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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15 Apr '03 06:12:18 AM

"Adorno's writing is performative. His philosophical position is articulated not just through what he says but also through how he says it. If philosophy is to generate new, emancipatory concepts and avoid the contraditions of binary thinking, Adorno reasons, then it must become more like art. He draws his inspiration from music. Adorno studied composition under Alban Berg in Vienna between 1925 and 1927 and was especially sympathetic to the atonality of Arnold Schönberg's 'new music'. Whereas traditional, diatonic music is consonant with abstraction, summary, and ease of recognition, 'new' atonality draws attention to the structure of a composition as a series of decisions whose outcomes cannot be universalized. It is the same irreducibility to a concept which motivates Adorno's philosophy. His dense, torturous prose and the lack of unity or orientation which results, are intended to resist the transparency and ease of consumption of linear, continuous, recapitulative argument. His style might be described as 'constellational', following the 'constellation' metaphor he uses to explicate his epistemology in Negative Dialectics. Understanding occurs not through a unified hierarchy of concepts, he argues, but through the constellational proximities and distances which exist between terms and which will always, ultimately, frustrate classification. Parataxis is his preferred form of composition: clauses placed one after the other with little or no indication of the thesis or argument which mind bind them together. Some key works, such as Minima Moralia (1951), Negative Dialectics (1966), and Aesthetic Theory (1970), are made up entirely of aphorisms: individual excursions, each a couple or so pages long, which, on the one hand, give the impression of being self-contained and independent but, on the other, knit together to form an irreducible network of conceptual counterpoint and cross-referral. The texture of the interaction which takes place between ideas, the conceptual friction that is generated, and the possibility of new insights being thrown back, are the objects of Adorno's philosophical aesthetics. His writing is philosophy made into art or a philosophy of art, where the 'of' is not placing the philosopher at a distance but making his thought itself 'of art'."

(Clive Cazeaux, The Continental Aesthetics Reader, pp. 202-3)

14 Apr '03 10:10:55 AM

Hmm, who would have ever thought that the "author" of Kierkegaard's Seducer's Diary would seem so much like a plain old creepy stalker. I feel slightly creepy myself, now.

14 Apr '03 08:48:15 AM

Often, starting an album with "Metronomic Underground" (Emperor Tomato Ketchup) seems to me to be the same kind of mistake as starting an album with "Angel" (Mezzanine). But lately I've warmed so much to the Stereolab album (compare to the posts around this one from October) that the first track doesn't outweigh the later ones in quite the same way, even if I do still think it's the best song Stereolab ever did. (Since the song means a little less for the band because it's so singular, this doesn't mean quite what you might think it does.)

In particular, I've never felt quite so aware of how strange many of the songs on the record are, especially timbrally. You'd think that would have been high on the list of things I found interesting about the record before now, given how well known the "groop" is for "experimenting" with "analog synthesizers", but "oh well". Now almost every song seems remarkable in some way. I have yet to pay careful enough attention to see if the ones I don't think are remarkable are the ones that I also don't think are timbrally very inventive or strange or surprising.

At the same time, Transient Random-Noise Bursts With Announcements seems to have finally opened up for me. As with many things I expect this isn't just because of the other record, but due to a confluence of many things which have changed over time.

You know, I never even noticed the "Sister Ray" rip before.

Having also been listening to a lot of Sonic Youth lately, I am all ready to take a big leap and concede that what really makes rock bands good and interesting in the Adornian advancement-of-musical-material sense - and thus influential in large part, since even if they don't know it lots of the less good bands take their cues from those who advance the material - is the developments and discoveries they make mainly in the realm of timbre and the ways it mixes with other musical elements. So, hello there Ted Gracyk. (NB: I do not know if his view is exactly this limited or wide-sweeping.) Anyway, I will not really think this tomorrow. I will think a much more complicated and subtle version of it not susceptible to all the complaints I can think of, though. Of course.

Apparently Pearl Jam have covered "The Noise of Carpet" in concert. That seems just about dumb enough a thing for them to have done. Covering the song that sounds most like a song you yourself might write from a band that sounds a lot different from you is not very interesting or cool, Eddie Vedder.

13 Apr '03 09:07:56 AM

Well OK not like actually happy, just judgment-happy.

13 Apr '03 09:07:36 AM

I am happy, quite happy, to see that Christgau gives high grades to so many Sonic Youth albums. Very happy.

13 Apr '03 08:05:25 AM

More moving today, and tapes tapes tapes. At the moment, this tape from Felicity. "Cigarettes Will Kill You" affects me with a strange kind of nostalgia. I've remarked before about how, already just three or four years down the road, hearing songs that I originally listened to a lot in the last part of my undergraduate years immediately gives me a sense that I am back there, that person, in that place, at that time. The Ben Lee song is different, because I know I couldn't have heard it more than a handful of times, and almost always around KURE somewhere, probably during Shar's show since she played it a lot. Yet it too gives me that sense.

Also another one, because even though I associate the song with that time, the song actually sounds out of place next to most of what I listened to then. What it actually sounds like is a minor modern rock radio hit circa 1995, only with more expensive production to throw my unerring detection of the bad-idea "alternative" drum machiney shufflebeat off just for a sec or two once or twice every minute. (Wednesday, Geoff and I wondered what it could possibly be that made so many people think this beat, or rather its platonic antecedent, since there are to be fair subtle and unimportant variations on it, a good idea. Or the only goddamn idea anyone who ever touched a guitar had upon seeing a sampler or 808.)

It's almost as if I'm pulled back five and ten years, all at once.

11 Apr '03 07:26:07 AM

A koan from Ethan: "yeah what's more fun than stuff that's supposed to be?"

9 Apr '03 07:43:33 AM

Did you know that even thinking about the phrase "call-and-response" makes me feel dirty and wrong? And yet. And yet.

7 Apr '03 08:02:31 AM

We ate at Fujiya tonight, the first time I'd had sushi (it was excellent); for a while it sounded like I was DJing. Some housey non-house shit; my favorite Outkast song, "Spottieottiedopalicious"; a Tribe Called Quest song; "Just the Two of Us"; some Biggie (I think, I had never heard it but I'm pretty sure he was MCing). It made me quite happy.