3.21.2008

"Studying and Analyzing" vs. "Stuck in a Rut"

My wife insists that I am currently stuck in a rut.

Lately, I've been listening to Kings of Leon. I'd say it's been about 2 weeks of just constant repeat, with a smattering of this band or that band sprinkled in... But mostly Kings of Leon.

Now, she hops in my car and hears them, or hears the alarm clock play them when I wake up, and she sighs and says "That's all you listen to lately."

And I tell her "Yeah, they're fantastic."

And she says "You're stuck in a rut."

Now, this conversation would be interesting to me, except that it's not. It's the eleventy billionth time we've had it. Before Kings of Leon, there was about three weeks of Silversun Pickups. And before that, numerous occasions of just Jeff Buckley or The Roots or Kamal the Abstract (Q-tip) or Sonny Rollins... And each time, she will sigh and accuse me of being in a rut. And each time, I have to explain to her that these are not ruts - they're like going to school and studying chemistry for a semester, or spending three weeks in medical school studying the Tibialis Anterior muscle.

And she sighs and says "Whatever... It's a rut" and I tickle her until she pees her pants.

Now, there's a massive difference between spending weeks stuyding an artist, absorbing every note of the bass line and every hit of the drums and every lick on the guitar and every word of the lyrics; noticing the subtleties of the light background that a strings section is providing or the hollow echoes produced by moving recording locations for a particularly haunting song... And being in a 'rut'.

Ruts are usually not by choice. Ruts are behavior patterns that one settles into that turns into routine, usually with the conscious mind on autopilot. They're lifestyle behaviors - getting up in the morning, having the same two cups of coffee before driving the same route to the same job, having the same conversations with the same co-workers before having the same lunch and reading the same websites for news, then taking the same "eyes-open nap" between two and five just waiting for the clock to tick past that magic number where it's no longer taboo for you to leave and drive the same route home while calling the same people on your cellphone to complain about the same traffic on your way to the same fast-food place to get the same dinner you'll eat before watching the same television programming that lulls you into the same sleep at the same time at night, where you dream of something completely bold and different and unique and freeing before the same alarm clock rings to wake you for the same 2 cups of coffee...

That's a rut. And I've been in it before (along with several others). So I know what one looks like.

Studying the emphasis on a particular phrase on the drums in order to highlight the bass line underneath Maynard James Keenan's brilliant vocals on Lateralus for weeks on end? That's just homework.