from Saturday, May30th of the year2009.
This has been a very exciting few months not only for my own music but for a lot of the projects I’ve been involved in as a collaborator. The most immediate and exciting thing is that Nadia Sirota’s CD First Things First has been released on New Amsterdam Records. You can buy it via iTunes here or via New Amsterdam here. This is an awesome disk not only because it has three pieces of mine on it, but because it’s a very brave statement: a solo viola CD made up of only commissioned works. I guess I say brave because it sounds really depressing if you don’t know better! Anyway, it’s a fabulous CD that everybody should buy.
The next thing that’s been going on is the release of Grizzly Bear’s album Veckatimest. Now, everybody’s been freaking out about this album for good reason because it’s totally great. Most exciting for me was that I got to make arrangements for the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, as well as the ACME String Quartet, which is my favorite: to keep everything in the family.
Here’s the song Cheerleader:[audio:05 Cheerleader.mp3]
I managed to sneak in a Security Blanket Gesture:
Did everybody see the weirdly mean-spirited review in the Times of the Grizzly Bear show last night? You know you’re in trouble when a review begins with the sentence:
Music moves; it can’t do anything else.
Ahahahahah. God. What does that even mean? I’ve been thinking about it all day and I still have no idea. It goes on:
There is a nearly suffocating fussiness in this band. It can’t be altered: it’s the life force of the music, which is full and tense, and extremely cold.
Now, I agree with the use of the word Fussy. I like the implications of that word; it doesn’t seem problematically un-musical and I would agree that their music is fussy (the opposite being a Hot Mess, I suppose?) I would say that, you know, Prokofiev is fussy whereas Shostakovich is not fussy. Anyway, life-force. . . I’m a little suspicious of, and “cold” I’m very suspicious of indeed (as a word to describe music, that is).
Rhythm is a frozen concern here, several orders less important than harmony.
What? A Frozen Concern? It sounds like a vegan popsicle.
Then it goes on, and is basically just descriptive, and basically fine, but then comes this horseshit:
But wow, these songs are precious, and they occasionally came spangled with extras that made them even more so. The chorus was one of those elements, sorry to say.
Oh snap! Apology accepted. Now, I have major objections to the word “precious.” It tends to be borderline homophobic in its coded usage, first of all, but second of all, it’s a derogatory adjective with no alternative. It’s reviewspeak. What I mean is: if you say, “that’s ugly” somebody else can say, “no, it’s beautiful.” If you say, “it’s over-stuffed” somebody can say, “really, I thought it was pretty thin.” So the problem with a word like precious is that the scale of adjectives with “precious” on it belongs solely to the reviewer and is just a way of being mean. Case in point: this whole nonsense about Sufjan Stevens’s’s BQE Thing. Words like fey, twee, and precious have become these little nuggets of coded disdain, but they are really just useless self-congratulatory gestures on the part of the reviewer. What is the opposite of twee? Muscular? It all reminds me of the insane misogynist critiques of Jane Austen’s novels. I guess the place for a word like that would be in a larger piece about the music world “” there was an enormous brouhaha in Iceland about the so-called Krútt scene. Krútt is probably the closest approximation in Icelandic of “precious” “” it refers to Múm, kind of Sigur Rós, and a lot of imitators: it denotes little bells, reversed glockenspiels, fairytale vocals, cutely-outfitted brass bands. Now, all of that is just a description and not derogatory; my iPod overflows with this shit. Anyway, to go to a concert of that kind of music and be like, “it’s precious,” all you’re doing is going to a Chinese restaurant and being like, “wow, they were serving mad chinese food up in there!”
Another irritating thing that comes up in reviews sometimes, too, is the word pretentious. Now. Beloveds. The word literally means Having Pretensions, like, the Thing is Pretending to Be a Thing that it is Not. Pretentious is these houses in New Jersey. It’s Madonna’s accent. It’s big entryways in the suburbs. It’s a whole lot of things but what it always requires is The Object or Person in Question referencing, in his or her head, Another Model, Object or Person. Pretension moves; it can’t do anything else. Monodirectional binary! Anyway, all of this is shorthand for me saying, my show got called pretentious in the Guardian and I was like, okay, maybe you didn’t like it all that much, but it’s the wrong word. (The review actually isn’t that bad). I would love to know what my show is attempting to be; if anything, I have the opposite problem of not having any directional concept for it aside from just playing music well, in a pleasing sequence. There’s something irritating, also, about being called pretentious by somebody who has taken it upon himself to learn how to make an umlaut, and then proceeds to fuck up Valgeir Sigurðsson’s patronymic all in the same gesture. Anyway: my music isn’t a McMansion, I swears it!
Moving on. Everybody should also buy these amazing remixes Son Lux did of My Brightest Diamond. I love her “” one of the things I like about her so much is how she’s not scared of the weirdness of her voice. If I were a female vocalist with an interesting voice, I would find it incredibly difficult to have a solo career ““ especially an electro-acoustic one ““ because of the looming shadow of Björk. No matter what all you want to do, she’s done it already, and done it really, really well. In fact, that whole Krútt business: it all comes from the landscape of Wespertine. You want to scream? She did it before you were even born. Beautiful song with a choir in the back? She got you. Dance anthem that builds slowly? She got that, too. Zap Mama doing Icelandic Folksongs? She’s on it. Anyway. I’d be paralyzed. Good job, My Brightest Diamond, for not giving a shit and plowing ahead anyway! Album & Remixes sound great!