Substantial Means

Saturday night I found myself very briefly at the party of some people of substantial means. It’s very strange to be at a party like that. At first I couldn’t tell what was going on. For some reason the music was all uniformly very bad, the people, on the whole, seemed a bit old to be hanging out on the roof in the same t-shirt and shorts type attire as I was in, and no one seemed to be having a good time. There seemed to be, wound like a coil winding still tighter before some release, a savage boredom gripping the room.

The hostess was a beauty and stood out in her white seersucker dress as she seemed to worry unnecessarily over the sleek countertop computer unit the music inside the apartment was coming from. I’m not sure she was actually engaged in conversation with anyone. On a glance around the place, nothing seemed quite unpacked or assembled in the rooms radiating from the main room/kitchen.

A bit more needs to be said about the music.

Elevator hip-hop and soul- that slice of contemporary music that will slide very gracefully into what is defined as adult contemporary as the current generation of chickenheads settles into their mortgages and incestuous extramarital affairs- the genre championed by its current standard-bearer, Justin Timberlake, was the aural order of the night. There is a certain color to the music that can and has been replicated ad nauseum usque- an all-purpose synthesizer patch that dominates the form that serves as bass and mid-range with a sharp, loud attack and, though the sound only comes in short, second or less bursts, a tapering decay. It nearly seems to jangle, though which instrument’s jangle it is supposed to be, no one can guess. Probably because it also thuds a bit. This is also accompanied by a synthetic low-end bass drum evocative a little bit of a big bass speaker turned to the floor, or something that came off of vinyl to the chagrin of any high-ends. The beats are syncopated for funkiness, but also repetitive so you know what’s happening the second time it sequences around. And who knows what the fey, compressed, high-end, high-register voice is singing about. But there it is.

Now, somehow the host of this party had either a whole playlist or a whole iPod dedicated to storing and playing back this sort of material. That is not normal. It was either the result of a fanatical devotion to a particular production house or evidence of having acquired a massive amount of the genre’s hits all at once. And as the machine-generated soul pumped on, I couldn’t figure out what that music had to do with the faux hippy (hippy not in lifestyle or appearance, but in all-permissiveness) friend of a friend who had invited us to the gathering, or anyone else there, for that matter.

Bad scene. But, all in all, the weekend was good. Why aren’t they all three days?