Sunday, April 19, 2015


One of the contemporary artists I knew I wanted to include in Music That Influenced My Life is the artist known as Psy. Born Park Jae-sang on December 31, 1977, in South Korea, he is an internationally-known singer-songwriter, record-producer and rapper. He is known domestically for his humorous videos and stage performances and internationally for his viral video hit “Gangnam Style”. The song's refrain “Oppan Gangnam Style” (translated as Big Brother – to a female – is Gangnam Style, with Psy referring to himself) was entered into The Yale Book of Quotations as one of the most famous quotations of 2012. Psy spent time in the United States and at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, which is evident in his song-writing, but that is not what first caught my ear.

It didn't help that in August of 2012, every Friday, Huffpo would take the week's most idiotic stories and set them to the music of "Gangnam Style". Am I the only one who remembers this?

So, why would I, a middling-aged non-playing violist (at the time) care, and want to include him in my entry of people who influenced my playing career? Well, in the summer of 2012, I wasn't playing and hadn't been doing so for quite a number of years. I had some kind of motor disorder and it wasn't getting better; in fact, it seemed to be getting exponentially worse. I was having trouble cooking and eating. I didn't have any real medical insurance, so I was kind of patching together a sort of treatment through my primary care doctor with muscle relaxants and going to the E. R. when the headaches became too bad for me to cope with. I would not be receiving Medicare until March of 2013, although, I did have full Disability. Playing was out of the question. I had tremors so badly, I couldn't hold my bow. (Later diagnosis showed that I in fact, have familial tremor; my mother had it – I corroborated this with my aunt – the tremors are quelled with primodone) But the only relief that I really found was movement; dancing.

I already was pretty much living on my computer. I had had a second eye surgery and was still blind and walking into walls. I think my brain has adjusted somewhat; I only walk into walls once in a while, but just bounce off and keep on going. I can play the viola now, like the hell-raiser I was meant to be and am stronger for it.

But, I was drawn back to “Oppan Gangnam Style” for a long time, because it does a lot of things that are firsts. It was the first song in youtube to break 2 billion views; the counter is stuck at 2,306,804,064 views. I know this, because I watched it three times in a row and it never changed. I really go all out for my readers!

Actually, this is wrong, the total number of views is 2,307,748,841, as of this viewing, so just this counter is broken. 

It also has the distinction of bringing us a bit closer to the “Hermit Kingdom”, which both Koreas have the distinction of being called, which is unfortunate, because the video is a total hoot. Grandmas in buses, hollering, gals galloping like ponies, kids on swingsets, people in boats, yelling “Oppan Gangnam Style”.

Psy did another smart thing with this video, although there are probably some versions he's sorry about. He allowed ANY ONE WHO WANTED TO make a parody of the video, so we have “Klingon Gangnam Style”, “Sorprano Gangnam Style” and sweet Moses on a buttered cracker, the Very Special 10-hour Version of “Hitler Gangnam Style”. Even as big a goof as I am, I'm skipping the “Hitler” version, but, I do think the “Klingon” version is pretty good.

So, what makes something like this knock Justin Bieber off his throne – besides the fact that the Biebs has no talent? I've thought a lot about this, and like the groups .fun and their marvelous song “We Are Young” and Ylvis' “What Does the Fox Say?”, it's all about the talent. “Gangnam Style” is deceptively simple, but the underlying beat is a repeated 1-2, 1-2, 1-2-3-4, and it's catchy. Adding to that on the 1-2-3-4, the bass walks it on down to the tonic, and begins again, only to layer it with a 1-2-3, 1-2-3, a few measures later, leaving Psy the ability to “rap” and scan his own rhythms. Very simple, elegant and the rhythmic offsets work beautifully.

"Oppan Klingon Style", an approved parody of Psy's hit tune

Admittedly, I love things like this; it may not be everyone's cup of tea. But, I spent plenty of hours hopping around like a mad thing in the living room, and in the kitchen and bedroom; the pure joy of the music kept me going. Then, I discovered dubstep. Wub, wub, wubwubwubwubwub... Just kidding!
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