Thursday, March 27, 2008

And then there's this...



That's Dan Schnelle, our amazing drummer. Ouch!

He was okay.

(He was catching a superball, in case it's not obvious. Notice how dedicated he is!)

Road pix

A smattering of images from the first few days of what has been probably our nuttiest tour yet. (Photos by Jill, Matt, and Andrew.)

Onward to Bakersfield!









Sunday, March 23, 2008

Here we go again

So, yeah, we're off. The whole Califor-ny-a tour. Can't wait to dig into this one... new music, some new players, some great old friends -- it'll be a helluva week. And it'll be trippy to be back in the land of milk and honey, after my first full year as a Portlander (where the color is green, and the atmosphere is moist -- which is kind of not how it is in CA). And I may actually get to read a book or two while on the road, so that'll be nice.

You know the schedule. Come out if you can! We'd love to see you!

The only drag is that my laptop crapped out on me recently -- so that minimizes my blogging opportunities. I may have a chance to check in a few times to share some pix or what-have-you... we'll see.

Let me tide you over with this so-wrong-it's-right Joel McHale quote, ganked from that silly Entertainment Weekly, and uttered in response to some poor American Idol kid's forgetting of the lyrics to some Beatles tune: "Congratulations, Yoko Ono, assassins, cancer, and one-legged gold diggers: You're no longer the worst thing to happen to the Beatles."

Zounds! I hope I don't forget the names of any of the fantastic musicians who are playing with us this week. Here they are:

Damon Zick, Gavin Templeton, Evan Francis, Cory Wright, Brian Walsh, Kasey Knudsen, Adam Schroeder, Gabriel Sundy, Paul Perez, Tom Griesser (saxes)

Stephanie Richards, Kris Tiner, Darren Johnston, Dan Rosenboom (trumpets)

Mike Richardson, Ian Carroll (bone)

Dan Schnelle (drums), Oliver Newell (bass)

Jill Knapp, Tany Ling (vocals)

Yee haw!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Metal Jazz on Industrial Jazz

Greg Burk just posted a lovely CD review / tour preview on his (highly recommended) online vehicle for such things, Metal Jazz:

Tues. March 25 -- Composer Andrew Durkin’s rather large Industrial Jazz Group has fun with music. Sometimes too much fun, I think, but I enjoy a high quotient of gloom and rage. The IJG’s new “LEEF,” for which tonight’s show is a release party, is amazing in many ways. As usual, it combines a lotta styles, taking an old ragtime riff or “Volga Boatmen,” say, and expanding the harmony, messing with the tempo, twisting it around. There’s plenty of purely original stuff, too, changing all the time and keeping up a high level of energy, invention and smartly applied dissonance. With a greater emphasis on vocals this time, “LEEF” comes off as a kind of modern light opera, telling a slapstick story of artistic alienation and vehicular devastation. You will not be bored. At Temple Bar, 1026 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica; 11pm; $10.


Gracias, Greg!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A little love

Brick Wahl at the LA Weekly just wrote a nice little blurb on us -- mostly as a preview of our upcoming Temple Bar show, but there's also a sentence on LEEF (so I guess that would be the album's first published review):

Now, you might need a bit of an outish edge to dig The Industrial Jazz Group ... then again, underlying the IJG’s 15-piece in-your-face attack are Andrew Durkin’s solid, Mingus-soaked arrangements. The group’s Industrial Jazz A-Go Go is just terrific, all swinging craziness, like Stan Kenton smoking all his band’s dope and cleaving Mingus’ ax with an ax. We love it. And the upcoming LEEF is from a live gig at home in Portland ... funny swinging stuff with clumps of European music and Zappoid art rock and cabaret tossed in, missing only Joel Grey. They’re at the Temple Bar on Tuesday, at 11 p.m. on the dot. One set only, alas.


A few corrections -- first, LEEF was mostly recorded in Amsterdam, not Portland. Also, there's a typo in the online piece -- "IJF" instead of "IJG" (I corrected it in my cut-and-paste). And finally, for this tour, the group will actually be sixteen people, not fifteen. (More on that later.)

But anyway, big thanks to Brick for this great piece!

And, uh, yeah, so I guess we'll be touring in CA next week. Wow -- I guess it's our CD release tour for LEEF. Who'd'a thunkit?

Here's the itinerary:

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Old habits

I'm sorry. I know it's not fair of me to presume to read the mind of another human being.

But in the aftermath of the Obama speech, every time I have heard the right-wing machine attempt to spin it as "not enough," or as "political posturing"; every time I have heard of "collective groans"; every time somebody says the content was "grating" -- every time, I am reminded of the following clip, and every time I suspect that this is what these people are really thinking:

Fearless

Ezra Klein is right. The power of that Obama speech -- the power of the candidate himself -- is traceable to a characteristic so rarely seen in politics: honesty.

As I listened, I was reminded that, for all of the left-generated criticism of Obama as "not progressive enough" (do you remember how common that was back in the Fall?) -- there is simply no way a Dennis Kucinich or a Ralph Nader (both of whom I admire greatly) could put the issue of race on the table so deftly, respectfully, and forcefully.

Whether you think race is our crucible issue as a nation is up to you, of course. I happen to think it is.

Klein also rightly points out that the speech was pretty measured and formal -- not the dramatic stump oratory that Obama is well-known for. But can you imagine the mindset it must take to be able to execute a delivery like that under such intense political pressure? I don't think I heard him trip over his language once (though, since we were getting Thandie ready for school, I probably didn't hear every single word). How many of us would even be able to think clearly in those circumstances?

The man is unflappable -- and not the "idiot's haze" unflappable of a George Bush. No, this is the good unflappable -- the kind that says "I'm patient enough to work things out with you in an open and respectful way. Let's not be deterred by the bullshit."

Ironically, one measure of the speech's success is the fact that the right wing critique of Obama is spinning out of control in response to it. You know the subtext by now: these folks reeeeaaaaally want to run against Clinton in the Fall. I suspect that they thought they had finally found Obama's fatal flaw -- and until now much of the mainstream response to the Wright controversy may have supported that conclusion. To watch that slipping away... well, it must be pretty goddamned frustrating.

But I hope you'll forgive me if I say I don't care.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Kiss me, I'm Irish

- Brother Jimmy, said Joey the Lips. - I'm worried. - About Dean.

- Wha' abou' Dean?

- He told me he's been listening to jazz.

- What's wrong with tha'? Jimmy wanted to know.

- Everything, said Joey the Lips. - Jazz is the antithesis of soul.

- I beg your fuckin' pardon!

- I'll go along with Joey there, said Mickah.

- See, said Joey the Lips. - Soul is the people's music. Ordinary people making music for ordinary people. - Simple music. Any Brother can play it. The Motown sound, it's simple. Thump-thump-thump-thump. - That's straight time. Thump-thump-thump-thump. - See? Soul is democratic, Jimmy. Anyone with a bin lid can play it. - It's the people's music.

- Yeh don't need anny honours in your Inter to play soul, isn't tha' wha' you're gettin' at, Joey?

- That's right, brother Michael.

- Mickah.

- Brother Mickah. That's right. You don't need a doctorate to be a doctor of soul.

- Nice one.

- An' what's wrong with jazz? Jimmy asked.

- Intellectual music, said Joey the Lips. - It's anti-people music. It's abstract.

- It's cold an' emotionless, amn't I righ'? said Mickah.

- You are. - It's got no soul. It is sound for the sake of sound. It has no meaning. - It's musical wanking, Brother.

- Musical wankin', said Mickah. - That's good.

- Here, yeh could play tha' at the Christmas parties.

- Instead o' musical chairs.


--Roddy Doyle, The Commitments

Oh feck. Happy Lá Fhéile Pádraig, my lovely, oft-poor, oft-fun, oft-misguided people. (Hey, I can say that.)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Station identification

Hi!

Did you know you can now pre-order LEEF? The album will be ready to ship sometime in the next few weeks. And the online price will go up after our upcoming tour (i.e., on April 1) -- so grab yours now! (You know, if, like, you want to.)

Oh yeah, and there's an added benefit of pre-ordering: you'll help us offset some of our touring costs!

In other words: everybody wins!

* * * * *


After much discussion and soul-searching, I decided to release LEEF in an environmentally-conscious package produced by a local outfit called Stumptown Printers (and here I must thank Kris Tiner, all the way down in Bakersfield, for pointing out this amazing resource in my own backyard). Stumptown does a lot of good work, but the package I chose is known as the Arigato Pak. It's basically a (CD-sized) all-paper matchbook-like design -- with a spine (hooray!). It eliminates the need for plastic and glue. Plus it's configured in such a way as to protect the CD from fingerprints.

Hope you like it!

* * * * *


Unlike me, Seth Godin seems incapable of ever blogging about anything lame. He recently posted this excerpt from what seems like a pretty funny book by Dan Kennedy -- an inside look at some kind of archetypal "Record Label Executive Mentality." The question t hand: "How many record execs does it take to screw in a lightbulb?"

First of all, before we change anything, is the light bulb really burned out? Maybe we just need to breathe some life into it; repackage it, maybe the light bulb could do a duet with somebody (Sheryl Crow? Tim McGraw?) in hopes of getting some crossover appeal, maybe it could be in a beer commercial, maybe we could get it out on the road with a brighter light bulb. The other thing to think about is that this summer, Honda is rolling out a 100 Million dollar campaign for a new car aimed at thirty-somethings who consider themselves adventurous/spontaneous but can't really afford something like a luxury S.U.V. and it might be a perfect campaign to tie this light bulb into, at least it would be the perfect demographic, in terms of age.

Also, and this is just an idea: what if we found out what video games are being released in the third quarter and maybe pitched the idea of having our light bulb make an appearance in the video game at some certain level of completion; like, you get to a dark cave, let's say, if it's an adventure game, and if you have enough points you can get the light bulb - and it would be our light bulb, obviously - and then it's easier to see in the cave. The other thing is this: worst-case scenario the light bulb is, in fact, burned out. Is that really the end of the world? I mean, maybe that's actually of more value to us in the long run: Picture this for voice over: "The light bulb is dead. . . but the legend lives on. . . re-released, re-mastered, revealed. . . the light bulb. . . IN STORES NOW." It almost makes more sense than taking the time changing it, plus, if it's dead we can sell it without dealing with it, you know what I mean? No demands from it, no hotels, no road expense, no delays in the project from its end, etc. But, like I said, I'm just thinking off the top of my head here, just brainstorming, and none of this is written in stone. But the first thing we should do is figure out how we want to handle this, because the light bulb's manager is a total nightmare and we're going to have to take a meeting and listen to him sooner or later, and we should know what our plan is before we sit down with him. And let me tell you right now that the first thing out of his mouth is going to be, "This light bulb should be the brightest light bulb in the world, and it could be the brightest light bulb in the world, but you need to support the light bulb, you need to give the light bulb TV ads, you need to be more active in giving the light bulb tour support, we need to have some promotion from your end!" and on and on. And in that meeting, if you're in it, the only answer from our side should be that we're obviously very excited to be working with the light bulb, that we don't think it needs to be changed, that the only problem is people haven't seen how bright the light bulb could be, and our plan is to do everything we can to make this light bulb happen.

I'll send out an email to everyone before the meeting to remind people of our position on this, but the bottom line is we don't have the budgets right now, and basically we need to see something happening with the light bulb before we go throwing good money after bad, but obviously we can't have the light bulb's manager hearing that. I can tell you all that I'm personally very excited to be working with the light bulb, I think it will light up very brightly, and we're not going to stop working the light bulb, in whatever ways budgets will permit, until it does, in fact, light up very brightly. . . the light bulb is a very big priority for us from the top of the company to the bottom. Period. We can talk more about this when I am back from Barbados next week, and I'm going to need everybody's help on this. I know we can do it, but we need everybody working hard.


* * * * *


And, by the way -- I know that good PR / marketing requires that you have a story, but this is off the charts.

Carl Wilson astutely points out that "the entertainment business's version of whoring remains a hair's breadth away from the literal version"...

Which is true, I think... though I hope it doesn't change how you view the album ad with which I began this post!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Lost 'n lonely



"I saw this. I thought it was funny."

Yup. It's your standard JTMOU blog post.

(Details: the underrated Dinosaur Jr. covers the Cure. Note: the payoff comes at the chorus.)

The head's still in spin

An index of web 2.0. Couldn't they have, like, alphabetized it or something?

Oh, I see. Click an icon, and tags show up in the description window at the bottom (or just click the tags bar at the top (to the right of the search box)).

Brave new world.

One of the site authors, Orli Yakuel, has compiled a nice list of music-related Web 2.0 sites here. Thanks, Orli -- now I just have to find the time to check these out.

By which time we'll be in in Web 3.0.

Some much-needed civility



Photo by Ian Boyd.

Via.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Context

One of Jeremiah Wright's "controversial" comments -- the "God Damn America" bit -- was uttered two years before Katrina.

Was he being offensive or prescient?

The things you learn

Wow! I had no idea that Ted Gioia (whose book on so-called "west coast jazz" is an important corrective to the conventional view) is a Frank Zappa fan.

(For those of you who have never read Zappa's autobiography, The Real Frank Zappa Book, Gioia's piece reveals that Zappa was where I got the title of this here blog.)

Random thoughts in response to these reviews:

-- Hmm... FZ getting the call for Bitches' Brew? I know this is a harmless example of literary liberty-taking, but I must say, it's hard for me to imagine these two gargantuan personalities working together on a project. (Though Zappa did work with Boulez, so there is precedent.)

-- Just curious: has anyone ever actually heard "Peaches en Regalia" (or, for that matter, "Blessed Relief") called at a jam session?

-- Gioia namechecks the "great Shuggie Otis" -- as well he should. Shuggie (who put out a great album on the Luaka Bop label, and who also penned the Brothers Johnson classic, "Strawberry Letter 23") is the son of Johnny Otis, an early Zappa influence (and, if I remember correctly, the inspiration for the (now trademarked) Zappa 'stache).

-- Okay, I'll admit it, and I'm sorry in advance -- I've never been a huge fan of Ian Underwood's sax playing. [Ducking.]

-- But ah! "Dog Breath" is one of my favorites (in fact, I've always considered Uncle Meat to be one of those elusive perfect albums). And Gioia really puts it out there when he says that "[a]lmost a decade later, Steve Reich would reveal -- in his spectacular Music for 18 Musicians -- the modernistic side of mallet instruments. But Zappa had discovered the hypnotic power of the marimba and vibraphone back in his Uncle Meat days." Wow -- though Zappa certainly has his supporters among maintream critics (now), it's rare (as far as I can tell, anyway) that you see him credited for something concrete like this. I wonder if he would've gotten a Pulitzer if he had survived. (Nah, probably not.)

-- "During the course of ["Be-Bop Tango"], Zappa offers us intense energy jazz (with a flaming trombone solo by Bruce Fowler)" ... yes. And do you think I will ever get tired of reminding people that Bruce Fowler sat in with the IJG for a gig back in 2004? Fuck no! So sue me, it was real thrill. (And what a sweet, lovely guy Bruce is. For a while there he was one of the only people who would come to our LA gigs regularly.)

-- I have that Ed Palermo album, it's pretty damned good. Though the estate gave him shit. Wouldn'tcha know?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Q & A

Geraldine Ferraro asks:

“Why is his candidacy historic? Can you give me another reason why it is an historic campaign?"

Answer: because it is a refreshing and persuasive attempt at politics sans bullshit.

Thoughts from within the long tail

From Andrew Drubber's essential ebook:

the more things you make available, the more things people will consume overall. Amazon.com sells more books than any other bookstore because it sells a greater range of books than any other bookstore.


Sometimes I describe my life (to myself, anyway) as a quest to make the perfect album. And it's always the same story when I get down to the final weeks of a given release: "Durkin, remember your quest! Are you gonna give that up, just to get this fucker finished now?"

Maybe I'm too impatient, but every time, despite my strongly-held ideal, I answer that question affirmatively. In a way, it's fortunate that, even though I have moved a good portion of the IJG CD production process to my basement, I still have to pay someone else to use their gear to produce the "official" version of each release. Without that ticking clock and steadily increasing bill, who knows if I'd ever get done with anything.

And in the end, it doesn't really matter. With a few weeks' distance (not to mention the inevitability with which each release takes on its own life once it goes out "into the world"), I always come back to find that the last few little things I would have done to a record if I had unlimited resources are actually pretty damned insignificant. Non-issues, even.

The point? I suspect that, in this new music world, prolific high-quality output trumps painstakingly-crafted sporadic output. Personally, that means the manic workaholic and the snail's-pace perfectionist in me have to find a place to meet and have lunch.

* * * * *


P.S.:

Regina Spektor. "Carbon Monoxide." Soviet Kitsch.

Note to self: wow.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Media, by ass

Yet another example of how I am so far out of the loop that I don't even know where the loop is:

Most Americans don't read political blogs.

One of the more surprising and counterintuitive observations of that piece: "The generation most likely to read such blogs are those age 63 or older." (Although something about these numbers in general seems misleading -- perhaps it's the absence of context.)

I was also surprised to learn that "blogs often adopt a specific point of view," and that that is what makes them different from "traditional, mainstream media."

Woah!

Maybe I'm crazy, but I think it is very rare indeed to find a media source (mainstream or otherwise) that attains the much-touted ideal of journalistic objectivity. C-SPAN comes pretty close, at least in terms of its framing device (low-key, evasive hosts, minimal graphics, inoffensive music, a let-everyone-get-their-say-and-then-we-move-on approach). But even there, bias inevitably (if unintentionally) creeps in -- as evidenced by a comment at this post on Greta Wodele:

I have awakened many mornings to check C-SPAN's Washington Journal, and if it's Greta, I don't care what the topic or who the guest is, I'll watch in amazement for a while.


So if you're liberal, and the guest is Karl Rove, do you suddenly find yourself less angry at his stupidity just because Ms. Rodele is hosting? Yikes.

Code can be objective. Words, images, sounds? Not so much.

Monday, March 10, 2008

More where that came from



Looks like this one has been around for awhile.

However, I just saw it for the first time (thanks, Sean!).

So of course I simply must post it here.

Yes, I love both Star Trek and Monty Python.

(They're more similar than you might think.)

"By the way," you ask, "Why the one-sentence-paragraph style, all of a sudden?"

Well, let's just say it lends a kind of gravitas to what is otherwise a rather frivolous post.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

LEEF Trax: PDX LIX LAX



photo c/o Nick Moon


Madness.

That's right, I said it. And I'll say it again. Madness.

Don't those guys look tired? Punchy? Ready for the looney bin?

That fellow to my right is Nick Moon -- who, by the way, is quickly becoming Portland's go-to guy for audio recording. Although his most high profile gig might be working with Gino Vanelli, Nick's resume lists a growing "who's who" of local/regional jazz (and jazz-related) talent: Nancy King, Belinda Underwood, Alan Jones, Madeline Eastman, most (all?) of the members of Pink Martini, etc. Why he consented to working on the new IJG record is simply beyond me.



"Historic" Troutdale, OR: home of Tone Proper Mastering.


But consent he did. And I'll bet he regrets it, because what started as a two-day project back in November quickly turned into four, and then six, and then eight, and now... well, let's just say we worked pretty much every day last week to finish the fucker (and just in time for our upcoming tour, I might add). Apparently mixing a live multi-tracked big band recording -- especially one that was made without using any real separation techniques (bafffles, clip-on mics, judicious and sparing placement of monitors) -- is a lot harder than I had originally supposed. Boy did I learn a lot about some of the things that can go wrong (hello, low-end bleed!).

It's amazing how something as sedentary as mixing -- really hardcore mixing, even over a short period of time -- can be physically exhausting. I suppose that's a function of the kind of repetitive listening that's involved. It's a kind of listening that is probably not at all "natural" -- the ears, I suspect, are not really built to take in the same song (or even snippets of the same song) hundreds of times in a row.

Hence the semi-zapped look on our faces in the pic above.



Going to the studio: it's almost like taking a leisurely stroll through a quaint little tourist town -- but not really.


* * * * *


Those of you who are already on the Facebook bandwagon (I'm going to assume Jason Moran's use of that term has de-pejorativized it) may have noticed the Industrial Jazz Group page over there. This is but one of the places you can check out an advance copy of "PDX LIX LAX" -- one of the representative pieces from the most recent incarnation of the group. (A "more final" mastered version is also available here.)

PDX was written in the summer of 2006 -- midway between two events that turned out to be pretty crucial to its conception, completion, and title: first, the ill-fated CD release show for "Industrial Jazz a Go Go!", which took place at Hollywood's Barnsdall Theater in April, and second, my relocation to Portland, OR, in September of that same year.

When I look back on it now, that seems like an amazingly compressed period of time in which to undergo such a drastic shift -- especially with wife and kid in tow, and especially given that I had no idea during the CD release show experience that I would be out of LA (my home for ten years) within a few months. But the "Barnsdall incident" helped to solidify that migration for me -- as you might notice if you read the above-linked post (which was probably written in a fit of pique: fair warning) . It's not that I necessarily minded dealing with the possibility of a low turnout for any given IJG show -- I know that risk is pretty much inevitable wherever you go -- but I was tired of compromising so many other aspects of my life just to stay in a town that was not much more welcoming of the arts than any other big metropolis in the country.

Anyway, "PDX LIX LAX" emerged in Barnsdall's wake -- pretty much in tandem with another LEEF track, "Howl." (I tend to write things in pairs, for some reason.) This is actually the second arrangement of the tune. In the original version, the melody of the "A section" (basically, the first half, before the gospel-like groove kicks in) was mostly shared by two alto saxes in unison. But as I was preparing for our last east coast tour, I got the bright idea to convert a significant portion of the A section into more of a "Concerto for Evan" (highlighting the idiosyncratic brilliance of longtime IJG collaborator, Evan Francis).

For comparison of these arrangement approaches, you can check out this excerpt from the original arrangement -- this is the beginning of the tune, as heard in a performance at Club Tropical (in Culver City), at the outset of our August 2006 west coast tour (the alto parts were expertly played by Ariel Alexander and James King, both motherfuckers in their own right).

One of the performance possibilities that was opened up by the later revision -- and I think I had a strong feeling that Evan would go this route, though I don't remember explicitly coaching him into it, and it's certainly not indicated on the chart -- was that the first statement of the melody would no longer have to be limited to the ink; i.e., Evan was freed up to start with an embellishment instead of a theme. The fun part (for me, anyway) is that the listener doesn't really know what the embellishment is an embellishment of until the second statement of the melody (at around the 1:12 mark), where the ensemble pretty much takes over and puts the tune out there quite emphatically. So things are kind of backwards. (On top of all this, I should add, the looseness of the opening is heightened by drummer Dan Schnelle's willingness to provoke and propel Evan's playing.)

What can I say? I'm fascinated by inversion. I like the word "preposterous."

Anyway.

Not totally unrelated: one of my favorite Prince tunes is "Forever in My Life" (from Sign o the Times). It includes a "backing / counterpoint vocal" that anticipates the tune's "lead vocal" (in a more typical pop arrangement the relationship would be the other way round). I haven't listened to Prince in a while, but SOTT was a favorite of mine for a while -- so I'm guessing that "Forever" had some sort of impact on my rearrangement of "PDX."

(You can file that bit under "artists you would never have guessed as influences on the IJG.")

* * * * *


P.S. Does PDX really "lick" LAX? Well, that's a loaded question. I do love it here. In particular, I can say that it's extremely cool to live somewhere so green, and yet still so satisfyingly urban. And there is something endearing about PDX's pride in local quirkiness (one reason I used a local manufacturer and printer for the replication / packaging of LEEF -- more on that soon).

Also: check out M. Farina's post / link on the Portland music scene. That's more about licking SEA-TAC, I guess. Maybe I'll write a sequel tune.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

A little levity...

...never hurt nobody.



C/o Secondtino.

An addendum on taste

I've been pondering, on and off, further ramifications of Carl Wilson's investigation of taste -- which I first pondered here.

(We're all about further ramifications here at JTMOUE.)

Still haven't actually gotten to the book yet.

(We're all about overscheduling here at JTMOUE.)

But check this out: bass wizard Steve Lawson recently had a cool post about a cool post about a cool post (see how this Internet thing works?), and all three tie into this topic nicely.

An excerpt from the primary document (the context is an experiment in which the trajectory of a given song's popularity could be "rewound" and tested numerous times):

In each of the eight social worlds, the top songs -- and the bottom ones -- were completely different.

For example, the song "Lockdown," by 52metro, was the No. 1 song in one world, yet finished 40 out of 48 in another. Nor did there seem to be any compelling correlation between merit and success. In fact, Watts explains, only about half of a song's success seemed to be due to merit.

"In general, the 'best' songs never do very badly, and the 'worst' songs never do extremely well, but almost any other result is possible," he says.

Why?

Because the first band to snag a few thumbs-ups in the social world tended overwhelmingly to get many more. And who received those crucial first votes seemed to be mostly a matter of luck.


How many of us are willing to admit that that beautiful tune we hold so dear, that authentic expression of heartfelt artistry, that potent signifier of some significant event in our lives, may actually be something we have (at least in part) been conditioned to love?

There is a lot of writing about musical likes and dislikes as if they are scientific, subject to the play of immutable laws (most musical analysis-based criticism takes this tack -- which of course is fine as far as it goes). But what if musical taste is actually a very complex kind of choice?

What if our record collections are full of things we (again, at least in part) decide to like because it suits some larger agenda about who we think we are or who we want to be?

These are silly questions, I know. I'm in a silly mood.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Same old same old

So we're back to this again.

Well, okay.

I don't really see tonight's results as a reversal of fortune for Obama -- the "delegate math" just doesn't add up -- but I do have a bad feeling about where things are going.

Every once in a while, when I take our lab-mastiff, Louis, to the park, there is a small dog or two who just won't leave him the fuck alone, what with the yipping and the nipping and the circling, until he just has to break through his usually docile doggy demeanor and come back with a convincingly vicious growl.

That, I believe, is what's going on here: go negative until you provoke a response. And there are many ways Obama can win this, but he can't win a negative fight against the Clintons (at least I don't think he can). That sort of thing is their bread and butter.

That sort of thing -- this sort of thing -- was also, I had hoped, a relic of the political past, the infamous "dustbin of history." Ha! Stupid me.



And where will this brave new return to business-as-usual lead us? Do we even care? Maybe not. But we should. In one of the stronger moments (for me) in what was an otherwise lackluster "concession" speech in San Antonio last night, Obama put it this way:


The world is watching what we do here. What will we they see? What will we tell them? What will we show them?


Same as it ever was?

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Images from the front


Bag News Notes contributor Alan Chin appears to be "photoliveblogging" (is that a word?) the race in Ohio today. Some amazing shots are up already.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit listening to NPR

This is getting ridiculous. Another track ("Losing Proposition") from the 2002 Industrial Jazz Group album, City of Angles, was recently used as bumper music on NPR. This time (the fourth, at least) on Michel Martin's Tell Me More program.

(Last time it was our "Anger Management Classes" on Talk of the Nation.)

The feel-good video of the... oh, never mind



Not HRK-approved (to her credit), but HRK-inspired (no comment).

After about 15 seconds you'll get the idea...