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Songs That Are NOT for the Faint of Heart

Themes and Variation Episode 40 with Christina Apotolopoulos

The latest episode of our podcast is all about “Songs That Aren’t for the Faint of Heart.” This theme almost immediately became one of our favorites, but what does it mean to you? And what would you add to a community playlist that is not for the faint of heart?

It’s not a very straightforward a concept, and it’s so deeply relative to one’s experience and aesthetic taste, that we’re even more excited than usual to hear what songs come to mind for you (dear listener!), as being tough pills to swallow.

Maybe your pick would be the sort of angsty number that comes with a parental warning. Then again, it could be something that seems innocuous, until you consider its dramatic backstory. Of course, it might also be a song that’s notoriously difficult — or better yet, apparently impossible — to perform.

For this episode, Carter and I were joined by our good friend, the immensely talented songwriter and guitarist, Christina Apostolopoulos. So let’s get to it, shall we? Listen to Episode 40 in its entirety right here:

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Themes and Variation Episode 40 with Christina Apotolopoulos

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Episode 40 Highlights

1. Carter on why he has to listen to Nine Inch Nails in moderation.

Carter: “I didn’t listen to a ton of Nine Inch Nails growing up, but like it feels exhausting. I love the music when I get into it, but like, there’s like a texture to every recording. You almost feel the recording a little bit while you’re listening to it. Like there’s something, and it doesn’t feel good. Like, there’s something else that I can’t describe to every Nine Inch Nails recording and I can love a track for a couple of spins, and then I got to kind of chill out a little bit.”

2. Christina on the dynamic potency of Veruca Salt’s “Earthcrosser.”

Christina: “This song feels like a scary movie to me, like the way it builds and expands and contracts. Even when I know when it’s gonna go loud in the song, I still have that like anticipation beforehand. And yeah, the volume goes so low and so high, so there’s something really jarring about that.”

3. And yours truly attempting to find the serious side of a musical joke by comparing it to John Cage’s “4’33.””

Mahea: “In order to fully appreciate the humor or irony or whatever you want to call it, you have to have some level of musical appreciation and understanding, right? Like if there’s humor in it, you only see the humor because you have an expectation there and it doesn’t deliver on that expectation. The other interesting thing about both of those pieces is, I don’t know if there’s a term for this, but they’re pieces of music that, in a way, primarily exist in the ‘listener’s’ mind, you know? It’s like ‘imaginary, conceptual music’ or something. ‘Hypothetical music,’ maybe. You see the score and something comes to mind.”

Join Our Collaborative Playlist

Yes, it’s “collaborative!” As in: you can add tracks to the playlist that fit the theme!

Every other week, and with every new episode of Themes and Variation, we launch a new collaborative Spotify playlist that includes the songs mentioned in this episode and more, which you can add to and enjoy. Here’s this week’s collaborative Spotify playlist!

We’ll see you in a couple weeks with a new theme, new guests, and some new songs to break down. If you have any comments, questions, or theme suggestions, drops us a (bass) line at [email protected]!

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Mahea Lee

Mahea Lee is a classically trained pianist and composer who has a degree from a jazz school and leads an electro-pop band. Her greatest musical passion is lyrical songwriting, but she's been known to write the occasional fugue. She graduated from Berklee College of Music, where she majored in Contemporary Writing and Production and minored in Music Theory. For more Mahea, check out Soundlfly's course, The Improviser's Toolkit.