Posts Tagged ‘music’
January 19, 2016 | by Dan Piepenbring
- Norman Rush on “the savage fictions” of Horacio Castellanos Moya and the archetype of the “superfluous man”: “The literary woods are of course as full of superfluous men as they are of unreliable narrators and, these days, really rebarbative antiheroes. Superfluous men make up an illustrious lineage: Goncharov’s Oblomov, Dostoevsky’s Underground Man, Melville’s Bartleby, Robert Musil’s Man Without Qualities, all the way down through Sartre’s Roquentin and the hero of Ben Lerner’s debut novel, Leaving the Atocha Station. Superfluous men respond with disaffection, dysfunction, or withdrawal when they are unhorsed or irritated by the changing fortunes that the social machine spits out. It can be anything—plunging status, national disgrace, political or religious disillusion, extreme boredom … It’s always interesting to pick at the question of why these guys are the way they are. Sometimes the answer is on the surface and sometimes it’s complex and not on the surface at all. First of all, it’s fun to read about superfluous men. I don’t know exactly why. Maybe they offer to overworked and overbooked readers a dream of letting go, enjoying regression. There is learning and pleasure to be got from reading about them.”
- Remember the whole debacle over A Million Little Pieces? That was ten years ago now. On one hand, not much has changed since then: readers still thirst for true stories, outrageous revelation, harrowing redemption. On the other hand, the memoir form has never had more to compete with, William Giraldi writes: “In the decade since the James Frey fiasco, social media has turned untold people into hourly memoirists in miniature. We live now in a culture of incessant confession … The absurdly named ‘confessional poets’ of the mid-twentieth century—Lowell and Berryman, Sexton and Roethke—look a touch constipated compared to your average Facebooker. How eagerly lives become doggerelized. What does it mean for the memoir as a form now that everyone, at any time, can instantaneously advertise his life to everyone else? Mailer never dreamed of such advertisements for the self … In this new ethos of endless self-advertisement, the memoir assumes a renewed responsibility, one that exceeds confessionalism.”
- As music-streaming services come to dictate our listening habits and, to an increasing degree, our taste, we risk losing sight of the enormous emotional variance across genres. What makes sad songs sad, for instance, and how do songwriters from very different molds—Adele, Slayer, Nick Drake, Mozart—inflect their songs with sadness? Ben Ratliff investigates: “What is sadness in sound per se? Nothing. It doesn’t exist. There is no note or kind of note that in and of itself is sad and only sad … The construct of sadness, and the attendant contract that it helps build between musician and listener, has to do with how we might recognize it person-to-person: through silence and dissonant long tones, or through agitation and mania; through closed systems of harmony or phrasing, or through unnervingly open and dark ones. We hear it through voices and through instruments. And as listeners agree to play by the official rules of sadness, so do most musicians, and so do most singers, imitating the sound of instruments … There is a culture around any music, and how you understand that culture influences how you hear. Listening is augmented hearing, hearing through certain layers.”
- “I love you madly … There is never a moment in which I do not adore you.” “I live and exist only to love you—adoring you is my only consolation.” Are these the words of friends or lovers? Hard to say when their authors are from the eighteenth century. These quotations are drawn from letters between Marie Antoinette and Axel von Fersen, the Swedish Count with whom she’s suspected to have had an affair. But with emphasis on that “suspected”—historians have yet to find conclusive evidence of their tryst.
- If you’re bored and looking for your next big project, maybe it’s time to rethink space. All of it, and your relation to it. As George Musser writes, “In the past twenty years, I’ve witnessed a remarkable evolution in attitudes among physicists toward locality … Over and over, I heard some variant of: ‘Well, it’s weird, and I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen if for myself, but it looks like the world has just got to be nonlocal’ … Instead of saying that space brings order to the world, you can say that the world is ordered and space is a convenient notion for describing that order. We perceive that things affect one another in a certain way and, from that, we assign them locations in space.”
January 14, 2016 | by Sadie Stein
This week, I started obsessively revisiting the 1997 album Closed on Account of Rabies, which features Edgar Allan Poe poems and stories interpreted by the likes of Jeff Buckley, Marianne Faithfull, Christopher Walken, and Debbie Harry. (David Bowie, in case you’re wondering, was not involved, although I think some Bowie-related rabbit hole led me back to it.) Read More »
January 14, 2016 | by Brian Cullman
Remembering Giorgio Gomelsky, 1934–2016.
I met Giorgio through Robert Fripp in 1980. He thought Giorgio should work with me on the single my band was getting set to record. At the time, Giorgio was living in the loft that housed Squat Theatre, an Eastern European guerilla theater collective on West Twenty-Fourth Street. They put on strange events and pornographic puppet shows at their loft, ten dollars at the door, stay all night. And they sponsored Polish punk bands, held rallies protesting rent and sodomy laws, dealt dope, and more or less lived a wild East Village life, despite being in Chelsea.
Giorgio was a big, beefy character with a mane of thick greasy black hair, a goatee, and a thick Russian accent that grew more and more pronounced as he drank or expounded on his various theories on life and music and the evils of the bourgeoisie. Fripp had told me stories of how Giorgio had shown up at the Marché International du Disque et de l’Edition Musicale, the music business trade show, one year with a parrot on his shoulder, and how, anytime he was approached by a label about licensing material, he’d confer with the parrot in Russian before shaking his head and turning down the offer with a show of disdain. In this way, he was able to generate more attention, double his offers, and confound various labels into thinking he was a genius. Fripp also implied that, at the close of MIDEM, Giorgio had eaten the parrot. Read More »
January 11, 2016 | by Dan Piepenbring
- First things first: David Bowie is dead, and the world is a worse place for it. Here, from 2013, is a list of his hundred favorite books, including DeLillo’s White Noise, Spark’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, and, yes, The Paris Review’s collected Writers at Work interviews, among many others.
- While we’re talking music, Alex Abramovich has put in a good word for that most maligned of instruments, the saxophone, which has for too long been discounted as an agent of sleaze. (Bowie used it to impeccable effect on “Modern Love.”) “A shitty thing about standard histories of rock and roll—ones that tell us that the music is half country and western, half rhythm and blues—is that they always slight jazz. (To do otherwise would be to suggest that rock and roll was was being played, by black musicians, well before Elvis Presley followed Ike Turner into Sam Phillips’s studio.) But the truth is that electric guitar solos are directly descended from saxophone solos via Charlie Christian, who defined his instrument (which was once seen as a joke among jazz musicians, much as the saxophone’s a joke in rock) by being the first guitarist good enough to cop saxophone riffs in cutting contests.”
- What’s the point of a literary magazine today? Our editor, Lorin Stein, essays an answer: “Writing fiction is pretty much the opposite of writing a good tweet, or curating an Instagram feed. It’s the opposite of the personal-slash-professional writing that is now part of our everyday lives. More than ever, we need writers who are unprofessional, whose private worlds come first … By writing offline, literally and metaphorically, this new generation of writers gives us the intimacy, the assurance of their solitude. They let us read the word I and feel that it’s not attached to a product. They let us read an essay, or a stanza, and feel the silence around it—the actual, physical stillness of a body when it’s deep in thought. It can’t be faked, in life or on the page.”
- Not dissimilarly, Christian Lorentzen wonders about the role of the short story, which was once the highest-paying, most robust form in fiction: “the revolutions of the past century have been absorbed by four generations of writers at work today, and that modes once heralded as avant-garde now linger among the array of strategies available to any writer … Literary fiction is at its worst when it’s easy to imagine it recast as quality television or low-pressure art-house cinema. The battle between words on a page and images on a screen has long been lost.”
- Elizabeth McKenzie’s The Portable Veblen is not, in fact, an easy-to-carry smattering of the seminal economist’s musings on conspicuous consumption. It’s a novel. About a woman with a fondness for squirrels. That woman’s name is Veblen, and she and her husband are at odds over a furry visitor in their attic. “It doesn’t take long for the reader to understand that the couple’s opposed feelings about the squirrel—he wants to trap or kill it, she wants to make friends—bespeak a deeper opposition in personality and values that might very well ruin their relationship … When Veblen cages the attic squirrel and takes him on a meandering driving trip, all the while holding conversations with him about the meaning of love and happiness, you begin to realize that McKenzie means to blur the boundary between adorable eccentricity and actual madness.”
January 4, 2016 | by Sadie Stein
One of the secrets of a happy life is continuous small treats. —Iris Murdoch
The New Year comes as a relief: it’s like the morning after a good cry. You feel exhausted, yes, and hollowed out, but unburdened, too. What do you do? Well, you go back to work. You listen to music, return e-mails. Your calendar slowly fills, even though not so long ago January seemed like it would never come. “Happy New Year” is the one thing everyone can say to everyone else with confidence, and clearly we enjoy this, it’s a good way to begin a year, all together. Large things give way to small. There are friends, and there is kneading bread, and then there are the little shaded candleholders you picked up, supposedly discarded from a defunct restaurant in Central Park—and they do look pretty, even given the state of the world outside their little flames. Maybe you watch the movie about the narcissistic puppet or the ten-hour series about the miscarriage of justice in Wisconsin. Perhaps you KonMari your closets or take a month off drinking. Whatever you do, don’t panic. Read More »
January 1, 2016 | by Rowan Ricardo Phillips
We’re away until January 4, but we’re re-posting some of our favorite pieces from 2015. Please enjoy, and have a happy New Year!
Watching Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors.
When Nina Simone first sings the title of “Feeling Good,” her voice has been alone for thirty-nine seconds. The solitary singer: there’s always something fiat lux about it. Resolute, the individual moves through the void. You know the accompaniment is coming, but the voice, all by itself, makes you care about it: form turns into feeling. This is how the artist passes on her exuberance. You’re affected by her immediate present, implicated in her future, and interested in her past. This is how the strut between you two starts: “and I’m feeling good.”
The instruments come to life right after Simone sings those words, as though her voice has just confirmed that the coast is clear—a new dawn, a new day, a new life—the brass begins with those gravel-and-booze notes down low, the piano like morning birdsong, light and constant, up top. The world is being made, and you feel good enough to sing as if you yourself were making it. And maybe you are: the experience heats up, the experience becomes porous, and you don’t know anymore where you end and it begins. Is she feeling good? Am I feeling good? Am I being told to feel good? We’re feeling good. Read More >>