Animal Therapý

from Saturday, June7th of the year2008.

I took a quick run yesterday, during which time I formulated a series of really pithy and excellent things to say about the Bang on a Can Marathon, Hot Chip, Glenn Gould, and Health Insurance. I think I’m going to have to wait, because when I’m not sprinting around in the heat, it all makes less sense. So, while I wait to organize that, some thoughts:

– Daniel Mendelsohn wrote a great piece about Satyagraha at the Met. Check it out here.

– I went to the Bang on a Can Marathon for a few hours. I love the feeling in that space, not particularly the acoustics, but the relaxed, everybody piled onto the steps of the Wintergarden, listening to music, not listening to music, eating nachos, whatever. I am engaging in a new social experiment with all Bang on a Can Events. I have this theory that they, as an institution, know from awesome but to not know from fabulous. I use both terms in their King James Bible sense: the music they present is powerful, muscly, athletic. The music is not otherworldly, mysterious, mystical; its primary gesture is the rut, the frot, the iron fist of socialized thought. It does not concern itself with the insinuation, the unfinished seam, the pining.

That having been said, I was particularly struck by Michael Gordon’s piece, “Every Stop on the F Train,” which, as promised, is a list of all the stops on the F-train repeated in order, repeated and chanted, in canons at the 8th note. All of this was deftly executed by the Young People’s Chorus of New York, but while I was listening to it, I thought to myself: my God, it is entirely possible that Michael Gordon is operating outside of the influence of Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols! I had two sudden thoughts which are: my music, which has very many surface stylistic similarities to the Bang on a Crowd, has a completely different emotional genetic makeup. I would never write music in a canon at the 8th note without fully reverencing Britten; it would feel like serving pâté in my grandmother’s rabbit-shaped terrine without thinking about her.

My second thought was, maybe that’s why I always feel so other at these BOAC things; I’m meant to feel part of the community, which is technically true, but my itinerary is completely different; we are in different parts of the airport, heading to different continents “” friends only in the transfers lounge. To a certain extent, their community is one that de facto couldn’t include somebody with my history, tropisms, or musico-erotic itineraries; theirs is rugged, weather-beaten, and Old Testament-seismic, whereas to them, I probably read as effete, ornamental, and most likely more suited for work in the kitchen or nursery than in the fields. I used to feel this acutely as a sort of rejection; now I think I’ve come to terms with it through, strangely, a series of sartorial decisions.

animaltherapy.jpgMy final thought was that maybe Michael Gordon needs some animal therapy; Autistic children are often softened by their relationship with animals; I wonder if I can secretly bridge the gap by always turning up at these BOAC events wearing only the softest fabric and the most unfinished seam? With this in mind, I dressed myself in a satiny pant, and what basically amounted to a white kurta pyjama (albeit a belgian kurta pyjama) on top. We’ll see what happens if I keep this up for a few years! Also, here is the canon from the Ceremony of Carols:

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Benjamin Britten
This Little Babe from A Ceremony of Carols
The Sixteen/Harry Christophers
iTunes

– I may need to buy shorts if I’m going to really stay here all summer. Stay tuned.

7 Comments

  • I’m off on the QM2 tomorrow, so I am glad that this latest posting arrived in time for me to relish. I don’t think anyone writes about music quite the way Nico does. I trust it absolutely whether or not I agree with it entirely. The distinctions between awesome and fabulous speak to me in ways that Rorem’s German and French do not, although they may be striving in the same direction.

    I hear Nico’s reverencing of Britten throughout his music, perhaps most poignantly — without a scintilla of imitation — in The Only Tune. And I am pleased to imagine that Nico’s nuanced writing for Sam’s voice is a whispered reverence of Ben’s writing for Peter.

  • DID YOU GET ‘A DAISY DUKE’?

  • Is that really a Futurist Manifesto reference up there?

  • I’m with Nick. I think we saw exactly the short you require being worn at the Marathon, didn’t we? Step 1: Cut off a pair of jeans just at the buttock. Step 2: Cut the jeans again, right across the damn buttock. Step 3: Flaunt.

    But seriously. You’re right of course about the Bang on a Can aesthetic. Gordon’s model for All the Stops ain’t no Britten Ceremony of Such-and-Such, it’s that Wood by Louis Andriessen (what the All-Stars recorded on the same disc with Michael Gordon’s Industry back in the day, then later they paired it with Workers’ Union).

    “Wood,” “Industry,” “Bang on a Can,” “Workers’ Union”: yeah, this is not your scene. Coveralls, not pyjamas. But I suppose if it were the sort of club that had you as a member, it would be a different sort of club.

    Maybe you need to start your own marathon? The Use a Wittily Designed, Hand-Cranked Opener to Extract Strange Ingredients from a Can Marathon! I volunteer to make the coffee.

  • your part of the airport is pretty great. also, this is a link to some remarkable hammer pants that may be enjoyable.
    http://www.seisports.com/?,browse,3,12,151,043118

  • Not sure if this is quite parallel to the Bang-on-a-Can/Muhly dialectic, but when Philip Levine met John Ashbery, Levine said, “I like your poetry.” Ashbery was surprised and replied, “But you write about cars and factories and fistfights and stuff.”

    Despite their opposing aesthetics, Levine honestly admires Ashbery’s work. Maybe his pants, too, who knows.

  • As a one-time performer with the Michael Gordon Philharmonic, I have never had a clue what his music was about; from Industry to Weather he seemed more intent on breaking whatever supposedly established rules of classical and pop molds borrowed off the shelf, than making his own. His rocker models, Laurie Anderson and Lou Reed, are, in contrast, handled reverently. But although more domineering, it is not to say that he typifies the BOAC aesthetic, either. Julia Wolfe, to whom he is married, is a far deeper artist, whose music assimilates broad traditions to find in both large sweeps and small gestures, nuances that resonate beyond the notes of the page.