01/04/2005: "let's push things forward!"
It feels good to be juiced up about ideas, and to have good ideas about where such ideas could lead. I spent the day at NYU's Center for Neural Science, hanging out in cool labs, gaining knowledge, and bouncing ideas off of professors. Ideas zinging every which way like thousands of ping pong balls dropping from the sky. There are two areas of my life that I've spent a considerable amount of effort on--brain science and music/culture. Thus far, I've been treating them as essentially disparate paths of inquiry, but I'm slowly realizing that the only way to move forward is to merge those two aspects of my life together.
I guess this requires a little bit of background. In 2000, I was a disgruntled college senior. By then I absolutely despised science. Hated it. I'd do my neuroscience degree work and procrastinate by reading zines--esp. an online zine I'd found called Freaky Trigger, and through that I found a thriving music discussion board (i.e. that oh-so-lovable time-consuming vortex) called..you guessed it. To be honest I never read any music criticism prior to maybe 2000. (Well, when I was 13 or 14 years old my friends and I would look at issues of Melody Maker and Select, but mostly for the cool photos and jokes. Jokes! Music magazines used to be funny--this was sometime in the early '90s. I remember laughing a lot when I read them.) I was obsessed with music, but didn't know anything about music criticism, or that it was a (semi-)legit field. I never read Bangs, never read Meltzer, never read any of those dudes. I liked zines a lot, and had a pretty good collection at one point. I read an essay by Reynolds and an essay by Sinker in a college class on gender studies when I was 19, for a paper I was writing on female post-punk bands! I had no idea then that the two of them were music critics. I hadn't read anything else they'd written at that point, either. My entry point, really, for music criticism was reading ILM in 2000. Now I get my kicks by reading music blogs. Basically, you're talking to somebody whose entire knowledge of 'critic-dom' came up from ILM circa 2000-2003, various zines, and blogging. (Mind you, I'm 25.) I've filled in a lot of the gaps since then by reading a lot of those classic books and magazines. But when I was 20 years old, my idols were scientists--i.e. total pimps--like Albert Einstein and Werner Heisenberg...not fuckin' Lester Bangs!
So back to science. I stopped thinking about science when I graduated from college, because I felt like I had to reject science to move forward with writing about the arts. Science was The Enemy. Cold unfeeling rationalists! Mutant robotic technologists! Fuck you, The Scientific Method! But that's such a limiting worldview. Completely and utterly wrong in fact. Much cooler, much more punk rock, would be to fuse together, into an unholy contorted Voltron-like mass of course, the combined powers of hardcore science knowledge with music and music writing. Of course there are loads of people who have gone into this--drugs and the brain and music, for instance, or the physics of acoustics--but there are intriguing areas out there that haven't been explored fully. I dunno, maybe I'll figure it out someday, but right now I've been spending my time going back and reading a bunch of science books that are collecting dust on my shelf, like The Biochemistry and Pharmacology of Synaptic Transmission. Who knows, someday I might need that shit to combat evil!