Interesting ruination of Radiohead’s “Creep”

A few months ago, Open Culture posted a couple videos of Nirvana and Radiohead songs that have been modified by a digital tinkerer named Oleg Berg. I was particularly curious about the “Creep” one.

What interests the author of the article (Josh Jones) is that Berg has reversed the modes of these songs. The Nirvana tune used to be minor. Now it’s major. The Radiohead tune used to be major. Now it’s minor.

Fun fact: the whole band giggles whenever Jonny tries to roller-skate.

After Jones observes that the original minor key of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is “an essential vehicle” for its anxiety and rage, he notes that the Radiohead song does something a little more complicated.  Continue reading “Interesting ruination of Radiohead’s “Creep””

Zionism contra feminism?

A rare political-ish post.

The topic is Zionism versus “intersectional” feminism (thanks Wonder Woman), and the way that hashes out in bizarre articles like this one.

A juicy summarizing quote: “It’s an open question about whether it’s possible to support Zionism while also proposing useful iterations of feminism and racial justice.” The author’s answer from the beginning is “nope,” by the way. No explanation required.

You can tell he’s smart because he points to books.

I grok the idea of opposing injustice toward disenfranchised groups like Palestinians (because duh), and I get supporting a two-state solution (because duh). What I want to know is, apart from the social justice angle, what do people mean by their polemical use of the word “Zionist“? Are they referring to all-or-nothing single-state partisans? If that’s the case, then they’re simply conflating “Zionist” with “zealot” without taking present or historical reality into account. That comes across to me as a pale leftist imitation of Trump’s methods. Or is there something else going on that I’m missing?    Continue reading “Zionism contra feminism?”

Eric Salem on Aristotle and Harman

I just read through Eric Salem’s contribution to the new book Contemporary Encounters with Ancient Metaphysics, a chapter titled “Object and Οὐσία: Harman and Aristotle on the Being of Things.” The book has a lot of Deleuze stuff going on, including a new translation of a Deleuze essay from the early ‘60s about Lucretius. While I mainly concentrated on Eric Salem’s chapter, I would certainly recommend Adriel M. Trott’s chapter, “Does It Matter?” She asks whether the difference between form and matter in Aristotle is itself to be conceived in material or formal terms, and links this problem to sexual difference. Trott arrives at the strange conclusion that material in Aristotle is “inscribed with form” insofar as it is capable of leading to distinctions such as sexual difference. It’s an interesting reading of a work by Aristotle that I’ve never read before, and seems to have a vital materialist aspect.

The Salem essay examines the connection between Aristotle and Graham Harman from the perspective of an ancient Greek scholar. In a brief aside, Salem mentions that the problem of how to distinguish arbitrary aggregates from genuine objects is a sticking point for him about Harman’s philosophy. This actually relates to what I consider a genuine blind spot in Salem’s understanding of Harman, explained in bullet points below. Overall, though, I find the essay refreshing and vividly executed. Within the context of speculative realism commentary, it’s like coming in from an unending Edge of Tomorrow war zone to play a game of chess and drink a smoothie. Continue reading “Eric Salem on Aristotle and Harman”

An interesting early take of Lucy in The Sky

NPR just put up a delightful short fluff piece with a newly released early take of The Beatles setting down verses for “Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds.”

The most fascinating thing about it is Lennon’s performance. He sings in straight eighths on words like “tangerine” and “marmalade” instead of syncopating them. Also, the vocal timbre is less stylized or instrument-like at the beginning, whereas in the final version it is basically filtered to get more overtones and fit the weird quasi-harpsichord electronic organ that Paul’s playing—think Billy Corgan. Finally, John is accompanied by a slightly distracting mechanistic bass drum on downbeats instead of the softer (and harmonically functional) bass guitar, but they probably already knew they would make that change, yeah? Paul can’t be everywhere at once.

Glimpses of the creative process for tunes like this often show how making something more aesthetically consistent (like fitting John’s voice to the overall style of the verse) means to make it more extreme, to “stylize” it even more.

Who’s Afraid of Worldbuilding?

Most of us can agree on certain vaguely defined elements of fiction like character, plot, setting, and style. Other storytelling aspects happily enter discussions with more or less neutral, conventional meanings, like theme, narrative viewpoint, scene structure, symbolism, and so forth. These categories exist to make meaningful communication possible. You want folks to understand you when you complain about how a confusing setting and nonspecific narrative POV soften a scene’s dramatic punch.

What about worldbuilding? Lincoln Michel over at Electric Lit believes the concept of worldbuilding in fiction is counterproductive.* Continue reading “Who’s Afraid of Worldbuilding?”

Musicology and Peter Wolfendale

There are two reasons I am bringing up Peter Wolfendale here. One is that I was just reminded of him when I noticed that a fellow named Louis Morelle has recently applauded Wolfendale in an article titled “The Trouble With Ontological Liberalism.” Wolfendale, the confident anti-follower of Graham Harman, need no longer proclaim in a published book that his voice has been silenced, since it echoes unchanged in the hills of France.

My second reason has to do with my own project in musicology. At a baby shower in Brooklyn some time ago, I met a philosophy graduate student who had glanced through Wolfendale’s article “The Noumenon’s New Clothes.” He said he thought it did a good job, even though he was not up on speculative realism. (In other words, the article plays its role well for non-readers of its target.) “Very rigorous,” he said, and did I know it was expanded into a whole book? I was appreciative. I wanted and still want to avoid writing a dissertation that applies object-oriented ontology (OOO) to musicology without incorporating some good criticism. My own evaluation of what it does and doesn’t do for musicology would then get strong support…

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Ce n’est pas un cliché banal. Continue reading “Musicology and Peter Wolfendale”

Lost Spirits and Whiskey Polemics

Lost Spirits, a small distillery based in California, recently made their first “reactor aged” whiskeys available for retail after sitting on a new aging technology for nearly two years. (Actually, they’ve been up to quite a bit, just not widely available whiskey.) Bryan Davis, the distiller and inventor of the rapid aging tech, seems to make many people uncomfortable, but not because he will upend his industry with six-day Pappy Van Winkle. At least, that shouldn’t be the reason. Davis has indicated that reproducing the experience of great old whiskey for a fraction of the price is not the goal with his new “Abomination” series of whiskies. Instead, skeptics of his take on rapid aging must either admit they’ve never before encountered anything quite like what Davis is offering, or else let the cracks show in their purported neutrality.

I love criticism: art, books, music, food, wine. It tests prior convictions, looks for compelling new interpretations, and is utterly serious about pleasure. But so far I keep coming down on the side of Bryan Davis against his critics, and I want to figure out why. It’s not as simple as liking or disliking his products and wanting others to agree.

So how is Lost Spirits actually shaking things up? I’ll take a close look at one critical reaction to get at the most common misunderstanding of their project, at least with the Abomination series. Then I’ll turn back to the whiskey.

Instant whiskey-maker meets dastardly villainy! Zounds! Continue reading “Lost Spirits and Whiskey Polemics”