Friday, November 04, 2005
When my favorite poet, John Ashbery, was 22 or 23, he was in the depths of a terrible writer's block. "Then he happened to go to a John Cage concert and heard Music of Changes - nearly an hour of banging on a piano alternating with periods of silence, as dictated by a score that Cage had put together using the I Ching so that it would be determined by chance rather than by his choice."
Chance, indeed. That quote is from a lengthy article, unfortunately not linkable, by Larissa MacFarquhar in the Nov 7 edition of The New Yorker that was in my mailbox when I got home yesterday evening. Chance - yesterday at work I was listening to Live 365 play pieces from Meredith Monk's *Key,* while eating lunch and reading "Autumn on the Thruway" from *Hotel Lautreamont.* Each made the other more deeply, more inexpressibly understandable.
What the two had in common, among many things, is an exploration of space, of seeking to expand the canvas and score of what is possible as key intention. For Ashbery (who I am far more confident of speaking on), the meaning is secondary to creating the new space where new meanings can be understood, perhaps only subliminally, only intuitively, that wasn't there before.
In any case, if you're interested in Ashbery's poetry, I recommend the article. But some questions:
Besides the Cage piece, the article mentions a Satie piece, "Musique d'Ameublement." Can anyone tell me anything about either?
This article talks about a colloboration of sorts between Ashbery and Charles Wuorinen. I've never heard of Wuorinen. Anyone have any opinion? What should I check out? Why does the article refer to him as a "musical tough guy?"
Here is Ashbery's Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror, his most famous, if not my favorite, poem.
Here is Just Walking Around.
I've been listening to Live 365's Postclassic Radio, and it seems that every fifth piece played is by Peter Garland.
Who is Peter Garland? Right now I'm listening to a piece called "Walk in Beauty," and it is quite lovely, but why does Garland get so much airplay on this station? Is he that big a figure? Is this a matter of Kyle Gann's taste?
Also, please aim me at other internet sources for streaming music you recommend.
Also also, I was given last week a copy of Frank Bridge's string quartets, and I'm much impressed. What next Bridge should I explore?
I hate Lynryd Skynyrd. I could not go to a party, to a friend’s house, anywhere, for years, without hearing goddamn “That Smell,” or goddammitydamn “Freebird.” The whole guitar-noodling thing, the deedada deedada deedada of guitar wankery. Stupid the sound, stupid the attitude, stupid the posturing, stupid the stupid. I hate Lynryd Skynyrd.But not as much as I hate The Doors. I really hate The Doors. Lynryd Skynyrd had one song I could tolerate, “You Got That Right,” though I suspect that toleration had more to do with one Charlotte Gramercy and a weekend in
One of my three or four favorite albums of the recent past is Z from My Morning Jacket. There are many influences heard on Z, but two, the most prominent, are Lynryd Skynyrd and The Doors. What do I make of this? *
90% of the music I hear (and the books I read and the people I meet) I like or dislike with varying intensities of indifference. Of the remaining 10% that I either love or hate, I find what I hate to be more fascinating than that that I love. I suspect that although both the love and the hate are self-evident to me, I find the need to explore that which I hate more urgent than exploring what I love.
Part of that is trying to reconcile the arbitrariness of my tastes with a compulsion for consistence. If I hate The Doors, if I hate Lynyrd Skynyrd, if I love My Morning Jacket’s Z, am I open-minded or logically wobbly? I don’t feel obliged to dislike a band influenced by bands I hate, but I do feel a disconnect. Compound that with my natural and opposite instincts towards coherence and frustrating that coherence, and there’s the paradox.
One thing I have learned over time: if I hate a band (or a book or a person) like I hate black licorice, I need to examine what it is I hate because something interesting is going on. There is a difference between hate and contempt. Contempt takes no energy, no time, no effort. Nobody sounds like The Doors but The Doors, but there are a kazillion bands that sound like Franz Ferdinand, who I don't hate, don't consider worth hating. Which means something.
Have I mentioned I hate Mozart?
* Do go to MMJ website where you can hear two of the songs from Z, but unfortunately not my favorite, the glorious “Gideon,” which I read as the most magnificent anti-war song I’ve heard from this current generation. I may be wrong on the anti-war, but I’m positive about the magnificence.
MMJ’s Z has been heavily reviewed, heavily praised. Here, here, and here, and elsewhere.
The singer’s voice, goodness, the singer’s voice. Really, a remarkable album from a remarkable band. No one sounds like them. I suspect somewhere someone really hates them. BDR
This Week's Top Picks
Just a word or two about the picks listed on the left border of BDRIB. They are not necessarily recommendations to buy. They ARE suggestions on what I'd recommend trying to find a listen to.
There is no ranking meant to be implied in what order they are listed.
Ideally I want to post at least one entry on one of each week's picks - I hope to post something very soon about My Morning Jacket's Z - but that's not a commitment, just a hope. Depends.
And maybe, or maybe not, I'll write snippets, much like the following, about some of the other CDs:
The Go! Team - Thunder, Lightning, Strike: silly, dance-your-brain-out-able. Thoroughly fluff, thoroughly fun.
Amadou and Mariam - Dimanche a Bamako: wonderful music from Mali, produced by Manu Chao (whose Proxima Estacion: Esperanza has a permanent spot in my personal rotation). World music, indeed.
Portastatic - Bright Ideas: Portastatic is considered a side project of Superchunk's Mac McCaughan; I prefer P to S.
We'll see how this develops. Feedback very welcome.