by Alzheimers:

And yet, there’s still activity there.  The first “song,” A Confusion So Thick You Forget Forgetting” is mostly just…silence and emptiness.  But not quite.  Listen carefully; there is a distant dull droning and occasional bursts of static and heavily distorted musical chords recorded at such impossibly low frequency they sound like whale calls…but are actually, unbelievably, the corrupted remains of what were once ballroom pop ditties (memories).  The moment I realized what these low, droning, chordlike sounds actually were…it’s hard to explain the sense of horrified shock but simultaneous satisfaction I felt.  It was almost the exact same feeling I got during the movie The Shining, when Wendy looks into the model hotel maze in the lobby and it suddenly becomes impossibly vast…or the scene in the 1979 horror movie When A Stranger Calls, when Carol Kane answers the phone, only to be told by police that the phone calls she has been getting are coming from inside the house.  You know that feeling.  You’ve had it in your nightmares.  It’s the emotional equivalent of a jump scare.

There’s a kind of peacefulness in Stage 6 that is almost a relief after the relentless confusion and terror of Stages 4 and 5.  In a way, it’s almost relaxing, though it is also unspeakably sad.   You may feel sleepy, or just feel empty and exhausted.  You may even cry.  But if you thought this was sad, it’s nothing compared to the last piece, “Place in the World Fades Away.”   I don’t want to spoil anything, but holy fuckballs, Batman.   I have never been this emotionally moved by any piece of music, anywhere, ever.  It’s a sadness of such depth and intensity it transforms into a kind of joy.

I know I said I didn’t want to spoil anything, but I do need to point out that I don’t think the sudden return of coherent music at the very end was “music heard at the old folk’s home but not comprehended as music” as the young guy in second reaction video (in Part 1) explained it.   No, in fact I think the music represented a sudden return of full awareness and even temporarily recovered memories. Yes, even in their mentally and physically degraded state.  There is a fairly well known phenomenon familiar to people who work in hospice and with advanced dementia patients called Terminal Lucidity.  Shortly before death, sometimes days or hours before, there is a surge of DMT from the pineal gland, buried deep in a part of the brain Alzheimers does not affect.  The brain is suddenly bathed in DMT, the strongest known hallucinogenic drug, which is made naturally in the human brain and helps a person transition while dying.  Before death, the chemical may temporarily bring back their mental faculties.  There have been cases of advanced dementia patients, patients in comas for years, who were believed to be brain dead, who suddenly, just before they died, “woke up” and became fully aware of their surroundings and able to talk to their loved ones.  This may be nature’s way of allowing the person one last hurrah before death, as well as helping them make the final transition.  Terminal lucidity is what I believe was actually happening when the music suddenly reappeared after hours of nothing but static, noise, and corrupted, fractured pieces of what had once been music.  The choir voices that supplant the piano music seem to indicate the person has finally freed themselves of their broken mind and body, finally able to find peace.

The artwork for Stage 6 is an empty canvas with some pieces of tape stuck on it, forming a box or a window.   Or, maybe it’s the back of a canvas with the real painting turned away from us, hidden so it might as well not even exist.  I’m not sure, but whatever it is, this image depicts Emptiness.

Concluding Thoughts

Since I had this experience, I have felt a great sense of regret and sadness over my MIL, who had Alzheimers and passed away in 2003.  Because she was no longer able to live on her own (she had become a danger to herself), we took her into our home.  My husband had never had a good relationship with his mother, and under the ravages of dementia, her aggressiveness, hostility toward him, and mood swings became worse.  My husband at the time, not a patient man, frequently lost his temper, belittled and yelled at her for her forgetfulness and things such as wetting the bed or leaving the stove on.  I am ashamed to say I enabled him in this behavior and sometimes participated in it myself.  At the time I was dealing with a lot of personal demons and wasn’t very empathetic to her.  Our attitude toward this helpless woman also set a bad example in front of our kids.   Eventually, her condition became so severe we could no longer take care of her needs, which by now included other medical conditions.  We were forced to put her into a nursing home, where she got excellent care until she died.  I’ve been thinking a lot about her, about older people and dementia in general, and struggling with regret and sadness for not having treated her with more kindness and empathy.  It must have been absolute hell to be inside her mind, succumbing to dementia.  I had no idea.  I hope God will forgive me for that.  I hope she has too, wherever she is.  I think people working with dementia patients should be required to listen to this album.  It teaches and I think, enhances empathy.

I do feel like my empathy has increased overall.  I feel more generally loving toward humanity as a species and have a newfound reverence for the fleeting beauty and fragility of life.  We all dance in the sun, and fade away. 

I’ll stop here.  Everywhere at the End of Time is an artistic masterpiece you should experience for yourself.   Each person’s experience is unique, even though there are universal feelings we all can share.   Great art should make you uncomfortable.  It should make you squirm, get angry, cry, and quake in terror.  But in the end, it should make you a better person.  I am a better person than I was before I listened to this.

I feel like I should warn you though.  if you are currently depressed, suicidal, or prone to anxiety or panic attacks, I would avoid this experience and save it for a later time, maybe.  Like I mentioned before, this kind of artistic immersion is not unlike a psychedelic drug and can intensify emotions you’re already struggling with.

Everywhere at the End of Time (by “The Caretaker”): this album broke me.

Cover art for each of the 6 albums (each representing a different stage in the progression of Alzheimers/dementia) by artist Ivan Seal.

This is the first post of two.

I didn’t think the first post I’d write in more than two months would be about a six and a half hour long ambient album I stumbled across on Youtube because some Gen Z kids decided to challenge themselves to cry on Youtube after listening to it and thus made the original video (not their reactions, as interesting as they were) go nearly viral.   But here I am and that’s what I’m going to write about (the album, not the bored Gen Zers).  Life is weird, what can I say?

Actually, I have a lot to say.  I’m not exaggerating when I tell you this was the most profoundly emotional musical experience I’ve ever had.  It broke me, and then it changed me.  For now I’m just going to focus on the music (if it can be called that) and its immediate effects on me.

But first a little background.

Everywhere At the End of Time is an experimental/ambient musical art project (technically, “dark ambient”) by British musician and composer James Leyland Kirby (he bills himself as “The Caretaker,” after the Jack Nicholson character in the horror movie The Shining, which  was also the inspiration for the haunting 1930s ballroom music that opens this album and reappears in more distorted versions at intervals throughout).  The Caretaker wanted to convey, using music and later, degenerated music that can only be called noise, what it’s like to experience dementia from inside the deteriorating mind of a sufferer.

Everywhere at the End of Time is divided into six entire albums, each one roughly corresponding to the 7 medically recognized stages of Alzheimers Disease (or dementia due to other neurodegenerative diseases such as Lewy Body Dementia, a form of Parkinson’s that affects the brain rather than the body).  The six albums were released during a three year period, from 2016 to 2019.  Kirby felt that by releasing the albums over a long period of time, listeners would get more of the feel of the long slow decline of dementia, and also experience the sense of waiting the patients’ loved ones go through. Kirby said he became so fascinated with dementia, particularly Alzheimer’s dementia, that after studying its effects on the human mind and body, he was inspired to depict its ravages in musical form.

Kirby was kind enough to make his masterpiece available to everyone.  All six and a half hours of it can be found here:


If you prefer, the album in its entirety can also be found on Youtube:

Before I set out to describe each Stage and my reactions to them, I want to mention  some other reaction/review videos on Youtube.  Here is one of the best ones (this is in fact the one that sent me down the rabbit hole):

And another, which I really liked a lot:

Before I go into my reviews and reactions, let me explain why there are so many reaction videos, which seem to be mostly from geeky young men and gamer types.  Shortly after its release, it became a kind of meme to “challenge yourself” to listen to the entirety of Everywhere at the End of Time (because it’s not an easy listen and at times can be profoundly depressing or existentially terrifying) and then post your reaction to it.  The challenge started on Tik Tok and eventually moved to Youtube. 

Some critics of the reaction videos felt that these millennials and Gen Z’ers were making light of a serious album about a dark subject and turning it into a kind of game. They believed that cheapened what Kirby’s project was trying to convey.  But Kirby actually wasn’t bothered.  When he found out about the Everywhere at the End of Time “challenge,” he said that if his music was causing younger people to develop empathy toward (mostly older) people with dementia and Alzheimers (and since almost all of them cried, empathy could be assumed) and making a “challenge” out of it was the the avenue that inspired them to actually listen to the entirety of something so dark and serious, then it was a good thing.  This genre of music (dark ambient/drone) isn’t exactly catchy pop and would never get radio airplay, but because the Tik Tok/Youtube challenges made Kirby’s project go near viral, it’s getting a lot of attention it otherwise would never have achieved.  And that’s educating a lot of people about dementia and voluntarily experience, through the music, what it FEELS like to have this illness. It teaches empathy for people with this devastating disease. One woman I know who works with Alzheimers nursing home patients, says she has developed a level of empathy for these patients she never had before listening to Everywhere at the End of Time.    Even I, who was never very patient with my ex husband’s mother, who lived with us while suffering from early to mid stage Alzheimer’s, now feel sadness and regret that I wasn’t kinder to her while she was with us.  This disease must have been pure hell for her but she was unable to express her terror and grief coherently.  She passed away years ago; I wish there was a way I could tell her I’m sorry.

Like many others, I was scared to listen to Everywhere at the End of Time at first.  It was the video I posted above called “This Album Will Break You” that first caught my interest.  The clips I heard in that were pretty damn unsettling.   I wanted to listen to all six and a half hours, but I was afraid to in that same way some people are afraid to take LSD or another psychedelic drug if they’ve never done so before.  They’re afraid they might lose their minds.  I sensed this album was going to take me mental and emotional places I wasn’t sure I wanted to confront, but at the same time, I knew that doing so could be potentially life changing.   In the comments under the videos, I saw I wasn’t alone in my trepidation.  Many people are literally afraid to listen to this album because they know how unsettling, upsetting, and even terrifying it can be.  One way around this is to make your first listen “with” someone else who is narrating it for you.   So my first listen was with PizzaManSteve, who plays the entire album and reacts and comments throughout.  His loud reactions and crying at the end are a bit distracting and makes it hard to hear the music, but it’s a genuine reaction that many people seem to share.  The first time you listen, you may want to listen to his video first, as you’ll feel less “alone” than listening to the full album posted above without any commentary at all.  I was afraid that would freak me out. Yes, it’s that intense.

Before I move on to my reactions, I want to mention the artwork by Ivan Seal.  The six paintings used to illustrate each stage of dementia are absolutely perfect in conveying exactly what the stages FEEL like.  The objects they depict are difficult or impossible to identify, but they still look and feel familiar, the way an Alzheimers patient might look at a person or an object, and not quite be able to place who or what it is, and yet know they have seen it before.  The feel of these paintings is similar to the “name one thing in this photo” viral AI photograph that shows a bunch of familiar looking objects that you just cannot identify.  This was supposed to depict what things look like to stroke victims.

The paintings look organic, disorganized, or decayed. Even the flower vase in Stage 2 is unsettling.   The woman’s masklike face in Stage 4 depicts loss of self awareness a patient with dementia experiences at that point in her illness.  It also may be how others start to appear to her, as she loses her ability to remember the names and faces of even her closest family members.

All the images are incredibly unsettling in ways that are hard to describe (much like the music itself), but for some unknown reason, the artwork for Stage 5 frightened me the most.  Stage 5 is advanced Alzheimer’s, nearing the end.  During this stage, the brain literally self destructs, destroying whatever memories still remain.  Its “songs” have  titles like “Advanced Plaque Entanglements,” “Synapse Retrogenesis,” and “Sudden Time Regression into Isolation.”

Holy hell, that sounds absolutely horrifying.

Back in the 1990s, an artist named William Untermohlen, who had been diagnosed with Alzheimers in 1995 at the age of 61, decided to paint himself at intervals throughout his illness. Each portrait here (except the first) roughly corresponds to the stages depicted in Everywhere at the End of Time.   As Untermohlen’s memory and sense of self declined, you can see these changes in this series of self portraits (the first was a self portrait from 1967, years before the onset of his illness).


End of Part 1.  

Go on to Part 2.

Bless the Beasts and the Children.

On this Fourth of July, I want to dedicate this lovely ballad sung by the late Karen Carpenter to all the migrant children trapped in cages at the Mexican border and being so cruelly treated by the heartless Trump regime who don’t even think they’re worth a bar of soap or a bed.

I am also dedicating it to every vulnerable person in America (adult or child), and every endangered, neglected, or abused animal, and all others who lack a voice in a world currently dominated by those without a heart or soul.


Augustana: Hey Now (and thoughts about 2008)

“Hey Now” is incredibly nostalgic to me.    Although it came out in 2008, it has a distinctive ’90s sound.   Without going into too much detail, even 2008 seems like “simpler times” to me now.    Obama’s election made it seem as if racism was finally a thing of the past.  How wrong we were.   (But that’s another topic for another time).

2008 (eleven years ago!) was also one of the last years actual rock music was still being played on commercial radio, but Augustana (grouped in a catchall category called “modern rock” which included more well known indie-pop bands like The Fray, Snow Patrol, or O.A.R) never caught on big.  I believe their biggest hit was “Sweet and Low,” from the same album.

I purchased Augustana’s 2008 album “Can’t Love Can’t Hurt” and almost all the songs are great, but this one, which was never released to radio, became my favorite song on the album and possibly of that year.

This comment on Youtube sums it up best:

This is one of those songs that confirms that some of the best most epic songs exist in the “unknowns/seldom exposed” category. If this song was released in the late 90s, it would be played in the cycle of those nostalgic 90s sound most of us loved. I don’t think that sound every ended. It just fell asleep, while bands like Augustana and Blue October kept that timeless mood alive for another day.

“Praying” documents Kesha’s transformation from bad girl to mature woman.

I heard this song, “Praying,” for the first time today and when I found out it was Kesha I thought I was being punked.

I’m blown away by Kesha’s transformation from her shallow, partying “Tik Tok” days to the woman she has become.  I’m also blown away by her incredible, powerful voice.  I always thought she was a lightweight vocally, more a rapper than a singer really.  How wrong I was!

The raw emotion and spiritual depth she shows here is so different from the cartoonish “bad girl” image of 2009.   She fought hard to get here.

Yes, the dollar sign in her name is gone.   It would no longer fit.   Something tells me she was never that shallow, cartoonish bad girl, but was always a butterfly struggling to emerge from its chrysalis.   I’m a fan now (though truth be told, “Tik Tok” was damn catchy).

This song is emotionally cathartic for me.   It may be for you too.

“Praying” was released last year. Kesha is a warrior who not only managed to conquer her own demons of bulimia and depression, she also held her own against a controlling and abusive manager who tried to destroy her. From her psinful struggle, she learned that it’s from the greatest pain that empathy can be born and true forgiveness can occur. Few ever learn this valuable truth. She writes:

“Praying” was written about that moment when the sun starts peeking through the darkest storm clouds, creating the most beautiful rainbow. Once you realize that you will in fact be OK, you want to spread love and healing. If you feel like someone has wronged you, get rid of that hate, because it will just create more negativity. One thing that has brought me great relief is praying for those people. Being angry and resentful will do nothing but increase your own stress and anxiety — and hate is the fuel that grows the viruses. Don’t let anyone steal your happiness!

In this emotional interview from Good Morning America, Kesha talks about her spiritual and emotional journey (and sings too).

Music for cats.


The other day I received my copy of The Humane Society‘s magazine (All Animals), and read an article about a cellist, David Teie, who joined up with a team of animal psychologists to create a new form of music just for cats.

It turns out that cats don’t particularly enjoy human music.   What may be soothing and relaxing to us may irritate or disturb cats, who hear at a higher frequency than humans.  A lower tone which we might find pleasant or relaxing, can be perceived as a threat to them (growling and feline distress sounds tend to be at a lower frequency).

Science has found that human babies develop their sense of rhythm and music in the womb, so most beats in our music are based on the heartbeat that the fetus hears.   Cats, whose brains are much less developed while they are in the womb and who cannot hear until they are born, therefore develop their sense of music as tiny kittens, from the sounds of suckling and purring which were the first sounds they heard.     Teie has combined simulated purr-like, bird-like, and suckling-like sounds with a higher frequency and many more sliding notes (based on cats’ vocalizations) with a cello baseline (which cats can’t hear but make the music more palatable to the humans who will play it for their cats) to make a kind of musical catnip that relaxes and reduces stress in many cats — or just makes them listen.

Musicforcats.com includes a sample of what Teie’s cat music sounds like, and you can also find some of Teie’s cat compositions on Youtube.  To me, most of the cat music sounds otherworldly and mournful, almost sad, like this one (which is my favorite so far):

Some of his compositions are much more energetic and playful-sounding, but those are harder for me to listen to than the slower, more pensive tunes.   I really like the rising, sliding sounds in these compositions. which sound eerie and very cat-like.

Teie has created other species-specific music (most notably tamarin monkeys), and is currently working on music for dogs.   It’s hard to imagine what the dog music would sound like, since dog vocalizations occur at many frequencies depending on the size of the dog, and there seem to be fewer sounds that would be associated with dog learning and early puppyhood (outside of suckling and littermates whimpering).

Here’s a fun video of some cats reacting to their owners’ playing Teie’s music (you can hear samples of some of the songs here too).   But — and I know this has nothing to do with cats or the music —  what exactly is going on with the dog at 2:55?

I must secretly be a cat because I actually really enjoy this music.   I played some of songs for my cats, and only Sheldon really seemed to cotton to it, actually rubbing up against the speakers and becoming more affectionate.   The other two didn’t seem to care one way or the other.


Hey Mickey (Toni Basil)

This song from 1982 has been stuck in my head for two days.   Major nostalgia!  I just learned Toni Basil was 39 years old when she made this video.    This is one of the greatest one hit wonders ever made.

Every pop song of the last 40 years in one Awesome song (Axis of Awesome)

The Australian comedy rock trio Axis of Awesome made an earth-shaking discovery:  many if not most pop songs of the last 40 years use the same 4-chord progression:

I – V – vi – IV

Example:  In the key of C major, this would be: C–G–Am–F.    Whatever key you start in determines the mood of the song.   Other than that, I know nothing about writing music, so I dare say no more.  You can play around with the chords if you’re so inclined.

Anyway, it seems that if you write a song using these 4 chords, you will have a guaranteed hit, especially if you write a catchy melody to go over it.  These four chords are also the reason why so many pop songs all sound the same.

All you have to remember is the melody and lyrics are the skin, but the chords are the bones.  The bones may stand on their own with very little skin attached to them (generic commercial pop songs that are catchy but easily forgotten fall into the “bones without much skin” category), but a bunch of skin with no bones (bones could be other types of chord progressions) will collapse like Jello when it’s dropped on the floor.

We humans seem to be wired to especially favor the I-V-vi-IV sequence of chords, so if you want to become a filthy rich superstar, write a song using them.  Conversely, if you want to be an artiste who turns their nose up at anything commercial or too popular, avoid them like the plague.

Here’s a hilarious (and surprisingly listenable!) video by Axxis of Awesome that proves almost every pop song written since forever uses the same four chords.


Keane: Somewhere Only We Know

Keane’s “Somewhere Only We Know,” released in 2004, seems like it’s from another lifetime, because everything has changed so much since then.   It seems like the world was more innocent then and so were we.   Fourteen years is a long time, but not so long to make me feel like we’re in an entirely different eon.    This piano rock ballad, already melancholy enough, is made even more so for me for this reason.   I still love this song.

Composing music in a dream.


Credit: Stacy Martian, Covermyfb.com

I’m not at all musically inclined.  I’ve never even played an instrument.  I can barely sing.   I’m always in complete awe of people who can just sit down and come up with the music for a new song and then set lyrics to it (or write the lyrics first and then hear music for them inside their heads).  It’s an ability that seems so mysterious and out of reach to me, almost bordering on the supernatural.   I always marvel, how do they do that?

But a few times in my life, I’ve actually been able to compose music in my head — well, maybe.  It happened to me again last night.   Very occasionally, I have a dream in which I hear a song and then I wake up and realize I’ve never heard that song before.   I dreamt I was riding in a car and a pop-rock song came on the radio and I turned it up, saying “Oh, I like that song.”   The song itself was unremarkable and sounded like a lot of other pop-rock songs, but was very catchy, with a sort of ’60s vibe to it.  I can’t remember much else, except the chorus contained the words, “mister, mister.”

Google is a godsend for checking lyrics online.   I typed in “mister, mister” which was all I could remember, and while there is a group called “Mr. Mister,” there doesn’t appear to be any song that has those words in the lyrics.  So I concluded that what I heard in my dream  must have been an original song, at least lyric-wise.  Maybe the melody was someone else’s and I had heard it a long time ago or something and just can’t consciously remember it.  Unfortunately, there’s no way to check a melody on Google the way you can check lyrics.   I don’t consciously remember ever hearing a song with that particular melody though, even it was so similar to a lot of other pop-rock songs (like I said, the style of the song was pretty cookie-cutter).   No wonder so many musicians get sued for copying someone else’s melody.   They probably didn’t really steal it at all, but unconsciously used someone else’s, thinking it was their own.   It’s completely understandable why that happens so often.   How would you go about checking something like that?

The few times I’ve “composed” songs in my dreams, I’ve always really liked the song.  A couple of times the songs have been absolutely amazing.   I’ve always wished I knew how to write music or play an instrument, so I could wake up and immediately pick out the chords on a guitar or tap it out on a piano, and then write down the music for it.

I imagine this is how some musicians come up with the music for a song.  I think it’s largely a function of the unconscious (all creative pursuits are), and probably comes in the form of dreams a lot.   Other musicians say they think of the lyrics first, and then a melody for them just sort of comes to them.   That would also be the workings of the unconscious.  I think it’s such an awesome thing to be able to do that.

The fact I have these dreams at all makes me wonder if I have some latent musical talent that I just never developed or knew I had.  Or maybe they happen to everyone and it’s nothing all that special.