Ordinary language is all right.
One could divide humanity into two classes:
those who master a metaphor, and those who hold by a formula.
Those with a bent for both are too few, they do not comprise a class.
Lately I've felt more pressingly the sort of lack in music that must be what makes some people eventually defend one of two positions - and the military connotation should be taken seriously. Either, that there is great art and then there is the disappointing remainder of the field; or that art, no matter what level, has no claim to truth and is ultimately mere entertainment or stimulation. On the one hand, crossing one's fingers hoping that by a vigorous enough defense (and thorough enough repudiation of what is 'ephemeral'), what hasn't yet betrayed you will be able to be saved; on the other hand, folding early.
I feel this lack more acutely when I also think that my inability to write something that feels significant about a record is a sign of the whole enterprise not really being worthwhile in the first place.
On The Ex and the austerity of their musical materials: imagine what a different-sounding record it would be if they had used some chords with some color to them. (Imagine how the then automatic requirement of some kind of more traditional - pick a tradition - tonal organization would have forced on them the resemblance to, say, fusion, or progressive rock.)
'The problem of the orientation of speech toward another utterance also has a sociological significance of the highest order. The speech act is by its nature social. The word is not a tangible object, but an always shifting, always changing means of social communication. It never rests with one consciousness, one voice. Its dynamism consists in movement from speaker to speaker, from one context to another, from one social community to another, from one generation to another. Through it all the word does not forget its path of transfer and cannot completely free itself from the power of those concrete contexts into which it had entered. By no means does each member of the community apprehend the word as a neutral element of the language system, free from intentions and untenanted by the voices of its previous users. Instead, he receives the word from another voice, a word full of that other voice. The word enters his context from another context and is permeated with the intentions of other speakers. His own intention finds the word already occupied.'
'There is no way out of entanglement. The only responsible course is to deny oneself the ideological misuse of one's own existence, and for the rest to conduct oneself in private as modestly, unobtrusively and unpretentiously as is required, no longer by good upbringing, but by the shame of still having air to breathe, in hell.'
This article by Douglas Wolk about The Ex and their new record has some fascinating bits about the band's working arrangements. It seems to me that this is the sort of thing that ought to be just as important to absorb as the sound of a band, for other bands who want to believe in something like the original impulse of punk, and actually put it into practice.
I separated this sort of thing from the sound of a band, but I suppose that on a record like Turn you can hear the organization of the band, as an arrangement of people doing work, right in the music, in a way that might sometimes be obscured in another band's music by the familiarity of the musical materials. The Ex are austere, to say the least, down to the sounds of their guitars; the sound like they adhere to Sun Ra's principle for the Arkestra - every member is a drummer - including all the string players. They're rhythmically austere, too, with a lot of their songs basically extensions of the jerky, proto-riffy repetitiveness of hardcore. But by a little twist of principle - the way that the players combine these parts together - i.e., in the rhythmic organization of the music, they suddenly become an art-punk band. I'm sure it could be attributed to Africanisms in the rhythm section (they play an Ethopian song, as is noted in Douglas's article, but that's not even the most African-sounding thing on the record when you ignore the vocals), or to a more thoroughly democratic mode of organization, or something like that, but what's most exciting about it for me is that it's possible to relate the music to ideas like the foregoing, even while it doesn't sound like cultural misappropriation or repudiation of the austerity of musical materials that (however wrongly or rightly) is assumed to go along with the social and commercial ethics of the punk ethos.
It feels a bit precarious saying this at this point.
Akufen's Fabric mix is far more boring than I expected, which is my first hopeful sign that it's actually even better than I expected. Or that it will be better.
Someone submitted the Nirvana boxed set to the vast interweb CD infotron with the dates set for each individual track. All is full of love. Hug your neighbor and so on.
This week in moments of respite from the endless toil of grading papers I'm reading: Minima Moralia, The Moral Collapse of the University, and Das Bild-Wörterbuch (pictures!), and listening to a stack of CDs splurged on: Nico's Chelsea Girl, four Muddy Waters records (Hard Again, I'm Ready, Real Folk Blues, and More Real Folk Blues), Keren Ann's Not Going Anywhere, and the Soft Pink Truth's hardcore covers album. With more in the stack yet!
Grading will never stop, ever, as long as I teach. But at least it's not torture anymore (maybe that was just a remnant of the depression?); it's just that it inevitably results in tedium.