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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25 Jan '11 08:51:17 AM

'There is no such thing as pure objective observation. Your observation, to be interesting, i.e. significant, must be subjective. The sum of what the writer of whatever class has to report is simply some human experience, whether he be poet or philosopher or man of science. The man of most science is the man most alive, whose life is the easiest event. Senses that take cognizance of outward things merely are of no avail. It matters not where or how far you travel,—the farther commonly the worse,—but how much alive you are. If it is possible to conceive of an event outside to humanity, it is not of the slightest significance, though it were the explosion of a planet. No mere willful activity whatever, whether in writing verses or collecting statistics, will produce true poetry or science. If you are really a sick man, it is indeed to be regretted, for you cannot accomplish so much as if you were well. All that a man has to say or do that can possibly concern mankind, is in some shape or other to tell the story of his love,—to sing; and, if he is fortunate and keeps alive, he will be forever in love. This alone is to be alive to the extremities. It is a pity that this divine creature should ever suffer from cold feet; a still greater pity that the coldness so often reaches to his heart. I look over the report of the doings of a scientific association and am surprised that there is so little life to be reported; I am put off with a parcel of dry technical terms. Anything living is easily and naturally expressed in popular language. I cannot help suspecting that the life of these learned professors has been almost as inhuman and wooden as a rain-gauge or self-registering magnetic machine. They communicate no fact which rises to the temperature of blood-heat. It does n't all amount to one rhyme.

Dandelions, perhaps the first, yesterday. This flower makes a great show,—a sun itself in the grass. How emphatic it is! You cannot but observe it set in the liquid green grass even at a distance. I am surprised that the sight of it does not affect me more, but I look at it as unmoved as if but a day had elapsed since I saw it in the fall.'

16 Jan '11 02:05:58 AM

'I've been writing a sentence, with all the art I can muster. Here it is: A work of art is important only as evidence, in its structure, of a new world which it has been created to affirm.'

13 Jan '11 08:41:54 AM

We know that the very world dilates, grows, the more one lives in it, the more one's life leads one to range over it. Perhaps this is why philosophers are so galling: they pretend to grasp all the world within what is barely a life.

12 Jan '11 04:32:07 AM

With objects that come to life as we live with them we can be reminded that we're living, or how we're not.

12 Jan '11 04:31:08 AM

Cities give you room to ignore the people that are everywhere around you; but in even sizeable towns that person you ignore will feel, somehow with justification, 'why don't you talk to me? there's no one else here'.

6 Jan '11 06:01:18 AM

'In Bolaño, literature is a helpless, undignified, and not especially pleasant compulsion, like smoking. At one point you started and now you can’t stop; it’s become a habit and an identity. Nothing is so consistent across Bolaño’s work as the suspicion that literature is chiefly bullshit, rationalizing the misery, delusions, and/or narcissism of various careerists, flakes, and losers. Yet Bolaño somehow also treats literature as his and his characters’ sole excuse for existing. This basic Bolaño aporia—literature is all that matters, literature doesn’t matter at all—can be a glib paradox for others. He seems to have meant it sincerely, even desperately, something one would feel without knowing the first thing about his life.' (n+1, 'On Bolaño')

27 Dec '10 01:05:39 AM

'what books and reading bestow'

24 Dec '10 09:59:55 PM

My Pazz & Jop ballot and comments:

The world used to seem musical to me. Music seemed like part of the medium of life, something we moved in. Now music hardly seems real. The music that ‘we’, whoever we are, have in common is never allowed to just be music—it’s always music to use for this or that, to represent this or that, to serve a function or to fill some dead air or to provide another three paragraphs of new content. And the harder it is to turn a piece of music to our other purposes, the less attention we pay to it. If all we can do is listen, then we don’t want to listen—are incapable of listening.

When I look at the new music I’ve heard this year, I can hardly believe it’s being made, hardly believe that people still do that, that people actually made these records. The generosity I feel for them, and that I hear in them, is profound. How could so many people be making such fully committed music if no one, generally, cares about it?

In the spring of 2010 I taught, for the first time, aesthetics to a roomful of undergraduate philosophy students. If you ever start to feel resigned about the state of music, or of music in our culture, just find some college students to talk to. Mine were receptive to everything—even to music they couldn’t stand. Their willingness to listen and to think about what they heard was so gratifying to me that my ears were opened further than they had been in years. Every moment I spent listening, preparing to meet my students again, I heard and learned something new about music. They also gave me the best day of teaching I’ve ever had, working through the structure of Roxy Music’s ‘Mother of Pearl’ only to be surprised to discover, at the end of the hour, that I had been talking about a work of art.

This year, I heard…

a guitar or two, a skittering screeching twittering saxophone duo, carefully cut breaks, two (2) hours of barely remitting feedback, blast beats, a harp, a temporary suspension of, a chopped-up vocal sample, insecure sex boasts, birdsong, the center of a black hole, drum machines, old Biggie lines re-flipped, craftsmanship, helpful advice, notes bent, bombast, artfully arranged stretches of silence, passionate confusion, folk settings of Emily Dickinson poems, more drum machines, jazz again, vocoders and imitation vocoder effects, endless depths of nihilism set to clangorous drones, kiss-offs, sounds made only when necessary, as many different words for 'money' as possible, sheer responsiveness, lines lyrical but razors, cooing, moaning, adenoidal whining, obscure clouds of hissing and whooshing, inhuman bellowing (from men, and from women), new language, beat science, noise that just won't stop, whatever occurred to the performer at the moment of recording, actual honest-to-god guitar solos, particles, this synthesizer and that synthesizer and maybe that's a synthesizer, thinking before there was speech, minutes and minutes suspended in time, sublimated resentments, unholiness, sublime holiness, a thriving career as a musician, something we made ourselves, abysses, the private talk of women, convergence, sounds like it might be about love or god or something, an awful lot of drugs, whatever they want, the time to write during a brief stint in prison, swagger, attitude, anxiety about the global economic catastrophe, tape-loop alchemy, a more relaxed second take, an accent, horns, are you sure this is even music, how long can this—

I’m tired of styles and scenes that I was never really part of—tired of imagining the contexts that go with the records I learn about from music critics on the internet. I want to hear particular things now. Sounds and structures emptied of the stupid past and made selflessly so that something else has a chance to enter. I want sounds to matter more than us.

— Josh Kortbein
    Cedar Falls, IA

Spoon - Transference (Merge)
Joanna Newsom - Have One On Me (Drag City)
Swans - My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky (Young God)
Pan Sonic - Gravitoni (Blast First Petite)
Flying Lotus - Cosmogramma (Warp)
Electric Wizard - Black Masses (Rise Above)
Eleh - Location Momentum (Touch)
Bardo Pond - Bardo Pond (Fire)
Mary Halvorson Quintet - Saturn Sings (Firehouse 12)
Berliner Philharmoniker, Sir Simon Rattle, Rundfunkchor Berlin, Simon Halsey, Kate Royal & Magdalena Kozená - Mahler: Symphony No. 2 (EMI)
Keith Fullerton Whitman - Disingenuity / Disingenuousness (Pan)
E-40 - Revenue Retrievin’ (Night Shift / Day Shift) (Heavy on the Grind Entertainment)
No Age - Everything In Between (Sub Pop)
Josephine Foster - Graphic As a Star (Fire)
Erykah Badu - New Amerykah Part Two (Return of the Ankh) (Universal Motown)
Rafael Toral - Space Elements Vol. 2 (Taiga)
Autechre - Oversteps / Move of Ten (Warp)
Rudresh Mahanthappa & Bunky Green - Apex (Pi)
Steve Coleman - Harvesting Semblances and Affinities (Pi)
ICP Orchestra - ICP Orchestra 049 (ICP)

High on Fire - Snakes For the Divine (E1 Music)
The-Dream - Sex Intelligent (Def Jam)
Autechre - M62 (Warp)
William Parker - Move On Up (AUM Fidelity)
Cathedral - Requiem For the Voiceless (Nuclear Blast)
LCD Soundsystem - Home (DFA)
Laurie Anderson - Only an Expert (Nonesuch)
Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings - Better Things to Do (Daptone)
Marnie Stern - Cinco De Mayo (Kill Rock Stars)
Shed - The Bot (Ostgut Tonträger)
Buddy Guy - 74 Years Young (Jive)

Mary Halvorson Quintet - Saturn Sings (Firehouse 12)
Rafael Toral - Space Elements Vol. 2 (Taiga)
Adam Lane’s Full Throttle Orchestra - Ashcan Rantings (Clean Feed)
Rudresh Mahanthappa & Steve Lehman - Dual Identity (Pi)
Rudresh Mahanthappa & Bunky Green - Apex (Pi)
Steve Coleman - Harvesting Semblances and Affinities (Pi)
ICP Orchestra - ICP Orchestra 049 (ICP)
Marshall Allen, Matthew Shipp, and Joe Morris - Night Logic (RogueArt)
Jason Ajemian & Daydream Full Lifestyles - Protest Heaven (482 Records)
Urs Leimgruber & Evan Parker - Twine (Clean Feed)
Anthony Braxton - 19 Standards (Quartet) 2003 (Leo)
John Butcher & Claudia Ulla Binder - Under the Roof (Nuscope)
AMM - Sounding Music (Matchless)
Vijay Iyer - Solo (ACT Music)
Hafez Modirzadeh and Amir Elsaffar - Radif Suite (Pi)
William Parker - I Play to Stay a Believer: The Inside Songs of Curtis Mayfield (AUM Fidelity)
Dave Holland Octet - Pathways (Dare2)
Jason Adasiewicz - Sun Rooms (Delmark)
Vandermark 5 - The Horse Jumps / The Ship is Gone (Not Two)
Claire DeBrunner / Ken Silverman / Daniel Carter / Tom Zlabinger - Macroscopia (Metier)

Swans - My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky (Young God)
Pan Sonic - Gravitoni (Blast First Petite)
Eleh - Location Momentum (Touch)
Keith Fullerton Whitman - Disingenuity / Disingenuousness (Pan)
On - Something That Has Form And Something That Does Not (Type)
Chris Weisman & Greg Davis - Northern Songs (Home Normal)
Emeralds - Does It Look Like I’m Here? (Editions Mego)
Skullflower - Strange Keys To Untune Gods’ Firmament (Neurot Recordings)
Yellow Swans - Going Places / Being There (Type)
Richard Skelton - Landings (Type)
U.S. Girls - Go Grey (Siltbreeze)
Philip Jeck - An Ark For The Listener (Touch)

Electric Wizard - Black Masses (Rise Above)
High on Fire - Snakes for the Divine (E1 Music)
Christian Mistress - Agony and Opium (20 Buck Spin)
Castevet - Mounds of Ash (Profound Lore)
Kill The Client - Set For Extinction (Relapse)
Black Bombaim - Saturdays and Space Travels (Lovers & Lollypops)
Salome - Terminal (Profound Lore)
Inherit Disease - Visceral Transcendence (Unique Leader)
Aderlating - Devotional Hymns (Shadowgraph)
Wold - Working Together For Our Privacy (Profound Lore)

Flying Lotus - Cosmogramma (Warp)
Autechre - Oversteps / Move of Ten (Warp)
Mark Fell - Multistability (Raster-Norton)
Deepchord Presents Echospace - Liumin (Modern Love)
John Roberts - Glass Eights (Dial)
Shed - The Traveller (Ostgut Tonträger)
Robert Hood - Omega (M-Plant)
James Blake - CMYK / Klavierwerke / Bells Sketch EPs (R & S, Hessle Audio)
10-20 - Mountain / Lake / Isthmus / Island EPs (Hipoint Lowlife)
Scuba - Triangulation (Hotflush)
Actress - Splazsh (Honest Jon’s)

Spoon - Transference (Merge)
Joanna Newsom - Have One On Me (Drag City)
Bardo Pond - Bardo Pond (Fire)
Josephine Foster - Graphic As A Star (Fire)
No Age - Everything In Between (Sub Pop)
Titus Andronicus - The Monitor (XL)
Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings - I Learned the Hard Way (Daptone)
The Ex - Catch My Shoe (Ex)
Grass Widow - Past Time (Kill Rock Stars)
Marnie Stern - Marnie Stern (Kill Rock Stars)
Bill Callahan - Rough Travel For a Rare Thing (Drag City)
LCD Soundsystem - This Is Happening (DFA)
Alasdair Roberts & Friends - Too Long In This Condition (Drag City)
Jon Langford & Skull Orchard - Old Devils (Bloodshot)

E-40 - Revenue Retrievin’ Day Shift / Night Shift (Heavy on the Grind Entertainment)
Erykah Badu - New Amerykah Part Two (Return of the Ankh) (Universal Motown)
Strong Arm Steady - In Search of Stoney Jackson (Stones Throw)
Curren$y - Pilot Talk 1 / 2 (DD172)
The-Dream - Love King (Def Jam)
Waka Flocka Flame - Flockaveli (Asylum)
Freddie Gibbs - Str8 Killa (Decon)
Yelawolf - Trunk Muzik 0-60 (Interscope)
Diego Bernal - “Besides…” (Exponential)

17 Dec '10 08:10:33 AM

—glinting snow blanketing the surroundings, Bardo Pond lumbering on