by Leslie Harpold
Stuck in the Midi With You
Everyone has a secret shame, something they love of such appallingly poor taste that it's painful to confess, but since starting Smug, I've made it my business to shame myself, as long as it benefits you. Like anyone, I have bad days. I make my living at the computer like a lot of people, and my specific job puts me in the unique position of keeping up with the latest and greatest solutions to serving multimedia on the web.
When the days get long and my patience gets short, I need an 'at the desk' escape, something I know can put a smile on my face in less than five minutes. No muss, no fuss, no risks. I just want a little grin time so I can get back to the grueling pace of being a multimedia professional. Over the course of time, I have found many little "happy places" on the web, but none are as reliable as the midi files I've saved on my hard drive. Generally tedious and annoying when found unwittingly embedded in web pages, the midi has a reputation as the hallmark of cheesieness amongst the home page set. However, I have found a few that take me beyond the pale, that hearing even a few notes of can send me into peals of laughter.
I got turned on to the next wave of midis by former Smug staffer Jack who, when he was still talking to us, emailed me several carefully selected midi files, and I've been hooked ever since. Danzig's "Mother" was my point of entry into what would soon blow up into a micro obsession.
It seems that the best midis come from the best songs. I find the more anthemic the rock ballad, the more enjoyable the lo-fi tinny redux. Largely due to the contrast between the knowledge of the seriousness with which the band intended the work originally, the hard driving time to rock kick in the ass jam time aesthetic reduced to what I envision as Gramma-style interpretation with the sheet music at the Hammond Organ. "I'll set the beat to rock, dear, then we'll all jam!" Another favorite, Radiohead's "Creep," gets that sly wink by the choice of midi instruments -- the melody is coded in the sound of a recorder, the medieval instrument no one plays anymore. Radiohead goes Renaissance Faire (yes, with an 'e'). The timely break in hardcore indie rockers Fugazi's classic "Waiting Room" shows us the sensitivity of the midi artist's interpretation of the original precise rock timing. There's just nothing not to love.
When I feel like the day is about to take a flaming dive I can always turn it around by either plunking one of the time-honored midi files into the browser and letting myself giggle for three minutes, thirty seconds until I forget what I was so riled up about, or, if I'm feeling particularly adventurous, I head out to the big midi repositories to look for new favorites. Either way, I've found it's one of the easiest ways to turn that frown upside down. Open your mind and give these a listen.
Here's are some of Leslie's favorites for your listening pleasure: back to the junk drawer
back to the junk drawer
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