Friday, October 28, 2005

Welcome, Please

I’ve never written about music, at least not for public consumption. Friends of mine will testify, however, that of the many things I always am willing to express opinions about, music is very high on my list. Fortunately, as in everything else I’m willing to share my opinion about, I have a very strong belief in the worth of my opinions. People who I’ve thrust CDs upon, insisting that the CD is wonderful or that a particular person will like a particular artist, usually come back more than pleased I did so. So if you’re reading this site, let me consider you a friend, and if I don’t know you personally, rest assured the opinions/reviews I offer are the same as if we were sitting across a table.

I want to thank Jerry Bowles for inviting me to participate in both this blog and in his political blog, Best of the Blogs. I’ve never met Jerry face to face (though he does have an open invitation to dinner should he have time next time he visits DC), but he has been incredibly generous in allowing me to voice my opinions on BoB. The first time music became a discussion between us I had not yet been invited to BoB and was posting as a commentor to his request for something new to listen to (I don’t remember all that I posted, but I do recall that I recommended the 2004 Delays CD Faded Seaside Glamour, a brilliant pop album). Recently on BoB I posted about the Knitters new CD, The Modern Sounds of the Knitters, as well as linked to an NPR interview with members of the Knitters (two of whom, Exene Cervenka and John Doe were the heart and soul of X), and that post - and a question I asked him about Meredith Monk: I was Mr Richard Feder from Fort Lee NJ - sparked Jerry to invite me to be a contributor of sorts to his wonderful contemporary classical music site Sequenza21. With unusual for me trepidation, I accepted.

So, some disclosure, up front:

I am not a musician. I played piano in my youth, I can read music, I could probably pass a first semester final exam in Intro to Music Theory, but only if I studied hard.

My opinions about music, especially rock/pop/indie, are based mostly on whether I like the music or not, though I have very strong reactions to the cultural positioning of the music. Consider the song “Oops I Did it Again,” covered most famously by Brittany Spears but also covered by one of my favorites, Richard Thompson in his 1000 Years of Popular Music tour. In the first instance, the song struck me as ordinary, but it’s intent, to magnify the singer as boy-toy commodity, made me think of the song as a commodity, a product that happened to be packaged as music. Thompson’s cover, however, placed within the context of 1000 Years, and within the context of Thompson’s own songwriting style, revealed a wonderfully dark, self-recriminating song.

Which is to say, there is not always logic to what I like or dislike, and I bring all of the biases I bring to politics to my taste in music. If I feel I’m being played for a mark - I mean, for instance, how can people still be buying the same Elton John song repackaged each year for the past three decades - I’m as unlikely to like the musical project no matter how wonderful I might find the same song in a totally different context. Part of the project of BDRIB will be to allow me to explore my own reaction to different music and the context of that reaction. There are matrices here I want to understand better than I do now.

I would like this blog to be mutually instructive and educational. I am humbled to read the knowledge and passion of Jerry’s posters and commentors on Sequenza21, and, for the time being, I can add very little to discussions on most of the composers listened to and written about over on S21. I want to learn more. I invite everyone to invite me to listen to music you think worth listening to, and that is not limited to contemporary classical/postclassical; please point me at music of all types you think should be heard. I want to turn you onto the music I'm excited about. In exchange, I'd like you to let me know what you think I should be listening to.


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