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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20 Jan '02 05:48:47 AM

Megamixes for tonight:

First up: Radiohead, Amnesiac, Dismemberment Plan, Change, Beatles, Rubber Soul, Jay-Z, The Blueprint, and the Betas' s/t. Trompe le Monde was in there first for one of them (uh the Beatles I think) but the moment it came on it was too weak and annoying.

Surprisingly, after the Beatles the Jay-Z was the least bassy record. And the Plan record has an amazing punch to it mixed in with other stuff.

Now: Fela Kuti, Shakara / London Scene, Thelonious Monk, Straight, No Chaser, The Roots, Things Fall Apart, Cannonball Adderly Sextet, Nippon Soul, Goldfrapp, Felt Mountain.

18 Jan '02 06:38:25 PM

I awoke this morning to the sound of someone droning on and on and on and on on the radio. Once he started talking about punk rock I figured it was Greil Marcus, which turned out to be right. He's in town to see a performance of a theatrical adaptation of Lipstick Traces, which maybe I will try to see. The things he had to say were pretty helpful in one respect, which is that he gave a very clear and definite presentation of the argument of Lipstick Traces. Unfortunately most of the host and call-in questions were inane and they elicited stock responses from him. The best one actually came from the host (unusually because she doesn't usually do any favors to the quality of the discussion on this show), when she pointed out that "Anarchy in the UK" can sound pretty tame now. She made an analogy to the impressionist movement in painting, how it was once shocking but now makes people feel warm and fuzzy. Marcus's response was to say that her reaction can't be argued with, but "for me" (insert screed about the greatness of punk). So he never really answered her question, and left unexplained the biggest problem with the whole schtick he was promoting. Earlier he tried to explain his problem with New York punk by saying how as opposed to its silly or arty qualities, British punk felt like it meant something, like the song playing right then could be the whole world. Or something like that. He played up the transformative/critique of reality aspect. The same fundamental problem exists there, though: what if, for someone else, the Talking Heads (to pick one band he didn't like) did do that? What if it was someone who wasn't even associated with punk? What if that music still made them feel like the world was coming apart at the seams? Marcus can't admit to that possibility because the only way he can explain it is by linking it all back to punk (which make me think that the project of Lipstick Traces is more like a giant intellectual sweeping-this-whole-problem-under-a-big-complicated-rug than I used to).

18 Jan '02 11:28:22 AM

Another great thing: hearing "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You" and realizing that the place I've heard it before is on a Monk CD (well plenty of them), and that the fabulous rendition of it from Mingus makes it even clearer what Monk did with it.


18 Jan '02 11:20:52 AM

Listening tonight: the first 12 of Shostakovich's Preludes and Fugues, and Charles Mingus' Mingus Plays Piano.

Now, I understand there's a considerable amount of difference between the two, but listening to Mingus play I'm frustrated with how straitlaced Ashkenazy is because what Mingus is doing seems so much in the ballpark of what Shostakovich was doing (at the very least), that Shostakovich could have met Mingus halfway, if you follow me, and loosened up a bit rhythmically.

Yes yes it's my now-becoming-perennial complaint again, that western art music is rhythmically dead. And I know that the sharp ones will say, oh, but since you're actually dead fucking wrong about how similar their compositional goals are, it doesn't even make sense to demand that Shostakovich be more rhythmically like Mingus. Well, yeah. Fine. But it seems to me that there's plenty of room for a music that's as harmonically "advanced" as Shostakovich's, only with some oomph to it. And some variation. I'm well aware that there's all sorts of rhythmic JUNK there, but it feels so much more monolithic - just sort of neeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeennrnr while all the harmonic development glides along underneath. Yes, this is a foolish caricature.

And yes, "Shostakovich" here is standing in for lots of people. But I suppose I should keep in mind his Bach inspiration here. I mean, in his string quartets - I have a lot less to complain about there. "Folk rhythms" indeed.

I chose the Ashkenazy set instead of the Jarrett because I've heard the Jarrett was sort of fussy and dainty, something one could justifiably be worried about getting from him, I think. So of course I apparently have gotten fussy and dainty from Ashkenazy. I guess it's the music, not him - his "Pictures at an Exhibition" has no problems whatsoever in this area.

And no, this is not a demand for more Gershwin. Fuck George Gershwin unless he's writing pop songs.

The Mingus, by the way, is subtitled "Spontaneous Compositions and Improvisations" and it is the greatest thing ever. It's all solo, and relaxed as hell. The notes indicate that he basically just sat down and played - some standards, some of his own compositions, some things less composed than that (but with his composition methods, well...). And on "Orange Was the Color of Her Dress, Then Silk Blues" (a slant on "Song with Orange in It", he SINGS! For like one whole phrase, kind of mumbly, but obviously intended to be audible.

There are some interesting things in Paul Berliner's Thinking in Jazz: The Infinite Art of Improvisation about the breadth of improvisation, of the many ways and degrees to which it can enter into a performance. Including ways closer to "embellishment" of a "straight" reading of a pre-planned composition. (This doesn't always mean playing more notes.) Maybe a big part of what I'm constantly complaining about is that I hear too much paper (which I think I'm stealing - the phrase - from a criticism of Wynton Marsalis, ha, but I also remember the liner notes to a Bobby McFerrin thing called "Paper Music" where he did his schtick to Mozart; the phrase comes from some Africans he worked with who described western music as "paper music" because of, well, the way it is) in western art music performances. Ohhhh, but the variation, the expressive qualities performers bring to their readings of the works, etc. etc. blah blah blah. Save it. There's an argument to be made there, but it would take a lot more sophisticated one for me to buy it.

Another thing I am aware of: rambling and grumpy nature of this post.

18 Jan '02 10:57:20 AM

I did change it slightly, substituting "Life" for "Human Being", and putting in "Following Through" before "Ellen and Ben", stretching my one-band-only rule even further.

Murph tells me he was suspicious of the Stevie Wonder at first (!!!) but that it won him over (of course).

17 Jan '02 07:17:21 AM

Today I listened to Laika very loud, and The Dismemberment Plan is Terrified, and the things for finishing Murph's tape, and later disc two of Bitches Brew. Now I am listening to Emergency & I. I feel very sad for no apparent reason (or at least none of the reasons I can find seem to add up enough), like a lot in the past month. So I'm listening to Emergency &; I because it's the record that makes me the happiest and I don't want to fuck around about it. Tonight I am going to sit down and finally read Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground until I finish it.

16 Jan '02 09:54:56 AM

Oh, and in case you're wondering, my month-long break from classes ends next week. I can't say for sure but I suspect that will mean a slight drop in josh blog entries again, since it usually does (even though technically there is no reason why there should be).

I'll be teaching discussion sections for a moral problems course, and taking seminars in modern (read: old) philosophy and aesthetics, and maybe a thing on democracy and education. And starting an aesthetics reading group, woo hoo.

16 Jan '02 09:41:18 AM

ALSO: I sympathize with Tim in two ways. I think Closer Musik's "Departures" is absolutely riveting. But it seems so simple (especially because the main thing I seem to be drawn by is the up-down-up-down/left-right-left-right synth burble) that I feel hard-pressed to explain why I'm riveted. It seems awfully close to describing why someone playing those singing dishes (the kind you rub around the rim to make them vibrate - no, I don't know why this came to mind) is playing something really great and simultaneously really simple. So I sympathize with Tim's recent frustrating (if it's that) at not writing enough about the sounds and such, and with his tendency to write about the music on a higher level (relationships between styles and such).

Also, come to think of it (also also also), a remark he made once about how deciding whether he likes a dance track or not is a lot easier and more immediate than the same for some other genres, because of something to do with how... uh. I forget it exactly. Tim?

16 Jan '02 08:54:00 AM

Also there's something so slightly ominous about the way the beats make time seem to shift around on "Teaser" (oho) that I almost don't want to call it "ominous", but I don't know what else to call it.