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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12 Sep '01 05:45:02 AM

Musically, I'm stuck in a rut. It's a comfortable rut. When the headphones are on I don't want out. When I'm picking music from my traveling case I can't decide: I try to get myself to pick something less familiar, or something that I haven't heard in a while, that I put in the case in order to try breaking out of my rut. But then I'm indecisive and eventually cave in and just pick something I've been listening to non-stop lately anyway, like the Beta Band, or The Hot Rock or Crescent. The same indecisiveness plagues my attempts to start fresh and pick 24 new discs to carry around on my back all day: when I try to reload my traveling case I lose the will to hunt for CDs, and what's worse I can't bring myself to evict any of the ones already in the case, even the ones that I am consistently avoiding listening to.

I've had some new CDs recently, and even some ones I was very interested in, ones that I want to hear a lot more of like Spring Heel Jack or Einsturzende Neubauten or Fela Kuti. But even though they sound good when I play them, they make me tired. I don't want to do that right now. I don't want to try. I am trying at lots of other things. I am waking up early, at almost the same time every day. I am digging in for my new classes. I am meeting an apparently neverending stream of people. I am trying not to let "mundane" life details overwhelm me while I try to be a good Ph.D. student. So it's not just the work of writing about what I listen to that my self is rejecting (like a body rejects a new spleen, or a drug treatment: it's involuntary, impersonal); it's the work, internally, of responding to what I listen to - negotiating it, letting myself be taken in by it, tested by it. Instead I'm falling back mostly on records that I love and know I will feel comforted by. I'm finding plenty of tiny details about them to appreciate, but it feels like a more personal kind of appreciation. There are parts on the new Beta Band record (which if you hadn't figured it out, is far and away my most favorite record of the year so far, and I don't see how it could fail to hold that place for the remainder of the year and beyond... and it's kind of nice, having something stand out so definitely) that, when I notice them (and it's often, even though I've heard them before, the kind of 'notice' like 'oh! where did that come from?'), seem like they're private to my listening experience. Of course the sounds are there on the record, for anyone to hear, but when I catch them like that, especially for this record, it seems like I'm the only one who could hear them. The headphones matter a lot I think.

10 Sep '01 05:52:18 AM

Suggestion from prof in class on Friday re Weitz article, from some dude's response which I still have to look up: Weitz makes 'art' out to be an open concept based only on things perceivable in the works of 'art' themselves, so that he may be wrong if what makes a piece of art 'art' is external to the work. Will be more on this later, but for now, a question: if I can't tell whether or not it's a work of 'art' from just listening to it, what good does knowing do for me?

10 Sep '01 05:47:50 AM

At the moment I don't even like any of the songs on it better than my favorites on Things We Lost in the Fire, but it seems as if on their EP with Spring Heel Jack, Low tried something that pointed at another direction for them - one similar enough to what they seem to be trying on the new album that perhaps it could've served that purpose instead, and different enough that it doesn't just come off as a slackening toward mainstream prettiness. (Certainly, the "cinematic" soundscapeyness of the SHJ songs isn't all that unprecedented - and they're probably "pretty" in their own stereotypical way - but at least the discontinuity with their past makes me think they need not have completed what we now have, a history of the band that sees them "adding elements to their sound," "maturing," "infusing their icy Duluth slowcore with more human warmth," u.s.w. with more critical blahblah.)

7 Sep '01 04:41:15 PM

A sumary of the argument in Morris Weitz's article, "The Role of Theory on Esthetics". Anyone who has ever had to defend the idea that both Bach and the Beatles, or the Beatles and Public Enemy, or Cage and Radiohead (etc. etc. etc.) are music will appreciate the article, I think.

5 Sep '01 10:49:21 PM

Clearly my new standard of time measurement will be the bus ride. Hot Shots II doesn't finish before I can get to my office. The Hot Rock does.

5 Sep '01 10:47:23 PM

The first time I heard Drawings of Patient O.T., or whatever it's called in German, I wasn't very impressed by its supposed farther-outness, noisyness, deconsructiveness, what have you. The second time through it worked a bit better, but it still seems to me that the music on it isn't all that different from the music on Silence is Sexy. Yes, on the latter, there are something more like songs, and even the noises made by jet engines and stuff are a lot less grating and metallic (you might say that they've retained less of their industrial, in the literal sense, aura). But in sort of a parallel way, you can hear things that could easy be nudged into being pop songs on Drawings - especially once the get a beat going. I'm not so sure that by the time of its release, "formless" minimalistic noisefests were all that new a development. That kind of stuff could be said to prefigure, in certain ways, lots of electronic music (perhaps in some kind of geneological sense, but not an "influenced by" one), insofar as it shares those qualities.

I wonder what it would sound like if EN arranged something, in their earlier style, more like the new Spring Heel Jack album.

5 Sep '01 05:43:34 AM

The description for the philosophy of music course I'm taking:

This will be course on topics in musical aesthetics. Is there a sensible way to speak of meaning in music, apart from purely subjective reactions? Is there anything analogous to semantic content of natural languages? How can we understand expression in music? Need expression be only of feelings? What grounding is there to the commonly invoked distinction between "program music" and "absolute music," and how signficant is this distinction? How is expression correlated with general stylistic categories, e.g. classicism, romanticism, impressionism, etc., as well as more specific stylistic discriminations? Selected readings of Tolstoy, Hanslick, Goodman, Meyer, Rosen, Newcomb, and others, regular listening assignments. This course is intended for upper division undergraduates and graduate students. Background in music and musical analysis is helpful but not presupposed. Similarly concerning background in philosophy. Background in any of the arts is welcome.

Yup, that's right, all classical music. I will of course be thinking of pop music the entire way through.

5 Sep '01 05:31:36 AM

The shuddering low-string metal noises in Sleater-Kinney's "Start Together" always sound like the most immense thing in the world to me.

The intimacy afforded by the new Beta Band record on headphones is even more noticeable when there are more people around. Every little sound seems to reinforce that intimacy (isolation, perhaps?) because of the level of familiarity required to catch it all.

Classes started today. Over lunch I read my students' logic textbook and stared out my seventh floor office window at downtown Minneapolis in the distance - Fela Kuti on the headphones. He's not as much like James Brown as I was led to believe. At least not the James Brown I was thinking of. But he does have horns. They're miked in that funny 70s style that the ones on my Al Green best of are, too. (Also accidentally found horns recently by putting on James Brown, Live at the Apollo. Lemme hear ya say owwww.)

4 Sep '01 05:01:47 AM

"my shit's more deep than any tape from Enigma"