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 Feb '03 05:35:34 AM

Whether it's because she actually possesses some singerly control over her voice, or it's just further idiosyncracy, the fine, subtle variations in Astrud Gilberto's singing make it apparently impossible for me to sing along when coupled with her constantly flat tone - I can't consistently sing it off-key, even if my own singing isn't pitch-perfect (far from it ha). Yet: this is exactly her charm, because when I don't try to sing along, the texture of her voice and the way it moves around make her pitch sound more alluring, fascinating, slightly hypnotic. When I do try to sing along, my failure to keep up with the one aspect of the singing helps bring the other into prominence by itself, which can only be harmful to it.

9 Feb '03 01:43:19 AM

On "The Nearness of You", while Ella sings, Louis is obviously playing his horn from farther away in the studio. I thought I might be able to say that I appreciated that little detail, but I can't really tell if the contrast was intentional, since Louis plays his horn from a distance on other tracks - it's just a device for reducing his volume, or maybe just getting a sound generally more appropriate for playing under a singer. Oh well.

6 Feb '03 05:23:32 AM

"you'd be surprised / at my degree of uncertainty"

5 Feb '03 09:47:47 AM

I know someone with very definitely mapped-out tastes. We often disagree about music. Tonight we sat around for a while playing records at each other ("at" is the appropriate word) and panning them. Or, to be more accurate, I heard his records and thought they sounded OK but wasn't that interested in them, and he heard my records and thought they were crap, for the most part. He played me a lot of things somewhere between post-rock (the U.S. version, the kind with lots of guitars, not marimbas or something) and post-hardcore. I played him: Ice Cube, Basement Jaxx, Herbert, the Avalanches, and Stevie Wonder. (He approved most of the Stevie, but still didn't like it that much.)

Now, what happened was more complex than I've described it above. I just wanted to put it down to motivate this question. At one point in my life (very recently), I would have liked his music more readily, but more importantly, I could have more easily picked a number of CDs of my own that we might have agreed upon. Although I was deliberately picking music with beats, this no longer seems to me to be something I might have to go out of my way to do, as it may have been at, say, the time that I liked music more like his. I was just picking records that I think are wonderful, good, awesome, spectacular, great, engaging, fascinating, essential, perfect, well, you know - I like them a lot. So what this led me to wonder is: if you've been reading this page for a long time, you may have noticed this shift. I have talked about it more than once, at any rate. But in the past year I haven't written so much about new things I like, or even new things I'm trying or listening to at all. Does this give you the impression that, when I talk about music now, I seem to have unexpectedly started talking only about music you don't like? Or of music that I never seemed to like before? Or anything else you can think of? I expect that anyone nominally aware enough to catch the persistent trend toward catholicism in my tastes will think little of any of this. But, I don't know; today I was struck by how far I seem to have traveled, since I am now apparently significantly alienated from someone whose tastes once might have coincided a fair amount with mine. Or, not by the distance, so much, but by how incommensurable things became (even "Superstition" got only grudging acceptance!).

If you have anything to say about this, you know what to do.

4 Feb '03 05:45:35 AM

My favorite song of 2002, No Doubt's "Underneath It All", failed a little test today, if failed is the right word. (I don't know that I really would have expected it to pass, if I had thought about it in advance, so a test doesn't really seem fair.) This afternoon I turned in an application for a fellowship at the very last minute, late even. I was not at all happy with my application, to put it mildly. I thought I might "freak out", to use the parlance of our times. On the way back across the bridge from the fellowship office I put on Rock Steady and listened some and tried not to fall down in the slush and ice, and skipped whatever it's called between "Hey Baby" and "Underneath It All". But "Undearneath It All" didn't really make me feel better, despite how wonderful it might make me feel in better circumstances. I suppose buoyant tranquility only goes so far.

It came on again over the house system in a restaurant I ate dinner at later on, and that did make me happy. But I mostly felt better by then anyway.

3 Feb '03 07:57:18 AM

At nighttime, at least. In the daytime I seem to be just fine.

As far as going to sleep goes, that is.

3 Feb '03 07:56:29 AM

This CD changer not working thing impairs my ability to go to sleep.

3 Feb '03 07:52:47 AM

Recently I have seen this page referred to as a "philosophy blog" and as a "poetics blog". I suppose this means I haven't been writing enough about music.

3 Feb '03 07:38:42 AM

'If almost every word of the first eight chapters of "the book of Doublends Jined" (two ends joined and Dublin's giant) carries three or four meanings, almost every word of this chapter carries "three score and ten toptypsical" meanings or more. "Than this," we say, scratching our heads, "nothing is denser."'

That's William Tindall writing in his Reader's Guide to Finnegans Wake (on p. 153). It reminded me of something else I had meant to say. It is not simply a matter of quantity (so that I am not by this comparing it to other pieces of music in particular), but Cage's "Roaratorio" is a dense piece of music. (I realize "music" may be a term in dispute here. My roommate's girlfriend referred to it as "eine kleine notmusic" last night. I also realize that he will tell her I said so and that she will send me mail to hassle me.) Despite this it doesn't feel to me to approach the density of a sufficiently dense book. And the Wake is far more than sufficient - I mean many less dense books. Anthony Cronin's biography, Samuel Beckett: The Last Modernist, for instance, is straightforwardly written, even, but is big and thick with details and thus "dense" by my metric. Now, this might be a feeling I get just from reading long books, in which case something entirely different might be going on, but I feel as if I can get inside them, and thus that over time I can start to penetrate them, see into them, be surprised by small things that I discover, by progress that I make - I feel as if I am working. I do not feel this with the "Roaratorio", nor, really, with any piece of music. Even when I find music difficult to understand, it passes me by, and repetition and the happenstance discovery become my usual ways of coming to better understand it.

I might have put what I wrote below differently: my slight disappointment with the "Roaratorio" came from hearing it to be dense as a piece of music, but wanting it to be dense like a piece of writing, and thinking that the only way to achieve that was to actually include a piece of writing that would make it that dense.