music makes the bourgeoisie and the rebel*

do you have an opinion / a mind of your own? / I thought you were special / I thought you should know (from Garbage’s song “Special”, 1998)

The other day, I saw this thing on TV where a chef was giving tips about how to make a cheap meal look fancy. Like, cut out a piece of chicken breast in a way that it resembles a scallop and place it in a shell (which you’re practically supposed to steal from a restaurant). Peel an eggplant, chop the peel into bits and mix it with pasta and cheap truffle oil – the eggplant peel is supposed to come off as the actual truffle.

WHAT!? The TV bit actually suggested that this make believe gourmet dinner was a smart idea! I don’t get it, and I’m getting sick of this fake society surrounding me where everything has to have and image and make an impression, and it doesn’t seem to matter if there’s any substance behind most things.

you do what you do / you say what you say / you always try to be everything to everyone / you know all the right people / you play all the right games (from Everclear’s song “Everything To Everyone”, 1997)

Where are we, in the whole youth/pop culture process? I guess I’m not really there anymore – agewise – but I think of myself as an urban, unmarried, childless womanchild, so I can’t be that far away. But still, I wonder what today’s youth thinks, what they worry about – IF they worry about anything. Because to be honest, it does kind of look as if most of them couldn’t care less about stuff except for the right labels showing off on their clothes.

I don’t want to come off as better as I am – when I was a teenager in the late 90’s / beginning new Millennium, I wasn’t exactly a political activist. But it was the time before heavy product placement formats like “Sex and the City”, “Gossip Girl” or “The Hills”. The term It-Girl kind of came up, but it a) appeared strictly limited to Paris Hilton and b) I never understood what was so great about being popular and famous just for the hack of it (without having contributed good music, movie performances etc to the world).

However, more and more It-Girls popped up from all sorts of backgrounds; the thing they had in common was probably the right outfit and being invited to the right parties. And nowadays most chicks and guys between 17 and 23 seem to aim at the It status, carrying a fake or real designer purse, Ray Ban sunglasses and a coffee to go (in a paper and plastic cup – get the environmental message, people!). The It uniform…

sittin’ in a park in Paris, France / readin’ the news and it sure looks bad / they won’t give peace a chance / that was just a dream some of us had (from Joni Mitchell’s song “California”, 1971)

In the 60’s, it was the breakout of the uptight, prude society. In the 70’s there was the war in Vietnam. The 80’s brought nuclear power and its waste into the picture. Looking back at the 90’s, when I was becoming a teenager and where it would have been my turn to show society the finger, I guess my special problem (and that of the people I knew) was that there was no obvious hard to take circumstance. I come from a middle class to upper middle class background.

Financially our parents had done way better than their parents (who themselves were young adults during World War II). That meant that us teenagers enjoyed a pretty comfortable lifestyle. Laptops, iPhones, designer bags and brand clothing didn’t yet play a part, but we wore clothes we liked, our parents took us on one or two vacations a year, and when it was our birthdays we didn’t exactly suffer a shortage of presents.

Our parents were too young in the 60’s to rebel or drop out, so my peers and I weren’t raised by politically overly opinionated ex-hippies. We were told that when it’s election day you better go and make your little cross on the ballot. That it’s important to participate in a democracy. But that was about it.

Nuclear power was still there, and yes, it was kind of uncool, but whenever I switched on the light in my room I didn’t make the connection that this worked due to nuclear power – that produced radioactive waste and bore the chance of atomic accidents.

I remember a couple of alternative looking dudes and chicks from my school who did participate in anti nuclear power demonstrations, but I always suspected that some of them really just did it for the party factor of a demo. (The slightly dangerous party factor. Maybe you’d get busted.) But I may have been wrong about this…

As always, pop music had the potential to catch falling teenagers. Like me. Personally, I was attracted by songs that dealt with personal soul conflicts. As I’ve said before, I didn’t have to suffer from a visible circumstance like divorcing parents, but still, like most teenagers, I did carry around pain about stuff. And so, when Shirley Manson would sing “somebody get me out of here / I’m tearing at myself” or John Rzeznik “and now we’re grown up orphans that never knew their names” or Courtney Love “when the glitter fades in morning / turn away and you will find my empty eyes” it didn’t matter to me what they were really talking about. Feeling trapped in a narrow minded suburban town, it seemed as if the songs and their writers understood me. Good.

I always knew I wanted to be a singer/songwriter. I wrote poetry almost everyday as a teenager, and sometimes I thought of melodies for my lyrics. That was before I was able to play the piano. I was interested in certain music genres, I watched music television and I read music magazines in order to stay informed.

Today, among many other things, I’m a vocal teacher. That means I get in touch with teenagers claiming to like or be interested in music on a daily basis. Sadly, when I ask them “What do you want to sing?” they answer “I don’t know.”, and when I take it farther with “What kind of music do you like?” it’s either “Everything.” or, again, “I don’t know.” COME ON! (As I write this, I wonder if this is a proplem about singers. Or about girls. Of course, mostly girls want to sing. Could it be that in daily life, girls leave the choice of what’s being listened to up to their boyfriends/male friends? Guys absolutely have a tendency to think they are the music geniuses – but when I was a teenage girl I didn’t discuss about this, on parties I would stand around at the CD player with the guys and participate in the DJ-ing process.)

Back to my musically undecided, indentityless vocal students. I tell them that they can tell me anything, no taste in music is embarrassing, even if it’s Justin Bieber (of course, as a private person I think a little differently about this…). But more often than not, I can’t solve the problem with my students and I end up offering them the latest Rihanna song. I tried Joni Mitchell with one student once but wasn’t successful. Now I just keep it simple.

Now, that alarms me. Maybe I’m too strict about this, but I find that deliberately picking out certain music as your teenage soundtrack is one of the keys to your identiy during that time. And a way to communicate it to your peers. Being into the Backstreet Boys or being into Nirvana – two very different statements!

When I started listening to Nirvana (sadly only after Kurt’s death), my parents weren’t exactly shocked. How could they, rock’n’roll already existed while they grew up, so it wasn’t that exotic. But the silver lining was they didn’t understand what I heard or saw in those distorted guitars, the screaming vocals and that guy behind the mic who seemed to never wash his hair. They just didn’t understand. Good. That’s probably the best news for a teenager. You successfully become independent from your parents because you’re worshipping a band whose magic won’t reveal itself to them.

Todays teens parents had access to AC/DC, Alice Cooper, Metallica, Ozzy Osbourne etc while they themselves were teens. So I’m wondering: even if today’s 15-year-olds turn up the speakers with drum’n’base stuff in their rooms: are their parents at all shocked or at least shake their heads? Because if it does nothing more than produce a nostalgic smile on their faces remembering how they went crazy to “Highway To Hell” back in the day, the whole concept of becoming independet from your parents by shocking them a little has kind of broken together.

You can get piercings and tattoos, you can go homosexual, you can date someone from a different ethnic background, you can convert to a new religion, you can dress gothic, you can turn up the noisiest music – chances are your parents will be relatively understanding of all that. If worst comes to worst they might even get a juvenile flash (because today, our body’s might age but we all stay young and trendy at heart) and claim they like the same music, too.

Is that healthy?

Cathy I’m lost, I said, though I knew she was sleeping / I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why (from Simon & Garfunkel’s song “America”, 1968)

So I can kinda see that subconciously, there might be little need for today’s teens to make deliberate choices about what’s playing on their smartphones. Maybe aiming for the It-status with a Hollister shirt, Ray Bans, the right phone and the latest trend color nail polish is the way to go for teens in order to become independent from their parents. Because even I, with my 30 years of age, don’t get it. I keep telling my students that I got my first cell phone when I was 18 in order to make emergency calls when I was out at night, but I never brought it to school since all my friends were there, too, and I had the chance to talk to them in person. I didn’t need to chat with them via What’sApp while they were practically sitting next to me. And it wasn’t a topic whether it was this or that cell phone model, it just was a cell phone. Man, I must sound like a grandma! 🙂 Talk about zeitgeist… So yeah, maybe the right brands wrapped around your body and the right phone in your pocket is today’s teens way to confuse their parents.

Danger: these things are on the surface. Thus, the surface seems to get more important. Result: the fake gourmet dinner mentioned at the beginning.

let’s start a fire / let’s have a riot yeah it’s awful / it was punk / yeah it was perfect now it’s awful (from Hole’s song “Awful”, 1998)

Call me romantic, call me old school. I’m still convinced that music is the parachute that carrys a lost teenage soul safely to the twens.

Go ahead and take a step away from your parents by cuddling with your phone if you must ;). But Facebook will never give you wisdom and solace. Music surely does.

* from Madonna’s song “Music”, 2000

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tax accountants, tofu sour cream, true happiness

What a headline!

Sometimes I feel like I’m living for my tax accountant. She sends me forms and questionaries to fill out, she wants to know what percentage of my cell phone costs are due to my work, and how many kilometers I drive on account of my job. I don’t have an answer to all of this! I have to dive into the mess of my desk, looking for contribution receits. I give donations, yes, I thought that’s a good thing… but with all the paperwork that comes along with it!? My tax accountant is a very nice, lovely lady. But she makes my life miserable.

The thing is: I want to take care of the stuff that makes me happy. I’m okay with a certain amount of work that you just have to  do. That’s how life is. But if responsibilities like that take over… where’s the fun? And how do you pull yourself away from it?

I guess it’s important for all of us to get in touch with the meaningful side of life. Though I know this is something completely different for each individual.

For some, taking care of the taxes and organizing their desk might even be it. But not for me. I’m scared that if I don’t train my creative muscle regularly, I’ll lose it. So, I need to make music. I need to scribble down words. 

I need to spend time with metaphysical things. Because what ever leaves room for interpretation inspires your creativity. I believe that a person’s creativity produces a lot of truth about that person. Write down some completely intuitive sentences, put them away for half a year and then read them again – you will be surprised how right you were about yourself or the situation you’re stuck in!

I’m excited about vegan cooking at the moment. I love veggie foods, and eating vegan gives me an ejoyable feeling of respecting the planet with all its living creatures. Moreover, I experience the luxury of having access to tofu, seitan, tempeh and all kinds of vegan cheeses within a five minute stroll from my apartment as totally urban. I have come to realize that I need to have an urban feeling in order to be well. Maybe it’s the diversity or the seeming connection to the rest of the world of a big city that kicks me. Whatever it is, vegan eating to me fits right into it.

Today’s a Sunday. I have tons of paperwork to do, but I want to hang out with my sweetheart. Don’t other people take care of their Sundays? Doesn’t everyone deserve a Sunday every now and then? I plan to cook a christmassy seitan dish for dinner for us! But now I partly feel bad because I’m ignoring my tax accountant’s questionnairy. What a pickle.

I guess, life’s a bitch sometimes. But also my biggest love ever…

at the dawn of my life’s 2nd trimester

Yesterday morning it hit me.
It hits me now and then: I’m failing myself. I made the wrong choices. I’m not a success.
Does anyone know this feeling?

Luckily, though I hit rock bottom, I seem to bounce back up pretty quickly. Like, I sat in my car crying yesterday morning, and by the end of the day I had already come up with alternative career plans.

Did I mention that I’m a Leo? They say that about Leos, that they always get back on track.

When I was 20, I felt extremely courageous for choosing the profession I love the most: singing, writing songs, being creative. It really felt like picking a profession, not just a job.

I still feel like I found MY profession. I’m guessing that a lot of people who make a living doing something they’re not particularly fond of or feel indifferent about, would tell me I’m lucky.
But: I haven’t found my JOB. Means: something that I’m good at, that I like to do and that generates money.
Because, here’s the bummer: with my profession, I don’t make any money worth mentioning! I don’t have to be Paris Hilton, but I want to be able to cover my costs for necessities.

This wasn’t always a problem for me. Even last year, I didn’t give a shit about the amount of money I made. I’d dip into my savings in order to buy stuff I thought I needed.

Not only have the savings mentioned above shrunk down, but it just doesn’t feel right anymore. I want to make it on my own, and yesterday it was like “Reality check: you’ll NEVER make it on your own!”

Jealous on people earning money with the thing they love, I feel let down by the world, by destiny, by the universe; all those institutions that seemed to have yelled “become a singer!”. Yeah, I became one, and now what!?

Things were so much more of a party a couple of years ago! When I could hide behind “I’m only 23, my life doesn’t need to be figured out yet.” My life doesn’t have to be completely figured out yet, either. But at the dawn of my life’s second trimester, I do freak out more! I remember that I’ve always wanted to have kids once my career has slowed down. But my career hasn’t even taken up speed! And how am I paying for my potential kids?

From a personal growth perspective, I don’t wanna be 20 again. But with all this serious shit, I sure as hell don’t want to be 30 either…

There is something in astrology called Saturn return. It means the planet Saturn returns to the exact position where it was at when you were born.
This takes up about 30 years. So, a lot of people experience this twice during their lives (at 30 and 60), and some really lucky ones even three times (at 90).
Saturn return marks a threshold. The step over it may feel difficult.

The first return of Saturn to its birth position marks the definite end of youth. The point where you feel like you can really take responsibility for yourself – and maybe even for someone else.

No wonder this feels sucky after having had 30 more or less mellow years…

But: astrology promises the sucky Saturn feeling is gonna pass. And that you are gonna be alright within your new self-consciousness. Well, I hope so! I HOPE SO.

hungover Sunday

I am the most regretful party goer I know.

I show up. Actually a lot of the time with the image of my abandoned couch and books on my mind, feeling sorry for myself that I’m trading them in for a party I don’t know is going to turn out good or a bore.

Anyways, two or three drinks loosen me up, and the former thought “I don’t want to stay too long because I want to make use of the following day” is buried somewhere in the back of brain, while I’m drinking more and probably let someone feed me cigarettes – which I hate! Except for in those moments. I’m lacking the ability to evaluate me sucking in this disgusting stuff. I’m lacking the ability to get some perspective of myself. Which probably isn’t the plan anyways when drinking.

I end up in bed somewhen in the early morning hours, I’ve already developed a headache and I know the next day is going to feel horrible. I start mumbling the first of many bad words, and ask myself why in the hell I am so weak, that not once when I go to a party, I simply take it slower. For once.

I get a serious crisis by meditating on what I’m doing to myself by drinking and smoking. I mean, I eat vegan. Whole, organic foods. I do it for many reasons, one of them is definitely my health. I take vitamins. B12 because I don’t eat meat, and currently D because it’s the dark season with less sun. I take a homeopathic medication called nux vomica, which helps me cure a few smaller symptoms. Nux vomica is an anti stress medication, stress caused by stimulants (caffein, alcohol, nicotine). The symptoms actually get better when I take nux vomica. I don’t get the message, do I?

I’m sitting here with a headache, already took an aspirin. I feel nauseous. Probably go for another aspirin later. It’s a beautiful day out, the sun’s shining. Usually, I start the day with a shake of grated organic veggies, grains and seeds that raises my body’s serotonin production. I don’t even want to waste this great product on my current condition!

I’m a singer, actress and vocal teacher. My body is my resource. If it’s functioning well and feeling good, I can perform my craft well. If I feel like this, I don’t even want to open my mouth to sing one single tone.

The thought that freaks me out is whether every intoxication, and be it only once in a while, has a self destructive quality to it. Given that we know it’s challenging for our bodies to process all those toxins. And given that, while intoxicated, we experience a different level of conciousness – though I’m guessing that being drunk probably isn’t the most inspiring of all possible intoxications. I can only speak for myself, but I never wrote a cool lyric or melody while being wasted.

So when on the one hand I take such good care of myself, what reason could I have to destruct myself? This is what occupies my mind on days like these. I have a demon. Obviously. We all do. And I’m sure that, if I defeated the drink-and-smoke-too-much-on-parties-demon, another one would show up. Everyone has a shadow. The more light one spreads, the darker their shadow is.

I want to know what this demon tries to tell me. I may overrate a simple party behavior a lot of people show, sure. But I’m a strong believer in the meaning of what we do and what happens to us. So, going to a party and having no control over the amount of stimulants I consume has a different meaning than going to a party, enjoying two or three drinks and then going home at a reasonable hour.

To be honest, I rate the latter as boring, grown up. I don’t want to be that, even though I have an eye on a few grown up things like a nice built-in kitchen. Which, on the other hand, I find extremely kinky and bourgeois and I want nothing to do with that.

So, if I stay comparatively sober at a party and leave at 1:30 pm with the words “I want to enjoy a nice Sunday tomorrow with my boyfriend”, I’d judge myself as boring.

If I party hard and wake up hungover, I curse the damn party and find that coming off juvenile is not worth this. So what?

I want to feel healthy and whole and peaceful, and me giving in to my demon on parties is not helping. I want an answer to this. I wish I’d be like a party yogi radiating peace at mind standing on a party not needing a cheap intoxication.