Michael Jackson. Me, my ears and Him


(If the order of the words in the title does not respect the protocol of politeness, you should know that it at least respects the order of what I am going to tell here... ;)


Personal message.... To understand me (dixit Michel Berger..) and to get to know me again (Diane Tell, of course)

I've done a lot of miles today...And I've been thinking.


And I've been thinking. I've been realizing things. Things that I knew, but that remained latent... That I deliver in words tonight... like a curtain.



I am classically trained. Purely. "In my time", as some fossils would say, who could not apply for Saint-Saëns' "Carnival of the Animals", because they did not share the same time zone as he did, "in my time", therefore, at the Conservatoire, we did not play "jazz"... or else we muted the music, we closed the double doors of the piano room. In spite of the ultra complexity of this music, it was not really "presentable"... not a guarantee of seriousness... Jazz, (in the same way as the accordion, my poor father could have told you about it) was for those who did not want to become serious musicians... soloists... concert performers... what do I know... professionals....


So the "variety", as it was still called then.... My poor lady! You do not think of it! These cries of barbarian on this music of savages, unplayable!!! And for good reason... To reduce a partition of Pink Floyd or Duran Duran, of Goldman or Balavoine to the pianoo.... You had to be in good spirits... unplayable... and in the end it was so little that it was demoralizing... I can talk about it, I bought a lot of accompaniment-voice scores and I tried to do it on the sly... but indeed, it was not made for...


Today, it is no longer any of that. My children, at the Conservatoire National de Région, are initiated in parallel to classical music, jazz and popular or contemporary music. The same goes for dance... Classical, jazz, contemporary... Minds have opened up and that's good, even if I still regret not having been able to benefit from it...


I started music at the Conservatory at the age of 5, at 7, I listened to Mozart's quartets (with whom I dreamed of getting married) on my record player and attended my brother's rehearsals, where he played the lines and riffs of the Rolling Stones, Chicago, Dire Straits, Supertramp, Santana, Earth Wind & Fire, Imagination, Pink Floyd and others...


I used to look with interest at the covers of the 45s, which I still have, stored in the same cardboard boxes. It was my only visual link with these artists. Some images, some music made me feel strange... When you are small... and especially me... I was quickly afraid.... The Kiss... let's talk about them... I was not afraid at all of the zombies of Thriller, but when I saw the Kiss I closed my eyes... I must say that...


In short, I forged an ear, my own, in 20 years of music studies, which never stop in fact because even when you are a teacher you continue to enrich yourself, to discover, to understand, and fortunately, otherwise life would be dull...


All this to tell you....


My ear is what it is. What I kept from all this, what reinforced my natural tendency, is that, I mean, when someone plays me a song, or when I'm in the car, I listen to music, I never sing along. I listen. I can't read at the same time. I listen. I can't talk at the same time. I listen. I must not make the slightest noise, I listen. It is sometimes painful for those around me who wonder what I am listening to, to the point of being annoyed by the slightest interference.


The sounds, their quality, their place in the panorama, their interaction, the depth of the field, the voice of the guy, his inflections, his way of pronouncing the words, of forming the sounds, the "s", the "m", his vibrato, his breathing, his breath, if he moves, if he smiles (you can hear it), cries, snaps his fingers, taps his foot... the sound evolution of the song, the entrance of such instrument, the small note in addition which comes to modify the bass line in the third verse, the variation made by the keyboard on such chorus... the coda... I raise the sound at the end to catch the end of the "fade out" (I adored to do that at the end of "P. Y.T" when I was a child). Y.T " when I was a kid... and to tell you the truth, I still do it ! ;), to see if someone says something, if we can discern a little noise of studio, of voice...


So when my brother offered me Thriller, I was 10 years old (or offered it to himself and gave it to me...), wouaouh..... !!! Music like he listened to, but less hard, in the style of EW&F or Imagination that I really liked, but better, more classy, with instruments like in jazz and classical music, real strings, real horns, a voice... pure, hyper sexy, and a pretty hot guy on the cover .... Yes, let's be honest, eh... I've studied it for a long time with my little eyes to the point of knowing every detail..., double cover wide open and lyrics pinned on the wall with his "self-made" drawings (so talented ! I was so bad at drawing !)


So, Thriller was as nourishing as classical music, as varnished and golden as jazz, as fresh as teen-pop, as ripping as long-haired rockers (thanks Van Halen), as original as the Africa I was already dreaming of (thanks anyway to Dibango ! no hard feelings !) Thriller was all that...


My interest for the Jackson sound was born there.


But this can explain that...


And as all qualities can become defects, I have the defect today to wait for something, while knowing that one should not wait for anything. To be resigned, while getting angry. Maybe this is a good sign. When the nerve is not desensitized, there is still a little life. There is something that is and will remain irresolvable for my ear. It is to hear Michael's voice on arrangements which, without speaking about the style, have no sound, musical, acoustic interest, or in a lesser way then, for the best of them.


Which do not bring to me, any real auditory sensory pleasure. Which break the emotional pleasure of the singer's voice with great blows of frustration.


Listening, and hearing... nothing interesting....


Yes, his voice...


and therefore feel like telling them... "Hey!!! Turn down the bass! Take a break, guys! Go drink a coffee I offer it to you! Let the guy sing in front, I would like to hear him !..."


I am not one of those who listen without hearing nor hear without listening. It's boring, believe me, I tell you.


Perhaps, if these songs were covered by another voice than his, another singer, the phenomenon of expectation linked to his person and perfectly inadequate, would disappear. It would become someone else's song. Even if he wrote it or performed it, even as a demo, first. Maybe I could say, "Nice! Nice!"


Well yes... When I listen to other music, bands or singers I listen to, I know for each one what I expect. I don't have any presumptuous expectations of them, nor any disappointment, because I know what I'm looking for in each one, what they give, good, very good, great, that suits me, at least in terms of musical pleasure. There, when I know (and it is difficult to do otherwise) that the name is "Michael Jackson" and that the voice is "Michael Jackson", sorry, there is an equation that does not work for me. An impossible equation to solve. I am waiting, of course, even though I know..., for something that has nourished me, educated me, made me dream, delirious, bluffed me, given me musical and emotional pleasure, for... dare I say all my life? No, three quarters of it. 30 years.


The operation: "Michael Jackson? - "Ugh! What's he going to do to us again this time?!!" is flawed. Blocked - an operation that last manifested itself in March-April 2009, when the radios were advertising his concerts in the mornings in my bathroom and I was shouting interjections and other slapstick with my hair dryer in hand (sorry, I'm a bit hyper-mnesic, that's tiring too...)


Anyway, here it is. That's why... why I hear like that... why, too, I couldn't do anything else than to write this thesis about his music and what goes with it... To express everything I heard, understood... It's long, believe me... But you'll believe me since I'm making you wait...


Last thing... Important. At least for me.


Michael Jackson listened to 200 doors in the Hollywood studios...


What for ?

You know, that squeaky door at the beginning and the end of Thriller, symbols of the book that opens and closes, of the three strokes of the sticks and the curtain fall that open and close the theater, this sound theater he created...

Yes.... 200 doors...

And he chose one for the opening, one for the closing... Because the sound was not the same. It had to be as he heard it, as he imagined it in his head in constant ebullition...

At the end of his 200 listens journey, he came back to say which ones he had chosen... He remembered them precisely...

And Bruce Swedien took... 48 hours to record these two door movements, dancing his microphones millimeter by millimeter, take after take, to get the optimal sound... 48 hours for two door noises... (some pros record an entire album in this time, you should know...)


This is only one example among others that I could relate to you and that would testify to the incredible care, the hours, the time spent to manage details that, perhaps, you never really paid much attention to, and that others would have solved with sound sampling...


So I'll end by saying that, for me, a guy who listens to 200 doors and has them recorded for 48 hours (and if Bruce had needed 3 weeks, he would have paid for them) for us, for our ears, out of respect for his audience and his concern to give them ONLY the BEST of himself, deserves BETTER than what we're giving him here.


This will be my last word.


"This is it....Final curtain"...


Thank you for putting up with my incorrigible length...

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