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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21 Aug '03 07:18:20 AM

Steve Reich's Music for 18 Musicians also has a structure to be apprehended, or analyzed, or whatever the hell it is you're supposed to do with structure. Though if I remember correctly, in an interview included in the liner notes Reich says that the structure is there for people who want it, but that there are other ways to listen.

20 Aug '03 11:29:05 AM

I had never before paid much attention to the epigrams at the beginning of John Berryman's 77 Dream Songs, but tonight the one taken from Olive Schreiber caught my eye, for obvious reasons: 'BUT THERE IS ANOTHER METHOD'. Here is the quote in context, taken from the preface to The Story of an African Farm.

'Human life may be painted according to two methods. There is the stage method. According to that each character is duly marshalled at first, and ticketed; we know with an immutable certainty that at the right crises each one will reappear and act his part, and, when the curtain falls, all will stand before it bowing. There is a sense of satisfaction in this, and of completeness. But there is another method -- the method of the life we all lead. Here nothing can be prophesied. There is a strange coming and going of feet. Men appear, act and re-act upon each other, and pass away. When the crisis comes the man who would fit it does not return. When the curtain falls no one is ready. When the footlights are brightest they are blown out; and what the name of the play is no one knows. If there sits a spectator who knows, he sits so high that the players in the gaslight cannot hear his breathing. Life may be painted according to either method; but the methods are different. The canons of criticism that bear upon the one cut cruelly upon the other.'

19 Aug '03 09:52:57 AM

Oppose tension, excitement, to laziness, a relaxed attitude: one of the few pieces of advice a high school band teacher gave me about soloing was that repeating the same thing builds tension. Some things sound so simple.

19 Aug '03 09:49:11 AM

On the surface, the lazier quality of the It Club date seems to be most significantly due to Rouse. Monk is more relaxed too though.

19 Aug '03 09:34:55 AM

Now I would really like to hear the six new Monk reissues I mentioned last week. As I said then, the only recordings I've heard from that period are Straight, No Chaser and the live sets from the It Club and the Jazz Workshop. But I was reminded today of the dates these recordings were made: the It Club recordings were on October 31 and November 1, 1964; the Jazz Workshop recordings were on November 3 and 4, 1964; and Straight, No Chaser is comprised of recordings from November 14 and 15, 1966, and January 10, 1967. (Incidentally, ten of the tracks on Solo Monk were recorded on October 31 and November 2, 1964.) This makes me a little unsure about what I said here about hearing the soloing on the 'later recordings' as a process of continual variation. It was very important to what I was thinking about there that the playing sounded so constantly close to the original melody. But now, listening to the It Club record for the first time in a while, I see that things are more complicated. I didn't say so, but I kind of had in mind that part of the reason the Jazz Workshop and Straight, No Chaser performances sounded the way they did is that Monk was well-established and had a band with a long-lasting, stable roster. Maybe that it was easier for him to impress his style on (or demand his style of) everyone in the band - and perhaps because of their youth? (I don't know how old the band members were around then, but Monk turned 50 in 1967.) But two years separate those two recordings, whereas both live dates are only a few days apart. I had been hearing the repetitive qualities of the two later dates as some kind of progression or advance in rapport between the musicians, or maybe just in the degree to which Monk could get his band to sound the way he wanted it to. Next to those recordings, the It Club recordings sound much more ambulatory, stretched out, relaxed. The solos are still regularly connected to the original melodies, but the connection doesn't feel as tight - as if the soloists are attached to the melody by a long piece of elastic, as opposed to a very short, tight piece on the two later records. As a result the It Club sets don't really even sound unending to me - I can definitely feel the passage of time when listening to them (as opposed to the kind of time that feels especially static, even if it is obvious that time is passing). In some of the bass and drum solos I even feel noticeably closer to the boredom with which bass and drum solos are easily received. (I've come a long way in the past ten years - I don't feel lost anymore, well uh I feel a lot less lost.) But I doubt the band made some sort of enormous strides in the two days between November 1 and November 3. And the It Club recordings aren't bad, not at all. So it seems as if the differences between all these records are just contingent upon however the band happened to play in a particular performance. Perhaps a certain kind of sound results when the band plays a certain way, but I don't know if there's anything more to be said about that (i.e., whether the sound just comes from the band deciding to play more like that, or whether some other decision or intuition just led them to sound similar on both occasions). None of this invalidates my point in that remark about continual variation, but it qualifies it a bit. Maybe in a way that is only of interest to me, since I don't see why anyone else would have had to have understood my earlier remark the way I did, since I didn't really say anything like the above.

(I have considered that the two similar recordings may just be on average faster than the It Club set, but I don't think that's true. It could be something less obvious - to me - about the rhythmic uh mojo on those dates, though.)

18 Aug '03 09:49:46 AM

I'm afraid I might like Dylan less if I started trying to make sense of his lyrics.

18 Aug '03 08:35:11 AM

The majority of what we call culture is old, in many senses of the word.

17 Aug '03 11:57:56 AM

Philip says that when Bruce Banner is the Hulk, he's not responsible for what the Hulk does. But all through the film there are signs that the Hulk takes care not to harm innocents, even if his strength might sometimes overwhelm him. Beings we see die in the movie: Banner's mother, the genetically modified dogs, the bad scientist, and, I suppose, Banner's father, after he transforms.

I don't even really think that Hulk is supposed to be a hero in the film, at least not in the standard superhero-movie sense. But Banner and the Hulk both have plenty of reasons propelling them through the events of the film.

(Why should the Hulk have to represent anything? Speaking of which, I basically ignored the psychoanalytic glosses whenever it suited me.)

17 Aug '03 11:37:04 AM

'My main discovery is that pleasure cannot be described.'