Monday, May 26, 2008

Catching Up

Skip the next two paragraphs. They are boring. In fact, feel free to skip this whole post. The next one will be better. Today I'll just talk really fast and get a lot of stuff over with at once. So I haven't written anything for this blog in ages and that's for a lot of reasons but mostly I just haven't gotten very excited about anything. Things I did get worked up about but neeeever quite got around to blogging included Nico Muhly's Merkin Hall concert a month ago, the one I was talking about here, and the super-fun afterparty, which was actually just the gang from Nico's show crashing the New Amsterdam Records afterparty, because Corey Dargel and William Brittelle's record-release show (for Brittelle's high-concept new-music rock-opera Mohair Time Warp project) was exactly the same night and Bedroom Community & New Amsterdam Recordses are BFF, so it was a veritable who's who of whatnot, starring such boldface names as Valgeir SigurĂ°sson! Nadia Sirota! Judd Greenstein! Missy Mazzoli! Caleb Burhans! Corey Dargel (obviously)! and though I didn't get to talk to Corey Dargel I did get a chance to talk to Darcy James Argue, whose blog I have always admired but usually can't really say anything intelligent about because I know next to nothing about jazz music, but I'm trying, I promise I am, and finally I broke down and as you can see added him to my super-exclusive blogroll because he is one of so few people actually talking sense about new music nowadays, and also he was totally adorable in person. There was also someone there who looked exactly like Scott Johnson but I didn't want to ask him if he was Scott Johnson because if he wasn't I would have felt extremely stupid. That said, all of you need to buy the Tzadik reissue of John Somebody if you haven't already. The whole crowd was very cool, and in fact I will one-up Anne-Carolyn Bird's announcement that New Amsterdam Records dot com is her new Facebook for professional networking and say that I intend to do all of my networking, professional, social, and sexual, at New Amsterdam Records dot com, and I suggest they retool the site accordingly. Not only would a new-music dating website fill a major niche, it would prevent confused listeners from wasting google queries like this one. (A: No.) My biggest celebrity sighting of the evening though was at the intermission of the concert, where I saw (was it him? it WAS!) my boyhood hero, the rock star whose music has meant more to me than he could possibly ever know, Mister DAVID BYRNE. Like I get starstruck pretty easily, I'll admit but when I lived in New York I could handle running into Lou Reed and Jim Jarmusch &c. pretty well, but there was DAVID BYRNE, who not only did I buy his Talking Heads records and solo records but I like watched and rewatched True Stories to the point where I am still regurgitating snippets of disjointed dialogue at my friends. Like the song says, it's a scientific lifestyle! He was hanging out in the lobby, apparently by himself, like he was just a dude. I wanted to run up to him and thank him for all the joy he'd given me; however, not only was I not sure it was him at first, but I quickly realized that if I were David Byrne I would carry around a thing of pepper spray at all times for the sole purpose of incapacitating people who felt the irrational need to run up and express how important I had been to them when they were in college. So I walked past him without looking at him directly and instead pretended to be reading a poster on the far wall, hoping to make celebrity ID based on peripheral vision alone, but when I looked at the poster closely I realized that there were about ten words printed it and I couldn't pretend to be reading it for very long, so I looked around like I was searching for something while I figured out my next plan, and then a nice usher lady came up and asked if she could help me. Oh, ah, no, thank you. (But it was totally him.) The other thing I kind of wanted to blog recently was the death of another one of my heroes, Robert Rauschenberg. Rauschenberg is famous for taking garbage and accidents and turning them into art; what's far more important, though, is that he made it into art that was a pleasure to see, while still retaining that strange energy of accidental, garbage beauty. Like that famous erased DeKooning—even when he destroyed a work of art, it came out looking great. His work was mysterious and passionate and inimitable and oh-so-often imitated. But like jazz or dance, visual art is something I know almost nothing about—fortunately the Times got somebody to write an appreciation who does know what he's talking about when it comes to visual art, namely... David Byrne. Please read that link. I don't have much to add, except to wince whenever people use the word "deconstruct" this way, and then to quote Donald Barthelme, who describes what is, honestly, not my favorite Rauschenberg, in a way that I think is a useful description of what a Rauschenberg achieves. Here's the piece in question, and here's what Barthelme says (Not-Knowing, p. 19):

We can ... wonder for a moment why the goat girdled with its tire is somehow a magical object, rather than, say, only a dumb idea. Harold Rosenberg speaks of the contemporary artwork as "anxious," as wondering: Am I a masterpiece or simply a pile of junk? ... What precisely is it in the coming together of goat and tire that is magical? It's not the surprise of seeing the goat attired, although that's part of it. One might say, for example, that the tirecontests the goat, contradicts the goat, as a mode of being, even that the tire reproaches the goat, in some sense. One the simplest punning leve, the goat is tired. Or that the unfortunate tire has been caught by the goat, which has been fishing in the Hudson—goats eat anything, as everyone knows—or that the goat is being consumed by the tire; it's outside, after all, mechanization takes command. Or that the goateed goat is protesting the fatigue of its friend, the tire, by wearing it as a sort of STRIKE button. Or that two contrasting models of infinity are being presented, tires and goats both being infinitely reproducible, the first depending on the good fortunes of the B. F. Goodrich company and the second upon the copulatory enthusiasm of goats—parallel production lines suddenly met. And so on. What is magical about the object is that it at once invites and resists interpretation. Its artistic worth is measurable by the degree to which it remains, after interpretation, vital—no interpretation or cardiopulmonary push-pull can exhaust or empty it.

In other words, it's like that Speaking in Tongues collage Byrne talks about in his appreciation, with the images dividing and multiplying and obscuring each other and complementing each other, but it happens with meanings as well as pictures. (This vast network of subtexts of course undergirds all of Byrne's work, too.) You can waste a long, long spray of words describing what their relationships are and still never describe the thing itself, and forget about articulating the sheer visual beauty I was going on about before. Something huge and great and wonderful left the world forever two weeks ago today.

1 comment:

Judd said...

We'll take it under consideration. (That's me speaking on behalf of New Amsterdam Records, not my sexuality.)

Glad you had fun at the party! It will not be the last, I'm sure, though we have to do better about avoiding those kinds of conflicts.