Posts Tagged ‘Chopin’

Pop, Pulp, Confusion, Sleep

July 30, 2010

So there I was on a dreary day, an arm full of overdue library books and some time to kill.  Might as well pick up something new while I return the goods, hey?  The only problem is that the library is either reorganizing or there have been some severe budget cuts, because it was as if a swarm of book devouring termites had removed massive chunks of their already skimpy catalogue.   This being Australia rather than the American South, I long ago forgave them for lacking Ferrol Sams and even William Faulkner,  but today, not even a Fitzgerald?  It’s not like I wanted to read the Great Gatsby again, but one sort of expects such literary stalwarts in even the bleakest of collections.

The reason I am hoping that there might be some massive reorganization underway is because there were also huge gaps in the alphabetizing, so it would jump from, say, DA to DW.  What happened to all the poor saps in between?  Needless to say, many of the authors I had on my hit list have been put on stand-by.  Even a stalwart such as Wodehouse was missing, but I managed to skirt that particular issue by humbling myself and heading over to the LARGE PRINT section to find a few unread selections.  If I needed yet another reminder that Port Macquarie is really a senior citizens paradise in holiday destination disguise then this did the trick.  Not only is the LARGE PRINT section the largest in the library, it also has a superior selection of novels and literature.  I can take comfort in knowing that I’ll still be able to read Jeeves in the Offing in the event of a complete power blackout, it’s satirical thrust impervious to poor lighting conditions thanks to the VERY LARGE PRINT.

So I’m ambling over to the biography section, which takes me near the CD collection.  Bad idea.  In truth, I think Port Macquarie makes a noble attempt with their CD & DVD collection.  It’s small but diverse, with a modern bent which is a far cry from the stockpiles of classical vinyl and Anne Of Green Gables on VHS which can still be found in many underfunded public libraries.  The Port Macquarie library gained a lifelong friend when I found Rock & Roll Heart, the Lou Reed documentary.

I should clarify and say that the “bad idea” was my fault.  I picked up a copy of Day & Age by The Killers.  Yes, I know it has been out for 2 or 3 or 4 years now, but that means nothing to me because I miss anything and everything.  I also took a copy of Alive by the Chick Corea Accoustic Band, simply because I had this on cassette many years ago and I had a notion of liking it.  Lastly, a copy of The Best Of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Vol. 1.

For starters, I think it’s enough to say that Day & Age is already safely back on the shelves of the library, well under 24 hours later.  What the hell was that?  I’m sure that the album has been well dissected by better, more capable hands than these, so I’ll just say that I felt it lacked a true pulse.  I’m not a Killers fan, per se, but I did think Hot Fuss had a certain garage urgency coupled with it’s electro borrowings and lovely songwriting.  Sam’s Town I only remember for the cover, basically because it was so awful.  As far as photos and image go, it wasn’t very convincing.  If it was supposed to be camp, then I didn’t get it, and therefore I could only conclude, reluctantly, that I was supposed to take it at face value, which just plain sucked.  Also, I thought the image, symbol, and metaphor of “Sam’s Town” was pretty much wasted.  A good idea put to no good use.   (And yes, I am well aware of what Sam’s Town is, where it is located, and what it could potentially represent.  I get it, I get it, I get it.)

With Day & Age, I thought the histrionics had been scaled back a bit, and the instrumental “art” efforts wisely abandoned, but what was I left with?  Something that sounded like garbled Christian outreach/crossover, an aerobics mix tape, and evidence of a man’s voice that had somehow gone backwards through puberty.  Well produced?  Of course.   Sonically pleasing?  Well, my ears don’t physically hurt.  Intelligent?  At times.  Does it matter?  Not to me.  For me, it wasn’t human, and I’m not talking about the keyboards and drum machines.  I don’t care about those.  I’m talking about it’s soul, which I found lacking.

Live by Chick Corea Acoustic Band sounded exactly like three really talented guys who bloody well knew it.  It starts off with “On Green Dolphin Street”, but you’d hardly know it.  I could hear maybe, maybe, 4% of the actual melody in the entire 9:14 of the song.  I reckon that when I was younger I may have liked this, but I certainly didn’t understand it.  Now, I understand it, but I don’t really like it.  No offense or disrespect to Chick Corea, Dave Weckl, & John Patittuci though.  To me, this is music whose parts are greater than the whole, which may or may not be your idea of good music.

Right now I’ve got Nick Cave grinding away, and I must confess that I am WAY overdue for this.  For someone who holds Bob Dylan, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, Shane MacGowan, Gareth Liddiard, Nick Drake, and Leonard Cohen in high regard, this should have been a no-brainer.  Even worse, anything I’ve ever heard by Nick Cave I’ve liked.  All I can say is that I am a slug.  That’s no excuse, but that’s all I have.

For some, extended poetic diatribes over music may be revolting.  I can certainly imagine that this could be downright boring for some, but for me it will do in spades.  I like letting the words roll in endless reams so that I forget how long the song has been going on or even which song it is.  Also, it’s worth noting that these are actual songs, and Nick is a unique singer with an unmistakable delivery, so it’s not exactly like having to sit through a freshman poetry slam.  This is well constructed stuff that just happens to include one of the finest pure lyricists of our lifetime.  The album kicks off with “Deanna” , which reminds me of a 50s diner being mauled by The Wild Bunch.  Also included is “Straight To You”, as well as “Into My Arms”, which is as haunting and aching as you could ever hope to hear.  Ache is always good.

I might as well mention that I recently asked the local “record store” to order me everything available by The Lemonheads.  Apparently in Australia, that means you get Varshons and The Best of the Lemonheads. That’s not what I had in mind, but I took them both.  Varshons is kind of a rip-off, so even though it’s sort of endearing to me I wouldn’t push it on anyone unless we had been having an hour long conversation about music and we just so happened to agree on everything.  The Best Of… is about what you’d expect.  For some reason I thought of Even Dando a few months ago, and I decided to go through his catalogue.  I kind off miss him and his music, even though each new music generation probably has their own version of him.  His songs are so short and simple that I can imagine that listeners might draw a wide variety of conclusions or opinions about his stature and talent, from “brilliant” to “banal”.  Personally,   there is something unpretentious and disarming that strikes me, and, dare I say it, comforts me.  He’s not a stark raving genius that’s all push-push-push, but he’s certainly not entirely in this immediate sphere.  A bit astral, a bit of a kindly spectre who seems to be there but keeps slipping away when I look.

So finally, I make it over to the biographies.  I’ll spare you the entire grocery list of what I walked away with, but what I was looking for were studies on the group of composers who are typically grouped as the Romantics.  The reason for my search is that, as a collective group,  I have studied them three times now, and the problem is that they are so good and all so talented that by the end of it I get them all confused with each other and I’m right back where I started.  The only one I found was Chopin: The Reluctant Romantic, by Jeremy Siepman.  That would do for a start, so I took that and my armfuls and got out of there in a hurry.  For such a slow town driven by its senior citizenry, I am always impressed by the speed of the library checkout ladies & checkout gents.  They only slow down when a granny or grampy tries to make small talk.  Apparently, small talk makes for slow talk.

That night, I had another case of dreaded insomnia.  What used to be a constant plague now comes & goes, and for improvement in even such a small measure I am grateful.  Anyway, it struck again, so I cracked open the volume on Chopin.  As I was reading the introduction it mentioned that in the back of the book there was a roundtable discussion among leading players and scholars of Chopin about the very nature of Chopin’s playing and the correct interpretation of his works.  Rather than start something massive and new at 3 AM, I flipped to appendix B to see what they had to say.

I found something perfect, something so very right that I when I finished it I turned off the light and drifted off shortly thereafter.

Without boring you with the details (and to save myself from a lot of typing of quotes), I read the words of scholars and artists who cared deeply and passionately loved what they were talking about,  and doing so in an elevated & intelligent manner.  Statements, explanations, digressions, disagreements, hypotheses–the whole lot.  They could have been talking about competing brands of toilet cleaner, and as long as they did it in such a measured and wise manner  I would have been content.  It shouldn’t be such a rarity, but for me it seemed like the rarest of crumbs.  I would not be so bold to insist that they were talking about something that mattered.  For me it was enough that they were talking about something.

Goodnight for now.