07 August 2009

Marching on

Here, quoted from the July Wire, is Ariel Pink's rendition of music history:

"I'll go one step further and say that it all goes to music degenerating over the aeons. Like, the most inspirational things are possessed by something morally and aesthetically bad and undesirable. So you've got Bach at one end, who represents all the ambition in music that could ever be attained, in a sense, and then you infuse it with a little sensuality and you get Beethoven, right, which is kind of profane. And then you infuse it with a little bit of opera, which makes it kind of campy, and then you've got your Wagner. Then you take your Wagner, make him Jewish and you've got Mahler. Then you've got Arnold Schoenberg, who said, 'No, listen to Bach, he started his own language, we've got to rewind it all the way back to the top. How do we start a new language?' [Sings a series of apparently unrelated notes] Then you've got John Cage, which is pure American nonsense in the midst of this several hundred years of trying to progress music to its apex. Then, of course, the Germans, Stockhausen. And in the midst of that you have all this terrible music coming out of America, which is rock'n' roll, the music of numbskulls [slaps fist in palm four to the bar]. That's where we are going, right. That's after hundreds of years of musical evolution and we get to the poor people's music: let's lift that up and see what we can make with that."

And then the big finish: "And I think my contribution, if I have any, is to make it more terrible."

That's pretty charming! Especially the bit about taking your Wagner and making him Jewish. Like how if you took "What Women Want" and made it Jewish you would get "Annie Hall."

23 July 2009

Me and Eminem

Hello there!

Please read a piece I wrote for the website of N+1 on the only great white rapper ever. My favorite part is the title, but I didn't come up with the title.


25 May 2009

How the Avant Garde Got Popular (Or Not)

Me, in The Advocate, on David Stubbs' Fear of Music, which came out about one month ago. It's a really smart book, but it spends too much time trying to convince people to like avant garde music and not enough time explaining why it hasn't become popular like visual art. Me, I think it's institutions.


20 May 2009

Not Batman

It's time for everyone to listen to Joker all day.

And one more for good measure. Doesn't he seem like a lovely kind of weirdo? Also the secret theme of the interview seems to be coat hangers coming out the back of their jackets. Joker has a bunch under each arm as well, but that seems like cheating. The hoodie hanger is where the action is.

11 May 2009

Wu Note

You can find the Blue Noted ODB album cover above here, along with a bunch of similarly reworked Wu Tang family covers. Pretty fantastic . . . I guess some of them (Cuban Linx) are a little too easy, and the seams show pretty much everywhere.

Imagining Wu Tang as something that happened forty years ago, as these covers do, got me thinking about the "classic" status of something like 36 Chambers. It's hard to imagine the record soundtracking dinner parties like so many Blue Note albums do now. Last year Wu Tang came to play at Harvard's Yardfest–I reviewed it for the Phoenix, here–and I was completely surprised to see almost ninety percent of the students react with complete indifference or hostility. I could just be too wrapped up in talking to the same people all the time, but I had thought Wu Tang had made it at least into the periphery of "We-will-respect-this-if-not-exactly-embrace-it" territory. This has something to do with what a nice job upper-middle class white cultured types have done concealing a pretty broad disdain for rap. Nobody minds pop music with rapping in it, of course–and the point of this post is not to criticize rap that hangs out with pop–but Yardfest was a straight-up rap concert, and a lot of people just wished they could eat their hot dogs in peace.

This is also why I picked the ODB cover. Talk about someone who's going to stay disreputable. Also one of the most creative people of the last two decades.

10 May 2009

Sonic Old

K-Punk is really good on what makes Sonic Youth such a gigantic waste of time these days. Money quote:

"Kim Gordon in New Statesman last week: "Are Sonic Youth political? Well, they are, in that they offer an alternative to mainstream music." Well, they may not have hit singles (but neither did the prog dinosaurs of the 70s); but here they are on Later With Jools Holland; here they are doing compilations for Starbucks; here they are, the darlings of the broadsheet press, their pastiche-of-themselves records not exactly guaranteed a good review, but always automatically accorded event status. In what way is the so called mainstream perturbed by any of this? In what way, in the decentred era of web 2.0, is this not the mainstream? Their avant credentials rest on a few hoary old formal innovations - just as the prog rockers' did in the early 70s. SY have disconnected experimentalism from social and existential maladjustment, just as prog rock did. But while punk annihilated prog after a mere half a decade of flatulent complacency, Sonic Youth are still lauded as countercultural heroes even though they have been making variations on the same record for over twenty years now."

There's also a good bit about Juno.

I am sick of teaching, I am sick of teaching, I am sick of teaching

Me in the Advocate on the history of creative writing in higher education. Mark McGurl's new book, The Program Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing, was the excuse for the piece. It's great . . . I'm a little surprised to see that it hasn't picked up more attention. It's a completely new interpretation of more than half a century's worth of fiction.

Right. Here's the article, complete with nifty illustration by Dana Kase:

Get With the Program: Creative Writing in the Twentieth Century