08 February 2007
FIGHT FIRES WITH FIREFIGHTERS
CLEAN UP YOUR LINKS
Sites I'm Enjoying
Mike Barthel relaunches Clap Clap. 75 RIFFS
Sean Fennessey starts Rapidshare, which is a rap singles blog. 75 RIFFS
Elizabeth Stark starts Home Taping, which conflates dance music and copyright and physics and some pretty bad-ass image art so far. Really bummed to read that the site that catalogued all the French filterhouse samples has been demapped. 75 RIFFS
Pazz & Jop 2006 has two essays worth reading, one by Chris Ott, the other by Greg Tate. 75 RIFFS
Tim Sweeney still does Beats In Space. 75 RIFFS
Ronan Fitzgerald moved House Is A Feeling. 75 RIFFS
Pete Macia has, I think, been doing stuff over at the Fader blog, I'm guessing all the LA stuff. 75 RIFFS
Byron Crawford remains my favorite blogger. 75 RIFFS
Yahoo just did this. 75 RIFFS
07 February 2007
NOT ABOUT THE INTERNET
Really Not About the Internet
Download: The Knife: Marble House (Emperor Machine Remix Edit) (MP3)
Download: Girl Talk: Hold Up (MP3) (thx Eppy)
After you read this, which is Lethem's solid primer on copyright woes, I'd be curious to know who else sorta felt failed by the structural conceit, i.e. piecemeal plagiarism with the occasional personal embellishment. It had a point obviously--ideas are born of and built upon prior and concurrent ones, so who really "owns" an idea anyway, q.e.d.--and it obviously took him a long time, which Lethem himself acknowledges in the epilogue, more or less his big reveal:
“. . . spurred David Byrne . . . My Life in the Bush of Ghosts . . .” Chris Dahlen, Pitchfork—though in truth by the time I'd finished, his words were so utterly dissolved within my own that had I been an ordinary cutting-and-pasting journalist it never would have occurred to me to give Dahlen a citation. The effort of preserving another's distinctive phrases as I worked on this essay was sometimes beyond my capacities; this form of plagiarism was oddly hard work.
But for an article that's arguing that plagiarism is the default mode for writers at least, that it happens naturally, on both conscious and subconscious levels way beyond our control, that we should take plagiarism for granted, cut short the witchhunt, and concentrate on the ideas--well I got really caught up in the witchhunt! I found myself noticing some pretty harsh tone changes as he jumped from source to source, despite his best intentions otherwise. Plus you really don't need to know Lethem was lifting wholesale from DFW's "E Unibus Pluram" essay in order to see the word "ganglia" and all sorts of words and turns you wouldn't have seen a graf before and say to yourself something is most definitely up. Then maybe the clumsiness of it was the point, that you were supposed to feel the force of the structure even if you couldn't put your finger on what was happening exactly--but even that doesn't change the fact that for me, the focus moved from the ideas to the article's secret game. By that logic: Maybe it was my fault Lethem failed me?
I just got off the phone with Lady J, who gave me explicit orders not to make too big a deal out of this article. Well OK. To take this elsewhere: Lethem's secret game here sorta bleeds into ideas I've had about the daily gorefest that is internet meta-media, members of whom consider themselves something like watchdogs, but the majority of whom are really nothing more than thought-bankrupt firefighter-arsonist types. They read articles merely to figure out who and how and where they failed us, take interest in writer backstory merely to point out the hypocrisies, consider their job done only after fuck-the-point details-only "close reading" has yielded them concrete and bloggable evidence that somebody, somewhere, is a douchebag.
Anyway I don't think Lethem is a douchebag at all, J, and I don't read pieces just to find fault with them--people who do that pretty much disgust me. Which is why I'm struggling with the conceit so much, like if I can come up with a reason why it really works, the sudden self-loathing will cease. The best I can do for now, rationalization-wise, is putting Lethem parallel to the library scientist he describes midway through, who synthesizes several medical journal articles from several separate scientific disciplines, and comes up with the reason for why young women's fingers get cold (don't wanna know why he wanted to know that). That gets him off the hook fine, but I'm still left with this pretty shitty feeling that the internet's all-seeing eye has really fucked up the way I and a lot of other people actively read, i.e. closely but not deeply, talking loud but saying nothing.
85 COPYRIGHTED RIFFS
06 February 2007
REMEMBER THAT EPISODE OF THE SIMPSONS
I Forget Which
But it was the one where there's that joke about how dying cartoons will introduce another character in a last-ditch effort to boost ratings. The one where Krusty introduces Poochie into Itchy and Scratchy and Homer gets to do Poochie's voice, etc.
"We're Not Saying, We're Just Saying."
05 February 2007
FORGET THE MONTH IN RIFFS, IT'S FEBRUARY
Aging Has Never Been His Friend
Riff Market vs. Cerrone
There's no sense for me to backpedal and act like I'd heard of Cerrone before, like I didn't pronounce the "c" a la "cha" or make a singsong-style joke about "my cerrone" in a previous effort to backpedal at Other Music when I bought the guy's first four albums used. The guy was huge obviously, a Disco Grammy winner and a multimillion-copy album seller and a well-known provocateur as far as racy cover art was concerned, a musical history sub-field I apparently know less about than I thought I did. There is one cover that has this blond chick backbent over the top of a refridgerator, and her back is so muscular it looks like she has boobs on both sides of her rib cage. Several people have told me I look like Cerrone and I vehemently deny the resemblance.
Anyway two things, two starting points really. First, I don't think I've ever heard disco so stylized as "disco." A lot of awesome disco songs I've liked just sorta happen to be disco songs, to my ears, like it makes sense to sound like a disco song in one way or another, be it instrumentation or orchestration or ornamentation or tempo. Other times songs that really want to be disco songs sorta screw up, and become better-than-disco songs by consequence. I'm speaking generally and doing a terrible job with this but Cerrone has not aged well at all and I wonder why. With a few exceptions--the italofied horror-disco track "Supernature" off the top of my head, plus "Cerrone's Paradise," which sounds like "Disco Inferno" plus "Oye Como Va," and some others--most of these songs play more like "disco" than music, like it's all the right affectations and loveboat strings and horn stabs and chicken scratch guitar and goofy synthesizer sounds, but the music itself exists strictly for the glitter. Seems.
Next, and the reason for writing: Why the hell didn't I know about Cerrone? Let's take the hipster pseudo bogus fuck you Sylvester dilettantism for granted and actually have some fun with this. I had thought about the internet and internet music rewriting history, displacing importances, readjusting the canon--I mean it always made sense to me as an inevitability and something possibly great and interesting. If you learned about disco through checking namechecks and RIYLs and internet websites--if you weren't there--obviously what you thought must have been Biggest Thing Ever was probably not be BTE. But it just seems really really weird to me that I knew about Arthur Russell, who sold far fewer records, before I knew about the man that one internet site says was second only to Giorgio Moroder on the European disco producer totem pole. Granted I'm not trying to go page by page through a Guided Tour of Disco-type book, but I'm surprised that in even my semi-rigorous interest in the stuff I've never encountered Cerrone, in reissues, in podcasts, in reviews, in RIYLs, in SLSK folders, in expensive compilations, etc. I do have like six compilations with that Cristina song though.
I would laugh this off for rock, when people who wrote for me would write something like that Teddybears song was *obviously* influenced by Interpol or She Wants Revenge before they cite, I don't know, Joy Division. But being on the other side of this I'm once again reminded of my big problem with the wikipediazation of the internet, which is de facto authority by consensus (itself manipulable; for another riff). From a creative angle this is really awesome, since technically speaking some band like Deerhoof could potentially have more of an effect on the music of tomorrow, simply because more people have Deerhoof files on their p2p'd hard drives, etc. But it's scary from a critical/passive perspective because it means we lose all touch with historical-contemporary realities, i.e. when the music was conceived and how it was received. And a lot of pop music still relies on context for its cachet, i.e. its dimension of referentiality. And referentiality is meaningless without an actual something to reference. Anyway I could see this being some people's idea of a wet dream but it's increasingly not mine; I'm just not digging how the internet is somehow excluded from the whole "matter can be neither created nor destroyed" thing that really made my life a lot easier.