moments before the wind.

September 26, 2006

if we stay swimming here forever

Filed under: architecture, authenticity, music, writing — alimarcus @ 10:18 pm

I’ve lately been revisiting Sol LeWitt’s sentences on conceptual art. I’m not sure where the root of my appreciation for his work comes from. The obvious place to look is Howard Singerman, who seemed, when he was my professor, to speak of LeWitt with reverence. It’s possible, in hindsight, that the nature of LeWitt’s philosophy was dogmatic enough to be reverent in it’s own right; I have no idea how Singerman really felt. My other memorable LeWitt experience was a visit to the Dia Beacon, where he has these incredible pencil drawings that were more intricate than anything I’ve ever seen produced from a printer. Just drawn right there on the museum walls.

His sentences are insightful. I feel like they work across mediums, visual or otherwise. Here are a few provocative ones, and maybe some comments:

“When words such as painting and sculpture are used, they connote a whole tradition and imply a consequent acceptance of this tradition, thus placing limitations on the artist who would be reluctant to make art that goes beyond the limitations.”

“For each work of art that becomes physical there are many variations that do not.” A truth I had never verbalized. Entirely true.

“The artist cannot imagine his art, and cannot perceive it until it is complete.”

“The concept of a work of art may involve the matter of the piece or the process in which it is made. ” Even LeWitt is still working within conventions; why distinguish between the process and the physical if they are the same thing? That’s what he is getting at, anyways – and i understand that he’s explaining a process, like a geometry proof, but it seems unnecessary, obvious.

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September 23, 2006

i’m a lightheaded wonder

Filed under: architecture, authenticity, digital, indie, marketing, music, writing — alimarcus @ 5:47 pm

Marathonpacks posted a manifesto last week about music blogging. His general thesis doesn’t interest me nearly as much as various peripheral comments. This is because I don’t think I really fit his profile of a music blogger. But that’s another story.

“The Web is the most thoroughly commercialized communications medium that the world has ever seen,” he writes (I think it’s a “he,” people call him Eric). Commercialized, because it’s so easy to buy, or because it’s an epitomized free democracy which depends on capitalizm in theory? I’m not sure. “Thoroughly” because of customization that TV or radio has not yet allowed? It’s a grand statement, and I like it, but I can’t quite explain it. Too vague.

Moving on. There’s a large focus on the selfishness of music bloggers. “Bloggers, deep down, promote themselves with music rather than promoting the music itself.” Sure, fine, blogging is selfish, but no more or less than any other form of creative expression. For example, I got into blogging because I am a songwriter and I viewed a blog as a means of saying things in a way they don’t seem to manifest themselves in the music I write. Additionally, after – what is it? – three years of blogging, somehow I’ve morphed into a writer of print as well, and probably owe some kind of debt to the blog. So I know plenty of musicians who create on some fairly selfish terms (myself included), and I also know some journalists or critics who may say the same about their work.

I now see blogging as more of a critical pursuit, rather than the strictly self-promoting outfit this blog once was. Therefore, I don’t blog because I am a fan, as Eric Marathonpacks’ assertion claims most music bloggers to be doing, and I don’t know if his information is skewed or if I am an out-of-the-ordinary music blogger. No matter, really. I just wanted to acknowledge that selfishness is not inherent to music blogging more or less than any other creative pursuit. Therefore, it’s not really news to me. It seems more existential than anything else.

And this was comforting to read:

“I’m as distressed as anyone that in an age of seemingly unfettered access to music and music information the same old shit becomes popular again and again…” I am glad that other people find the blogosphere to lack just as much discernment as the mainstream machine. It’s not enough to be indie, one must also have talent and people don’t require that nearly as much as they should. It can’t just be about taste; things about popularity, reputation and trendiness play into this mix. One time I heard Chuck Klosterman rave a little about this and wrote about it here.

Pete Ohs says, “The average American has no idea who Sufjan Stevens is…AMAZING, right!?” Unbelievable. Is it true? They are the lucky ones.

September 22, 2006

fight like the devil

Filed under: authenticity, folk, indie, live shows, music, reviews, rock, writing — alimarcus @ 10:10 am

I am well aware of the fact that it’s rare for me to simply gush about a band. I am often so full of critique that there isn’t a lot of room left for the good stuff. Except when there is. And how many times do I have to say that it’s all for the times when there is, that all of this becomes important. All of a sudden I’m reminded of why I’m here in the first place, and how incredibly obvious it is when music is great. Langhorne Slim and Two Gallants man, same show, my favorite venue, who could ask for more. If there were three bands i could name as my favorite new bands it’d be these two and one other (the Raconteurs). And tonight I had the pleasure of seeing both. So all I can do is gush.

Gush, gush, gush. Langhorne Slim works the stage like a superstar, which shocked me at first and then proceeded to entertain and magnify. His songs were much more impromptu, obviously without the studio tricks from the recorded side of things. They were faster, more energetic, and propelled partly by his distasteful facial expressions. Langhorne Slim – if that’s his real name – puts on quite an ugly face when he’s singing the more upsetting of songs. Like he’s tasted something so bitter that he’s trying to iron the taste out of his tongue, that’s what it feels like to watch him sing that stuff. And the joyousness of it all – gush, gush, gush. This guy has all the potential in the world, and how it unfolds will be a major part of my enjoyment of music in the upcoming years.

And Two Gallants, a band that hails from San Francisco and 1847, simultaneously. These guys are rock stars; they can growl and coo and serenade and screech with the best of ’em. They continue to compel me with their language and their solid grasp of why people listen to music: narrative stems from lyrics but also speed and dynamics an instrumentation, and for that I feel they are extraordinarily unique. Gush, gush, gush.

Gush, gush. Sometimes there is nothing but greatness. Thank god it is this rare to find such amazing talent; otherwise i would be exhausted with too much life. Rather, I welcome this kind of evening where you just feel the sense of purpose through the work that the show itself does for the audience, and those on stage as well. When it intuitively fits into your perspective of things, you can’t help but remain completely astounded. Christgau once said that after the best shows, “you walk home prepared to live forever.” Yes, gush.

September 20, 2006

i have seen that other man

Filed under: authenticity, digital, music, writing — alimarcus @ 8:25 am

My mom sent me an article that she copied from her college alumni magazine this week. It’s written by Joanne Cavanaugh Simpson, an English professor, on the subject of multitasking and how it’s affected the students, from her view. It’s sort of the usual take on attention span and social skills and all that, mostly all valid points and written in an especially poignant tone, which makes sense, given the source. One particular comment jumps out at me and I’m posting it here because I think it’s relevant.

When students can’t go the few minutes between classes without flipping open cell phones, it’s as though they can’t bear the silence.

Cell phones are an argumentative topic with me, but I think it’s just enough to say that this sentence directly expresses my own sentiment. I don’t mean just students, though I know all too well the situation that this writer must be observing on a frequent basis. Many people I know use their time “in between things” to talk on the phone: driving or walking to or from another engagement, particularly. A phone conversation itself is not an event.

I think, though, that I have to add this to my list of grievances about mp3 players. Previously, the shortlist was:
-Music is not a solitary experience
-sound quality bad
-what about albums?
-what about cover art and jackets?
-headphones are bad for you

Now, it includes:
-Music is an event, it is not something that fills the space.

To elaborate just a little bit, I think that everyone knows what I mean when I say that the idea of a soundtrack has been absorbed into our everyday lives. Music playing somewhere, all the time. But then, it’s just background noise. It’s so available, and so…everywhere…that people don’t notice it. It would be one thing if it was everywhere because people were making it everywhere – singing, performing – but its just coming from speakers in a million places, all the same.

But silence plays a part in music, in individual pieces as well as the entire perception of how it does its work. If I were still in college, I’d do some major research on that. But since I am not, I can just point to Professor Simpson’s quote as an indicator of why it matters.

September 19, 2006

je suis illusioniste

Filed under: business, digital, distribution, indie, music, news — alimarcus @ 8:20 am

This just in from the Seattle Times:

Amazon.com subsidiary CustomFlix is expected today to unveil a CD On Demand service that enables musicians and smaller record labels to sell their music online, without holding physical inventory.

The CustomFlix service manufactures and ships CDs each time a customer places an order, erasing the financial risk associated with manufacturing DVDs and holding inventory that might not sell quickly, if at all. CustomFlix introduced a DVD manufacturing service in April that would allow film studios and TV networks to sell obscure or niche titles.

Musicians and record labels pay a $50 flat fee to use the service, plus $4.95 to $7.95 per CD, depending on the volume of orders.

What exactly is going to happen here? A $50 setup fee is way too good to be true. Way. Either the quality of the manufacturing and printing will be such that one will be able to “tell,” or Amazon’s about to unleash something as influential as CD Baby. Can’t wait to find out.

If you figure it the worst way, that Amazon takes $7.95 per CD, all you have to do is charge $15 oer CD and you’ll be making the same profit as you would with a distribution deal – and that’s if the orders are in small volumes. If the orders are in larger volumes, it looks like you’re way better off. Of course you’ll have to sell off of the Amazon website, I assume.

But like I said, I wonder what they look like. And also, what a funny thought, that you’d have to buy your own promos off of Amazon.com. Seems strange. But you also are paying yourself a profit that way.

September 15, 2006

i think it’s in my friend

Filed under: architecture, music, producers, recording — alimarcus @ 12:39 pm

Someone last night made a comment about recording techniques that’s created an idea in my head that still lingers. We were discussing the creation of a sonic space, a sort of architectural discussion of sound – common studio talk. I mentioned that one of my favorite recordings I ever made was in an impromptu outdoor setting. Intended to sound low-fi and silly, it actually came out quite clearly, with the most natural sound. And so he says (paraphrased), “well, yeah, the best recording studio is out there” – gesturing out the window to Pine Street, a commercial center of our lovely Capitol Hill – “only most people don’t want to hear the other sounds. You could record in the woods, if you want silence…” and there my ears just stopped listening as I remembered that grove of trees near the summit of Mt. Si. Talk about acoustic space. The pine-needled floor absorbs all the peripheral sound you may possibly fear, and the openness of the air, due to trees spaced far apart from each other, is like an unobtrusive wind. The trees protect from the elements, keeping all the noisy, dirty stuff out, and they also keep a secluded isolated pocket of silence within. This, my friend, is the perfect recording studio.

Now, I’m not saying I’m going to hike to the top of Mt. Si with a laptop, microphones, stands, wires, not to mention a guitar and all the rest. (Though, what a project! How would there be power?) But I absolutely love the idea of turning a wood into a studio. No walls. Part of this is definitely a relentless attachment to Bridge to Terabithia, I know. But it doesn’t seem all that far-fetched, if I could find a closer wood (within reach of an extension cord). A whole new reason for living in the Pacific Northwest – the evergreens.

September 11, 2006

silhouetted by the sea

Filed under: authenticity, folk, live shows, music, writing — alimarcus @ 10:48 pm

Once, I sat on the floor of a darkened basketball arena with a couple thousand other kids and listened while Ben Harper did one of his acoustic half-sets. I remember two main things from that hour: one, my introduction to the lap steel, and two, that he said, “once you write a song, it’s really about you.”

I often think of this, because I knew the moment he said it and still to this day believe that it is the truth. One’s work comes from oneself, and no matter how real or imagined the content may be, it speaks to the nature of the source in some way, in some form.

As a songwriter though, it happens sometimes that i do not want to be held accountable for the things I write. There is a definite separation between what we perceive to be autobiographical and what we deem fantasy. It does no justice to ourselves to lump it all together, for self-awareness is quite different from expression or intuition or other kinds of poetic skill. Nevertheless, I know that the truth remains, that we are speaking of our thoughts, and in our thoughts we may come across various moments of sheer spite, or cheese.

I was thinking yesterday about how it happened – how is it possible? – that young Bono has transformed himself from a young punky rocker to a compassionate leader in global policy, on the strength of his earnestness. He gained respect from the masses, and most likely from the others, too, because he wrote “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” and all the others. It’s the one-ness of that spirit with his actions in real life that create his credibility. His songs really are about him, and it’s just absolutely unquestionable. U2’s work is consistent like Monet’s waterlilies: instantly recognizable and carried off with unmatched flair. And there’s no ambiguity about the boundary between the artistic creation and the campaigns for life; there just is no boundary.

Ben Harper, that day in the stadium, was admitting to a struggle within himself, one that put up a wall between the loud and the soft, or something else, even though he told us himself that he knew better. And we sat there on the floor feeling the contradiction in the very performance, and it’s this that I carry with me now, years later. Meanwhile, I have to stop and wonder if you can validate a paradox merely by acknowledging it’s presence. I am inclined to think that actually, the only way to validate it’s existence is to prove the opposite and actually show that they are the same, collapsed under the weight of itself.

September 8, 2006

it’s better than real, it’s a real imitation

Filed under: music, writing — alimarcus @ 9:36 pm

The summer is quickly turning to fall here in the Pacific Northwest, and you know what happens during the change of seasons. As the living things around us begin to re-adjust, you can’t help but mirror the shifting, reconsidering the little space in this world that you’ve rested so comfortably in since the rains disappeared. And now, when we wake up in the mornings and it’s cold and foggy, the damp seems eminent; we realize that we have to dress differently, eat differently, and circle around to the months where our schedules accomodate darkness as part of our waking day.

All this is sort of exciting, and we are buying sweaters and socks in preparation. Pulling out the soup recipes, the hot cocoa powder, the mellow music. Modern Times, incedentally, will be the perfect fall/winter album, along with Beirut’s Gulag Orkestar.

Weather changes many things, and here in the higher latitudes, it’s announces it’s movements with quite predictable regularity. Luckily, we still have afternoons of glory, but soon those will disappear as well, and we will have moments of shine but no longer will there be weeks, months. Until next year. At least we can depend on that.

The change of seasons always throws me off. And I think everyone should be shaken from the tree now and then, so that they must find a way to climb back up. It’s the climbing, after all, that’s the thrilling part. I like that we can depend on the seasons for that.

This is a time of year when the songs are able to come together, because I can step back from the chaos of the sunlight. In the summer it’s usually too bright to be able to see much; cloud cover makes the light flat enough that the pearls stand out quite on their own, as long as one is looking.

Maybe that’s the problem I’ve been having with “Season’s Game,” which has been in the works for a good three years now, maybe more. The message is off, because it’s not that nothing ever really changes – everything changes. It could be that I’ve had the words wrong this whole time. We’ll have to see about that.

Listening to old Aimee Mann right now – I’m With Stupid. It’s absolutely perfect.

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