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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5 Aug '02 11:30:44 PM

I don't usually like to link to this sort of thing but I think this one is potentially very informative. Look at this blog's genealogy (and add an entry for your own page).

The entry for NYLPM as a parent isn't 100% accurate; it should actually be Freaky Trigger's "Singles Bar" page, which no longer exists, and which was not "technically" (though that may be an interesting matter to dispute) a blog yet. (That page turned into NYLPM, though.)

(I got the link to the site from geegaw, to whom I already knew I was related.)

5 Aug '02 05:12:27 PM

Selected Ambient Works, Vol. II, disc 2, track 1: for about a week now I have been playing this when I go to bed. So far it's been perfect, but how well suited music is to this purpose depends not only on what it sounds like, but on my historical connection with it - whether I've listened to it a lot and uncovered what it "really" sounds like with a closer knowledge of its subtleties (do not believe for a second that I think that is the right way to hear it), whether I have strong associations with it, whether I find its genre or artist more or less interesting, whether it is familiar or unfamiliar (this apart from the previously mentioned "closer knowledge", because in some cases it doesn't seem to have the same sort of effect).

That is, put differently: a record may do any number of the things I might want it to do in order to help me fall asleep (move regularly, move slowly, do both or either but change slowly, be quiet, be pretty, be unassuming, be level), and then, over time, lose that ability without losing the qualities that gave it the ability in the first place.

When I first bought Kind of Blue I thought it was sort of quiet and maybe boring (I'm not sure, but that sounds appropriate). I still couldn't play the more uptempo tracks at bedtime, though, because their dynamic range was too large, and the attacks at the extremes of that range too vigorous (this was mainly the saxophones' fault). Instead I just programmed my player for "Blue in Green" and "Flamenco Sketches". This didn't work forever, though. Once my knowledge of the album became more intimate, more total, every single little bit of it sounded more exciting to me - too exciting to play as sleeping music, even though I think it's still relaxed, effortless (a quality I strive for when trying to sleep), peaceful. (Peaceful and exciting at the same time!)

The Aphex Twin track seems pretty tightly insulated from this, because its components are so few (it seems there's little else to hear in the track that I haven't yet heard) and so gently presented and manipulated (so there seems to be little chance of my eventually hearing them as tense in some way). The other day I thought of setting a challenge to myself, to describe the appeal of the track without mentioning water. I'm not sure why I thought that would be a challenge - just because of the regular pinging sound throughout the track, maybe. It still doesn't seem to be difficult. But:

When I sleep in the right way - when it doesn't feel like a fight against my waking body, a fight waged against discomfort and irritability - it seems every single position I find myself in is totally, utterly, immediately comfortable. It's not a matter of wiggling around to find a spot that's tolerable. My body just moves in some way, so that it goes right to the good spots. (This does not explain what makes it want to move in the first place, but oh well.) The Aphex track sounds like that feels, despite its comparative repetitiveness (I'm not moving back and forth between the same two or three positions, I mean). I can see how I might work a reading of the pinging noises as creating tension, but for the most part, the whole thing just seems to happen, every movement of sound going right to the good spots, no discomfort or irritability.

But - the water. It occurs to me that what I'm describing could sound like what it's like to be in water, motionless, every part of your body supported. I don't think it quite holds up, but given my injunction I at least laughed, momentarily.

I said the track seemed insulated from the loss of function, but there's one thing: this morning I turned the volume up, and I heard how slowly the track fades off at the end, how it's followed by silence, and how the first ping upon repeating sounds much louder. That may be the ping that eventually undoes it for me.

(This whole thing is part of how these songs afford certain experiences - it's completely coherent for the affordances to change because they're relational properties involving me and my relation to the record, and I change.)

4 Aug '02 04:19:59 AM

Unless I feel that special push, writing always feels at least slightly onerous to me. Lately writing about how music makes me feel, about what I hear, how it works, has seemed a bit more onerous, though. I think Aristotle says something in the Metaphysics about how we do philosophy in order to allay a sense of confusion. Something like that seems to help drive me to write that sort of thing about music - articulating it helps me to be less confused. (Other things that drive me are excitement, joy, but those motivations do not always have the force to overwhelm apathy, laziness, distaste, depression, complacency, and so on. They don't take me all the way to being articulate.) The problem is, I am now more often confused or just lacking understanding about theories, ideas, that sort of thing. I understand better what I feel, what I hear, without having to write it down. (I might understand it better if I wrote it down, but it does seem like I understand it without writing it down.) This makes me unwilling to write as much of that sort of thing here, even though I think it's very important. Or not unwilling: unable.

1 Aug '02 09:05:32 PM

Yo Geeta. Check this out (from my students' logic textbook). I'm not sure but I think this is uh a real world uh application.

Symbolize the statements and provide a proof for the sequent.

A line from Bob Dylan's song, "Like a Rolling Stone", "When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose", suggests this argument:

A thing can be {l}ost only if it is {p}ossessed. Therefore, if you got nothing, you got nothing to lose.

(Lxy = x can lose y, Pxy = x possesses y)

1 Aug '02 03:44:57 AM

Fuck. DeSoto is closing, Burning Airlines is quitting, and the Dismemberment Plan are without a label (temporarily, I'm sure their next record will easily find a home, but fuck). Fuck.

(Thanks to strangefruit for the link.)

31 Jul '02 06:02:37 PM

Guess who updated.

31 Jul '02 05:59:06 PM

I wonder if the beat to Massive Attack's "Protection" changes. I know it probably doesn't but it's hard to shake the feeling. It's steady and at the right tempo to be slightly lulling, just slightly. Fast enough that if I begin to feel lulled, things drag and I'm not keeping up, I have to exert a little more effort (on what?). So, throughout, I can feel myself not just hearing the steady beat, but being steadied, which is always better done with attentiveness and small adjustments.

31 Jul '02 08:18:03 AM

The more I think about this the harder it is to write something down, so I'm just saying screw it and writing something short and inadequate so that I'll have it to reflect on later.

How much can we get out of thinking of music as a kind of affordance? A song affords us certain experiences, feelings, ideas, actions; an album, others; a symphony, others; and so on. Some music affords some experiences better than others: happy songs vs. sad songs, fast songs vs. slow ones, songs where they say 'hootie hoo' vs. ones where there are springy noises, and so on. These distinctions are made here just for contrast: I can think of songs that afford both happy and sad feelings, and not because of some complex ranging over the emotions bullshit - no, just because sometimes I can listen to them and feel happy, and sometimes I can feel sad. Whether or not a song provides these affordances depends on the listener, too: they are affordances for a listener, perhaps a particular one. This song might afford me with memories of my dead grandmother, that one might not afford me well with dancing because I don't like to dance. Also, each piece of music affords us with multiple things, or at least, most of us.

These affordances may be well reflected in the number and variety of contexts in which we listen to music, the purposes we have for it, the pleasures we get from it.

31 Jul '02 07:54:44 AM

"It had something to do with lemon trees, or orange trees, I forget, that is all I remember, and for me that is no mean feat, to remember it had something to do with lemon trees, or orange trees, I forget, for all of the other songs I have ever heard in my life, and I have heard plenty, it being apparently impossible, physically impossible short of being deaf, to get through this world, even my way, without hearing singing, I have retained nothing, not a word, not a note, or so few words, so few notes, that, that what, that nothing, this sentence has gone on long enough."

Samuel Beckett, who wrote the above (from "First Love"), is the newest addition to josh blog's pantheon of nonmusicians (there is not one of these for musicians because it is too big and too subject to my whims). (Other members include: Ludwig Wittgenstein, Thomas Pynchon, James Joyce.)

I am too amazed and his writing too difficult for me to sing the praises of simply, so for the time being, here is some critical yammering from the introduction to Samuel Beckett: The Complete Short Prose, 1929-1989.

"In these four stories what has been and continued to be one of Beckett's central preoccupations developed in its full complexity: the psychological, ontological, narratological bewilderment at the inconsistency, the duality of the human predicament, the experience of existence. On the one side is the post-Medieval tradition of humanism, which develops through the Renaissance into the rationality of the Enlightenment. Its ideology buttresses the capacity of humanity to know and adapt to the mechanism of the universe and understand humanity's place in the scheme. This is the world of the schoolroom and laboratory, the world of mathematics and proprtion, the world of Classical symmetry, of the pensum. For Beckett's narrators, the punctum, the lived, sentient experience of existence, the being in the world, punctures and deflates that humanistic tradition, the empiricism of the classroom, although the latter never loses its appeal and is potentially a source of comfort (although it apparently destroys Watt)."