Saturday, June 9, 2012

Traipse Into Outer Space

When I first took up sampling, I was desperately trying to use a part of this song over a drum pattern I snatched from Public Enemy's Can't Truss It Bonus Beat (off the 12 inch). No matter what I did, I couldn't get the loops to match up - I kept adjusting speeds and trimming the front and back ends.  In the end, I learned a valuable lesson: I should have listened even more to Mr. Lombardi, my music teacher at Bronx Science.

Traipse Into Outer Space is recorded on waltz time, which operates on a 3-count instead of a 4.  Just about all of hip-hop and rock are on the 4-count - so I just wasn't even thinking about it.  Just listen to the song, and count 1-2-3, 1-2-3 in time to the music and you'll see.

Mr. Lombardi was a freak specimen of a teacher, with tufts of crusty dyed red hair that shot out from behind his gigantic sun-tanned forehead-planet. He had gaping serial-maniac eyes with these bumpy, drooping cholesterol-deposit lids that made him look like a bad guy from a comic. He reminded me of Roy Sheider from Jaws, but shrunken and worse for wear. I really don't wanna give it to him, but Lombardi was probably my best teacher - and that's saying a lot because he was mean, and he never got to know us, and he liked to make fun of everybody. Plus I had other good teachers that I considered friends. But Lombardi communicated a lot of info. And on top of that info, he was successful in jamming this into my head - I'm me and you're you. I know a bunch of shit and you don't know anything. 

Indeed, he forced us to listen to music.  Through these four giant quadrophonic speakers that he'd wheel into the classroom every session. If he ever caught you listening to music through earbud-style headphones - you got an automatic 65. In fact, he mostly gave 65's. In his mind, 65 was the perfect score.  There was very little way to show him that you actually took more then 65% of the knowledge he was trying to pass on. And he was right. If anything, by his system, he was being kind. He didn't leave anyone alone until he branded them "Lost Causes".  Then he called them "Lost Cause Alex" and "Lost Cause Tracy" and would only use them to run errands. He'd give some kids the grade of 5, like 5% out of 100. He never let up. Aside from music, he was a TREMENDOUS bicycle enthusiast - his thighs were like walls and he wore 70's-style denim short-shorts to class even in winter. He loved being racial and he made sure at one point to ask about all the student's backgrounds. To his credit, he'd try to talk about the music from everyone's supposed culture. He always asked, "What do your parents listen to?" It was the 90's but it was incredible how many were still on Streisand, Sinatra, or the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. Never any classical. Parents didn't like rap yet. There was some Beatles, a lot of Billy Joel, and some Paul Simon.  He'd say, "Your parents listen to shit."

There was a time when he laid into me on a Beethoven piece.  I'm not sure what it was, but the volume was cranking. There was a shift in the music, and Lombardi's question to me was, "What was the shift?" This is a paraphrase, but very close. As I stalled, he said, "Come on, what do you hear?" Finally, I said, "Woodwinds came in".  He said, "Only one came in.  Name it or you fail." I didn't know what it was at all, but it sounded really strong and I just said - OBOE. It was like when you kiss a girl, and you can't remember the moment, because something else takes over and it just happens. Even though it was an oboe, I still only got a 65 and I'm sure Lombardi never even knew my name.

But I think about the lousy guy almost every goddamn week, a zillion years later.