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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18 Nov '02 07:51:16 AM

The house thump: it's been a while since I thought about it. Today I went into the bathroom while Bodily Functions was still playing, loudly, in my room. The wall reduced the music to something more like the thump-thump-thump that's associated with the stereotypical picture of house music. So I wondered: huh, I never notice that now. I did a great deal, at one point. "Ignore" wasn't the right word there, because it's not ignoring. Later today I focused in on the beat on both some Herbert tracks and some tracks from Kompakt Total 4. My reaction was sort of... hard to describe. Something like "well of course the thump is right there". I think maybe Tim said something to me once about internalizing the beat, and that gets at what I'm thinking about. It's not just ignoring, because you need to be able to hear every other part in light of the beat.

18 Nov '02 07:27:28 AM

Jay-Z, "Bitches & Sisters": reprehensible but irresistible. "Take off your shirt, don't hit me with that church shit." Most of the good part comes from the beat, the scratching, and the horn sample, which reminds me of (but which is not) a swing chart I played once. Part of it is from the lyrics, though. And as if they weren't obviously (ethically) flawed enough, Jay kindly gives away his hand - bitches and sisters seem to be different in degree, not kind: "Sisters give up the ass / bitches give up the ass / sisters do it slow / bitches do it fast".

Missy Elliott, "Gossip Folks (featuring Ludacris)": it's almost as if kids made a rap record. Kids who say 'motherfucker'.

Herbert, "The Audience": what is this about? I don't know. The chorus goes "so move with me / with me removed", and the first line I can draw plenty from, but the second one confuses me a little. But the verses are full of opposites pushing and pulling her and you back and forth (conceptually) from each other, so it must have something to do with that. I can't follow it when listening. On paper, there's something unsettling afoot that I might prefer not to think about right now. Herbert calls these songs "the cure for, and the cause of, [his] own 14 forms of melancholy", and that inseparability is here. The lyrics push them together, so close that they're one, they're complementary. But they drop the seeds of schism into everything: "there are words misunderstood", "the division has begun". And Dani Siciliano sounds cool, at times, but then fierce, then almost accepting, happy in some way, when the piano and the second chorus enter: "you and us together / together in this room / you will not remember / this passing moment soon". I don't need to understand the rest of the song for that chorus to work something on me. It scares me, forgetting. This record is oftentimes about small moments, but I can't tell here how small this moment, together in this room, is. Would it scare me less if it were an everyday moment, one I wouldn't remember later anyway? Is the cause of melancholy here the unavoidable loss of those prosaic bits and pieces of being with someone that really make up the us, no matter how much we're tempted to look back for the big moments? Or is it something else? The fourth verse and second chorus are repeated twice: "I am nervous you are calm / I see lines upon your palm / I am close we are near / though the ending is not here / we are separate we are one / the division has begun / you are my future I am your past / even music will not last / so move with me / with me removed / you and us together / together in this room / you will not remember / this passing moment soon". No, something bigger is at stake: she already expects it not to last, even if she doesn't know how or when it won't.

Dave Holland Big Band, "What Goes Around": when I first brought this home, I sat in the living room laughing spontaneously, out of joy. "Laughing spontaneously" sounds weird, I suppose, because it's not as if normal laughing is not spontaneous. But the sheer pleasure of sound, of rhythm, of hearing people playing together, does not usually incite me to laughter. When I played in the band in high school, we always got some kind of extra pleasure from being able to play big and loud and fast. An oh-look-at-what-we-did pleasure. Dave Holland too, I guess. He's way better, though.

Green Day, "Going to Pasalacqua": "Here we go again, infatuation touches me just when I thought that it would end...". Where was this when I was 13? Well, er, it was there, I just didn't know. Not that it's not worth something at 24.

LL Cool J, "Amazin' (introducing Kandice Love)": oh, it's the usual soft-hearted gangsta plenitude, with skin-tingly synths, but the big moment comes with about :45 left, during the last chorus, where they introduce an extra kick into Kandice's super-multitracked part: "It's so / amazing / (to me) / (to me) / (to me)", with each new () sounding like another group of Kandices, just barely coming in on the heels of the last.

Freiland, "Frei": the first time I heard this I was not really awake, which may have improved it somewhat - it sounds like ten things at once, most of which I can't even place, but it sounds like them all the way through, excitingly out of reach, never fully coming into being, dangled in front of me by the jerky-steady beat and the slow slow harmonic change. Being half-asleep made these possibilities seem more within reach, somehow. The best of them: I swear I can hear a Cyndi Lauper song in there, somewhere. The whole goddamn thing makes me shiver.

Stevie Wonder, "Love's in Need of Love Today": the fast songs have to be short because the feelings are fleeting, but feelings like this one need to be stretched out like taffy (seven minutes of it) so that you can appreciate them, live in them, derive strength from them, see their place in life. Make them concrete.

18 Nov '02 05:51:48 AM

I'm often interested in pushing relationships with records and relationships with people closer together (a la 527 below from the Investigations). Well, 587 points out a perhaps unbridgeable gap.

Checking your opinions about a record can involve the process of introspection described there - calling up memories of listening to it, imagining how you might like it, and so on. I can say that I do things like these; I'm not sure how common they are. But it does seem easy to short-circuit that process, by just putting the record on, seeing what happens. Experimenting.

Is there a short-circuit for people? Maybe. But there's more at stake. Experimenting on a human subject. Which is frowned upon, but it's not as if we can avoid it. So we should give it our best, give them our best; don't just wheel them out and see if they do anything for us, but do our part.

On the other hand, it seems somewhat crass to not do our part when short-circuiting the process with a record. So perhaps the two are not so far apart.

18 Nov '02 05:34:59 AM

More:

587. Does it make sense to ask "How do you know that you believe?" -- and is the answer: "I know it by introspection"?

In some cases it will be possible to say some such thing, in most not.

It makes sense to ask: "Do I really love her, or am I only pretending to myself?" and the process of introspection is the calling up of memories; of imagined possible situations, and of the feelings that one would have if ....

18 Nov '02 05:31:18 AM

More W.:

543. Can I not say: a cry, a laugh, are full of meaning?

And that means, roughly: much can be gathered from them.

18 Nov '02 05:29:33 AM

W. from Philosophical Investigations:

527. Understanding a sentence is much more akin to understanding a theme in music than one may think. What I mean is that understanding a sentence lies nearer than one thinks to what is normally called understanding a musical theme. Why is just this the pattern of variation in loudness and tempo? One would like to say "Because I know what it's all about." But what is it all about? I should not be able to say. In order to 'explain' I could only compare it with something else which has the same rhythm (I mean the same pattern). (One says, "Don't you see, this is as if a conclusion were being drawn" or "This is as it were a parenthesis", etc. How does one justify such comparisons? -- There are very different kinds of justification here.)

18 Nov '02 05:21:19 AM

Dammit I do not want a Verizon slogan on my Jay-Z.

17 Nov '02 02:33:47 AM

One of the minorly disappointing things about listening to music on the bus is that I can almost never take full advantage of the fact that the bus is in motion. It rarely gets going at a good clip for long enough (because of all the stops) to most effectively accompany the music - to match the on-and-on motion of the rhythms.

When it works it's distinctive, too, because sitting-still-yet-moving feels different from moving-by-walking.

17 Nov '02 02:24:35 AM

Best song I heard in a coffeeshop today while grading: Nelly Furtado, "I'm Like a Bird". The girl next to me sang along at the beginning (before I knew what it was, which made me feel a little left out). The whole place seemed happier.

Most unsettling thing I heard in a coffeeshop today while grading: large chunks of both Kid A and Amnesiac. People's interactions became noticeably more subdued, or dropped away entirely. My conviction that this music is fundamentally internal was reinforced tenfold.