Wednesday, July 31, 2013


Form follows function, in an infinite tautology. They put each other on display. Means can be used to shape or create; limitations liberate. Means grant vision. Options are all there is.

Do minds provide direction? Is the process of evolution, of adapting forms, of balancing, directed? What about rocks? Inanimate things move and change, very slowly when people and animals aren't around. Time only goes in one direction, which is why you've come at last to this point. We enter into this process blind, insensate, and gain mind, words to bring things to mind when they are not there; we learn to count, to beat, to fight. We name the world.

We speculate that the forces are Mind. We often call our perspective tiny, but we are midway between infinitely small and infinitely large; our capacity is of sensing and learning. The rocks and void and the forces that lace them, these may be Mind or no; we choose but do not choose our relationship to them by choosing or not choosing our actions.

Expression is a beloved activity of humans. It proves self, agency; once uttered, it can't be denied. There's just the little matter of memory. Your voice doesn't exist; it's instantly gone, like a fart in the wind. Too, you can only shout so loud, see so far; transmission requires media.

Sports. Nature. Business. Poverty.

Then there's narrative. It's the way we understand, like, everything. As it devolves in the human mind, we become animal. Narrative is history, science, religion; narrative is order. Order's what we bring to the table. Chaos is inside us too. The boundaries constantly blur between our bodies, our minds, and the world. We can't go into space though.

You get to thinking and follow one thought as another as the day the night and maybe you want to find your way out of the infinite. It's never straight. I get this way playing this CD. Weirdly, it's the only Mahler symphony I've got a recording of. Weird because I enjoy the tingly feeling I get when I'm trying to unwind that spool of reality, and Mahler always sends me down that road. Mahler and some other guys, mostly German, mostly male, mostly from around Mahler's time, made all these big big big works where it's all screaming, laughing, crying, love and hate and death and anger and sex and nature all woven together in a single thread, and these guys were really trying to wring all that from a score and an orchestra, just like, say, Hendrix would do with a guitar and amp. The whole damn orchestra plays one single note in all the octaves you can hear for a long time at the beginning of this symphony; it's a big empty bucket and it sounds really cool. It fills in with slow two-note cries and sporadic little village-dancey blurts for a while, then there's an hour of hummable tunes and a big crashing finale. Along the way there's a nice mid-tempo dance number and every couple minutes there's a moment where you're just like "Mmmmyeah that sounds great!" Really it's not that different from Electric Ladyland, in terms of narrative arc.

I got this CD in the Twentieth Century, when I was taking a class on Twentieth Century composition. It signified because Mahler took the Romantic and pushed and pushed, like, harmonically and structurally, until he broke a hole through the sky and let guys like Stravinsky and Schoenberg hear some really next stuff with their minds. Wagner did that too, but I got the Mahler CD cause opera singing really just annoys the crap out of me. It's on a budget label ("LaserLight"), and a search for the conductor and orchestra (Pavel Urbanek with the Prague Festival Orchestra) turns up no actual commentary, just people listing their recordings. So I guess this is the bottom of the barrel? I dunno, it's tight and organic, no problem.

All it is, is form. All it is, is artifice. It's for us. Talking about phenomena or putting form around the formless is human only. The CD on LaserLight, the DDD recording, the bird on the cover, the jewel case, the staring into the infinite, the scrub orchestra playing their hearts out, that's all by us for us. Stories are people. The progression of music from Romantic to Late Romantic to Modern to Post-Modern, from we only care about smart Europeans and the rest are savages to we only care about pop and classical music OMG it's dying dying dying save the orchestra! It's all people. It's all we've got. You can't BE a rock. Imagine that. A hundred million years at once. No time. It's all here in the present. This huge endeavor, these people and their thousands of hours of rehearsing to do something together, this endurance test of a huge symphony, this all you can fit in your mind at once, and the rock does it without a mind. This massive monument to human that only humans will ever care about. You can hum the tunes. Energy goes into a body, comes out and freezes in one form. There's nothing you can do about it. Dance.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Kinda Kinks

I got into the idea of the Kinks for a while - they have some huge concept records that helped define the late Sixties rock album era with lots of hummable songs and meaty stories. I dove in for a minute but I never made it past the shallow end. Kinda Kinks is the only one I have that's not from that period (it's earlier - their second, I think), and it's kinda great. Smart guys punk roots, you know? Stones Beatles Who Kinks.

The best songs on this record - "Tired of Waiting" and "Look for Me Baby" - transcend the rhythm & blues template with bizarre, mournful melodies and organic logic that answers only to itself. The rest is hookless gritty R&B rockers and a couple of intimate acoustic numbers ("Nothin' in the World Can Stop Me Worryin' 'Bout That Girl" and "So Long") that leap out of the past. Their version of "Dancing in the Street" is a little polite but Ray and Dave sing a little dirty so it's all good. The undistinguished blues numbers are what make it punk, dog.

The photo on the cover is truly stunning, though. The solid blocks of color and echo patterns in the outfits, the background, the expressions, the tight jeans, the... riding crop? I'm floored. I learn from this guy that it comes from a widely used photo shoot. A moment in time. A perfect clothes, green grass, dudes that rule the world moment.

(Side note. These guys seriously all look the same. There are two brothers, Ray and Dave, and then there's Pete and Mick. It just took me like twenty minutes on Wikipedia, Allmusic, and Google Image Search to determine that Ray and Dave are in the middle (Ray on the left) and Pete's on the far left and Mick's on the far right. Pete and Mick are way too similar. And another thing! How am I supposed to keep track of all the Micks in all the British bands? Even the new bands that come out, like 60% of them have a Mick. If you asked me what band Mick Avory was in, I would have been like, I dunno, Herman's Hermits? No wait, it's Arctic Monkeys, right?)

So it turns out the copy I have is a late-Sixties reissue by the bargain-label subsidiary, Marble Arch, of the original label, Pye (originally a television and radio manufacturer). The original, more well-known cover isn't as stunning, but it's got its own thing going on. A friend of mine who runs a great record store pointed out that the body language dramatizes the legendary, profound rivalry between brothers Ray and Dave, and the suits look great and arguably fit the Brit-blues on the record better than the dandy pastels of the reissue.

Either way, the focus is on the guys and their personality. It's a BAND. It's not obvious now, but the idea of a "rock band" was new in 1965. Newer, even, than the idea that music can be consumed as a digital file is now. That's part of the excitement, part of the story. Look how the world has gone by! Can you imagine, really feel, what 1965 felt like? Forty-eight years ago. Computers meant things like "mainframes" and "punch cards" and these regular-ass British guys had their minds blown by stuff like Chuck Berry, which was only as old then as Rihanna is now. They all answered with their artified R&B, and the British Invasion turned into a thing, tons of money changed hands for RECORDS (yeah man!), and the whole mindset of the culture was on albums and art and somehow, maybe cause of all the money, the definition of musical talent shifted. The fingers roaring on the guitar strings, the direct approach, subtlety in the construction but blasting the delivery. These guys were YOUNG! What they did was IMPORTANT! And I'm only half ironic when I say that. Stuff that young people do is the most important, because they haven't turned on the filters, haven't stopped saying the pointless stuff.

So here we are. The clothes we're wearing now look kinda like what those guys had on then: the tight red jeans, the yellow zip-up, the turtleneck. The hairstyles are even kinda right on too. Times have changed, though. Who's going to tell you what's vital? In 1965 it was a former television manufacturer. Now it's the Social Network. Both pushed and blown by the winds of actual Youth. The resilient Band is still kicking but it had to make room for the Singer-Songwriter, the DJ, the Rapper, the Diva. Professionals and accidental geniuses. These guys made the record for then, but we still have it now. Their lives are over but that moment gives us strength to contemplate our new reality.