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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3 Oct '02 06:14:30 AM

Today I listened to Aaliyah's "Try Again" while walking and had something happen that doesn't usually: I could see (in a way) how a whole video to accompany the song might go. (I've never seen the real video.) It seems strange to me to describe it, though, because I have a sense that it would take too much work to explain while not even getting at what I saw in my head. I wonder if I would be of the same mind if it were music I "heard".

3 Oct '02 06:11:38 AM

When I listen to Herbert I hear "organic" and "artificial" ("synthetic" might be better but for some reason the word that demands to be used is "artificial") but I hear them at the same time, and this presents me with a problem: am I really getting them simultaneously? Sometimes I feel a little tension, like - oh, this part sounds so organic, then suddenly - oh, this part sounds so precise and mechanical. Is this tension aligned in any principled way with something about the sounds themselves? Like: their timbres sound organic, but the rhythms are mechanical (hmm notice how I keep wanting to use that now instead of the "artificial" that seemed forced on me at the beginning of the paragraph). Or: the rhythms are organic, but the sounds all have a texture to them like I'd expect to see in a hyperrealistic (i.e. achieved with computers) film - dayglo with Tom Waits "All The World is Green" green instead of Trapper Keeper florescence.

Of course, this tension doesn't have to break down in this nice, clean arrangement. I'm not sure which would be more comforting.

3 Oct '02 04:59:56 AM

This ILM thread about microhouse (well about where electronic music is at, but it turned into a thread about microhouse) has a lot of interesting things going on in it. If I could formulate my question at the end better I would post it here instead (or also).

2 Oct '02 05:35:44 AM

I never used to think much about whether other people could hear what's on my headphones, until my headphones broke and I had to start using these shitty ones that bleed all the sound out to the outside world. I'm not ready to talk about that more, yet, but read what Jess wrote. I think it's really good.

30 Sep '02 06:17:57 AM

I didn't listen to it.

29 Sep '02 07:47:15 PM

Sinker will be pleased (and also annoyed): this Flaming Lips review says that one of the tracks on Yoshimi is the "most influenced" by the band's own previous record. Whatever the meaningfulness of "influence" in more plausible-sounding cases, this one is just stupid, and Sinker is right: it should be replaced by what they actually mean, something like "sounds the most like Soft Bulletin".

27 Sep '02 07:56:10 AM

Some questions I often think about (or at least, that often come into my head - I don't usually think anything else about them) while I'm listening to 69 Love Songs:

How much am I missing by not being familiar with the original musical contexts that many of the songs obviously seem to be related to? (In "Let's Pretend We're Bunny Rabbits", the music sounds to me kind of like a nostalgic 50s style rock-n-roll song about teenagers in love, but only in the most tenuous sense possible - tenuousness due more to my not being acquainted with songs like that at all. But what kinds of emotional responses to songs like that make sense to people who are more familiar with that sort of music? I have no clue.) It gets worse - often I have even less clue what the stylistic antecedents might be, just that they must be back there.

Why do I still not get the joke in "Papa Was a Rodeo"? Or even know if I'm wondering about the right part being the "joke"?

Why is there beeping in "Absolutely Cuckoo"?

What role does the cheap production play? This intersects in lots of ways with other questions: what roles do different kinds of smallness or triviality or inconsequentiality or silliness etc. play? Is it significant that at times the cheapness (etc.) seems to come to the fore? Or that even though most of the songs can be seen to be somewhat like this, I stop hearing some of them that way? (Rather, stopped long ago, though sometimes it comes back - "Luckiest Guy on the Lower East Side" suddenly sounded overwhelmingly cheap today, because one of the synth parts sounded more prominent and I could hear it repeating.)

Do the small or less "complete" sounding songs have a different function? What?

If it helps make sense of songs or if it helps make songs sound better to sing along to them or to pretend as if you are or could (this is a large and untested and undeveloped claim), then what difference does it make that a listener doing so is only one person, compared to the range of performers, narratorial voices, styles, etc.?

Are the singers deployed in any significant ways related to their appropriateness (or inappropriateness) to the songs they sing, to their genders, to their sexual preferences, to the sexual preferences of the narrators, to the gendered characteristics displayed by the narrators, to...?

Related to cheapness, etc.: questions about authenticity of emotion, sentiment, performance ("This one sounds like a band in a room." "Oh? It's not."), sincerity, etc.

I don't think I can really come up with answers to these that I'm happy with without going through the album song by song like I am now - multiple times, focusing on different things at different times (but never the same thing all at once - that would be folly).

Etc., etc., etc.,

26 Sep '02 09:03:43 AM

What I most wanted to do this evening, at least for five minutes, was sing out loud to "Queen of the Savages". But I was walking outside, in public, with my headphones on, so I didn't. Sadly the moment passed.

25 Sep '02 09:53:39 AM

Tonight I took the bus home from downtown Minneapolis after midnight. I had been out so I didn't have my headphones or anything with me. The bus was very empty and very quiet. I had some music in my head, though:

Stereolab, "Metronomic Underground" - because I put it on a mix I made for Katie's birthday, but I had it in my head anyway because it happened to be on an old mix I threw on this morning on my way to campus. Just hearing the bass line and imagining little variations on it and trying to see if I think that's what the actual variations are in the song (and also how long I could go before it seems like I had to vary it, and which ones seemed like the ones that I had to change the part to) was very entertaining and entrancing. It was harder to hear the vocal parts because I can't replicate the sounds they make (either because they're in French or too delicately nuanced a variety of nonsense).

Cee-Lo, "Big Ole Words (Damn)" - but only the part around "which is essential for provin' my people's potential", because I couldn't get away from it. I think I can sort of hear the fake synth-flute too.

Whitesnake, "Here I Go" - so just the other day I wrote to waking ear and commented how I would find it hard to do the same project, because the things that show up in my head every morning seem to be pretty limited to what I've heard recently. But that strangely that morning this Whitesnake song - which I hadn't heard in years - had popped in totally unwanted and for no apparent reason. Unfortunately it popped up again tonight while I was walking home from my bus. Interestingly, despite being so long, I still remember lots of it. Hearing the part leading up to the chorus in my head is surprisingly like just hearing it, as far as the big dramatic surge and effect on me are concerned.