Sunday, July 03, 2005

Well, I can't, but glad there was something.


Curious that Jane would choose today to write about the geography of waveforms, a mixed metaphor edging into synesthesia, because I've been spending much of the day* looking at their graphic representations while digitizing records. (Today: Woodentops and Slow Children b-sides, Tony Fox's "Shippin' Your Ass Back to Arkansas," Dynasty's "I Don't Want To Be a Freak (But I Can't Help Myself)" some Julie Andrews.) Talk about your static -- one can get lost for hours in cleaning up these things. I've been around this sort of thing in studios and mastering labs (0PB did not, in fact, record exclusively onto wet clay through a sharpened stick), but haven't really spent much time doing it "hands on" before. Just proceeding by trial and error, the effects of the noise reduction algorithms I have access to sound pretty crude to my ears, but going in and removing the more exposed pops with the little drawing tool is hours of barely-cognitive fun, a little like mastering the easy levels of a video game, or working out blackheads. (Sorry for the image.) I've never been especially loud listener to music -- is even this, I wonder, evidence of idealism?

*Except for coffee with newly-engaged and -tenured Scott Saul, during which, while flipping through the copy of AF I was giving him, I noticed that there are other places where the dates aren't consistent. Fuck fuck fuck.


While I'm there: The short answer to Jane's pointed question is just that the very notion of a "cover album," as opposed to some other kind, is itself an artifact of (white)-rock auteurism. It's not a meaningful distinction in most other genres: No one would have called a Peggy Lee or Frank Sinatra album a "cover album." I was even stretching the term by applying it to what are, generically, jazz records (DeLaria and Gold Sounds), though I'd argue that if these are cover albums in the contemporary sense, this is because they are responsive to the original recorded versions of the songs performed, as well as (or perhaps instead of) the songs "as such," as would be the case on a typical jazz date.

(Apologies to everyone who already knows this: I say "the contemporary sense" because (I apologize if everyone knows this), the terminology of "covers" dates back to song-plugging days; even the first recording of a song would have been termed a cover, in the sense of "coverage." (Lieber and Stoller used the word this way when I interviewed them.) The idea of a distinction particular record that is the primary text and "cover versions" of that comes somewhat later, and persists.)

I did not claim that covering and sampling were one and the same practice; though I did point out common features, which, I freely admit, will look more significant to one such as I who affords songs some entity-like status (or at least believes that they are treated as having same by much of our everyday and even considered critical practice, and that, where applicable, it is not so easily done without -- but you've all heard this bit before).

I agree that covering doesn't confound the identity of the author -- unless one leaves off the writing credits! -- but would nonetheless suggest that it can confound the question of whether the author is the source of meaning. This might have been clearer if I had figured out places to slip in references to Tori Amos' Little Earthquakes and Caetano's A Foreign Sound.

To get all this to cohere -- and to distinguish between a couple of possible ways race fits into it -- would take a chapter or a conference presentation. My provisional steps (i.e., deleted posts) were not edifying; for now, I'll answer Jane's pointed questions with three others.

What do we make of the fact that our man Luther Vandross got his big break placing a song in The Wiz?

What do we make of Jason Moran's prepared-jazz-piano version (cover?) of "Planet Rock"?

Why do I keep seeing the Nouvelle Vague disc, which may have digital elements but is largely acoustic, filed in "electronica"?


Don't worry, I promise I'll talk to someone else next time.

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