Thursday, April 28, 2011

Rambling Reiterations

The goal in my mind is that my perceptions, my vision, my ideas actually correspond to reality.  This absolutely does not require some sort of demand for realism in art. Quite the contrary. Anyone claiming realism needs other art to challenge that perception.   How is the world really? Like 1984, the Lord of The Rings, or in Stephen King novels, or in Camus novels?  I am talking deeper issues here, not simply narrative descriptions.

I still hold out hope that at some level we find truths that can never be fully explicated or described but of which we can gain a fuller understanding by listening the various reports of people's encounters with them, and perhaps trying to look at them directly on more than one occasion and from different angles. Why should truths about existence and love and truth and beauty be given less care than an interesting rock formation?

At times I grow impatient with people who say, "Well what's true for one may not be true for others. your truth may be different from my truth."  It really seems that this statement is a way to avoid the challenge other ideas pose for us. But maybe the problem is the wording. I want to know if the way I see the world is in fact the way the world is. You may take another course. I am perfectly willing to admit that  you may see something in reality that I don't and vice-versa but that is way different from saying that what  you see is not true for me or what I see is not true for you.  It's saying we may both be on to something, we may be approaching this particular mountain from different directions, the morning star may be the evening star, or we may looking at totally different things, or one or both of us may be seeing something that is not really there.

But don't you want to find out if it is really there; don't you want to talk not about whether you're right or I'm right but about how we can find out what is really going on even if it turns out one of us is wrong, or both of us are wrong. Don't you want to move toward the truth?

(As I write this "In the Aeroplane Over The Sea" is on the radio. That is such a rare thing.)

But this is what I find as I read the papers and watch the TV and listen to the radio-- the topics of conversation are set out for us, the perceptions of a relatively few and their views take up the time, and we are taught to value what is put before us, which coincidentally and intentionally or not, results in those few making a sufficient living and those institutions large enough sums to perpetuate the whole thing.  But these folk are separated from us by a vast gulf.  We and by "we" I mean each and everyone of us, cannot individually engage the folk putting forward these views, rather we discuss these things which each other.

What an affront to freedom that complete strangers should control the content of our conversation with each other! Why we even think it is important that others agree or disagree with us and these others! We think it is important!

Yet all of these discussions claim a rootedness in a time and place when people actually conversed and performed personally with and for each other.  What was Athens but a Scene?  What was Jerusalem but a Scene? What was Enlightenment London but a Scene?

For me we could have the New Athens here. Song and plays and poetry. Written at the highest level but for an audience of people we actually see and know.

It is not a matter of trusting our instincts that we are on to something here. It's more like stating what seems to be a simple truth, namely that there is no objective or articulable reason why the topic and view preferences of people who do not know us personally,  should take precedence over the topics of our own choosing, the paths that look interesting to us here.

Some of this seems so obvious, but I think that we are often blind to how much we have internalized the rules of the game even when we are allegedly being rebellious and speaking truth to power.  First of all I see little evidence that most of us are interested in finding the truth (by which I mean statements and visions that correspond to reality) before speaking it. Mostly however speaking truth to Power means recognizing Power, responding to its demands.


Why should Power have such a hold on us that it determines what we say and who we say it to at any level. Worse it assumes without showing me any evidence that truth is found by being convinced by other people, not by searching for it.  For after all those in power will find the truth by being convinced by us.

Maybe I am decrying what appears to be a great emphasis on the political, with little or no emphasis on the underlying ontological realities in which we ground our politics.  But if we are not looking for what is real at the most basic level and build our politics from there it is just a question of who has the most numbers.

But going deeper is a drag because it is really a drag to find out again and again and again that you are wrong and need to modify your views as they clash with experience. Easier to find comfort in movements and numbers. George Orwell said one of the motives for writing is "to get your own back on the grown-ups who snubbed you in childhood."  I find this to be true for many metaphorical "grown-ups"

But all of what I have written, really is paradoxical, because if the truth is, if reality is such that, the way to find the truth about reality is to search on your own honest terms, then clearly one would want that attitude to filter through the entire culture. 

And maybe that is what the Explicator has been leading towards, the notion of articulating  criticism which views the individual objective worth of a piece of art as something which should be sought, without reference to greater cultural demands, or sociology, or business or pop culture various academic disciplines, or even musical history (all of which are really good and quite interesting  in their own right) and perhaps without reference to a standard of artistic success such as Noel Carroll as suggested. Rather for want of a better word the search for objective value in these works is "philosophical" one that looks towards the worth of this art  in all its manifold complexity as a production of a member of this universe faced with this universe.
And such critical writing need not care whether the reader is alerted to the next big or best thing but only that the reader may be alerted to the possibility of a good thing.

We need to remember I think also that the only way we have ever progressed toward the truth seems to be in critical conversation with other people, and listening  to the reports of other people. Other people are key to our finding the truth. And we may never know which person says which words which lead us to the truth or away from error. That being the case humans must be considered paramount in the truth seeking process and therefore this lightly going to war, this capital punishment, euthanasia yes even abortion,  this locking people up in secret prisons, must be looked at from a sort of First Amendment angle: to take a human life or to remove it from contact with us is to diminish however slightly the possibility of finding the truth or being corrected. To conclude that this human will never offer me anything in the way of truth finding and therefore may be dispensed with is already to have reached massive conclusions about the nature of people the world and the truth. I am not saying such things are wrong although they may be. I am merely pointing out that from a strictly methodological point of view life and liberty seem  necessary to the pursuit of truth. Whether maximizing the possibility that we all have views that correspond to reality is a good thing or whether there is such a thing as the "Good" are separate questions. I am speaking strictly methodologically.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Hank and Pigeon Reunion

Morgan Herringer has returned to our environs after some time in Texas.  This is good news for us. It also resulted in the reunion of  Hank and Pigeon in which if memory serves correctly Ms. H is Hank and Alex P. is Pigeon. They played at the Cake Shop tonight. I saw them.There were magical moments as when Isaac Gillespie was lying on the floor trying to get a great camera angle as Morgan sang. The song was beautiful. The moment was unique all in that dark Cake Shop with the tinsel backdrop and well this precise arrangement has never as far as I can tell been achieved in the 15 Billion or so years the universe has apparently existed. Hank and Pigeon grew into this particular performance, perhaps a little rusty at first but by the time they finished with their signature tune it had grown all peacefulbeautifulentrancinglike.  By the end of the set I was at peace with the world and maybe even myself. This is a rare achievement for which I thank H & P. Alas I had to bail early and could not stay to hear Isaac Gillespie and The Due Diligence. They are playing at Silent Barn next week

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Good Night

Actually it was a good night. I set off for the Monday Night Exodus, but peeked into the Rockwood Music Hall on the way there. What to my wondering eyes should appear but Bucky Hayes. Bucky had spent some time I recall at the Monday Night Open Stage at the Sidewalk, or perhaps even the Antihoot.So I stepped in caught the last half of his set. Band good. Songs good.  So I was a little late to the Exodus but got there in time to hear Gina Mobilio do some old but good poems. I heard Blueberry Season from the other room. He sounded stronger than usual. I think the unplugged room is good for Mr. Season.  Master Lee made a most interesting point about the power of the spoken word"If I am dancing and say a single word like "Rice" then all of a sudden I'm picking rice." Lach read a new chapter of his work in progress, re: the rock and roll nation. I am not sure whether I am a citizen or an exile...The feature was Jaymay who recently did the music for Happythankyoumoreplease. In one of her songs she praises Dave Deporis.  I left the Exodus half way through Jaymay's set so as to catch Charles Mansfield's set at Goodbye Blue Monday, which was so totally worth the late trip to Bushwick. Mr. Mansfield  really nailed it. Home before midnight.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Class Assignment

Compare Lach's take on Tom Petty's biography/life from Lach's upcoming book "The Day I Went Insane  w/ Dan Penta's take on Tom Petty's biography/life in The Everybody Knows song "Only You Know."

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Two Herb Scher Pieces

Herb Scher has a really nice photo essay online for American Songwriter about the 2011 Winter Antifolk Fest 

Herb has also posted a very interesting "talk show" interview with Ben Krieger.

You should go read them. Maybe "should" is too value laden, too authoritarian.....

I think you might enjoy them how's that?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Monday Night Exodus

A few weeks ago I was watching TV and there was coverage of the music scene. It was pretty cool-- the members of the scene were able to get together and give each other awards and stuff. They called it the Grammy Awards, and it was good to see musicians supporting each other. Some of their songwriting actually approached the quality of the scene here. And of course there is also some cross over between the scenes as when Peter Nevins was nominated for his artwork.   So that was kind of cool. I wish those folks well.

Back here at our particular scene the Sidewalk has been closed for renovations and the Monday night doings have been moved to the obscure and unplugged Gathering of the Tribes Gallery (wherein Catweazle occurs on Thursdays) The First Monday Night  Exodus was an fairly amazing night.  Some moments were just historic. Hopefully the tape (over an old Elvis Costello cassette) of Crabs On Banjo's "Gilligan meets the Brady Bunch" will circulate , but who knows if it will sound as good on tape as actually being there with Ben Krieger doing this kind of android Alan Hale Jr. singing "Hey little buddy let's go" till it became the default response when Brian tossed him a line and he couldn't think of anything else looking like Ralph Kramden forgetting all the other lines except that one. People could not contain their laughter.  Then when it devolved into Ben Krieger doing his Barry Bliss imitation...

Herb Scher did his very first write a song and play it 5 minutes later-- a clever blues about the Monday Night Exodus, but the Herb highlight was him simply sitting with his back to the audience at the Tribes piano and playing "Tower Records is Gone" and everyone knowing without being asked that we were to do the gospel choir part....

There were other moments as well and really good songs and well...

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Battle For the Nature Of the Truth

A few years back I heard a performer say something like "When I was young I thought the truth was black and white, but now I realize that there are shades of grey...." Indeed I am sure someone has put such sentiments in a song or two along the way.  It occurred to me at the time however that a preferable development would be learning that that truth is not black and white but rather a rainbow... I have repeated this occasionally but not long ago I stumbled upon this wonderful embodiment of this notion:

They are available from Fourvierehill.

Of course we think of the battle as between black and white (or maybe red and white) but the color vs. grey scale thing is brilliant. I note that  one of the bishops of the color side spends its days traversing only the same monochromatic grey scale squares, while one of the grey scale bishops spends its days on squares of varying color.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Fade Away/Not Fade Away

I posted a comment to this Village Voice Blog entry about the historic low sales that chart toppers are having. I want to follow up on the point I made about the actual statistical significance of the difference between the sales of Billboard Chart toppers and sales etc of bands to which I actually listen. For a long while I have been of the opinion that there is no real objective difference artistically that derives from the sales or popularity of a given song or artist. This may seem like a no-brainer but I have noticed over the years that even those who eschew the super pop culture nevertheless seem to disregard the ultra unknown.  After all, just about everyone of us had our introduction to music, to rock and roll,  from some artists work delivered to us courtesy of the radio and/or the record industry. Thus our tastes and attitudes owe a lot to the people who were and are good and excellent musicians and songwriters, who also happened to be signed by a label. Those artists as powerful and compelling as they are, together with the massive economic force behind them, naturally came to be felt as the sole universe of musical discourse. Combined with the cultural phenomenon of the baby boomers this allowed the discourse to combine with any number of political, societal and other issues, so as to make it easy to write about certain artists, not only because they did influence many many people, but also because there was a ready made audience wanting to hear about those artists, thus making it financially viable for the industry of the written word. Those writers who had the publications that reached enough people could then set trends themselves etc.

But as the industry and the baby boomers fade away we enter a period where the music will not be influencing the culture on the grand industrial scale demanded by the centralizing economics of earning money from a massive demographic bulge. So what to write about. What makes any rock journalist, or blogger, of any use?   What are we to do? Our audience is just as fragmented as the audience for the music? Where is the money in rock journalism. If the incredibly good music of this time gets so little recognition and remuneration, why even write about it? I mean when there were massive amounts of people interested in conversations about the Artists of the Common Consensus I could see this as as a possibility.  I guess the industry still has the money to get their artists into the conversation of these main stream trendsetting blogs and I imagine there is a real desire of people to share the enjoyment of good art with each other,  but I wonder how long even that lasts?

Maybe this Scene, this Antifolk thing, this DIY thing, this thing of ours, is and has been avant garde in this way: it has been people making music and writing songs in a milieu that is divorced from the industry, that really is ignored by the industry, that as the writer for Time Out New York magazine so precisely put it, is "unattached to any larger cultural movement." In other words we have been doing for a while what all musicians will be doing in the future.

I have seen the future of rock and roll and it is unattached to any larger cultural movement.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Sidebar-- This Crazy Little Thing called...

I have added two feeds on my Sidebar under the general title "As the Term Whirls". This will keep us somewhat up-to-date on the use of the term "antifolk"  and maybe pick up an article or two about artists we know or should know... So far it seems that it is the U.K. where the term is being used most these days- applied to some sort of music or other...

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Bible Gun

Bible Gun I like them. Check out their myspace as well for some other stuff. I hear them occasionally at the Sidewalk Open Stage on Mondays, as I did last night. I hadn't heard them in a while. They are getting better and better. Follow these folk. I have no idea what their music means. But I like it.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Do We Need Civility?

Probably. I personally like civility. But what we really need is a willingness to change our minds. Random thoughts here, but hear me out.  I have seen it written that although we have passionately held beliefs, which includes the belief that those who disagree are wrong, we need to be civil etc. But who are these people who have such strong beliefs and are espousing them in public, other than people who want to convince others, or to supply rallying cries and arguments to others of the same persuasion? Where are the people are actually trying to have a conversation to learn or modify their own beliefs?  Seriously why if one has a passionately held position would one want to talk about it, unless one wants to convince others? But that is not an orientation toward the truth-- it is the opposite of seeking the truth-- it is a prideful search for a way to have others views of the world coincide with your own, or to attain a particular end.  Given the complexity of the world and the issues surrounding us any one claiming to have the truth is claiming either omniscience, or hewing to simplistic ideologies that make the world easier to handle. They may call them principles, or values, but if we are to be oriented toward truth the first value we should seem to have is a willingness and desire to test our own beliefs, to be critical of our own notions as well as others and to always hold them as provisional.

So calls for civility and the toning down of the rhetoric are good, I guess, but they merely mean that we will continue to avoid the search for truth but we will do it politely.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

First Month of Every Sunday--Lance Romance

Please forgive any harsh tone in the previous posting. All negativity has been washed away by attending the Lance Romance with Federal Roosters show. It was their last show ever.. They have their last show ever, the first month of every Sunday at the Sidewalk. Or so I gathered.  Apparently next month their last show ever will be the second Sunday. What with the Super Bowl and all. You should go. There have been some memorable moments at these shows. Tonight it was Andrew Hoepfner improvising lyrics with some classic Creaky Boards vocal and piano stylings on "Sleeping Booby".  It was deranged. It was nuts. It was wonderful. This is the way to welcome people to the world.

I Need to To Go Scream of Life

Radio station playing song after song about new babies. They're all in this mournful minor  folky mode, musically, though the words are supposed to be  (joyful?) These are reflections, these are meditations. I want to shout at the DJ "Will you stop mourning life?" These songs are  supposed to touch us.  Oh the DJ informs us these are "heartfelt" welcomes to the world. This is like welcoming people and saying "It's so good to see you-- sorry you will eventually die in despair...."

Come on guys, why bring our issues to the new generation right off the bat? Let's meet the kids on their own terms...

How's about a scream of life?