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.
It is not uncommon in philosophy to suggest (or worse) that if a theory developed to explain or justify something is not able to preserve all of our pre-theoretical intuitions, this is just fine because some of those intuitions are wrong. I can't condone this for most of the things I'm interested in (questions about value, taste, meaning, pleasure, etc.) because in most cases the only reasons available to support the idea that these intuitions could be wrong are a) the attractiveness and desirability of an elegant theory uncluttered by its attempts to adequately take all intuitions into account, and b) intuitions we have been mislead into having by past theories which discounted the "wrong" intuitions.
I realize there is a circle here.
A theory I have about Supa Dupa Fly but which I haven't decided about yet is that it about equally supports relaxed sleepy-head headnodding and jittery excitable twitching. I consider that pretty remarkable.
Oh, and I mean, in the same song, usually.
So I made Felicity a tape, and I made myself a copy of it, which I listened to in my office yesterday. In the past I've suspected that the stereo at home that I make tapes with was a little funny, but I'm much more convinced now. It doesn't happen regularly, but the tape deck in it must be running at the wrong speed, because when the tapes are played on other machines, they run fast. This one ran fast enough for things to sound a little weird, the entire time. It was a good kind of weird, though. I meant the tape to have a lot of punch to it, and a lot of the songs are fast or just keep up a good tempo. Since I know all of them, hearing them just slightly sped up (so that the pitches are off, but everything is more or less in the right places so it sounds more or less familiar) is like hearing them hopped up on goofballs after a night without sleep, or something: every single beat stays more exciting throughout, because my mental script for the songs would constantly have me following along more slowly than the actual sounds coming out of my speakers. I imagine that the effect would be lost if you didn't know the songs; my second time through it sounded less unusual, so I'm sure if I listened enough I'd get used to these tempos and then when I heard the songs properly elsewhere, or played the tape at home, everything would sound leaden and plodding. I think Felicity knows some of these songs, but not others. I wonder what the effect would be like if just a few scattered tracks sound fast.
Suddenly this Bedhead song reminds me of Cracker. I find this distasteful.
It may be interesting to note that I haven't listened to the last Spiritualized album since last February, as far as I can tell. Well, I find it interesting.
The house thump: it's been a while since I thought about it. Today I went into the bathroom while Bodily Functions was still playing, loudly, in my room. The wall reduced the music to something more like the thump-thump-thump that's associated with the stereotypical picture of house music. So I wondered: huh, I never notice that now. I did a great deal, at one point. "Ignore" wasn't the right word there, because it's not ignoring. Later today I focused in on the beat on both some Herbert tracks and some tracks from Kompakt Total 4. My reaction was sort of... hard to describe. Something like "well of course the thump is right there". I think maybe Tim said something to me once about internalizing the beat, and that gets at what I'm thinking about. It's not just ignoring, because you need to be able to hear every other part in light of the beat.
Jay-Z, "Bitches & Sisters": reprehensible but irresistible. "Take off your shirt, don't hit me with that church shit." Most of the good part comes from the beat, the scratching, and the horn sample, which reminds me of (but which is not) a swing chart I played once. Part of it is from the lyrics, though. And as if they weren't obviously (ethically) flawed enough, Jay kindly gives away his hand - bitches and sisters seem to be different in degree, not kind: "Sisters give up the ass / bitches give up the ass / sisters do it slow / bitches do it fast".
Missy Elliott, "Gossip Folks (featuring Ludacris)": it's almost as if kids made a rap record. Kids who say 'motherfucker'.
Herbert, "The Audience": what is this about? I don't know. The chorus goes "so move with me / with me removed", and the first line I can draw plenty from, but the second one confuses me a little. But the verses are full of opposites pushing and pulling her and you back and forth (conceptually) from each other, so it must have something to do with that. I can't follow it when listening. On paper, there's something unsettling afoot that I might prefer not to think about right now. Herbert calls these songs "the cure for, and the cause of, [his] own 14 forms of melancholy", and that inseparability is here. The lyrics push them together, so close that they're one, they're complementary. But they drop the seeds of schism into everything: "there are words misunderstood", "the division has begun". And Dani Siciliano sounds cool, at times, but then fierce, then almost accepting, happy in some way, when the piano and the second chorus enter: "you and us together / together in this room / you will not remember / this passing moment soon". I don't need to understand the rest of the song for that chorus to work something on me. It scares me, forgetting. This record is oftentimes about small moments, but I can't tell here how small this moment, together in this room, is. Would it scare me less if it were an everyday moment, one I wouldn't remember later anyway? Is the cause of melancholy here the unavoidable loss of those prosaic bits and pieces of being with someone that really make up the us, no matter how much we're tempted to look back for the big moments? Or is it something else? The fourth verse and second chorus are repeated twice: "I am nervous you are calm / I see lines upon your palm / I am close we are near / though the ending is not here / we are separate we are one / the division has begun / you are my future I am your past / even music will not last / so move with me / with me removed / you and us together / together in this room / you will not remember / this passing moment soon". No, something bigger is at stake: she already expects it not to last, even if she doesn't know how or when it won't.
Dave Holland Big Band, "What Goes Around": when I first brought this home, I sat in the living room laughing spontaneously, out of joy. "Laughing spontaneously" sounds weird, I suppose, because it's not as if normal laughing is not spontaneous. But the sheer pleasure of sound, of rhythm, of hearing people playing together, does not usually incite me to laughter. When I played in the band in high school, we always got some kind of extra pleasure from being able to play big and loud and fast. An oh-look-at-what-we-did pleasure. Dave Holland too, I guess. He's way better, though.
Green Day, "Going to Pasalacqua": "Here we go again, infatuation touches me just when I thought that it would end...". Where was this when I was 13? Well, er, it was there, I just didn't know. Not that it's not worth something at 24.
LL Cool J, "Amazin' (introducing Kandice Love)": oh, it's the usual soft-hearted gangsta plenitude, with skin-tingly synths, but the big moment comes with about :45 left, during the last chorus, where they introduce an extra kick into Kandice's super-multitracked part: "It's so / amazing / (to me) / (to me) / (to me)", with each new () sounding like another group of Kandices, just barely coming in on the heels of the last.
Freiland, "Frei": the first time I heard this I was not really awake, which may have improved it somewhat - it sounds like ten things at once, most of which I can't even place, but it sounds like them all the way through, excitingly out of reach, never fully coming into being, dangled in front of me by the jerky-steady beat and the slow slow harmonic change. Being half-asleep made these possibilities seem more within reach, somehow. The best of them: I swear I can hear a Cyndi Lauper song in there, somewhere. The whole goddamn thing makes me shiver.
Stevie Wonder, "Love's in Need of Love Today": the fast songs have to be short because the feelings are fleeting, but feelings like this one need to be stretched out like taffy (seven minutes of it) so that you can appreciate them, live in them, derive strength from them, see their place in life. Make them concrete.
Checking your opinions about a record can involve the process of introspection described there - calling up memories of listening to it, imagining how you might like it, and so on. I can say that I do things like these; I'm not sure how common they are. But it does seem easy to short-circuit that process, by just putting the record on, seeing what happens. Experimenting.
Is there a short-circuit for people? Maybe. But there's more at stake. Experimenting on a human subject. Which is frowned upon, but it's not as if we can avoid it. So we should give it our best, give them our best; don't just wheel them out and see if they do anything for us, but do our part.
On the other hand, it seems somewhat crass to not do our part when short-circuiting the process with a record. So perhaps the two are not so far apart.