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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9 May '03 06:37:53 AM

I am aware of the potential folly in testing out my new wicked spiff headphones with a Magnetic Fields record.

9 May '03 06:36:36 AM

Also, will I ever start liking sides three and four of Songs in the Key of Life as much as sides one and two?

9 May '03 06:35:48 AM

Pursuant (!) to my comment yesterday about the Oreos and my "experimental" (hah) writing method: these new headphones come with a certain little touch of oh yes hello PARANOIA for a person like me, so easily worried about whether or not I in fact have known someething or noticed something or heard something before or if this is the first time and thus an important revelation to take note of because when it's good it feels like a revelation, so much, at least it did before I started having to listen on shitty $20 headphones all the time. So now every "new" detail, it's "did I ever notice that before huh?" Not just the noticing but the doubt sends shivers down my spine. (!)

9 May '03 06:25:21 AM

"Tessio" is not, I have found over time, a song that gets lots better when it gets louder. This disappoints me a bit. I still have yet to hear it in my room over the speakers (old and decrepit but still bigger-sounding than Murph's speakers, in the living room), though, so I hold out hope.

Compare to MRI, where more loud = more sense of being enveloped.

There could be some kind of IDM thing lurking in the background here. I thought about IDM a lot more often when I first started playing Vocalcity, than I do now. But just compare the record to even some other microhouse records (thus supposedly also relatively more chairbound, brainbound) - it feels inert, edging sometimes toward a kind of up-all-night burnt-out monotony. Yes I do want to mean that in a nice way.

In fact I think I remember at some point listening to the third or second track, the one with the unending tinny guitar funk-twang part, after I had been up all night, and riding the bus in to work. I wanted to change it but kind of couldn't. It didn't quite make me want to sleep, though, either.

9 May '03 06:03:10 AM

Also, I've been jumping back and forth between the new ones and my $20 Sorny ones. Suddenly during Bar Kokhba, at a volume I don't think I would have noticed it at before, I caught the bass making a little buzz in the headphone, because I surely blew it out a little bit long ago in the headphones' still short lifetime. I could only tell because the sound had been so clean on the Sennheisers. Likewise, little things like the drawing back of a bow, or just Cohen's attack on the bass strings, caught my attention more on the cheap headphones after hearing them on the new headphones because I expected them more.

(Every sentence I write, I still think, sigh but no giant teenager sullen fuck bass you eh oh well maybe I should have two new pairs of headphones.)

9 May '03 05:58:40 AM

So far they seem to be much more impressive with tiny details than (sigh) giant sneering teenager fuck you bass. List of records which I have listened to music from, tonight, on my new headphones:

Digital Disco
Dexy's Midnight Runners, Don't Stand Me Down
De La Soul, Art Official Intelligence: Mosaic Thump
The Notorious BIG, Ready to Die
Jay-Z, The Blueprint 2
Missy Elliott, Da Real World
John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman
Quartetto Italiano, Beethoven, String Quartet Op. 132 in A minor, mvt. 3
Hilliard Ensemble with Christoph Poppen, J.S. Bach, Morimur
Miles Davis, Kind of Blue
John Zorn and Masada Chamber Ensembles, Bar Kokhba
Pauline Oliveros, Stuart Dempster, Panaiotis, Deep Listening
John Zorn, Masada Tet
John Fahey, Red Cross
Stereolab, Dots and Loops
Stevie Wonder, Songs in the Key of Life
Luomo, Vocalcity
The Dismemberment Plan, Emergency & I
The Magnetic Fields, 69 Love Songs Vol. 1
Herbert, Bodily Functions

It's wonderful and slightly suspicious (as I do not trust audiophiles) how much more pleasure I've gotten from listening to music tonight than in many of the past months. Particularly on the more "realistically" produced records (uh oh).

9 May '03 05:31:03 AM

I got new headphones tonight, Sennheiser PXC 250's. They don't have big giant sneering teenager fuck you bass (which I slightly regret), but they do have tiny little microphones embedded in the earpieces for the super high tech audiophile fuck you space age noise cancellation that takes the ambient noise from the microphones and phase-cancels it! Happily making the bass boom boom boom more too. Principle of wave superposition, actually making a difference in my life, how about that. I look forward to riding the bus tomorrow so that I can cancel noise with the switch on the goofy looking stick annoyingly stuck in the middle of my headphone cord. I also look forward to my next airplane trip. I can never hear a fucking thing on those.

8 May '03 06:28:03 AM

Notes. Only notes.

Was looking through In the American Tree, the "language poetry" anthology edited by Ron Silliman, tonight; came across a paragraph that casts the "reader has to work too" deal common to lots of avant-garde movements or traditions in a light new to me. The paragraph (from p. xviii):

"As is manifestly clear in the pages that follow, neither speech nor reference were ever, in any real sense, "the enemy." But, because the implicit "naturalness" of each, the simple, seemingly obvious concept that words should derive from speech and refer to things, was inscribed within all of the assumptions behind normative writing, the challenge posed by This was to open a broad territory of possibility where very different kinds of poets might explore and execute a wide range of projects. If nothing in the poem could be taken for granted, then anything might be possible. In turn, the poet must be responsible for everything. A parallel demand is made of each reader."

The last three sentences interest me the most. Saying that the poet must be responsible for everything makes the large responsibility often demanded of the reader seem more acceptable to me, somehow. For some reason I think the demand on the reader is often raised without keeping in mind the parallel responsibility, because the picture, instead, is more like "anything might be possible," without the focus on the greater responsibility required when anything is being attempted.

But if the picture I typically encounter associated with avant-garde artwork is something like "anything might be possible," then the reason I'm supposed to bother putting forth the effort is something like "man don't you like exploring new possibilities and stuff, you know?" Or something about challenging assumptions. But the talk about "responsibility" indicates that something different is going on when the picture involves shared responsibility of poets and readers: it's not just the responsibility to work harder, read more carefully, be more intelligent than readers of poetry of the past. Making the parallel demand a responsibility for everything moves things beyond just being more careful, more intelligent. I think it demands that the reader be responsible for doing the work of nontraditional reading and understanding, which means in part reading that is all tied up with that dirty social stuff "outside" the poem, and possibly reading that requires that the reader end up seeing something a different way before they get it. Moral responsibility, political responsibility. Why this makes more sense: it seems a bunch of obviously politically aware poets could not in good conscience demand "responsibility for everything" of their readers, when that responsibility is understood merely as a requirement to be avant-garde (formally speaking) as fuck - nothing outside the poems really, syntax itself, dumb little games. Only jerks seriously recommend that to others as a high ideal to strive for, and in that case few people take them seriously because they just seem like self-centered, snotty jerks. ("Our art is better because it's way more tricky and obscure and shit!" -- "Fuck off jerkface!") So, like, I don't know all that much about language poetry or its reception yet, but what I do know about its reception seems slightly sad: lots of people taking the language poets to be those jerks, and the language poets really really believing that readers working hard to understand the experimental poetry avant-garde poets are working to write can effect some kind of positive social change. And so the "lots of people" missing the point.

(Cf. posts here from Mark about Eddie Prevost and AMM, and a post from Eddie Prevost. No surprise that Silliman draws his own connection to say Anthony Braxton and others, as a parallel source of experimentation for reasons broader than simply experimentation for its own sake, or for "musical" or "aesthetic" reasons.)

8 May '03 05:49:11 AM

I am going to tell you about the Oreos. Two things about them. One is that I never noticed before tonight that is that I always experience this particular sense of disappointment when I bite into one of the halves. The way I eat them, you see, is often to take the Oreo; and use my top teeth as a fulcrum and pry with my bottom teeth; and break off part of the top of the Oreo; and do this about three times or so if I am lucky and the parts come off cleanly; lifting the last part off gently by gripping it at opposite edges with my top and bottom teeth, so that when it comes off it doesn't disturb the filling; and then there is the other part where I either eat the filling or just eat the whole remainder of the cookie; and when I eat the filling first somehow and then bite into the bottom piece of cookie, I always, always always always bite down as if biting down will just break the cookie right along the line of my teeth, and then feel a little (oh) inside, maybe frustration even if it breaks too much or crumbles, when putting the pressure on the cookie causes it to break along some other direction, or more than one. Why in more than twenty years have I kept expecting anything else?

The other thing: tonight was the first time I can ever remember where I actually tried to eat the filling as if it were some kind of separate thing to be savored by itself rather than just a thing to scrape off the cookie with my teeth and be disposed of quickly.

The banality of all this impresses and pleases me.

A note on method: just like when I write a lot about how some music sounds, to figure out what I wrote above I had to keep eating more Oreos. I would come to a point and think, I would like to say... that thing about the way I scrape the filling off and eat it. What is the thing? I do it all the time but can't remember it fully enough to make it into words. I just did it! I will go back and eat another cookie and then write down what I think right then.

With music, same thing.