Friday, November 21, 2014

Tweeting Music Critic

"Do you think you were put on God's green earth to listen to music?" something my dearly departed grandmother said to my dad when he was kid, frustrated that he was glued to his phonograph rather than doing yard work or some such household chore. I've always loved that quote as I can imagine my teenage father taking in every glorious note of a favorite record, just like I've been doing since I was a similar age. And yes, often to the point of neglecting other tasks. It's in my blood I suppose; the excitement I get from listening to and/or discovering good music is an indescribable high. And to quote master music critic Tom Moon, "The more you love music, the more music you love." 

This desire to share the music that I think deserves to be shared is nothing new for me. During college at PLU, I created this very blog as way to publish my thoughts about music, often through album reviews. Around the same time, I spent a year as a music critic for Seattle-based music website SSG Music, while simultaneously hosting a weekly radio show on campus and writing a music column for the school newspaper. To top it all off, my final university capstone was a paper and presentation on two contrasting rock critics: Greil Marcus and Lester Bangs. 

Three and a half years removed from college, I'm as obsessed with music as ever (good thing I'm a music teacher now) but I'm still searching for the perfect web avenue to share the music I've been listening to. I've done my "Song of the Week" on Facebook from time to time, but I'm not sure if that's the right place as people don't usually go on Facebook with the intention of discovering new music. And anyone can randomly post a link from YouTube on their Facebook page. I'm looking to be more thoughtful and careful with my sharing. This website has been my place for best-of-the-year lists and such, but it's more about longer pieces than short daily or semi-daily posts that keep up with the faster pace of today's Internet. Can you see where this is going?

Inspired by a recent conference where the presenter coined the corny but clever phrase "meaty tweets", I've decided to take my musical recommendations to Twitter. Facebook is mostly for keeping up with friends, near and far, but Twitter seems best for succinctly sharing the music that I think needs to be heard. I think I have an unusual obsession with searching high and low for good music, so my goal here is to turn all that time and energy into something others can gain from. 

So if you're reading this and you're interested in getting tips from this young, but not inexperienced music critic, follow @bentully31! Also, stay tuned for another announcement regarding changes in my Internet presence. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Alphabetical Poem

I was bored in my university class the other day so I decided to find something more interesting to do. Here's a metered poem that's completely in alphabetical order.

Monday, September 15, 2014


As some of you may know, I'm about a month in to my new job as a music teacher here in HK, for 160 kids, aged four to fifteen. So far, I'm having an absolute blast. One of my favorite aspects is the variety of every day, as would be expected with such a wide age range. For the older kids, we've started using GarageBand in our once a week Music Tech class. My co-teacher Aaron is the expert in all things tech so I've pretty much sat back and become a student for many of these classes, rediscovering the wonders of GarageBand. I still remember when my family got the new iMac in 2005 and playing around with that recording software for the first time. It was magical.

But even after ten years, this is the first song I've made entirely of loops. No original parts in this song, but an original result, just like the kids' assignment. In my three years of teaching, one invaluable thing I've discovered is that the teacher can learn tons when s/he takes the time to do the students' activities. It's one thing to teach through instruction but another to test out and model!

Another thing the middle school students did was set up their own SoundCloud account, as did I. So here it is, the first song on my newly created SoundCloud account, created in a classroom of young kids navigating music composition for the first time. Follow me, yo!


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Fake Plastic Trees

This week's post is a cover of a song I've loved for a long time. I tried my best to do it justice. Radiohead is my favorite band of the last twenty years. No question about it. Thanks for listening :)

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Twelve Views of Shun Yung Street

My home for the last two months has been on Shun Yung Street, in the Hung Hom area of Hong Kong. The street itself appears about as ordinary as streets get, but that's part of why I decided to do make this photo essay. Shun Yung (信用) means trustworthy or promise-keeping in Chinese and there is something quite straightforward about the street. It takes two minutes to walk from one end to the other and is home to exactly six residential buildings, including Lederle Garden where I live. But in the tradition of Andy Warhol or Pablo Neruda, I am here to present beauty in the mundane. Inspiration for the title comes from Katsushika Hokusai

Sunday, August 31, 2014

View from Lederle Garden, 17th Floor

This week's post is a photo taken today from my home. Just an elevator ride away from my flat, but getting it involved a fair amount of struggle. I went to the top of my building just to see the view, ignored a sign written in Chinese at the door to the rooftop, set off an extraordinarily loud alarm, ran back down to my flat on a much lower floor, went back up once the coast appeared clear, and got this photo from the SECOND highest floor. I hope there was no CCTV as I'm possibly the only foreigner in the building. It's not a crime to be illiterate, right?

Click to make bigger

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Ode to Beastmaster

I never thought that I would write two tributes to departed legends in two consecutive weeks. It is a most unfortunate truth. But both Robin Williams and my high school teacher Bob McAllister deserve all the accolades they receive in the days following their respective deaths.

Since Mr. McAllister was a poet, I’ve decided to write a poem for him. I’ll always treasure the book of poetry he signed for me after my college graduation (for which he also wrote my recommendation letter).

Ode to Beastmaster

I first met Mr. McAllister in a class with no windows
But he put two posters of windows on the wall, looking out onto a splendid ocean view.
I signed up for ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ in that room,
Second trumpet in the pit.
Just one of many players on Team Mac
'West Side Story', 'Once on This Island' and 'Ivanha.'
It’s the worst high school play in the world.
His words, not mine!

He wanted us to think outside the box
But hated clichés like ‘outside the box’
“How about outside the cantaloupe?
Or outside the socks?”
“What words CAN’T you rhyme with burrito?”

He coached us as we wrestled with Shakespeare, Dostoevsky, Hardy, McCarthy
He showed us videos of street artists and Paul Simon concerts
A good friend came out as gay in McAllister’s class
Upon which Bob turned into a sage cheerleader, proud as a teacher could be.

A storyteller of the highest order, transforming athletic teenagers into quivering white knuckled children during 'The River Boys.'
A sensitive carpenter, decorating his classroom with photos of feminists taking to the street and a popped collar James Dean.
Never seen without a pair of Converse sneakers, always wondered how did he store them all at home.

Thanks Mr. M for memories, mayhem and Mercutio.
For humor, heart and heavenly literature.
For that laugh, that smile and that voice.
Thanks for putting your spirit into every lesson and every rehearsal.
The world is your moisture, tomorrow is another sway, life’s not square.