August 17, 2009
Having read a rave review in Gary Giddins’s excellent book Natural Selection, I bought a copy of Grown Up All Wrong by Robert Christgau, who is the senior music critic at the Village Voice. This is a collection of some of his pieces over the past several years. I am thoroughly enjoying it, although I am not familiar with all of the artists he writes about, or indeed all the words he uses. I was well and truly cowed by the time I was half-way through the introduction. He can write like an angel, but he can also deliver up stuff like this:
“… over the years I’ve been impressed by what a burden counterhegemonic expectations impose in a world where the most consciously and cannily political culture – be it Bertolt Brecht or Cindy Sherman, Linton Kwesi Johnson or Bruce Springsteen – remains tragically if not ridiculously superstructural.”
Yikes. Can’t wait to see what he has to say about the Clash.
Bringing this sort of ferocious intellectualism to bear on rock and hip-hop music reminds me of the Modern Review, a not terribly-lamented rag which was published in the UK by Julie Burchill and Toby Young back in the 90s. Its tagline was, I believe, “low-brow culture for high-brows”, and it relished applying the critical pretensions of the postmodern intellectual elite to bad pop music, trashy movies, and airport paperbacks. I always enjoyed it, although the ubiquitous references to Michel Foucault had me running for cover. In the end, though, the Modern Review was really just an elaborate joke (I think). I have a feeling Christgau means every word of it.
August 11, 2009
Because what, really, can beat singing chickens?
August 4, 2009
One of my greatest regrets is that I cannot write while I listen to music. I need my quiet. There is no such thing as background noise for me. The music rushes to the forefront of my consciousness, demanding attention, and I can no longer hear the words I’m forever trying to grasp. Sentences swim in front of me but I am unable to read them or hear them in my head. (The clamor of my children is not so bad. Over time I have learned to tune that out.)
Here’s a great post about why silence really may be golden.
Anyway, this picture seemed like an appropriate candidate for the distractions and prevarications series. While I am writing there is a perpetual conflict between the need to write and the desire to listen to music. The CDs are like sirens, crooning their beguiling song. I keep tapping away and do my best to ignore them. Usually I succeed. Sometimes I don’t.
July 27, 2009
Last night was the finale of the 2009 “Hot Summer Nights” Music Festival which is held every year at the Missouri Theatre in Columbia. Second half of the program was Tchaikovshy’s Fourth Symphony in F Minor. So far, so mainstream. But the first half of the evening was given over to a world premier, no less, by the harpist Deborah Henson-Conant, a Spanish-tinged concerto of sorts called Sonando en Espanol. It was actually a very enjoyable piece, especially the extended solo interludes where the percussive nature of the harp got very close to some of the drama and passion of flamenco. I liked it.
It was only afterwards, though, as I was flicking through the series program, that I discovered that I had just been listening to, and I quote, “the world’s greatest Blues-Flamenco-Celtic-Funk-Folk-Jazz Dynamo”. Or, possibly, the world’s only Blues-Flamenco-Celtic-Funk-Folk-Jazz Dynamo.
July 26, 2009
… This is from last Friday’s talent show at the kids’ school. No quite as cool as the SF Jazz Collective playing Wayne Shorter, but hey. It’s actually wonderful to watch Catherine listen to music. She sways, she beams, she sings along – she completely gets it.