04 June 2021

Bro, where'd ya go?

The first time I heard or read the word "blog" was when I over-heard it on the radio while trying to work on something else. Some glib NPR infotainment piece about blogs, their rise and potential fall. Circa 2004, give or take a year. The funny thing is, something quite glib was uttered in the course of this puff piece that immediately captured my attention and imagination. This was solely responsible for my first aborted attempt at blogging, consisting of exactly one post which, if memory serves, was very much like post #1 here. A few years later I tried again and it stuck.

When you run out on a Blogspot, as I ran out on my firstborn, eventually it is resorbed into the cybervoid. You do get a friendly notice from the hivemind at google long before resorption is imminent. This has happened only once with Fickle Ears, and it practically made my heart stop, which is pretty embarrassing but also sums up well where things stand for me vis-a-vis anyone giving two shits about anything else that I've done. This blog project is now my hipster-nerdverse answer to Second Life. This was not the plan, but this is what has happened. McLuhan was quite correct to call these things "extensions of man," though I prefer "projection" because it more fully captures the aggressive aspect which is bound to be part of the equation for a washed-up high school athlete. This blog gets read about as often as my symphonies get played, but I believe in it, most of all because, just like that breezy NPR story said (or like I now imagine it to have said), the blog is a diary and a soapbox and a therapist and a record-keeper and perhaps a few other things, all and none of these things all at once, oddly able to shapeshift in spite of being, seemingly, a rigid, backward, slightly clumsy technology of failure, a technology of the millennium which with full millennial irony almost immediately ceased to have any obvious resonance with everything its sibling technologies have wrought. Meanwhile, I am a typical only child, and I'm here to stay.

Apropos of such a failure, no two people use these little monsters in quite the same way, and this makes community and exchange far more elusive than McLuhan seems to have thought it might become, depending I suppose on what exactly you understand "village" to mean. Lewis Mumford idealized the "neolithic" village as the most stable, secure, peaceful existence mankind has yet known, and so lashed out at McLuhan like a cornered animal. They were both prescient in their own ways. But neither got all of the details quite right.

There are only three other blogs that have really, really resonated with me. One of them, speaking of malign profits, is Professor Gann's Postclassic, and when I say it "resonated" I mean to evoke a cast iron skillet falling off the stove during an earthquake rather than the gestalt of a clean orchestral tutti. Still, Gann is just about the only person writing about music who actually is all the things his right sidebar says he is. This makes his fieldwork invaluable even for someone who occasionally finds his positions absurd. Better a scholar courting absurdity than vice versa, I think. I'm not going to provide a link though, because if you're reading this the percentage chance that you've already been there is in the high nineties.

Daniel Wolf's Renewable Music has been a much more enjoyable horizon-expanding experience. Daniel's writing style also very much appeals to me and has influenced my own writing greatly, unlikely though that may seem. Unfortunately even with Daniel's help I didn't really understand exactly what The Radical Music referred to until I got to CalArts. (Or did this merely distract me with an academic caricature? Hmm...) I am not an experimentalist, nor all that Radical of a musician, and I have very precisely articulated/rationalized reasons for why I am not these things. But the funny thing is, in absence of full context I have always been able to read the writings of experimental musicians and think that I agree with every word. I've had some odd, very adolescent false starts this way. But I do owe Daniel quite a debt not just for providing raw information and for generating plenty of "heat and light" but also for exemplifying in quiet eloquence what a civil internet might look like. Daniel is the reluctant virtuoso of the blog whose example guides much of what I do here, though again I realize that probably sounds inexplicable and perhaps also is unfair to him. Influence works in funny, indirect ways.

Both of these blogs seem to have gone dormant, happily without yet being gobbled up by the streetsweeper, but for years now rather than the mere months which are customary for all of us. Predictably given my tastes and purposes, Gann's project does feel more or less complete at this point, while Wolf's feels open-ended and inexhaustible. Gann once confessed to being wary of repeating himself, a problem which every blogger has if we're being honest, while Wolf's purview itself seemed to ensure a certain ludic unpredictability very much in the spirit of the musical work he makes and writes about. As a reader I don't miss the pressure of keeping up, but now the disappearance of these two curiosities, both of which kept me on my toes in a way that a rigidly empirical orientation cannot, is felt as a palpable absence in my personal intellectual theater.

For all the time (too much perhaps) that I once spent bouncing off the walls of the blogosphere, there is only one other blog I would truly count as an influence. I spent only a very brief time with it, but it made a strong impression. Returning for the first time in a decade, I was sad to find that it has long since been resorbed, or possibly intentionally removed, and sadder yet to find the Internet Archive seemingly not quite in sync with the Blogspot way of organization. And yet, if you use the URL followed by the year you can indeed find your way to most of Stanley J. Zappa's It Is Not Mean If It Is True (Attack Attack Attack) and therein you will find plenty to chew on.


[Update: criminy, these archive.org links work only on desktop, not on mobile. WTF?]

Peek-a-boo! Fetish Character in Music and Regression of Listening!

Adorno, Phoebe Snow, and the Colors of Spring--Emo Mix

Business Extending Peacefully

The Illusion, The Understanding

Exchange Value Destroys Use Value

The Truth About Tuxedos

Large Fry, Small Fry

10/10/11. God is Dead. Occupy Wall Street. Shit On Police Car. Wipe Ass with New York Times.

EYES RIGHT! Sgt Shamar Thomas, USMC and The Revealation of Self-Production and The Unity That is Realized in Precisely that Spontaneity

Forcible Retardation, Pinched Hatred, Neurotic Stupidity and the Genius of Children.

Capitulate Before the Superior Power / Purchase Spiritual Peace

Sensory Pleasure Turns into Disgust / Displacement of Feelings into Exchange Value / Neurotic Mechanisms of Stupidity in Listening / The Arrogantly Ignorant Rejection of Everything Unfamiliar

Whereupon Teddy Drops A Chocolate Yule Log on the Ambivalence of Retarded Listeners, Jazz Administrators and Pattern Based So-Called Improvisation

The Younger Generation, Rowing for the Older Generation

It's weird, but something about SJZ's presentation of Adorno just feels right. It's a well-staged collision between Adorno and the punk aesthetic, the kind Greil Marcus tried to bring off but couldn't without looking like a douche. The medium is the message, and there's a message-message too. It works. The liberal use of highlighting is especially crucial. I have already started stealing this idea and intend to continue to do so. No "anxiety of influence" here. But do go to the source.

This is also awesome.

And I'm not the least bit ashamed to say I totally agree with this.

Finally, please don't neglect to enjoy the order-from-chaos aspect of the labels list. Beef-Beethoven-Beheading! hipster-Husserl-hypocrisy! Pink Martini-piss smell-Plato! In a world where even fleeting moments of happiness are elusive, this makes me smile. Bro, where'd ya go?

Sticking with the Village motif, I decided to get tribal and do some googling confined to the domain blogspot.com. Lotta people were all over Wordpress when it first came on the scene, and it would be years after that before the Blogspot got any kind of comparable makeover. I confess that I did consider bailing. Nowadays I'm inclined to double down on the hipster-nerdverse aspect and remain on the present platform. I do take pleasure in having a deep archive even if most of what it contains is execrable rubbish. But I also sincerely despise slick packaging, which I'm pretty sure is exactly what the leavers were after. Happily there's still plenty of heat and light being generated by my tribe in a no-to-low-frills sort of manner. Some interesting shite that I managed to dig up:

Ever heard of Justus Buchler? The name sounds like a joke, but it's dead serious, and quite compelling.

Part 1

Part 2

Roger Bobo, the GOAT himself, is blogging strong! I especially recommend this short post, after which you can safely skip approximately 73% of the overwrought muck that I've posted here over the years.

Also of this variety, re: judging competitions:

There were groups that played perfectly together and projected no musical personality whatsoever. These groups, absolutely amazed by not being advanced to further rounds, were invariably the ones who would approach the judges, demanding an explanation as to why. Trying to explain was not easy.

A tired subject perhaps, until the last sentence. The rare wisdom is all in the last sentence.

And of course no excursion in brass would be complete without the gearheads trying to ruin everything.

I wrote the essay, "Specters", about some of the interesting people, those who would follow the various orchestras that I had played in through the years in our rehearsals and concerts.

Sadly, the stories of an old man who played in the Moscow Youth Orchestra when Tchaikovsky would bring by a new score by to hear the orchestration or another old man in another part of the world had a big part of his life rewriting symphony scores with all the inaudible orchestration deleted, do not hold the same interest as rotary vs. piston valves or "Is Bigger Better?" To me that's sad.

Everybody now, in your best millennial tween voices: SAAAD!

I love that our GOAT has brains and heart as well as chops.


A super-interesting 8-part series begins here. A taste:

Prewar Modernist architects had looked back to the look of cleanness of white undergarments that signaled a actually clean body (in contrast to the earlier look of white linens that had simply covered a dirty body). In the postwar years the material abundance made of industrial manufacturing changed the game once more. JFK, the president who committed America to landing on the moon, changed suits as many as four times a day, often went through six fresh shirts a day, and habitually wore a girdle to the point that his muscles atrophied. Mid-century Modernist fashion designers,who were the first to extend their couture brands to mass market merchandise, were now returning the early Modernist architect's gaze. But they were not admiring architecture's look of cleanliness, they were admiring the rigid structure.
Through the above site I found my way to this one:
Robertson conducts a large and varied cast through a long time and a complex plot with great skill to a most satisfactory click of closure. But, Hames argues, the difficulty of integrating the characters' lives with a political history that mostly consisted of tiny conventicles and ceilidhs in literally smoke-filled rooms and debates in widely unread periodicals, and that now and then took public form as 'set-piece' events in parliaments and streets, can defeat even the best novelist – even though Robertson was himself on those marches and in those rooms. It's a problem familiar in science fiction: one reviewer cited refers to Robertson's 'info-dumping', a term from the lexicon of SF criticism.

I am quite ignorant of the principals but not the principles, hence this was logged at once in my personal card catalog of meditations on the lie that tells the truth.

Here is an intelligent and erudite examination of a work which is fundamental to my own bloggerel.


Abstract comics!!

This made me just the slightest bit homesick, emphasis on the sick part.

Critics taking a beating? Bibliographical use of the comments feature? I'm there.


Just as the best places for Raising A Family are not/cannot be the best places for an artist to find a fertile balance of arrogation and humility, so I have often aspired to emigrate from the parochial intellectual climate of the here-and-now to a self-curated intellectual community of online scholars. "Small pieces, loosely joined" in the coinage of one popular author. The ideal seems unachievable and the need remains unmet. In the bigger/scarier city I settled in as an adult, from which the so-called Family Millennials and their as-yet-unborn entropy machines are said to be fleeing in droves, superficially it seems possible to find almost any other variety of human company one might desire. The reality is that even after uprooting and moving across the country, certain structural obstacles remain. I can confirm, against my abiding pessimistic streak, that the aforementioned "small pieces" are indeed in evidence, both online and IRL. Not surprisingly in hindsight, it's the "loosely joined" part that has remained elusive and seems impossible. That is cause for as much skepticism and despair as even I am capable of mustering. As a co-worker and scarred LA veteran once put it to me, there's no "scene" here because there's no "community." A continent's worth of great players does not make a scene if said players are too spread out, spread too thin, and spread too far up their own buttholes. And now, adding insult to injury, we've been forced even further apart and, assuming we are able to return to our non-scene at all, will be confronted with the historic ruins of a dead civilization, something much trickier and traumatic to confront than mere scorched earth from which spontaneous regeneration is more assured. The online world, meanwhile, was already imploding even before the Plague. The social media have become less rather than more differentiated. To become even "loosely joined" to anyone or anything on the internet is now the greatest hazard rather than, as it was once imagined to be, the whole point of the thing. So, I will continue to shelter in place, to append "site:blogspot.com" to any google queries which otherwise prove to be overbroad, and to feign optimism to the extent possible under the circumstances. Feel free to share anything you've been reading or writing lately in the comments.

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