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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10 Aug '03 08:53:20 AM

On the sexy new NYLPM, Tom notes some records that 'refuse to make it clear how you (the listener) should take them'. I wonder what happens when you look for other records like that, but without the issue of authenticity close by. Records that refuse to make it clear what you should do with them. Records that refuse to make it clear how much you should listen to them. Records that refuse to make it clear why you should listen to them.

Records that refuse to make it clear what they should mean, which is the pedantic, parallel form of 'records that refuse to make it clear what they mean', given the way we usually talk about meaning, are less interesting. (I wonder how many times I've had an English professor or teacher make a virtue of ambiguity or polysemy.)

Replacing 'should' with 'can' is perhaps also interesting, but probably not as interesting. Also kind of incoherent for the 'why' question above.

The 'how much' question is meant to be about repetition most generally, not about how much listening is required before you get the record. (I only listen to Coltrane's Meditations about once every two years, I think. I listened to 'Lithium' on repeat overnight - while awake - as a teenager. Lots of records I just stop listening to, eventually. I've heard people worried enough about wearing out their favorite records that they started limiting the time they spent listening to them. This always seemed strange to me, but then maybe if my attrition rate keeps growing I'll be more sympathetic while I still have some favorites left.)

10 Aug '03 07:13:24 AM

All of these things might be said in circumstances where interest and value are closely related. 'Interest' might last only a moment, or it may mark a number of seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, in which a piece of music is captivating, rewarding, confusing, enticing, fruitful, unfamiliar, comforting, fashionable, surprising, soothing, energizing, unpopular, serviceable, familiar, engaging, challenging, bracing, popular, effective, important, unfashionable, relaxing, functional. These qualities and others all mark value of some sort. Even the imagined or believed possibility of these qualities is often enough. And by 'value' I don't mean anything specific. A valuable thing: something to be kept, desired, praised, set apart, shared, remembered, contested, protected, transmitted, preserved, considered, enjoyed, appreciated, recognized, sought out - all of these things, and whatever else people do with regard to value.

10 Aug '03 06:49:32 AM

I am aware of the deficiencies of saying The Man Without Qualities is about 'early twentieth century Viennese intellectuals debating big important shit'.

9 Aug '03 09:02:45 AM

Don't take what I said about Gravity's Rainbow very seriously, as far as textual analysis goes. I can't be bothered now.

9 Aug '03 08:59:57 AM

I never noticed before (or maybe I did and forgot, it's a big book) how Gwenhidwy's dialogue in Gravity's Rainbow sounds so much like the narration, relative to the other characters' speech - I mean in the way that, like the Duino Elegies, the narration regularly takes these fantastic turns into abstraction, in the movement of a sentence, then keeps moving at the same speed, with Pynchon's incredible sensitivity for the strains on syntax that semantics can accomodate, while still in the absract. I don't recall Gwenhidwy appearing much after the first section, so perhaps I'm fixing on this without giving due consideration to the fact that the speech I have in mind, during Pointsman and Gwenhidwy's Christmas celebration, is almost at the end of the section. That might grant some latitude anyway, narrative-wise, but Gwenhidwy's made out to be especially distinctive anyway, so it's as if it's built into his character. (And the dialect writing! I have no idea what Welsh speaking sounds like, so whatever Pynchon was going for here I can make no sense of it - but I find it hilarious, much like the Hungarian guy's dialogue - but I'm not up to finding R-something's name right now. Rosie, only like Hungarian.) Contrast to The Man Without Qualities where even for the subject matter and the setting and such (early twentieth century Viennese intellectuals debating big important shit), I find it implausible that almost every character would produce such vigorously elevated and abstracted dialogue with such frequency. But I give Musil a pass anyway because it's not as if he's up on some realism shit. (Or Pynchon, ha.)

It's fortunate that I came across the Gwenhidwy passage tonight, because it helps me express a thought I had earlier today. It seems to me - I would gladly consider examples to the contrary - that in ordinary, day-to-day life, nobody ever calls anyone else out for talking total, utter nonsense. I mean nonsense in the sense that people use it when referring to others' writing, especially. When people do use the epithet in conversation, particularly when using it on someone present (it's different when it's someone else, like the president or something, or Derrida), it can be extremely serious. And not too much like the way Wittgenstein characterizes it - 'nonsense' marking something as not part of the language, something "taken out of circulation", though that happens too. No, more like an insult, if the circumstances are serious enough, or a vocalization of now more clearly recognized differences - how could you say that? what on earth is wrong with you? (Maybe questions there make it too charitable - why give someone so fucked up a chance?) Something that may well lead to a break, or a rupture, or the digging of a moat, or the building of a fence. A casting out, a regrouping, an abandoning. Writing off, dissociating, distancing. I have no preference - I don't know what I mean.

Compare to philosophy?

5 Aug '03 08:07:36 PM

It's still there!

4 Aug '03 06:42:34 PM

For some reason "The Flame" came into my head when I woke up.

For some reason it sounds pretty nice.

In my head.

If I were to hear it outside my head I think my opinion might change.

2 Aug '03 07:08:03 AM

I want to keep listening to this. Turn that off. Turn it up. I can't work with this on. Put something on, it's too quiet in here. Can you put something else on? I can't do this without music. They'll hear us, turn on the stereo! I'd like to hear that again. It's 'interesting'. That's on my list. I hated them for a long time. I need something to keep me going. I need something to get me going. Listen to this. I need to listen to it some more. It took me a long time to like that record. It took me a long time to get that record. I can't follow what they're doing there. Put it on repeat. Turn it up! Just leave it on this station, there's nothing else on. I need to listen to it more carefully. I played that record every day. God, this sucks. Go back! Oh, what just happened? Quiet, I'm trying to hear this! These are the records I want to keep. I tried, but it didn't do anything for me. It's interesting. Did you hear that? Don't delete those, I still want them. I'm waiting to find it used. It's my favorite record. It's my favorite record right now. I can't listen to that record anymore. It's not as good as it used to be. Yeah, I've heard that. It's... interesting. Yeah, I used to listen to that. Yeah, I used to like that. I never listen to it anymore. I haven't pulled it out in a while. I've grown out of that. I used to love them. I love that song! I love this song!


31 Jul '03 06:13:30 AM

The small deviations from regularity in house music, like a few extra hi hat hits every eight measures, even when they occur as part of a larger regularity, can sometimes become especially surprising - charged - just because there are always other regularities (ultimately always the kick drum, regardless of what else changes) to fix on. And once I do fix on them, and I become locked in somehow, eventually I hear one of the (regular) deviations - which can be so small - as enormous.