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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6 May '02 10:36:30 PM

(Yes I am still here. I've been busy and have had trouble finishing my new piece of writing. Try back in a couple of weeks after school's out.)

9 Apr '02 05:45:20 AM

For the time being, I am going to stop writing here.

Writing to take full advantage of some of the aspects of the weblog format - specifically, the logic of having a number of short related or unrelated pieces of writing in possibly quick succession - really demands, I think, a certain kind of day-to-day life that for the most part I just have not been having since I moved to the Twin Cities. As a consequence my entries since then have tended toward being more encapsulated, and longer, on the one hand, or longer in coming, on the other. I think this conflicts slightly with the way I've been writing this weblog in the past, and the conflict makes me uncomfortable. It can also keep me from letting those entries be written down differently.

In order to work with this change I am going to set myself some different formal standards: whatever I write will be all by itself, and new writing will intentionally appear less often but regularly. I will put up the first such thing sometime soon, once I get the time to take care of some minor technical details. Watch here to find out what's up.

Taking a hint from something Michael once wrote, I'm not ruling out the idea of returning to this project. I would just do it when it seemed like I had something to write which could take better advantage of the format.

5 Apr '02 07:48:44 AM

Simon Reynolds poses a question in Generation Ecstasy, "how do you write the history of a culture that is fundamentally amnesiac?" He also notes early on how there is psychological research to the effect that people's timbral memories are not as powerful as their melodic memories. Surely observations like this are relevant to lots of other music. I've been listening to Mogwai's EP+2 constantly the past few days, and marveling at how hard it is for me to remember the melodies of most any Mogwai songs. I think that this makes the powerful effects the music can have on me more mysterious. At the moment I can sort of come up with the horn melody to "Burn Girl Prom Queen", but it's hard: it's very slow, and made up of a four-note figure whose notes change a little bit from phrase to phrase, and it's played in chord with a big group of horns so it's hard to focus on one note. Some other things I fare better with, like the beginning to "Helps Both Ways" (the beginning being pretty good, because my memory for melodies isn't great anyway so it tends to trail off for most songs regardless of how melodic they are) or "A Cheery Wave From Stranded Youngsters", which is admittedly a good deal more hummable than many others. Most of the parts I have the hardest time remembering are built out of the slightest melodies, or those which are the most stretched out; slower, relying more on the buildup of sound or the combination of different guitar tones or noises (that noise at the beginning of "Small Children in the Background": surely there is some affinity between that and the Roland 303 acid squelch, so far as Reynolds remarks that the latter is somehow instantly memorable, endlessly fascinating, impossible to recall).

By sort of mentally squinting now I'm remembering more and more things, but they feel hard to hold on to: the opening guitar part to "Dial: Revenge", "2 Rights Make 1 Wrong" (that drum part).

3 Apr '02 07:51:38 AM

Five songs for Ethan:

  1. Mekons, "Myth"
  2. Mogwai, "Burn Girl Prom Queen"
  3. Autechre, "Rae"
  4. Bill Evans, "Gloria's Step"
  5. American Analog Set, "Magnificent Seventies"

3 Apr '02 07:39:46 AM

A few years ago I was stunned by the last track on Mogwai's EP+2, "Small Children in the Background", so I tried to write a paper around a review of it for an aesthetics class. I don't really think it came off. I was in exactly the right frame of mind to have the bejeezus scared out of me or something by the outburst at about 2:30 in, especially the way the bass comes in a few measures later, with its wounded-sounding thud. So it was hard to capture that frame of mind (whatever it was - I remember I was in the middle of walking home, at night, in the cold, and I had passed through a building to get warm for a few minutes) or even really hear the song the same way again.

Tonight it's different still - not the same but new. There's something relaxed about the way the figures come crashing down at the loud part. It may seem as if that might raise the tension, but it dissipates it all almost immediately, maybe because of the initial burst. After that it just feels so peaceful, so relaxing. The best I can come up with is that the violence is welcome because it eliminates any reasons I might have for doing anything other than sitting back and listening to the drift of airplane-engine feedback that follows, drifting.

3 Apr '02 07:11:52 AM

I haven't been able to articulate it but I find something interesting about the way Sadie Benning uses music in her videos. Aside from some concessions to golden-age and eighties black music, and some silly wicky-wicky funk guitar (and those things are easily accomodated I think), her soundtracks - which show the knowing touch of an inveterate music fan - seem entirely typical of young people who became (rock) music fans at the time she was coming of age. Moreover, she uses it largely in conventional ways, I think. There are times where she seems to explicitly subvert the expected effects gotten from the music, but I think she mostly just gets something like the usual effect that a semi-informed listener (maybe not even that much) would get from hearing the song. This is in contrast to a whole bunch of the other things going on in the videos, all kinds of avant-garde techniques and strategies for destabilizing notions of self, gender, sexuality, narrative, and so on and so forth. She doesn't go nearly as far with the soundtracks.

2 Apr '02 09:12:30 AM

Hmmm, I never posted here.

2 Apr '02 08:41:51 AM

Tonight I listened to the Flaming Lips' Soft Bulletin for the first time in months and actually enjoyed it some (I hadn't much really before). But I had the strangest experience. I'm not normally synaesthetic - maybe there have been a few times where I felt like that. I think I was listening to "Suddenly Everything Has Changed", but I don't know the album that well, so maybe it was something else. Every sound I heard - and there were loads of them - seemed to me to have a color, but I couldn't tell which ones. The sensation died away after about ten seconds or so. I know it had something to do with the way everything sounds, sort of super-intensified. I've heard "day-glo" applied to the album before and if not the colors then it certainly fits the intensities of the sounds.

This pleases me some because earlier I had been listening and wondering how useful a description 'psychedelic' was for any music that didn't actually have some kind of unusual mental effect. So what if a song can replicate or at least approximate what it's like for someone on psychedelic drugs to do x? If it doesn't do it to you then isn't it kind of like having all the meaning taken out? The Flaming Lips album wasn't doing anything to me, which made me doubt the worth of its being a supposedly fabulous psychedelic pop album. Now I'm reconsidering.

Listening to what sounds like it must be a really great album to love can be frustrating for me, because I know that if I had enough of the right kind of time with the album, enough time for all the key affective experiences to just happen, that all the things that seem interesting about the album would take on an entirely different character. The frustrating part is that it's not something that I can usually push. Those affective appearances have to happen in the normal course of listening, the normal course of life, and that means that like any other thing that needs to just happen, they might not. In which case there's not much to do but wait. And if I have to wait long enough it may start to seem like music that other people think is really great might just pass me by.

I've thought this when listening to some older albums recently too - some Tortoise and Autechre which didn't do as much for me as they once did. It's probably also key in many cases that I keep having the right kinds of affective experiences so that when I go back later I still 'know' how to have them, if that makes any sense at all.

2 Apr '02 08:10:14 AM

In some sense Absolutely Cuckoo is the perfect way to start 69 Love Songs.

I had a theory to explain it but it was getting hard to keep the corners of the sheet to stay on the matress when I was stretching it across to the opposite sides. If you follow me. So I'll just keep it succinct and get on to the next song. I'll try again the next time around.

Things we have here that are absolutely cuckoo: our singer (so he sez), our addressee (surely, once she falls for our singer and he snaps), our music (jaunty ukelele songs are by definition a bit off), our production (ukelele backing naturalish soundspace singer-narrator connotes psychological realism at some level, but then you've got the multitracked Stephins - little voices all over the place!), our album (indie-pop gospel technopop gay eighties rock musical vaudeville pastiche country lovesong tiny epic personal producer-driven traditionalist deconstructive meaningful trifles I have to stop now)... Q.E.D.

Yes, I know he said the running order was randomly chosen.