Time and Space: A Mixtape

time and space
Image by Amber Canbek

Originally for this project, I wanted to create a mashup video much similar to ones I’ve done in the past. I was either going to do “Nocturne No. 2 in E flat Major, Op. 9,2” by Chopin playing over silent film scenes or “Elvis” by Lana Del Rey playing over Presley family home videos. Due to time constraints and having to layout an entire student publication by myself, I opted to create a “mixtape” of sorts.

My main purpose for this remix work was to showcase how sounds and artists of the past influence the works we listen to today. The odd numbered songs in the playlist were the songs of the “past” and the even numbered songs are pieces influenced by the song before it. I found that I was most successful in the lineup of the songs. I was inspired by Al Shipley’s article in Complex when he was describing people having to flip the cassette tape or vinyl record. The listener could take a break from the music and listen further later, if wanted. “Side A” of my mixtape (the first six songs) are more upbeat, whereas the songs on the B-Side are more mellow in tone and progressively get slower in bpm.

One of the difficulties I faced, though, was selecting the actual songs. There were two artists in particular I KNEW I wanted to feature on the playlist, and that was Fleetwood Mac and Lana Del Rey. The other artists I chose were artists I’ve previously listened to, but to create a connection between them all, I had to do a bit of research. The songs by FM and Del Rey I had to choose based on what artist and song they were paired with, which was also difficult. For example, I originally was going to have FM’s “Dreams” followed by the Dixie Chick cover of “Landslide,” as the final two songs on the playlist. I decided, though, that it would be much more fitting to end the playlist with Billie Eilish, who is the youngest out of all of the artists.

Most of my time on the playlist was spent actually listening to my options and my playlist from beginning to end, perfecting it. I also spent a bit of time researching who influenced who, which came mostly from interviews with the artists and music reviews. The beauty of the playlist, though, is that several of the older artists influenced more than one of the younger artists. For example, FM not only influenced Florence Welch, but also Lana Del Rey and Harry Styles. Lana Del Rey herself influenced Billie Eilish and worked with Stevie Nicks of FM, as well as Florence Welch. The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and The Beatles were also major influences for different members of FM. So, a lot of paths were crossed.

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Many people from this generation will recognize the opening guitar chords of both “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” by The Rolling Stones and “Do I Wanna Know?” by the Arctic Monkeys. It’s been noted by several music critics that the Arctic Monkeys sound is a modern take on The Rolling Stones, and eerily similar.

The most similar, though, out of all of these pairings are “Immigrant Song” by Led Zeppelin and “Highway Tune” by modern rock band, Greta Van Fleet. Ever since they hit the main stream scene, comparisons have been drawn between Greta Van Fleet and Led Zeppelin. The band has admitted to being inspired by Led Zeppelin, with the main vocalist having a similar sound to Robert Plant.

Florence Welch’s stage persona has been compared to that of Stevie Nicks for years now. “It’s pretty much my favorite song of all time,” Welch said before performing a cover of “The Chain” at Glastonbury, “All of my heroes are in this band.” Welch has also covered “Silver Springs,” before as well.

“Ship to Wreck” has the same freeing energy and angst as “The Chain.” A match made in heaven, if you asked me.

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As I mentioned before, the “B-side” of my mixtape takes a more mellow turn. Beginning with the iconic tune “Hotel California” by the Eagles, the beat is instantly recognizable and makes the listener interested. Harry Styles has been noted to attend several Eagles gigs and is listed as one of his greatest influences. Though “Sign of the Times” doesn’t have a memorable guitar solo like “Hotel California,” the lyrics are quite similar in their almost prophetic meanings. Both songs are about a journey of sorts, a type of “go forth” vibe.

Also mentioned before, Harry Styles was also greatly influenced by Fleetwood Mac, who he has performed with before. Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours album was the 1978 album of the year at the Grammy’s and stayed at number one on the Billboard 200 for 31 non-consecutive weeks, only being usurped once by Hotel California. In the ’70s, Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles were known to be in a friendly competition. Lead vocalist, Stevie Nicks, has worked with all of the Eagles at some point during her career, and even dated a couple of them in her time.

“I think they were a defining moment in the rock n roll world that I love. You couldn’t really love the Eagles music and be an Eagles fan and actually know them and not aspire to greatness yourself,” said Nicks in an Eagles documentary.

As “Sign of the Times” ends, a more hopeful and recognizable tune begins to play. “Here Comes the Sun,” written at Eric Clapton’s house by George Harrison, is one of the most well-known Beatles songs. The song following it, “Tomorrow Never Came” by Lana Del Rey, actually references the Beatles and was a duet with John Lennon’s son, Sean. The song certainly alludes to the Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows” and is believed to be a sequel to it.

“And I could put on the radio/To our favorite song/Lennon and Yoko/We will play all day long/”Isn’t life crazy?”, I said/Now that I’m singing with Sean,” Lana croons in the bridge.

There is definitely a sense of nostalgia written within the song. Also featured on the Lust for Life album is “Beautiful People, Beautiful Problems,” which Del Rey sings with Stevie Nicks.

Along with Lana Del Rey, The Neighbourhood is one of the younger influences on the playlist. Similar to “Tomorrow Never Came,” “Baby Came Home 2 / Valentines” is a sequel to one of their previously released works, “Baby Came Home.” The Neighbourhood has actually been known to work with Dey Rey, with an unofficial release of their song, “Daddy Issues,” having Del Rey on backing vocals.

Following “Baby Came Home 2” is “ocean eyes,” by Billie Eilish. The two songs have an ethereal and atmospheric sounds, with “ocean eyes” being the calmer of the two. The Neighbourhood’s album, Wiped Out, (which “Baby Came Home 2” appears on), is listed as one of Eilish’s most influential albums.

“It touches on a lot of different emotions at once,” said Eilish about Wiped Out. 

Eilish also listed “Baby Came Home 2,” “Without You” by Lana Del Rey and “Something” by The Beatles as a few songs on her Valentine’s Day playlist.

As mentioned before, many paths are crossed as far as musical influences go, with influences seeming to go through time and space to inspire artists of the future. Showcasing this phenomena was my main goal with this playlist. You can listen to all of the songs on the Spotify playlist below.

 

‘Savonarola Preaching Against Prodigality’: A man of the cloth or charismatic cult leader?

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‘Savonarola Preaching Against Prodigality’ by Ludwig von Langenmantel

As I strolled through the Regina Quick Center of the Arts, the first piece I noticed was the giant “Savonarola Preaching Against Prodigality” by Ludwig von Langenmantel, an oil canvas painting looming above the stairs by the gift shop.

I’ve always been interested in Renaissance, Gothic and Romantic art, the latter of which this piece of art was created. Perhaps I was so drawn to it because it reminded me of the works I saw when roaming through the Vatican in the summer of 2016.

The focal point of the piece is Girolamo Savonarola, who the piece is named after, pointing towards the sky as if he is God reaching out to Adam, preaching before a “bonfire of vanities.” His followers (and critics) flock around him to hear what he has to say about the impending doom and the fall of the church.

Now, before analyzing the piece, I had to give myself a little history lesson to truly understand what the painting depicted.

A man with humble beginnings, Savonarola abandoned his family to become a Dominican friar. As a friar, he moved to Florence, where he served as the master of novices in the convent of San Marco.

Savonarola was more austere than his brothers in the convent, whom he often conflicted with, making him move from city to city. When preaching in the 1480s he found evidence of an Apocalypse and called for repentance. In the summer of 1490, Savonarola returned to Florence began to attack powerful factions and leaders of the world, Italy and the city. It was the fear of others that led to Savonarola’s rise, both politically and spiritually, in the merchant city of Firenze.

His sermons of destruction came to Florence during a crucial time. Lorenzo de’Medici, the de facto leader of Florence, was dying. Savonarola blessed Lorenzo on his deathbed, but his blessing could not save the Medicis from being expelled. He prophesied a great flood and a ruler from the north who would try to reform the church. When Charles VIII of France invaded, Savonarola’s prophecies seemed to be proving true.

Lorenzo’s son, Piero, failed to defend Florence, and the Medicis had to leave. Like a charismatic cult leader, Savonarola was Lorenzo’s successor in Florence government and reformed both politics and religion in the city.

Whoever was opposed to creating Florence into his image, Savonarola made them his enemies, condemning them and calling them tiepidi, the “worse.” The pope and Savonarola’s friends ended up denouncing him as a man who bought his office and an atheist.

In the summer of 1497, five men were accused of trying to restore the Medicis in Florence. When they were brought to judgement, Savonarola gave them no real help. The sentence was passed and the men were executed, thus making Savonarola an enemy of the Medicis.

Savonarola burned books and destroyed art, horrifying the Vatican and his own followers. He deceived himself into believing he was a prophet, similar to Moses. This, in the end, led to his own downfall.

Argument raged over Savonarola’s authority, as the pope threatened to excommunicate Florence. The government acted and Savonarola and his main supporters were arrested. Savonarola could not withstand torture and he admitted to never having any visions. In 1498 he was frocked, hanged and burned. His ashes were thrown into the Arno river, but some of his followers collected the ashes, his vestments, hair shirt and pieces of the gallows he died on. Sainthood was not in Savonarola’s future, however. He was no Thomas More by any stretch of the imagination and the fact that he was up for sainthood boggles my mind. Imagine Saint Jim Jones. You can’t, right? Perhaps comparing Savonarola to Jones is a bit of a stretch, but his charismatic appearance and cult following are enough to suggest that he was not a pure man of the cloth, but in fact an ambitious man who found fertile ground in the fearful Florence republic.

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Jim Jones vs. Savonarola….uncanny.

Perhaps not so ironically, after his death, a cult was created under his name.

Langenmantel depicts Savonarola with as much darkness as the friar’s prophecies. Hooded like some type of dark lord, Savonarola’s eyes are rolled upwards, almost giving him the appearance of a man possessed. What’s even more eerie is the skull Savonarola seems to be holding close along with his dangling rosary. One of the first things I wondered when looking at the painting was whose skull it was. The eyes of the skull appear to be looking at Savonarola. Perhaps this is symbolic to the friar’s own death.

The women in the painting appear to be fearful, some from the nobility and others who look like the working class. The men, on the other hand, look skeptical. These depictions could just be a product of the times. Noble women did not necessarily work, so they were thought to have more time to focus on religious beliefs, while men focused more on politics. Noblemen at the time looked at each other with power in their eyes and similarly to Savonarola, they could fall just as quickly as they rose.

Reading about the history of Savonarola and his eventual downfall, I began noticing a lot of foreshadowing within the painting. As the painting was created centuries after the life and death of Savonarola, Langenmantel could easily symbolize his eventual execution.

To the left of him, most of the people appear to be at the will of Savonarola’s words, hanging on to every word. While those on the far right appear to be more skeptical of what he’s saying. If looking at the scene from left to right, it’s almost as if Langenmantel is predicting past, present and future. After all, it would be the critics of Savonarola who would pass his judgement.

Behind Savonarola, to his left, there appears to be someone in the back mimicking him. Could this be Langenmantel’s way of further foreshadowing the friar’s death? Just as Savonarola is pointing to the heavens, speaking of an Apocalyptic downfall, the onlooker in the back could be pointing to the friar’s downfall. Or, perhaps Langenmantel is telling the viewer that there are men like Savonarola everywhere; past, present and future.

One of the other things I found curious was the pile of riches at Savonarola’s feet. Throughout his life, Savonarola refused riches and all earthly pleasures. He prodded his followers to rid of material possessions and live for God. His bonfires of vanities pushed people to minimalism and living lives not defined by property. The way that they are piled at his feet, though, make it appear less holy, and more holier than thou. It’s as if Savonarola is an idol or some type of Firenze rockstar. The items seem to be at his disposal and the effect of their placement make it look like he’s standing above them, as if it were a mountain.

It is this pile of riches the part of the piece that I believe to be the most telling. Instead of getting rid of their possessions, Savonarola’s followers appear to be throwing them at his feet. It is on these riches that he rose and on those riches that he would fall. At the top of the pile appears to be a chalice of sorts knocked over, underneath it a material of red, almost making it look as if wine is being spilt. On the floor, red cloth spreads out, like a pool of blood. Blood of the past and future. The five men who were executed with no help from Savonarola was the blood of the past. The friar was not innocent and some could even argue that their blood was on his hands. As we know, Savonarola would face torture and death, hence, the blood of the future.

One of the women in the painting kneels before Savonarola, holding above her head a crown, as if presenting it to him. If Savonarola preaches about a “bonfire of vanities” why isn’t she tossing it into the pile? Instead, charismatic-cult-leader-esque man he is, is doted upon by his followers. It’s as if giving their livelihoods away to Savonarola will ensure their spot in heaven.

Being a bit of a Renaissance buff, when reading about Savonarola’s life, I found his ties with the Medicis somewhat ironic. He blessed Lorenzo, but helped in expelling the rest of the Medicis in Florence. The Medicis hated him for it, but like many, the Medicis were not exempt from believing in religious prophecies. Catherine de’Medici came to mind. Catherine ended up marrying King Henry II of France after becoming one of the last of the Medicis, an orphan.

Catherine became a fan of Nostradamus, famous for his prophecies. She supported him so much that she made him a Counselor and Physician for the royal household.

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Catherine de’Medici and Nostradamus

The Medicis hated Savonarola and spat on his name along with his prophecies, yet one of their most powerful and notable members heavily believed in a man known for prophecies.

I digress…

Overall, I found Langenmantel’s painting extremely interesting, as it struck me to do hours of research on the life and death of Savonarola, someone I previously knew nothing about. The painting presents the reality of men like Savonarola. They are small and weak, hiding behind their pile of riches and charisma. He was not the first of his kind, though, or the last. History repeats our whole damn lives, in some way or another. The past, present and future are all laid out in the cloth, we just have to look for it.

A soapbox moment

I think a general statement that we can all agree to is that people use social media to benefit no one other than themselves, only presenting what they want others to see. There is a sort of narcissism that comes with using social media. We want to show the world what is going on in our lives that is working well for us, not necessarily the down falls. This ends up with us feeling a sense of gratification when we get social approval via likes and comments on what we post.

There is no selfless good deed, especially in the digital realm. Any money you donate via Facebook or crowdfunding website makes you feel good about yourself. Even if you make your name anonymous for the donation, you still end up feeling good about what you did.

Considering we can all recognize and realize that we appear to be these awesome people with great lives, recently people are calling others out for not being “real” enough. YouTube and Instagram come to mind when I think of this.

Famous YouTuber Shane Dawson used to do comedic skits and random videos on fast food, life hacks and conspiracy theories. In 2018, Dawson became one of the fastest growing YouTubers due to his different docuseries and projects which went into the lives of other famous YouTubers to show his audience the “real” them. The people that were featured in his series in 2018 were YouTubers who were hated or had recent drama/controversy. He pushed them to show their “true” selves to the world and that would make audiences like them more.

Though Shane Dawson’s docuseries are fun and interesting to watch, are they really successful? Many of the YouTubers who are featured on Shane’s channel grow exponentially as they gain millions of subscribers overnight due to the limelight. So although Shane is searching for the “truth” and “realness” behind these YouTubers, he is only helping them gain popularity and stardom, even if it’s unintentional.

The video below is a part of one of Shane Dawson’s docuseries as he goes to the house of Bunny Meyer, known on YouTube as grav3yardgirl. Meyer’s channel was considered ‘dying’ as her viewership went down. Dawson tries to help her remedy that by showing her “real” life.

People on Instagram get called out for using FaceTune to slightly alter how they appear in photos, for “flexing” (showing off one’s wealth) and being too “picture perfect.”

So, on both platforms, people are being called out for not being “real” enough.

But then there are social media stars like Trisha Paytas. She posted a video of her crying on her kitchen floor over her boyfriend’s infidelity and in the comments, people are calling her a nutcase and insinuating her feelings aren’t valid. I personally believe Trisha Paytas’s video was an actual representation of how she felt. For someone who is used to taking her camera out and documenting her life, I didn’t question the validity of the emotions she “portrayed” in her video.

The video has since been deleted from Trisha’s channel, but below is a re-upload..

So, why did people say her feelings weren’t valid? Why did people claim she was being over dramatic? Perhaps not many people would post a video of themselves having an emotional breakdown on their kitchen floor, but I am sure many people would feel the same way as Trisha if they were in her situation. Were they calling her over dramatic because of her large following? Possibly.

The video of her crying on the kitchen floor became a meme and is now a part of Trisha’s “brand.” Though people called her over dramatic and left her other nasty comments, Trisha rose in popularity due to her mental break and eventually was a part of the UK’s version of Big Brother. Within a year, she became international.

So, one could argue that being real on social media allows you to rise in popularity, but is this really being “real” if you’re gaining followers? Or does the popularity negate your realness? Food for thought.

Many people post on sites like Instagram and YouTube to get some sense of gratification. In this day of age, people can make millions (billions, for a few) simply by making a post. Other people watching them become richer and richer fuels behavior to please other.

Sites like Twitter are not exempt from narcissism. In Jim Brown’s article, “Unhealthy Infrastructures,” he takes a look at quote tweeting. This is what I like to call, “Drawing upon your audience to make your arguments for you.” People who are debating something may use quote tweeting to draw their “opponents” responses to their audience. In this way, Twitter has basically become a room where everyone is screaming at each other.

People who quote tweets to their audience is like a bounty hunter letting their dogs take chase. Snarky comments to one another become public and those who quote tweets are basically saying to their audience, “Look at how funny I am” or “I can make sick burns.” Thus, it’s all about self-gratification.

Here is an example of a very intellectual argument made via quote tweeting:

Image result for quote tweet tana mongeau bryce hall

Now, I’m not disregarding the upsides of quote tweeting, which include richer conversation, context, clarity, etc. People use it to make funny jokes, political statements and voice their disgust on a subject.

Lives and careers have been destroyed by quote tweets in one fellow swoop (Laura Lee and Kezia, for example).

Not only can social media destroy careers, but it allows others to receive some type of gratification by participating in their fall, i.e. “dogpiling.”

Though social media allows us to have conversations with people that we might not have an opportunity to meet in real life, some of these platforms hinder the opportunity as we are not talking to these people face-to-face. We do not know what some people are going through or even look like, thus they have a type of omnipresent veil over them. It’s easier to dehumanize someone when you’ve never seen them before. This makes it easy for people to name-call, bully, threaten and dogpile. An environment that is dehumanizing can lead to a toxic environment where conversation seems impossible.

Now let me step down from my soapbox and stop talking about how social media is the root of evil like your grandma, but I beg you to take a step back before the next time you post something on your social media. Ask yourself, “Why am I posting this? What’s the point?”