Friday, March 20, 2009

Running with a Heart on Fire - #1

I'm in the midst of strong week of training (knock on wood) and I'll be sure to write about it in a few days. In the meantime, I've been intending to introduce a musical aspect to this blog since its inception last year. While I don't listen to music very often when I run, I do enjoy putting together a playlist for my run now and then. With that in mind I introduce "Running with a Heart of Fire" which will be a weekly (or thereabouts) glimpse into three songs I really enjoy while running.

"Pocketful of Money" by Jens Lekman

I'll start with the track that gives this "feature" its title. This structure of this song is very typical of a lot of songs that motivate me when running. It starts simple, somber and slow. There is a sense of heartbreak and introspection that almost becomes trance like. However, the song does eventually transform to become seemingly more inspired. Its not that it ever reaches a fever tempo or crescendo, but there does seem to be some sort of transcendence.

This may seem like an odd structure to run to, as I would imagine most runners listen to things that are more upbeat in tempo and message, but I get a boost from this sort of thing. I usually only listen to music on long runs when I'm by myself so my pace isn't going to be as fast as other runs. Also, I tend to think about various people and situations in my life during the melancholy at the beginning of these songs. Usually, I'll think of friends I've not seen in a long time and how much it would mean to reconnect with them. By the time the song has picked up, I'm inspired to somehow communicate with them and fix something that seems to be missing. A similar effect occurs when I drink a cup of coffee.

In this song, that pick up just happens to be the repeated phrase "I'll come running with a heart on fire!" What could possibly apply more to this sort of thought process? I'm running and wishing that person would be standing there at the end of my run so I can deliver my message. I want for them to somehow know that I am thinking of them, and wish that somehow they could see what I see (often times in Chicago, this was the lake at night and the city skyline, and here its the snow-covered mountains) and feel what I am feeling. This is a kind of crazy desire, and I think describing it as having a "heart on fire" fits very well. I'm sure it doesn't relate much to the actual song's meaning, but that doesn't bother me.

I should also note that I've seen Jens perform many times and he is on the label Secretly Canadian in Bloomington, IN which is staffed by many friends of mine. Much love SC!

Another song that fits this structure that I've worn out on my ipod has been "Shadowlands" by Ryan Adams. I'll be sure to write about it when I can get a full version of it on to youtube.

"7/4 Shoreline" by Broken Social Scene

Broken Social Scene may be my absolute favorite band to listen to while running. A few of their songs fit the structure I mentioned above (The Bee Hives version of Lover's Spit for example), but for the most part I enjoy these songs for more typical reasons. They are infectious, upbeat (not always in message) and loud. One of the beauties of this song is its time signature. You guess it, its in 7/4 time. Having an odd amount of beats per measure leads to some interesting movement with my feet.

If this was in 3/4 I'd be tempted to waltz, but somehow I find the fast 7 beats very good for running. We're so accustomed to 4 beats (or 8 beat phrases) that taking one of these beats away seems to make it feel rushed, and this makes me want to move faster. The great little ring of the high-hat on the "and of seven" really gets me going. I tend to strike opposite feet at the beginning of each 7 beats. My left foot strikes on 1 and I count (sub-consciously) the 7 beats and my right foot strikes on the 1 of the next measure. There are strides in between of course, but emphasis comes on that 1st beat. Back and forth. This is similar to hearing a marching leader saying left-right-left but much more pleasant and invigorating for me.

I probably lost most of you on that last paragraph, but maybe... just maybe someone out there knows what I mean and can relate.

"One of These Days" by Owen

I could go on and on about this song. Its another example of a song that is too slow, and somber for most to enjoy while running. But, the emotion it brings out in me overcomes the aesthetics of the song. Mike Kinsella, who is Owen, was clearly very effected by his father's death. The sense that there might have been failed potential in his father's life motivates me to make sure I don't let the same thing happen to me.

Also, the notion that the nice things in life that come with having money and a "real job" will have to wait at the expense of chasing a dream (in his case, being a musician, and in mine being an elite runner) is one I relate to very much. In terms of structure, once again this song floods me with thoughts at the beginning, and by the time the violin (or some sort of stringed instrument played with a bow) solo arrives at the end, it acts in the same way that a "last lap or premium bell" might. I want to go faster. I want to sweat more. I want to leave that pain.

Lastly, on an unrelated note. I have to say that this video makes me miss riding my bike in Chicago so much. There are even glimpses of the lakefront path, and the thin buildings off of Addison that seem to create a wicked wind.


Back to running next time.

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