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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13 Jan '11 08:41:54 AM

We know that the very world dilates, grows, the more one lives in it, the more one's life leads one to range over it. Perhaps this is why philosophers are so galling: they pretend to grasp all the world within what is barely a life.

12 Jan '11 04:32:07 AM

With objects that come to life as we live with them we can be reminded that we're living, or how we're not.

12 Jan '11 04:31:08 AM

Cities give you room to ignore the people that are everywhere around you; but in even sizeable towns that person you ignore will feel, somehow with justification, 'why don't you talk to me? there's no one else here'.

6 Jan '11 06:01:18 AM

'In Bolaño, literature is a helpless, undignified, and not especially pleasant compulsion, like smoking. At one point you started and now you can’t stop; it’s become a habit and an identity. Nothing is so consistent across Bolaño’s work as the suspicion that literature is chiefly bullshit, rationalizing the misery, delusions, and/or narcissism of various careerists, flakes, and losers. Yet Bolaño somehow also treats literature as his and his characters’ sole excuse for existing. This basic Bolaño aporia—literature is all that matters, literature doesn’t matter at all—can be a glib paradox for others. He seems to have meant it sincerely, even desperately, something one would feel without knowing the first thing about his life.' (n+1, 'On Bolaño')

27 Dec '10 01:05:39 AM

'what books and reading bestow'

24 Dec '10 09:59:55 PM

My Pazz & Jop ballot and comments:

The world used to seem musical to me. Music seemed like part of the medium of life, something we moved in. Now music hardly seems real. The music that ‘we’, whoever we are, have in common is never allowed to just be music—it’s always music to use for this or that, to represent this or that, to serve a function or to fill some dead air or to provide another three paragraphs of new content. And the harder it is to turn a piece of music to our other purposes, the less attention we pay to it. If all we can do is listen, then we don’t want to listen—are incapable of listening.

When I look at the new music I’ve heard this year, I can hardly believe it’s being made, hardly believe that people still do that, that people actually made these records. The generosity I feel for them, and that I hear in them, is profound. How could so many people be making such fully committed music if no one, generally, cares about it?

In the spring of 2010 I taught, for the first time, aesthetics to a roomful of undergraduate philosophy students. If you ever start to feel resigned about the state of music, or of music in our culture, just find some college students to talk to. Mine were receptive to everything—even to music they couldn’t stand. Their willingness to listen and to think about what they heard was so gratifying to me that my ears were opened further than they had been in years. Every moment I spent listening, preparing to meet my students again, I heard and learned something new about music. They also gave me the best day of teaching I’ve ever had, working through the structure of Roxy Music’s ‘Mother of Pearl’ only to be surprised to discover, at the end of the hour, that I had been talking about a work of art.

This year, I heard…

a guitar or two, a skittering screeching twittering saxophone duo, carefully cut breaks, two (2) hours of barely remitting feedback, blast beats, a harp, a temporary suspension of, a chopped-up vocal sample, insecure sex boasts, birdsong, the center of a black hole, drum machines, old Biggie lines re-flipped, craftsmanship, helpful advice, notes bent, bombast, artfully arranged stretches of silence, passionate confusion, folk settings of Emily Dickinson poems, more drum machines, jazz again, vocoders and imitation vocoder effects, endless depths of nihilism set to clangorous drones, kiss-offs, sounds made only when necessary, as many different words for 'money' as possible, sheer responsiveness, lines lyrical but razors, cooing, moaning, adenoidal whining, obscure clouds of hissing and whooshing, inhuman bellowing (from men, and from women), new language, beat science, noise that just won't stop, whatever occurred to the performer at the moment of recording, actual honest-to-god guitar solos, particles, this synthesizer and that synthesizer and maybe that's a synthesizer, thinking before there was speech, minutes and minutes suspended in time, sublimated resentments, unholiness, sublime holiness, a thriving career as a musician, something we made ourselves, abysses, the private talk of women, convergence, sounds like it might be about love or god or something, an awful lot of drugs, whatever they want, the time to write during a brief stint in prison, swagger, attitude, anxiety about the global economic catastrophe, tape-loop alchemy, a more relaxed second take, an accent, horns, are you sure this is even music, how long can this—

I’m tired of styles and scenes that I was never really part of—tired of imagining the contexts that go with the records I learn about from music critics on the internet. I want to hear particular things now. Sounds and structures emptied of the stupid past and made selflessly so that something else has a chance to enter. I want sounds to matter more than us.

— Josh Kortbein
    Cedar Falls, IA

Spoon - Transference (Merge)
Joanna Newsom - Have One On Me (Drag City)
Swans - My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky (Young God)
Pan Sonic - Gravitoni (Blast First Petite)
Flying Lotus - Cosmogramma (Warp)
Electric Wizard - Black Masses (Rise Above)
Eleh - Location Momentum (Touch)
Bardo Pond - Bardo Pond (Fire)
Mary Halvorson Quintet - Saturn Sings (Firehouse 12)
Berliner Philharmoniker, Sir Simon Rattle, Rundfunkchor Berlin, Simon Halsey, Kate Royal & Magdalena Kozená - Mahler: Symphony No. 2 (EMI)
Keith Fullerton Whitman - Disingenuity / Disingenuousness (Pan)
E-40 - Revenue Retrievin’ (Night Shift / Day Shift) (Heavy on the Grind Entertainment)
No Age - Everything In Between (Sub Pop)
Josephine Foster - Graphic As a Star (Fire)
Erykah Badu - New Amerykah Part Two (Return of the Ankh) (Universal Motown)
Rafael Toral - Space Elements Vol. 2 (Taiga)
Autechre - Oversteps / Move of Ten (Warp)
Rudresh Mahanthappa & Bunky Green - Apex (Pi)
Steve Coleman - Harvesting Semblances and Affinities (Pi)
ICP Orchestra - ICP Orchestra 049 (ICP)

High on Fire - Snakes For the Divine (E1 Music)
The-Dream - Sex Intelligent (Def Jam)
Autechre - M62 (Warp)
William Parker - Move On Up (AUM Fidelity)
Cathedral - Requiem For the Voiceless (Nuclear Blast)
LCD Soundsystem - Home (DFA)
Laurie Anderson - Only an Expert (Nonesuch)
Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings - Better Things to Do (Daptone)
Marnie Stern - Cinco De Mayo (Kill Rock Stars)
Shed - The Bot (Ostgut Tonträger)
Buddy Guy - 74 Years Young (Jive)

Mary Halvorson Quintet - Saturn Sings (Firehouse 12)
Rafael Toral - Space Elements Vol. 2 (Taiga)
Adam Lane’s Full Throttle Orchestra - Ashcan Rantings (Clean Feed)
Rudresh Mahanthappa & Steve Lehman - Dual Identity (Pi)
Rudresh Mahanthappa & Bunky Green - Apex (Pi)
Steve Coleman - Harvesting Semblances and Affinities (Pi)
ICP Orchestra - ICP Orchestra 049 (ICP)
Marshall Allen, Matthew Shipp, and Joe Morris - Night Logic (RogueArt)
Jason Ajemian & Daydream Full Lifestyles - Protest Heaven (482 Records)
Urs Leimgruber & Evan Parker - Twine (Clean Feed)
Anthony Braxton - 19 Standards (Quartet) 2003 (Leo)
John Butcher & Claudia Ulla Binder - Under the Roof (Nuscope)
AMM - Sounding Music (Matchless)
Vijay Iyer - Solo (ACT Music)
Hafez Modirzadeh and Amir Elsaffar - Radif Suite (Pi)
William Parker - I Play to Stay a Believer: The Inside Songs of Curtis Mayfield (AUM Fidelity)
Dave Holland Octet - Pathways (Dare2)
Jason Adasiewicz - Sun Rooms (Delmark)
Vandermark 5 - The Horse Jumps / The Ship is Gone (Not Two)
Claire DeBrunner / Ken Silverman / Daniel Carter / Tom Zlabinger - Macroscopia (Metier)

Swans - My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky (Young God)
Pan Sonic - Gravitoni (Blast First Petite)
Eleh - Location Momentum (Touch)
Keith Fullerton Whitman - Disingenuity / Disingenuousness (Pan)
On - Something That Has Form And Something That Does Not (Type)
Chris Weisman & Greg Davis - Northern Songs (Home Normal)
Emeralds - Does It Look Like I’m Here? (Editions Mego)
Skullflower - Strange Keys To Untune Gods’ Firmament (Neurot Recordings)
Yellow Swans - Going Places / Being There (Type)
Richard Skelton - Landings (Type)
U.S. Girls - Go Grey (Siltbreeze)
Philip Jeck - An Ark For The Listener (Touch)

Electric Wizard - Black Masses (Rise Above)
High on Fire - Snakes for the Divine (E1 Music)
Christian Mistress - Agony and Opium (20 Buck Spin)
Castevet - Mounds of Ash (Profound Lore)
Kill The Client - Set For Extinction (Relapse)
Black Bombaim - Saturdays and Space Travels (Lovers & Lollypops)
Salome - Terminal (Profound Lore)
Inherit Disease - Visceral Transcendence (Unique Leader)
Aderlating - Devotional Hymns (Shadowgraph)
Wold - Working Together For Our Privacy (Profound Lore)

Flying Lotus - Cosmogramma (Warp)
Autechre - Oversteps / Move of Ten (Warp)
Mark Fell - Multistability (Raster-Norton)
Deepchord Presents Echospace - Liumin (Modern Love)
John Roberts - Glass Eights (Dial)
Shed - The Traveller (Ostgut Tonträger)
Robert Hood - Omega (M-Plant)
James Blake - CMYK / Klavierwerke / Bells Sketch EPs (R & S, Hessle Audio)
10-20 - Mountain / Lake / Isthmus / Island EPs (Hipoint Lowlife)
Scuba - Triangulation (Hotflush)
Actress - Splazsh (Honest Jon’s)

Spoon - Transference (Merge)
Joanna Newsom - Have One On Me (Drag City)
Bardo Pond - Bardo Pond (Fire)
Josephine Foster - Graphic As A Star (Fire)
No Age - Everything In Between (Sub Pop)
Titus Andronicus - The Monitor (XL)
Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings - I Learned the Hard Way (Daptone)
The Ex - Catch My Shoe (Ex)
Grass Widow - Past Time (Kill Rock Stars)
Marnie Stern - Marnie Stern (Kill Rock Stars)
Bill Callahan - Rough Travel For a Rare Thing (Drag City)
LCD Soundsystem - This Is Happening (DFA)
Alasdair Roberts & Friends - Too Long In This Condition (Drag City)
Jon Langford & Skull Orchard - Old Devils (Bloodshot)

E-40 - Revenue Retrievin’ Day Shift / Night Shift (Heavy on the Grind Entertainment)
Erykah Badu - New Amerykah Part Two (Return of the Ankh) (Universal Motown)
Strong Arm Steady - In Search of Stoney Jackson (Stones Throw)
Curren$y - Pilot Talk 1 / 2 (DD172)
The-Dream - Love King (Def Jam)
Waka Flocka Flame - Flockaveli (Asylum)
Freddie Gibbs - Str8 Killa (Decon)
Yelawolf - Trunk Muzik 0-60 (Interscope)
Diego Bernal - “Besides…” (Exponential)

17 Dec '10 08:10:33 AM

—glinting snow blanketing the surroundings, Bardo Pond lumbering on

22 Nov '10 06:10:15 AM


'As a young man, then, moved by poetry, feeling its possibilities as inclusive, bringing all the world to one instant of otherwise meaningless 'time,' I wanted, not unexpectedly, to participate in that wonder. We struggle with them a good deal, mutter, mistake, but words seem even so significantly common and in that respect accessible. My own commitment to them was not easily understood. Was it that nothing else was open to me? Did I turn to them simply that no other act or substance permitted me such occasion? I know that I felt in those years now past very often useless in other attempts to find place in the world. As so many of that time, I married primarily to reify what might be called my existence. The fact of wanting to be a social person, as well as a private one, seemingly demanded it. Again, there was nothing I otherwise 'did' that argued my relevance to a general world.

In short, I was markedly self-preoccupied, lonely, inarticulate at crucial points in my relationships, and again, and again, restless. If they did nothing else, words gave instant reality to this insistent flux, which otherwise blurred, faded, was gone before another might in any sense witness it. That poems, stories, fed on this experience of reality was of great use initially. Just as I had used reading as a place to be, a world of volatile and active nature yet also 'unreal,' not 'flesh and blood'—and yet that surely, how else could it be—so now the possibilities that words might engender became a deep preoccupation.'

25 Oct '10 06:08:00 AM

Carl Wilson's 'Ex Week': part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4.