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.
So I made another quick mix, on CD again.
1. Metronomic Underground - Stereolab
2. S. Carter - Jay-Z (should say "unfortunately featuring Amil")
3. I Want U - Basement Jaxx
4. Drunk Butterfly - Sonic Youth
5. Soul Power (Black Jungle) - Wu-Tang Clan (featuring Flavor Flav)
6. Fifteen - Beta Band
7. 8pt Agenda - Herbaliser feat. Latryx
8. The End of You - Sleater-Kinney
9. Magnificent Seventies - American Analog Set
10. Come and Get Me - Jay-Z
11. I'll Come Running - Brian Eno
12. All the World is Green - Tom Waits
13. 2 Rights Make 1 Wrong - Mogwai
14. Back and Forth - The Dismemberment Plan
I meant to use "Snoopy Track" and not "S. Carter", which I don't really like, so that kind of disappoints me. Also, I didn't think as carefully about the flow from track to track here - I threw on a bunch of tracks I thought I would like to have, and then organized them to minimize the damage I'd done. Aside from the Jay-Z thing it flows OK, but I could do better.
I deliberately put the Basement Jaxx next to the Sonic Youth because I thought they had a similar sort of drive to them. Imagine my surprise when, last night while looking for a CD to put on, I heard a song in my head that turned out to be some wonderful combination of the two. Fuck bootlegs, I can do that shit in my head!
Listening to Murray Street the other day, I realized that one reason I would never call it a "return to form" is that I don't think Sonic Youth ever stopped being able to write catchy (er catchier? relatively?) songs. Based on what? The feeling that whenever they're doing something that's not a "catchy song", it's exactly because they don't want to.
Interestingly, I think I have this idea about Stereolab, too, perhaps, only it works differently with them because the catchy/fucked up divide doesn't carve up their catalog in the same way.
I love U-God's verse on Soul Power (Black Jungle):
Line Cadillacs to blocks, Richard Pryor, Redd Foxx
Jukebox records, flatfooted cops
Get automatic systematic jumpin in your socks
Mama's apple pie in the park hopscotch
Reunited on the radio, Wu-Tang superb
In the sprinklers girls double-dutchin on the curb
Sinatra, the pop the Jackson 5 recordings
Uptown Saturday, "Cotton Came to Harlem"
Ringmaster circus was, Bailey and Barnum
Crack a Coca-Cola, summer heat was my boredom
Dr. J before Jordan, Al Green on the organ
When Rerun did the dance, the whole world saw him
The blackout fears, Foxxy Brown, Pam Grier
Ford motor gear, your life and times queer
"Smokey the Bear", Burt Reynolds gray hair
Throw 'em some gems, throw up your fists and say yeah, it's
I don't feel up to doing scansion though.
My roommate got a swank new computer so I put together a quick mix CD today. It has an even higher concentration of songs I've recently put on mixes than usual because I was thinking about a mix I'm going to make soon, full of "songs that make me happy," and it's not coincidental that I've used lots of those songs in the past year. It was also just kind of thrown together to see how I would like listening to it, though.
1. Protection - Massive Attack
2. Can't Take It (Herbert's Some Dumb Dub) - Recloose
3. Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing - Stevie Wonder
4. Presence - Mouse on Mars
5. The IllKing - Mouse on Mars
6. Wish Fulfillment - Sonic Youth
7. Square Dance - Eminem
8. Caught Out There - Kelis
9. Maxine - Kardinal Offishall
10. Tomorrow - Superpitcher
11. Blues Subtitled No Sense of Wonder - Gastr del Sol
12. Black Horse - Gastr del Sol
I enjoyed listening to this a lot today - I'm going to write something about it soon.
Thanks to Tom (who still kept the old page around) this blog's parentage is now correct.
Ten exercises for music writers.
1. Sonic Youth songs often collapse into noise (rather than having noise along with other "normal" things). Pick five and see if you can describe how the noise sections are different. (And how are they similar?) Attempt to do more than just describe what happens, or what the parts are (if you did that for a "normal" song, though it could be valuable, it might be taken to be missing something important - talk about the affects). If you don't like Sonic Youth, try to pick some music by one artist that has similar passages (a free jazz musician, for example).
2. With the complete lyrics to a song, come up with a reading of them, then compare that to what you actually get from the lyrics when you normally listen (depending on what you normally do, this may be very straightforward). A "complete" reading is probably not unless there is reference to the music.
3. Find an album that you feel a number of different emotions when listening to. Make a list of those emotions. When you listen, pay special attention to when they come and go; whether any particular part of the music seems to intensify or attenuate them. Write carefully about what you notice.
4. Draw a little diagram for yourself depicting what happens during an entire song (or album, or group of songs, or symphony, or whatever). Be as detailed as possible (but you might want to stop short of notating every part on a complete score). Do this once before listening, and then do it while listening as much as you like.
5. Write something about a piece of music you don't like. Listen to it over and over again (over a period of time of your choosing) and then write about it once you think you like it better. What changed?
6. Pick three somewhat characteristic (for one artist they have in common) rap songs and try to describe their flow. Be systematic, and make reference to, among other things, regular deformations of typical English syntax (and black English syntax), reliance on simile and metaphor, interplay between vocal and production, vocal inflection, and so on. Then do the same for a rapper who you think has a distinctively different flow, so that you can compare the two to see some of what makes them different.
7. Try to memorize an entire song, so that you can play it in your head (this means more than just the vocal line). Play it in your head whenever you like for a week or so. What happens?
8. Pick a piece of music you find it extremely difficult to write about, more difficult than most other pieces of music. Don't write about it, but instead, write about why you think it's difficult to write about. Perhaps comparing to why it's easy to write about some records will help.
9. Find six songs that do the same thing, and then write about how they do not do the same thing. (Alternatively, find six songs that do not do the same thing, then write about how they do.)
10. Make a list of all of the things you do when you listen to music (or at least, as many of them as you can remember). Pick a record - one you listen to frequently, or infrequently, it doesn't matter - and write about how what you think of it is related to the things you do while you listen to it. Then do the same for two of the things you don't do while listening to it.
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.)
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.)
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.