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.

newest | archives | search | about | wishlist | flickr | email | rss

18 May '03 09:57:33 AM

It seems odd to me that Simon would respond to Prefuse - or rather, explain his response - by saying "it's a bad sign when you can't remember a single tune after several plays". After all, he's the same person who noted in Generation Ecstasy that timbral memory is not as powerful as melodic memory. I haven't heard the new record, but I suppose it's not much different from Vocal Studies + Uprock Narratives, which I enjoy much more timbrally than melodically (or rhythmically).

None of this is to say that a Prefuse song is better or worse than "What's Your Fantasy" (as the matter Simon is responding to has to do with Nick's response to something Simon said about Luda being better than Prefuse, across the board). I've heard the Luda track plenty, but wouldn't have said without consideration that it's especially timbrally interesting or engaging, as opposed to its more obviously interesting features. Which is just to say I don't automatically class it, in my head and sort of reactively, with things like "Try Again" or "Burn Girl Prom Queen". But I suppose Simon might be quite happy to say I should. All I can think to say to that is that, innovation aside, Nick and Simon would seem to have different interests, not just extra-musically (see where Nick inveighs against Simon's criticism being led by sociological concerns rather than musical ones, which division is itself already contestable and contested), but musically. That's just a guess, based partly on what I know about myself.

I've been listening to Mouse on Mars all day, the Rost Pocks EP collection and Glam. The former especially is full of tracks that either are, or are conspicuously related to, drum and bass. I suppose anything at all might show up in a club or a DJ set, but I don't think I'm being controversial to say that these tracks sound more like they're intended for home listening, or headphone listening, than club listening (read: dancing, drinking, shouting in your friend's ear over the sound system). Often, though, I found myself wondering today what really made this music any different - why not just listen to "real" drum and bass?

Augh, I didn't set out to lay down an argument when I started writing this. Here's a quick version: quiet music is different from loud music. Little music is different from big music. Music made for albums is different from music made for singles (or EPs, at that - the comp has a noticeably different character than the band's albums). So one answer to the question is just: because "home" drum and bass and "real" drum and bass do different things. I take it that this answer is sympathetic to Nick, but that it's not necessarily disagreeable to Simon. Their point of disagreement comes after this point: that Simon will insist that our reasons for preferring the one or the other, or both, or neither, with whatever attendant attitudes toward each we come up with, should always have something to do with social things like class, race, money, power. Perhaps that the way those things are connected to music will in some cases mean that the social overwhelms the musical (from Nick's perspective).

There's more than a hint of Adorno in there, but I'm not confident enough of my understanding of either Adorno or Reynolds to say how. It's particularly interesting, though, that Simon is regularly picked out as a new-experimental-thing-is-best-thing critic (as Nick does right away), and that in his critical hands the experimental and innovative, musically, often become the liberatory and socially critical.

My sense is that people regularly misread Simon, but that they are often onto something. Unfortunately the best thing I can see for Nick to do is meet Simon on (sort of) his own terms. The "easiest" way I know of to do that is to, er, meet him on Mark's terms. What happens as a result is unclear: Prefuse better? Luda better? Who knows? Unclear those questions are even univocally sensible on Mark's terms. And certainly it may turn out that on a closer look, both Prefuse and Luda will turn out to be both good and bad for good and bad aesthetic and ethical reasons, yet this won't clearly force one into stopping listening to them, or to being a bad person (or good person) for not stopping.

18 May '03 08:12:23 AM

"A very short thing that is beautiful can carry you for hours and make your day."

18 May '03 08:00:16 AM

"All the buses, we givin' y'all five seconds to get close to a exit."

17 May '03 12:39:30 AM

Thing I never saw before: in an early part of the "Buffy's first day at college" episode, Buffy opts for a "pop culture" course rather than psychology in the face of her anxiety about not being smart enough for college. She can't register and so shows up on the first day, which was exciting for a moment - ooh, I thought, here we will get a chance to see the show's reaction to the academic reception of Buffy right in the show, which is totally way cooler than in an interview or whatever. But Buffy whispers to the girl next to her, asking if the class is still full, and the professor hears her and does the "why don't you stand up and tell us what you have to say if you think it's worth interrupting me for" deal. Then he tells her she's sucking energy from the room, she should leave, and she does. He is an enormous fucking jerk. When she hooks back up with Willow in the psych lecture, she says she decided not to take the pop culture class because it was boring.

I did get my reaction to the academic reception of Buffy after all, I think.

17 May '03 12:24:20 AM

Almost two years ago my CD changer stopped working, then I got it cleaned and it worked again, but stopped the next day. But then without my doing anything else other than trying occasionally, it started working again about two weeks later. Yes. So? Well, it worked without interruption after that until February this year, when the same problem showed up again. I didn't take it in to get cleaned until this week, and brought it home today. But after it loaded the first CD I tried (MRI's All That Glitters - I wanted to play "Blue" really really really loud), I had to stop it because I forgot to move the "in" patch cables from the tape deck to the CD player. When I turned the power back on it wouldn't load again.

I went to all the trouble of writing this down, and finding and making links to all the times when the player started and stopped, because it upset me pretty acutely to have it not work after hoping all week that I could come home after grading and grading and grading to play obnoxious music at obnoxious volumes on my finally-repaired CD player. But I remembered that it didn't stay working immediately last time I had it fixed, so consoled myself by figuring out exactly what happened last time. And writing this long, boring entry. Now I'm hoping, again, that the fucking thing will magically start working again.

12 May '03 11:06:10 AM

All probably of underappreciated importance, especially when the "I" or "we" is somebody else:

I made this.
We made this.
This is mine.
This is ours.

10 May '03 10:15:04 AM

"A mediocre writer must beware of too quickly replacing a crude, incorrect expression with a correct one. By doing so he kills his original idea, which was at least still a living seedling. Now it is withered and no longer worth anything. He may as well throw it on the rubbish heap. Whereas the wretched little seedling was still worth something."

- Wittgenstein, Culture and Value, p. 79e

10 May '03 09:27:27 AM

"A philosopher easily gets into the position of an incompetent manager who, instead of getting on with his own work and just keeping an eye on his employees to make sure they do theirs properly, takes over their work until one day he finds himself overloaded with the other people's work, while his employees look on and criticize him."

- Wittgenstein, Culture and Value, p. 16e

10 May '03 06:58:39 AM

Walter Benjamin, "Fresh Figs" from "Food". Published in the Frankfurter Zeitung, May 1930. Gesammelte Schriften, IV, 374-381. Translated by Rodney Livingstone. Taken from Selected Writings Volume 2: 1927-1934, p. 358.

Fresh Figs

No one who has never eaten a food to excess has ever really experienced it, or fully exposed himself to it. Unless you do this, you at best enjoy it, but never come to lust after it, or make the acquaintance of that diversion from the straight and narrow road of the appetite which leads to the primeval forest of greed. For in gluttony two things coincide: the boundlessness of desire and the uniformity of the food that sates it. Gourmandizing means above all else to devour one thing to the last crumb. There is no doubt that it enters more deeply into what you eat than mere enjoyment. For example, when you bite into mortadella as if it were bread, or bury your face in a melon as if it were a pillow, or gorge yourself on caviar out of crackling paper, or, when confronted with the sight of a round Edam cheese, find that the existence of every other food simply vanishes from your mind. -- How did I first learn all this? It happened just before I had to make a very difficult decision. A letter had to be posted or torn up. I had carried it around in my pocket for two days, but had not given it a thought for some hours. I then took the noisy narrow-gauge railway up to Secondigliano through the sun-parched landscape. The village lay in still solemnity in the weekday peace and quiet. The only traces of the excitement of the previous Sunday were the poles on which Catherine wheels and rockets had been ignited. Now they stood there bare. Some of them still displayed a sign halfway up with the figure of a saint from Naples or an animal. Women sat in the open barns husking corn. I was walking along in a daze, when I noticed a cart with figs standing in the shade. It was sheer idleness that made me go up to them, sheer extravagance that I bought half a pound for a few soldi. The woman gave me a generous measure. But when the black, blue, bright green, violet, and brown fruit lay in the bowl of the scales, it turned out that she had no paper to wrap them in. The housewives of Secondigliano bring their baskets with them, and she was unprepared for globetrotters. For my part, I was ashamed to abandon the fruit. So I left her with figs stuffed in my trouser pockets and in my jacket, figs in both of my outstretched hands, and figs in my mouth. I couldn't stop eating them and was forced to get rid of the mass of plump fruits as quickly as possible. But that could not be described as eating; it was more like a bath, so powerful was the smell of resin that penetrated all my belongings, clung to my hands and impregnated the air through which I carried my burden. And then, after satiety and revulsion -- the final bends in the path -- had been surmounted, came the ultimate mountain peak of taste. A vista over an unsuspected landscape of the palate spread out before my eyes -- an insipid, undifferentiated, greenish flood of greed that could distinguish nothing but the stringy, fibrous waves of the flesh of the open fruit, the utter transformation of enjoyment into habit, of habit into vice. A hatred of those figs welled up inside me; I was desperate to finish them, to liberate myself, to rid myself of all this overripe, bursting fruit. I ate to destroy it. Biting had rediscovered its most ancient purpose. When I pulled the last fig from the depths of my pocket, the letter was stuck to it. Its fate was sealed; it, too, had to succumb to the great purification. I took it and tore it into a thousand pieces.