josh blog

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.

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18 May '03 09:51:16 PM

It works! For now. So as to not switch CDs and chance it not reading the next one, it looks like I will be listening to Biggie only from now on.

I don't necessarily see this as a bad thing.

18 May '03 08:37:03 PM

Something that's been troubling me, though: if you're a critic inclined to socially-grounded (embedded?) criticism, what do you do when some style of music reaches an audience in such a way that it's cut off from its original social context? Example: drum and bass, possibly. To an American indie listener, it can sometimes seem as if the style was simply invented in the mid 90s for car advertisements and sophisticated "home listening" electronic music records. (This is a slight exaggeration, but still.) It seems as if criticism tied to social context loses force when the original context (the one that it helps to have as a point of comparison, especially since otherwise this sort of criticism is left not being able to draw on the social context of transplanted styles like drum and bass, whose context becomes something like "this box of records that Anglophile hipster critics just got off the boat") is taken away. (Made remote.) Then, it has to make the case - push a historical (genetic) argument, try to make that other music, original music, matter to the reader or listener, too. Maybe this is why so much criticism of music like this has a best-thing-you-never-heard-of missionary tone to it. (Note similarities to indie criticism itself, and to the relative social isolation built into indie production and fandom.)

18 May '03 10:16:13 AM

"Where the character of society provides scope for the open recognition and discussion of collective moral problems, and the social structure is flexible and adaptable enough to respond to these deliberations, the uncompromising sort of stand Wittgenstein took over the separation of facts and values will appear paradoxical. Where no such hope exists, the claims of extreme individualism become more understandable. If the culture and society into which Wittgenstein grew up offered no more prospect for the rational discussion of morality or values than it had offered, say, to Karl Kraus, the ultimate reasons for Wittgenstein's divorce of values and facts accordingly lay, not in any individual quirk of his personal temperament, but rather in those features of the broader social context which had led, in the first place, to the absolute alienation of so many serious-minded bourgeois intellectuals. If the realm of values was completely dissociated, for Kraus and Wittgenstein alike, from the realm of facts, this is a comment on the fossilization which had overtaken the Lebensformen of upper-middle-class Kakanian existence. Given life as it was lived in the Vienna of the early 1900s, no recognized public forum of opportunities existed for the sincere and serious-minded discussion of ethics or aesthetics. The man who truly understood the deeper character of value judgments could, thus, find room for them only in the private world of his own personal life."

Allan Janik and Stephen Toulmin from p. 237 of Wittgenstein's Vienna, a mixture of intellectual history and philosophy which places Wittgenstein in his home context, the cultural and intellectual concerns of Hapsburg Vienna before World War I.

18 May '03 09:57:33 AM

It seems odd to me that Simon would respond to Prefuse - or rather, explain his response - by saying "it's a bad sign when you can't remember a single tune after several plays". After all, he's the same person who noted in Generation Ecstasy that timbral memory is not as powerful as melodic memory. I haven't heard the new record, but I suppose it's not much different from Vocal Studies + Uprock Narratives, which I enjoy much more timbrally than melodically (or rhythmically).

None of this is to say that a Prefuse song is better or worse than "What's Your Fantasy" (as the matter Simon is responding to has to do with Nick's response to something Simon said about Luda being better than Prefuse, across the board). I've heard the Luda track plenty, but wouldn't have said without consideration that it's especially timbrally interesting or engaging, as opposed to its more obviously interesting features. Which is just to say I don't automatically class it, in my head and sort of reactively, with things like "Try Again" or "Burn Girl Prom Queen". But I suppose Simon might be quite happy to say I should. All I can think to say to that is that, innovation aside, Nick and Simon would seem to have different interests, not just extra-musically (see where Nick inveighs against Simon's criticism being led by sociological concerns rather than musical ones, which division is itself already contestable and contested), but musically. That's just a guess, based partly on what I know about myself.

I've been listening to Mouse on Mars all day, the Rost Pocks EP collection and Glam. The former especially is full of tracks that either are, or are conspicuously related to, drum and bass. I suppose anything at all might show up in a club or a DJ set, but I don't think I'm being controversial to say that these tracks sound more like they're intended for home listening, or headphone listening, than club listening (read: dancing, drinking, shouting in your friend's ear over the sound system). Often, though, I found myself wondering today what really made this music any different - why not just listen to "real" drum and bass?

Augh, I didn't set out to lay down an argument when I started writing this. Here's a quick version: quiet music is different from loud music. Little music is different from big music. Music made for albums is different from music made for singles (or EPs, at that - the comp has a noticeably different character than the band's albums). So one answer to the question is just: because "home" drum and bass and "real" drum and bass do different things. I take it that this answer is sympathetic to Nick, but that it's not necessarily disagreeable to Simon. Their point of disagreement comes after this point: that Simon will insist that our reasons for preferring the one or the other, or both, or neither, with whatever attendant attitudes toward each we come up with, should always have something to do with social things like class, race, money, power. Perhaps that the way those things are connected to music will in some cases mean that the social overwhelms the musical (from Nick's perspective).

There's more than a hint of Adorno in there, but I'm not confident enough of my understanding of either Adorno or Reynolds to say how. It's particularly interesting, though, that Simon is regularly picked out as a new-experimental-thing-is-best-thing critic (as Nick does right away), and that in his critical hands the experimental and innovative, musically, often become the liberatory and socially critical.

My sense is that people regularly misread Simon, but that they are often onto something. Unfortunately the best thing I can see for Nick to do is meet Simon on (sort of) his own terms. The "easiest" way I know of to do that is to, er, meet him on Mark's terms. What happens as a result is unclear: Prefuse better? Luda better? Who knows? Unclear those questions are even univocally sensible on Mark's terms. And certainly it may turn out that on a closer look, both Prefuse and Luda will turn out to be both good and bad for good and bad aesthetic and ethical reasons, yet this won't clearly force one into stopping listening to them, or to being a bad person (or good person) for not stopping.

18 May '03 08:12:23 AM

"A very short thing that is beautiful can carry you for hours and make your day."

18 May '03 08:00:16 AM

"All the buses, we givin' y'all five seconds to get close to a exit."

17 May '03 12:39:30 AM

Thing I never saw before: in an early part of the "Buffy's first day at college" episode, Buffy opts for a "pop culture" course rather than psychology in the face of her anxiety about not being smart enough for college. She can't register and so shows up on the first day, which was exciting for a moment - ooh, I thought, here we will get a chance to see the show's reaction to the academic reception of Buffy right in the show, which is totally way cooler than in an interview or whatever. But Buffy whispers to the girl next to her, asking if the class is still full, and the professor hears her and does the "why don't you stand up and tell us what you have to say if you think it's worth interrupting me for" deal. Then he tells her she's sucking energy from the room, she should leave, and she does. He is an enormous fucking jerk. When she hooks back up with Willow in the psych lecture, she says she decided not to take the pop culture class because it was boring.

I did get my reaction to the academic reception of Buffy after all, I think.

17 May '03 12:24:20 AM

Almost two years ago my CD changer stopped working, then I got it cleaned and it worked again, but stopped the next day. But then without my doing anything else other than trying occasionally, it started working again about two weeks later. Yes. So? Well, it worked without interruption after that until February this year, when the same problem showed up again. I didn't take it in to get cleaned until this week, and brought it home today. But after it loaded the first CD I tried (MRI's All That Glitters - I wanted to play "Blue" really really really loud), I had to stop it because I forgot to move the "in" patch cables from the tape deck to the CD player. When I turned the power back on it wouldn't load again.

I went to all the trouble of writing this down, and finding and making links to all the times when the player started and stopped, because it upset me pretty acutely to have it not work after hoping all week that I could come home after grading and grading and grading to play obnoxious music at obnoxious volumes on my finally-repaired CD player. But I remembered that it didn't stay working immediately last time I had it fixed, so consoled myself by figuring out exactly what happened last time. And writing this long, boring entry. Now I'm hoping, again, that the fucking thing will magically start working again.

12 May '03 11:06:10 AM

All probably of underappreciated importance, especially when the "I" or "we" is somebody else:

I made this.
We made this.
This is mine.
This is ours.