Monday, November 17, 2014

Belly Buttons N'at

Lest any of us lose perspective, and since it's also late over here on the Better of the Two Coasts, we should also recall that musicians have been getting bored and trying to make things more complicated for years and years. Here's how things used to get weird in the '70s (high five to Pa Mild Interest for having the Cap'n in his record collection):

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Kind of Blogger That Jack Could Have Been

See, part of the problem with restarting a blog is that I'm not used to checking it frequently, so then Henry posts something eleven days ago that I didn't notice till now. Anyway, I think I successfully changed my Blogger settings so it'll email me when there's a new post. Never too late to figure out how to optimize your Blogger settings! Next I'll learn how to program my TiVo to record 30 Rock.

I'll reserve commentary about my parallel-universe musicianship, or what I once might have been being when I would have grown up. Partly since it's nighttime and I don't have the energy for introspection, and partly since I never liked navel-gazing on the Internet, blog or no blog.

Instead, apropos of nothing, here's the most interesting thing I read in the Sunday paper this morning, a column by a writer named Meghan Daum about a near-death experience and her sense that no real meaning came out of it. That description makes it sound bleaker than it is. Strikes me as very honest, and in an appealingly humble, agnostic tone.

The Sunday paper is the only one we get delivered. Makes for a nice Sunday morning routine. Maddie and I drink our coffee and read the Social Q's out loud to each other, and I'll skim over the book review while she browses the wedding announcements.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

The Glaze of Cathexis

Part of re-starting the blog--beyond the fact that I, like, have missed it--is to assert that there is time in the day for blogging to happen. For me, this probably comes from a growing awareness that I am, for the first time, pursuing a professional thing that might actually be a career (as opposed to working jobs, going to school, volunteering, traveling, etc.). As much as that is a good thing (I try to follow Pynchon's example from Bleeding Edge and feel myself to be buying in, rather than selling out), it's also fairly daunting, because suddenly one finds oneself spending most of one's time and energy on this thing that you're doing, and your ability to truly excel at it seems to hinge on whether you are being satisfactorily remunerated for your work. It's a far cry from the grand aesthetic visions of one's innocent 20s. And tiring, and sometimes crushingly arbitrary, even if you enjoy it a lot of the time.

My undergraduate counterpoint teacher (at the time and in reflection now, as well) struck me as the kind of musician that Jack could have been (Jack was still in college too, at that point, so it was reasonable to consider what he might be when he grows up). In short, he was a minor-league professional woodwind player, did some conducting here and there for small ensembles, was really really excited about music (and counterpoint ("Let's do some organum!")), and generally a nice guy. Also he had glasses, similar hair, and wore the kinds of short-sleeve dress shirts and ties that I'm pretty sure Jack has rocked out, and perhaps still rocks out. (Minor league pro musician is not a dig -- if anything it's more of a temperament or personality thing; to be an orchestral musician outside of the string sections, there's got to be a healthy amount of self-importance backing your talents and ambitions and desire for expression; minor league does not mean bush league or b-list or anything like that.)

I bring him up because he's a guy that found a career for himself. He play, composed, conducted, and taught music, and did it a lot. He seemed to actually like teaching music, and seemed genuinely fulfilled by the fact that occasionally his woodwind quintet would play works of his own composition. High five, counterpoint teacher. Which is mostly to get back to the subject at hand: black metal. Or, at least, post-black metal.

I think I would have been a hell of a music theorist, had I not been so self-destructively worried about making certain sounds on a certain coil of tubular metal (not a musicologist, and certainly not an ethnofuckingmusicologist). I would have written a baller dissertation on fractal modulation in the late works of Elliot Carter. Which I have been thinking about for the last 24 hours or so because of Jack's comparison of Giraffes? Giraffes! and Liturgy. (I'll get to deafheaven, too, one of these days.) If I may be an armchair ethnofuckingmusicologist for a moment, I find that one of Western music's understandings of world music, or human music, pan-culturally, is that one of the major categories of music that gets made is of a variety that builds and releases tension. Mostly because most Western music in the age of common-practice harmony and post-common-practice harmony (the age of harmony, generally) is built around the building and release of tension. That's how you get things like apotheosis and catharsis.

My guess for a band like Liturgy -- and most black metal acts -- is that they have sublimated that exchange, so that the performance is all release, but the received sound is all tension (turn that noise off, get off my lawn, etc.). Especially when you have ratcheted up the technical requirements to such a great degree (which still falls way short of the complexities available in other less degenerative modes and genres of music), you have to cling to this idea that your non-stop noise is a constant release of rage, and that your rage constantly makes the people who here it more and more tense. It's misanthropic. One of the problems is, is that it's hard. So the few live video recordings of the band I can find look strangely dispassionate (with that dispassion often masked by pretension). Examples:

Another suspicion that I have about the dispassion is further linked to misanthropy: that is is more reward in performing music like this if you make it look easy. Because your audience is even more like, what the fuck? They imagine you closing your eyes while you're playing and it looking something like this: