Tuesday, June 22, 2004

When in doubt, Just Say It's Art. That makes music better; hell, it makes anything better, just try it! (Link courtesy of Rael Lewis, who doubts that William Gibson was actually in a band with Rodney Graham and Jeff Wall.)

Absent for the last week largely because of --

last bits of grading for the quarter (pleased to find a student using Sheryl Crow's and Rod Stewart's respective versions of "The First Cut Is The Deepest" to make a point relevant to Arthur Danto);

the hooding ceremony (the university, or at least the printers of the program, seem to think I wrote something called "The Role of International Action in Artifactual Representation"; it's intentional, friends, but it makes me feel better about whatever typos remain in my dissertation, in any case);

a pleasantly busy weekend that involved a houseguest*, pretending to be Luke Haines for a few minutes, and a dance party at Joel's. You know what? Pylon is not actually all that danceable. And no, it wasn't me that put it on, thanks.

*Abject confession: I did not know Jackson Browne wrote "Take It Easy."

Attended the final evening of Beyond Baroque's Beyond Text festival Sunday. Jaap Blonk is one huge loud Dutchman, no two ways about it. Yes to various Fluxus pieces and Laurie Anderson's '70s violin quartet using a Sol Lewitt drawing as its score; no, at least for me, to movement-based realizations of Jackson MacLow's "Asymmetries."

Read most of Albin J. Zak III's The Poetics of Rock at a fair clip. Essentially an argument (directed at whom, though?) for seeing 'rock' (blanket term, seems happy to include pop and hip-hop) in terms of the expressive character of recording techniques. Good basic exposition of the origins of multi-tracking (Paul/Ford, Ampex 8-track), and quite good on the 'meanings' of various standard techniques (echo, reverb, mic placement and so on). Pretty much in agreement that 'live' v. 'constructed' amounts to a set of aesthetic options, not a conflict (unless you want to make it one). More moderate view of the role of songs than Gracyk's Rhythm & Noise (i.e. he thinks they have one), though it's in the same ballpark. Being the work of a musicologist, it's heavier on actual examples than a philosopher's treatment of the same issues would be; this is salutary, though there are too many references to Karl Wallinger for my taste -- Hank Shocklee makes a welcome appearance, however. Last chapter makes heavy weather of the insight that recordings take on 'resonance' by referring to other recordings. At least he's explict in not claiming that the system of intertextual references is linguistic. [Note mostly to self: Think about Cavell's brief passage in The World Viewed about sound recording; oddly, for someone very aware of 'what becomes of things on film,' Cavell thinks hearing a trumpet and hearing the (e.g. recorded) sound of a trumpet are not importantly different. Seems to rest on claims about the difference between sense modalities, but I'm unconvinced.]

(I have no logical place for this weighing-in: Nellie McKay reminds me a little too much of those precocious kids I whined about a few weeks ago. I heard/saw another interview -- on a CD-ROM given out in L.A. free-postcard racks -- where she spoke freely and ignorantly about her fear of the oh-so-homogenous suburbs. Disc Two of her two discs could grow on me -- n.b. that it could have fit on one -- but, as my houseguest said this weekend, shouldn't she be able to sing better? "The Dog Song"? No. And I like cabaret; it's smug I have a problem with.)

Finding that reading Arendt's The Origins of Totalitarianism in public view leads to unsought attention. (Cafe cashier asked how it was. Me: "Heavy." I mean, I'm 20 pages in, what can I say while getting my change?) I don't mind much; a man at the car wash last week told me a disturbing story about being cursed by Eskimos. He also gave his highest recommendation to David Cooper's Behold a Pale Horse: "It's banned in the whole prison system." On the other hand, flipping through Free Radicals (thank you Jordan) in an elevator caused the following exchange:

Woman Also In Elevator (belligerently): "Do you need help reading that?"
Me: [uncertain laugh]
Woman: "Do you want me to look over your shoulder while you're reading that?"
Me: [after confused pause] "I'm sorry, have I done something to bother you?"
Woman (indignantly): "You're attracting my attention."
Me (lowering book): "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to bother you."
Woman (not especially mollified): "OK."

I have no idea what this was about. I swear on my honor that I was the very picture of minding my own business when I entered the elevator. She may have meant something by "You're attracting my attention" than those words signify to me, but I can't say what.

Also at various stages of completion: Matthea Harvey Sad Little Breathing Machine (a little Fence-y, roughly 1.6 on SBDQ*), Lisa Jarnot Ring of Fire (Salt reissue, so far I'm most interested in the uses to which she puts awkwardness, SBDQ about 2.3), Benjamin Friedlander Simulcast and various chapbooks (more later, SBDQ breaking the thermometer).

Lastly, just lying there waking up yesterday, considering going on-line, wondering if Sasha's started posting again; about two minutes later (he is), the voice of the very same starts soundbiting w/r/t Timbaland on NPR, as though I'd summoned it.

*Steve Burt Difficulty Quotient

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