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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24 Sep '01 06:46:30 AM

The Charm of the Highway Strip feels reassuringly quaint at first.

24 Sep '01 06:44:50 AM

John Coltrane with Johnny Hartman: is there actually anyone in the world who is currently truly elegant enough - not just putting up a front of elegance, surrounding themselves with it, because that's what their social station sets them to do - to play this and not have it or the world it reflects (projects?) seem optimistically imaginary?

22 Sep '01 10:17:53 PM

Whenever I listen to drum-n-bass I seem to be disappointed by how unarchitectonic it is. Why does Bitches Brew always sound a million times better in that respect?

21 Sep '01 05:26:28 PM

In my philosophy of music class we're reading Hanslick on representations of emotion in music. (Sorry, but those notes aren't that interesting at the moment.) Major mistake I find in his approach: he argues against emotional content but doesn't ever consider the basic cases. That is, there are plenty of songs that people seem to agree are happy or sad - meaning that there's some kind of intersubjective consensus where he claims there cannot be one.

But what about happy songs that make you sad, and vice versa? I don't think this is truly in conflict with the fact that the songs are still supposed to be 'happy' or 'sad'. Not sure how to explain it yet though.

21 Sep '01 07:48:02 AM

At times, rather than being delightfully uncomplicated, Mozart's piano sonatas are irritatingly simple. The left-hand lightness that inspires Keith Jarrett - chords dropped in, lightly underscoring, supporting quick, airy right-hand melodies - is here not bolstered by his rhythmic sense and more free-ranging melodic sensibility. Mozart begins to sound like an endless stream of massless high-key tinkling. There is no sense of embodiment - the music does not occupy the sound-space allowed it.

I will change my mind tomorrow. Or perhaps if K545 starts again before I go to bed.

19 Sep '01 05:56:57 PM

More notes from my principles of aesthetics course, this time on some unsatisfying (especially unsatisfying because they were low on content and also on things to write about despite the being low on content) papers about the "aesthetic attitude".

17 Sep '01 11:51:43 PM

I listened to the Mekons' Edge of the World again this afternoon and again liked the spoken-word thing and the sea shanty the most, which makes me think that I should look for an album of all sea shanties. But I would want them to be cool Mekons-style sea shanties, not dumb ones. Well, dumb is OK. Corny is not.


17 Sep '01 11:48:01 PM

One way to approach Talk Talk's Laughing Stock is to think about what a peculiar fusion of 'rock' music and 'beautiful' music it is: it's made of stuff that isn't typically thought of as beautiful in the traditional sense of the word, yet it is apparently very much so. It's also a lot more rhythmic than most 'beautiful' music - the rhythms are more vital, more sensual, more embodied. Compare the loping beat of "After the Flood" or the strummed guitar on "Taphead" to one of the most popular examples of 'beautiful' pop music - Pet Sounds. There the rhythms sound like stilted, retarded gamboling. No below-the-waist to them at all.

Cf. also the bass to "After the Flood" - I'm sure that there are some people somewhere who would think that big fat pulses of low-end like that disrupt the beauty of the song. (They're wrong.)

16 Sep '01 10:24:22 AM

So you may have been wondering why I haven't written anything about the terrorist attacks of last week - in fact, not only have I not written anything about them, but I have been writing about other things with no reference whatsoever to the terrorist attacks.

This is not for want of thinking about them. I've been thinking about them since catching word of them Tuesday morning on my way in to my office. How do I feel about them? I don't know. I'm not feeling very much. I don't mean that to sound callous, but I'm just not. It's not a numbness of grief. I don't have much personal connection to the event, and as far as I know, everyone I know who may have been in immediate danger (including Mike, who worked in one of the towers) ended up safe. Some friends and acquaintances of mine weren't so lucky. I find some of their accounts of their grief and the mess of emotions they're experiencing moving - very moving. But a lot of it, especially what I get from the media, just doesn't affect me much. I'm never happy about loss of life or tragedies incurred by others, but the impersonality of the recent attacks is apparently not enough to make them seem any more astounding or comprehensible than similar tragedies that we hear about all the time without so much as batting an eye. I'm sorry that so many died, and I hope that the recovery efforts proceed as well as is possible, but that's not where my mind is, for the most part.

The most frequently recurring things I'm experiencing are nervousness, about the forthcoming reaction from the U.S., and a particular sense of moral wrongness and disgust, when I listen to the plans for that reaction, their justification, and the rhetoric they are inevitably couched in. I do not want a war. I do not want us to start killing innocent people. I do not want "my" country to use this as an excuse to continue exercising its greater economic, political, and military power however it pleases. I do not want "my" country to act as if obliterating n "A-rab camelfuckers", most innocent, will be sufficient to ensure the safety of the nation and its citizens from terrorism. I do not want "my" country to act as if its prior political committments and interventions play no role in its future. But at the moment it looks like America is "united" and won't have any of this kind of talk.

So that's what I'm thinking about. I am checking in with the news periodically (but not too periodically, ugh), talking to friends when I can, and trying to educate myself about for example conflict in the Middle East. And biding my time nervously, keeping busy with my new life as I go.

Ethel the Blog has been good reading recently, and probably before that, but I just tuned in.

What about music? The usual stuff basically - some of what you see here, some old favorites, some things I neglect to mention. Jay-Z is in high repetition. Today I have been listening to the Mekons' Journey to the End of the Night upon Sterling's mention of it on ILM. I've found it well-suited to the sort of mood I would like to cultivate.

I tried some "sad" music just to see... you know. It's just like anything else - I can make myself a lot sadder if I focus in on it, in a sort of special way. But that's not what I want. I can make myself sad about a number of things that make me sad, but haven't for a while, if I push myself. It's different when it just comes.