It’s very nearly 11:00pm, the time when I’d planned to hit “send” and thereby submit a piece I’m writing on Jay-Z and Raekwon. It’s not finished, though—or, not finished enough, anyway—and that’s partially because what was supposed to be a short writeup on their new albums has sent me digging through the fascinating junk-drawer of my unsorted thoughts on hip-hop as pop. Like when you’re supposed to be cleaning your room, but you discover a forgotten notebook or decades-old clippings mixed in with random photographs and trinkets and mementos that suddenly seem, in virtue of both their dilatory value and their mysterious confluence, like indispensable evidence in some undefined, but altogether pressing, investigation. Will post selections from said junk-drawer later, if I can sort through them sufficiently to gauge their worth.
Here’s a wonderful video to remember Les Paul by, via therichgirlsareweeping. I’m particularly touched by the way LP makes a point of acknowledging Mary’s contributions in the short interview leading up to their performance. To the question, “What’s the most tracks you’ve ever made?” he responds, “Well, the most we’ve ever put out on the market …” And when asked whether he could play back the record-setting 24-track recording and play over it, making it 25, he corrects the interviewer and says, “Well, it’ll actually be 26 because Mary’ll sing one and I’ll play one.” That’s no small thing for a man of his day, but then, he was ahead of his time in so many ways.
Still chipping away at the neuromusicology piece, losing myself a little in Adorno’s Essays on Music, as, alas, I am wont to do. Want to read this amazing passage I just revisited? It’s astounding.
In music, what is at stake is not meaning, but gestures. To the extent that music is a language, it is … a language sedimented from gestures. It is not possible to ask music what it conveys as its meaning; rather, music has as its them the question, How can gestures be made eternal? … As language, music tends toward pure naming, the absolute unity of object and sign, which in its immediacy is lost to all human knowledge… . But the name appears in music only as pure sound, divorced from its bearer, and hence the opposite of every act of meaning, every intention toward meaning… . [M]usic does not know the name … but attempts its conjuring … through a process.
The more music comes to resemble the structure of language, the more, at the same time, it ceases to be language, to say something, and its alienation becomes perfect at the instant when it becomes most human.
I was working on this essay and groping for an image of musical awe when I remembered the famous profile (in my memory, it was silhouetted) of a cool dude being literally blown away by the awesomeness of the sound coming from the speakers in front of his chair. I knew it was a commercial image—I thought it was probably just a logo—but I blanked entirely on the company and product it promoted. That’s when I called my friend Scott (evil branding genius by day, film critic by night), whose mastery of the Google image search eventually led me to the jackpot: it’s the Maxell hi-fi guy! Let’s relive the glory of decibles with him, shall we?
Today, douchebag Chris Brown was sentenced to a few (er, proverbial) slaps on the wrist after pleading guilty to bludgeoning Rihanna’s face last February before the Grammys. Community service in Virginia, 5 (probably reducible) years of probation, reform-oriented classes on, uh, why domestic violence is wrong. There’s a lot of noise in the press about Rihanna wanting the court order that keeps him the hell away from her dissolved, or at least reduced. That’s her business, and for all we know, this unjusifiable behavior may never go down between the two of them again. That doesn’t change the fact that this is a gesture typical of battered women—reaching out to their violent partners and allowing them back in their lives—that leads to a cycle of abuse.
You know, back when Britney’s teenaged thighs were taunting us from under a plaid schoolgirl uniform—we all remember that little number from the video for, ahem, “(Hit Me) Baby One More Time”—I never sided with the people who thought she should be a spokesperson for pre-marital virginity. The hypocrisy of it was too absurd, and, as it turned out, it heralded a very long eight years of fascist moralizing on American values.
But now I’m struggling with the question of whether or not Rihanna—regardless of her own choices viz. her future relationship with Brown—should come forward and publicly acknowledge that what happened to her is absolutely not okay, that it happens to many women, and that it is under no circumstances justifiable. Because the fact is, after all, that she’s already been made an example of—another, reinforcing example, at that—of a long history of abuse. Keeping silent about it is its own very explicit statement.
Meanwhile, some “legal expert” over at MTV.com is running his mouth aplenty, making the outrageous claim that, despite having avoided any time behind bars, Brown’s sentence is “a pretty tough deal.”
Yeah. You know what else is a tough deal? Having your face bashed in by Chris Brown. Rihanna could, and should, tell us something about that.
As far as I’m concerned, the message couldn’t be clearer: stop whitewashing musicianship and recording artistry with “secret machines.” Autotune, the Antichrist of of musical creativity, must die!
It’s kind of thrilling, I think, to watch Jay-Z’s career reinvigorated by this crusade for quality and authenticity. He’s waging war against the facade of pristine production and calling out anybody who can’t hold up on stage or in studio with nothing but a mic, a voice and a mind. It’s time to separate the greats from the fakes, and Jay-Z’s drawing the line in the sand, adding that much more excitement to the release of this album.
If you’re like me, in the sense that whatever it is you’re reading colors the scene of your experience and modulates the tone of your inner monologue, and also in the sense that you’d pretty much rather be reading than doing just about anything else, except for maybe playing and/or talking about music, then we should really be friends you’ll be as excited as I am about the LA Times blog Jacket Copy's theme for this month: Rock Your Books Off! I’m really looking forward to following those posts this month.