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.
Over Christmas I was at my parents' place; I stole away with my sister's old clarinet. So the other day I bought a book so I could learn how to play it proper-like. The book starts with pages full of stuff like:
whole note A, whole rest, whole note A, whole rest, whole note A, whole rest
OK, listening. I think I missed something. But probably more AAS, Nirvana's live (not unplugged) album, the Dismemberment Plan's Change, then the same thing again on the way home. Now, DBC233, one of 999 joy-inducing objects.
"Teenage Wasteland" is playing faintly behind the talk show on my alarm clock radio.
Last night I listened to Coltrane's Meditations a couple times, then some AAS to sleep to; this morning some more AAS (louder hah), then Pink Flag on the way to campus, and Roots Manuva in the afternoon and on the way home. Tonight, Low's Secret Name and now good ole American Analog Set again.
Listening to American Analog Set, but especially on From Our Living Room to Yours, and especially on "Two-Way Diamond", makes me want to give up. I don't know how to spin that in a good way while still keeping the sense of 'give up', but that's precisely what I mean. Give up, in a good way. Not really a sense of surrender, either. Just sort of... stopping. Open-endedly. Not to do anything else, but instead nothing at all. And, forever, too, since they have discovered one of the secret truths of the universe, an infinitely repeatable riff.
"Once you become aware of this force for unity in life," said Coltrane, "you can't ever forget it. It becomes part of everything you do. In that respect, this is an extension of A Love Supreme since my conception of that force keeps changing shape. My goal in meditating on this through music, however, remains the same. And that is to uplift people, as much as I can. To inspire them to realize more and more of their capacities for living meaningful lives. Because there certainly is meaning to life."
I've never been so disgusted by a live recording as by Radiohead's I Might Be Wrong. I wasn't expecting much from it - mostly just a chance to hear how they translated music from their last two albums into a live setting, probably with more 'rock band playing live' overtones. That's basically what I got, and it's about as interesting as I was afraid it would be (read: not especially). Oh well. The bad part, though. God. The fucking crowd. Now, I understand that for lots of live recordings, especially those of rock bands which don't do much different to their music when playing live, having some crowd noise on the record is standard. Here, though, it disrupts everything. Destroys it. It's bad enough that Radiohead threaten the fundamentally internal character of the songs from Kid A and Amnesiac, by losing the subtle, sensual textures, replacing them with guitars or organs or just ditching them (like THE FUCKING BASS LINES where was this thing recorded anyway?!?), or by amping them up a bit, for some of the songs (that criticism maybe doesn't apply to songs like "Idioteque"). Far worse: the crowd hoots and yells at all of the rockstar moments, like when they congratulate themselves for recognizing the beginnings of songs they like, or at the big climaxes or the parts where the sounds die down, or, presumably, when one of the guitarists makes a "this is very intense" face. They yelp in pitiful displays of their inability to control their reactions to the music. They reveal their utter lack of understanding of the character of these last two records, treating them like the anthemic arena fodder that they wish they had been. Just shut. The. Fuck. Up.
More listening logging. Last night, the live Radiohead EP (first time through) on the way home, then the Dirty Three's Ocean Songs, then more AAS. Today, a little Mingus Dynasty at my desk, oh and AAS again in the morning when I woke, and some Stevie Wonder later, then In Utero on the way home. Later, AAS again, now some Beans.
The Annie sample on "Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)" strikes me as profoundly weird, more than anything else. I had never heard this before, except for the live version on Unplugged. I was expecting it to be more sing-songy, but unlike a lot of the sampled vocals on, say, The Blueprint - even those which are sped up or otherwise manipulated ("you don't know/what you do") - the sample here is eerie and disembodied, shrill. I would like to say it's manic, but I don't think that's right. I think that somehow this is intensified by the beat and the bassline, the way they constantly hang behind. And the thing is so damn slow!
The Swizz Beatz stuff isn't nearly as gut-wrenchingly, amazingly brutal and forward-thinking as I was anticipating, but then I guess I really had no idea. It's still at the very least interesting, though, sometimes captivating. I don't know what the song's called, but one of them I especially like (not sure if it's a Swizz Beatz thing). The guitars tread this strange line between being hard and funky, and not playing where I expect them to, defusing the funk and leaving behind that other kind of funk-by-absence that's so prominent in, like, loads of post-gangsta rap.
Here's a tentative reason why it can be more interesting to listen to commercial rap than to underground rap (in the special case where the underground rap isn't "message" rap but just wanders off into abstractions or fantasy or Kool Keith-style psychological abnormality): the way that commercial rap obsesses over (or APPEARS TO OBSESS OVER) guns, money, hoes, etc., is immaterial, as many have said. The fact that it constantly portrays people acting immorally, or notably, sexistly, is also somewhat immaterial IN THE FOLLOWING WAY. The fact that the acts or moral decisions portrayed ARE immoral, by our standards, is not so important as the fact that the performers are (or are constructing personas which are) doing moral reasoning, as it were.
This is not a new idea to anyone, I expect, but it deserves more thought.
Also, the other day I hard something - maybe at the end of "Money, Cash, Hoes" - that reminded me of a movie. Now I suspect it was reminding me of a Ray Liotta voicover in Goodfellas - stupid on my part, since I just watched that again like a couple weeks ago. "FUCK YOU, PAY ME!"
And more: the Talking Heads sample on "It's Alright". Maybe there is something extra sweet about the recognition of a sample when it comes quickly, but not immediately: I heard the track for the first time today, not thinking, and suddenly realized a minute or so in that I was thinking of another song. A short few moments later, struggling to remember, I realized it was the Talking Heads. Compare to the situation where a sample is familiar, but you can't recognize it for a while and eventually have to be told, or just run across the source again. In that situation, once you find out, you just feel a little dumb, because you didn't get it sooner. In the opposite situation, when you recognize the sample immediately, the experience isn't as pleasurable because there's no resistance. Compare to, well, just about anything where there's some chance to struggle for success. Or completion. (Sex.)
How does this kind of experience linger on once the song is known? Or once the sample is recognized? Is there any residual effect at all?