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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4 Dec '01 07:40:30 AM

Wittgenstein expounding on Mahler, p. 67e of Culture and Value:

If it is true that Mahler's music is worthless, as I believe to be the case, then the question is what I think he ought to have done with his talent. For quite obviously it took a set of very rare talents to produce this bad music. Should he, say, have written his symphonies and then burnt them? Or should he have done violence to himself and not written them? Should he have written them and realized that they were worthless? But how could he have realized that? I can see it, because I can compare his music with what the great composers wrote. But he could not, because though perhaps someone to whom such a comparison has occurred may have misgivings about the value of his work through seeing, as it were, that his nature is not that of the other great composers, -- that still does not mean that he will recognize its worthlessness; because he can always tell himself that though he is certainly different from the rest (whom he nevertheless admires), his work has a different kind of value. Perhaps we might say: If nobody you admire is like you, then presumably you believe in your own value only because you are you. -- Even someone who is struggling against vanity will, if his struggle is not entirely successful, still deceive himself about the value of his own work.

But the greatest danger seems to lie in putting one's own work, in one way or another, into the position of being compared, first by oneself then by others, with the great works of former times. One ought to put such a comparison right out of one's mind. For if conditions nowadays are really so different from what they once were that one cannot even compare the genre one's work belongs to with that of earlier works, then one can't compare them in respect to their value either. I myself continually make the mistake I'm referring to.

3 Dec '01 04:02:23 AM

Klucevsek's comments about "Tesknota" are interesting.

In Tesknota (1993) I tried a looser, more improvisatory approach to melody and counterpoint. The melody consists of note heads only, divided into phrases, with no rhythmic values assigned. Performers are instructed to play their parts independently, with the proviso that they wait for one another at the end of each phrase. Thus the piece proceeds one phrase at a time, the parts intertwining like the delicately balanced units of a mobile. The elasticity of this approach to ensemble writing relies heavily on performer choice, chance, and improvisation. However, it's a strange, hybrid form of improvisation, because all the notes, and the order in which they appear, are set, while the performers are responsible for the horizontal flow and the vertical alignment of these given melodies. The title, Tesknota, was suggested by an audience member who heard an untitled, workshop version of the piece. It is a Polish word which she translated as "a sorrowful longing". The ordering of the pieces is sort-of-a, kind-of-a palindrome: it begins in the depths, ends in the stratosphere; the second and penultimate tracks are radically different interpretations of the same score; 3 and 7 are urban tales, while 4 and 6 are both gentle, process-driven pieces. The fulcrum is Tesknota, which, more than any other piece, defines its own space and time.

3 Dec '01 03:39:08 AM

Which reminds me of something I thought the other day... I was listening to Abbey Road, one of the parts I don't like, and thought, "augh, pastiche." Now, I don't know why I associate pastiche not just with the adoption or assumption of a style, but of a number of them, but there you go. I guess I never really learned what pastiche meant. But. Isn't it funny how some terms become terms of disparagement so easily? I really like some examples of pastiche (69 Love Songs is probably the most notable example, but there must be others), and I think part of that is even due to their being pastiched (it's not something I overlook because of other good qualities), but as soon as it's something I don't like, "pastiche" becomes something vile that is partly responsible for the music's failure to please me.

3 Dec '01 03:33:04 AM

And despite the fact that they generally seem to have some similar sensibility or sound in each case, it seems like each little self-similar passage on Sound-Dust could be the sound that another band employs throughout their entire album, with conventional songwriting added. Take for example the synth smears on "Suggestion Diabolique".

3 Dec '01 01:19:07 AM

I think this review does well to focus on the songwriting on Sound-Dust. Perhaps it's the case that they've had as well-developed a sense of song structure in the past, at least as of Dots and Loops, but this album seems like the first place where they're really consistent about combining the sort of catchy, poppy drone music that they can write in their sleep with song structures that keep the catchy, poppy drone music interesting over the course of an album. There's nothing wrong with catchy, poppy drone music, but if a song is built out of one thing, and it repeats for two to ten minutes, then if you don't like the song, you're stuck in it until the album moves on (or you do). There are parts here that I don't like, just like on past Stereolab albums, but even when I don't like them they're often part of songs with parts that I do like, and it's consistently kind of surprising how those parts are stuck together. It seems like kind of an idiot's trick to write songs by just cutting together different-sounding drone-pop (as if that were all they're doing here!), but it really is quite effective.

2 Dec '01 10:48:37 PM

Hmm, after Stereolab having Klucevsek's "Wave Hill" come on sounds very much like a typical rock/pop-music end-of-album thing, where the music is done with unconventional instruments (accordion and violin), and very wistful and beatless.

2 Dec '01 10:28:33 PM

Uh oh Tom has caught me: I forgot Change on this (caveated, I note) list. Rest assured the record has never been far from my mind and will be my absolute favorite this year. If I can rank them, it wins, without a doubt (and this over the Betas, even, which I am also very keen on).

2 Dec '01 10:18:00 PM

Oh, what's this? It's gotten very quiet in here. With occasional drones and scratchy violin noises (but very pretty ones). It must be the one for John Cage.

2 Dec '01 09:56:08 PM

Mixed in with these other discs, the tracks from AAS sound a lot tighter and more like "proper songs" (gag, cough). Well, except for "Like Foxes Through Fences" which just came on. I'm not sure what I disliked at first about this album, but I guess it had something to do with it not sounding enough like the old ones, especially The Golden Band, which has a special sound and a kind of ephemeral, elliptical quality to the songs. The vibes (vibraphone, I mean, not "vibes, maaan") are gone, and it seems like the guitars and other sounds are made to be a bit more trebly, scratchier too. (?) I'm not sure yet how the songs compare. They're more definite and less peripatetic than the other music in my changer, I gues you could say (or maybe you couldn't at all: they depend on much tighter harmonic structure, though), but they do sound something like AAS's old songs.