music and food
I've long been fascinated with what people eat and how they eat it -- musicians especially, because it always seems to offer interesting insights into the music they make. When I interviewed Blixa from Neubauten the thing that stuck out most in my memory was him reaching into the fridge, taking out a thing of pomegranate juice in an ornate glass bottle, and pouring the tart blood-red liquid into a German crystal wine glass, sipping from it slowly to slake his thirst. It just seemed to suit him. The one thing I remember in a whole long interview with David Bowie was his observation that in every country, the milk tasted different, and how he didn't like the way American milk tasted ('I think I saw you in an ice cream parlor/drinking milkshakes cold and long'!) Totally weird cuz I never can imagine people at the celeb level of Bowie doing totally pedestrian human things like drinking milk ('Ecch Iman this milk is rubbish! It made my Cheerios all funky! Check it, the 'NYC sell-by date' was last week!') Reminds me of what Warhol said once, that "you know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think you can drink Coke, too. †A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. "
There was this interview with Brian Eno once where he talked about how much he loved to cook, improvising various meals and saying something about how you can make good food ('n music too) with only a few ingredients, something I generally agree on (when I cook I tend not to follow recipes to the letter (recipes are for rockists!) in favor of a more weirdo intuitive approach, usually with pretty good results.) But Eno also described how he enjoyed cooking the same meal day after day. Three or four days in a row, the exact same dinner! Makes you glad you're not a member of the Eno family eh?
The late and great zine Gourmandizer chronicled what musicians ate, and how they ate it, running a memorable interview with ol' meatatarian Albini where he described the eating habits in depth of the people he worked with, like KK Null's predisposition towards the more out-there reaches of Japanese cuisine (who'da thunk it?) and the band Ut, who 'drank a ridiculous number of medicinal herbal teas (including a sage infusion that stank like old socks), depending on the mood that each song required and the state of their individual hormones and menstrual cycles' (!!) And PJ Harvey's eating of only potatoes during the entire recording of 'Rid of Me'! In the Bourdain book I've been reading recently something popped off the page: Madonna brings her own eggs to restaurants for use in her Caesar salad dressing! Why does the lowly egg deserve such special treatment from the godlike Madonna, you think? Are they from those fancy free-range hens which are massaged, fed an organic diet high in Omega-3, and are taken out for walks in the park each day? Or perhaps they're blingin' 24-karat golden eggs? One can only wonder!
09.27.03 @ 10:17 PM EST [link]
The latest in a series of beloved punk rock icons (see also Stan Brakhage, Johnny Cash) who gave up the ghost this year: Edward Said died of cancer today. Professor at Columbia, dissident intellectual, author of Orientalism, impassioned activist for unpopular political causes, but also -- and this part often gets overlooked -- an accomplished pianist, and a music critic's music critic. I had just been reading his review of three new books about Beethoven in a recent issue of The Nation, where he used the review to discuss, among other things, 'late style', a great interest of his (and Adorno's too -- everyone's fave crotchety German intellectual wrote an essay once called 'Beethoven's Late Style' in which he described Beethoven's later years as being informed by a fragmentary aesthetic, a wrinkly patchwork of idiosyncratic ideas.)
It's sorta eerie to read Said's words on late style now that he's died, cuz the following could describe his life, too: "There is first of all the artist's connection to his or her own time, or historical period, society and antecedents, how the aesthetic work, for all its irreducible individuality, is nevertheless a part -- or paradoxically, not a part -- of the era in which it was produced. This is not simply a matter of sociological or political synchrony but more interestingly has to do with rhetorical or formal style. Thus Mozart expresses in his music a style much more intimately related to the worlds of court and church than Beethoven or Wagner...So not only can one often see an easily perceptible connection between, say, a realistic artist like Balzac and his social milieu; there is also an antithetical relationship in the case of artists whose work challenges the aesthetic and social norms of their eras and is, so to speak, too late for the times, in the sense of superseding or transcending them."
09.25.03 @ 11:48 PM EST [link]
Matthew of TWANBOC is like the cool high school history teacher who makes every lesson come alive: his recent series on Indian music (complete with scans of far-out mindbending cover art) is terrific and I enjoyed it despite a lifetime of being at odds with Indian classical music (when it's all the parents listen to, it can get on your nerves, believe!) Still, that music courses through my veins; I think I was born with it in my blood or something -- I was taught to play harmonium as a kid, and my dad is a tabla player. Now that I'm no longer a snarling rebellious teenager I can appreciate it better than I did then. I took a course in Indian music composition when I was an undergrad and did pretty terribly at it -- I did well in Western music composition classes though. Indian music is based on an extraordinarily complex set of rules: Indian vs. Western music theory is for me kind of like the difference between studying Sanskrit and French, I'd say. One is thoroughly thorny and arcane and vastly complex and the other is a bit complicated and annoying but easier to process cuz it's grounded in an alphabetic framework you're used to already.
Decades of American pop culture passed my parents by since they moved to the United States from India in the 1960s. Indian pop culture, too -- my conservative parents tended to eschew the new 'loose morals' Bollywood films in favor of the ancient black and white ones where the lovers were still only allowed to hold hands and skip through forests and things. Even the big names of my father's generation, like Mick Jagger or Bob Dylan, rang no bells. Growing up with them was like living on different planets in the same house. I recall I would note with jealousy friends of mine who had parents who could carry on a conversation with them about anything American besides politics. I was even more envious of friends who had parents who would talk to them about music.
It wasnít that my parents didnít want to talk about music; they just didnít know -- or want to know -- anything about popular music. My father loved music, as long as it was Indian and classical. My mother loved music, as long as it was Indian and deeply religious in nature. She'd put in some poorly recorded tape of some repetitive chant and close her eyes and just sit there for hours. Come to think of it though, that's no different with me and a lot of the droney electronic music I listen to (I listened to Coil's 'Time Machines' 3 times today for some reason), 'cept for the definite religious element of my mom's fave trancey dirges -- lots of this Indian classical stuff was deeply spiritual, based on becoming closer to something bigger than just yourself. Rave music's element of becoming one with something greater, etc all echoed in India thousands of years prior.
The funny thing I realize now is that my life at age 16 was soundtracked by musical revolutions that came of age when my parents did. During those awkward teenage years of purple hair, loud guitars, and misunderstanding, I was listening to the words of musicians that were, in many cases, older than my parents were. When I was seven years old I bought the Beatles on cassette, my first cassette purchase, and my absolute favorite song was 'Sexy Sadie', which I listened to whenever my parents weren't around to chide me. I didn't know what 'sexy' meant at age seven; I just thought that piano bit at the beginning was so beautiful.
09.22.03 @ 11:39 PM EST [link]
Best argument for Siouxsie Sioux's continued relevance in the 21st century: 'Kish Kash' off the new Basement Jaxx, which proves her more than worthy -- still! -- of the electropunkstah diva mantle. Marcello does a great blow-by-blow rundown of the new Jaxx and the new Rapture too -- check it out.
09.16.03 @ 12:35 AM EST [link]
Had a harrowing dream last night that involved being forced to play Can's 'Mother Sky' on gtr for hours and hours and hours and hours until my fingers bled like fountains, while trapped deep in the dank catacombs of this Metropolisesque dungeon powered by motorik, all of us worker drones in this deranged factory orchestra -- blank-faced bassists, bleary-eyed guitarists wailing out crazy solos on one side, drummers all in clockwork metronomic unison on the other. Pistons, gears, pulleys, engines all churning and huffing, spinning, everything moving with the threat that if one person stopped playing, it was all over, we'd all be crushed by massive blocks of granite hovering overhead, but that fate was almost better than the inevitable swirl of madness...!!
What does it all mean?!
09.15.03 @ 07:49 PM EST [link]
erase errata rules ok
Saw Erase Errata last night -- SF-based female quartet that critics keep throwing words like 'jittery post-punk' and 'no-wave' around, though I think Erase Errata are just being themselves and probably think such labels are funny. But I can see a connection between, say, the tightly coiled ball of nervous energy in Contortions' 'Dish it Out' and Erase Errata's shtick, which is all agitated and nervy, mid-range and trebly, with a propulsive rhythm section commanding your to feet to move though you're not sure you want to etc. But Contortions &co. were firmly in boy territory and there's something so feminine about EE, not just that they're female; feminine doesn't just mean softness and ribbons 'n shit but it's something graceful too (friend reminiscing about Ikue Mori in DNA: 'there was something about her, she was just so elegant)...I wish EE's singer would sing more; she's got a ravishing voice when she uses it, all nourishing and full-bodied with lovely surging Lora Logic vibrato (plus trumpets!) and all, but she tends to spit her lyrics instead, which is cool 'cuz that's her style ok? But I want to see their style go through some more variation in tempo, rhythm, arrangements, vocals. Because they're musically capable of more sonic experimentation, and if they can do it, why not try it? The brief respites between songs were funny and pretty as well: after shredding through a two-minute song, all spits and screams and shards and stops, the lead singer says shyly in gorgeous raspy alto: 'Thanks for seeing us tonight', before launching furiously into the next impossibly loud number. What a band.
09.13.03 @ 05:27 PM EST [link]
signs that the world is a more surreal place
-Posh Spice signs to Roc-a-fella!
-Rumors of a Pixies reunion!
-Adam Ant re-records 'Stand and Deliver' as 'Save the Gorillas'!
09.10.03 @ 09:16 PM EST [link]
black is the new black
Totally jealous I didn't get to check out the Lightning Bolt/Wolf Eyes show last week in NYC, when I was still in northern Cali. Wolf Eyes hail from Michigan -- not the dead industrial backwaters of, say, Flint, but the leafy collegiate town of Ann Arbor. They're hardcore Factrix-heads, their favorite band of all time as they've admitted in interviews. Like early 80s SF industro-trio Factrix, the Wolf Eyes trio crafts homespun instruments to make their howling noise, and like Factrix, Wolf Eyes is surprisingly listenable. One interesting thing about Factrix (the band name itself: female counterpart to 'factory') is how thick and rich and layered their particular brand of noise sounded, as opposed to Neubauten, who were also fooling around with homemade noisemakers at around the same time but generated much thinner, dried-out shards of sound. Wolf Eyes also has some of that rich, spreadable quality that Factrix had bubbling to the surface, seeping through that tangled mass of rawness. And Lightning Bolt of course is tops.
09.10.03 @ 04:39 PM EST [link]
first annual report
Am I the only one who finds Throbbing Gristle kind of soothing? I was just listening to 1975's First Annual Report, and far from being grated by boneshredding noise, I found it rather melodic and pleasantly droney. The disturbing lyrics ('Ian Brady...very friendly'...'there's been a murder'...) seem well, kinda funny, because you get the sense that they were trying really hard to be creepy and ethereal but it all comes out sort of Halloween haunted-house B-horror-movie-ish. And you can almost sing 'Sister Ray' along with the first track, which weighs in at 18 minutes plus some change.
Just realized the reissue was put out by Thirsty Ear who got the rights from Some Bizarre...wonder if the royalty check's still 'in the mail'!
09.10.03 @ 03:09 PM EST [link]
Just received word from Tom Ewing that my science blog idea is a go! Starting in October, I'll be editing Freaky Trigger's upcoming science-as-pop-but-not-pop-science blog, an idea that's been brewing in my head for a long while. I've always wondered why the majority of science writing is so dull, when science really is so amazingly cool and weird. I was really inspired recently while reading the first few issues of Re/Search, the legendary industrial zine, where interviews with bands would be placed side by side with pieces on strange scientific oddities. It just seemed to make so much sense somehow.
For the sci-blog, I'll be working on pieces on music and the neural basis of memory, techniques used in dance music and the brain, neuropharmacology, and other such things. But I want writers on every topic, not just brain science! The trick is to make science writing read like good arts writing -- insightful, brainy, original, and fun to read. I'll still have this blog going full speed while I work on the other one. If you're interested in writing for the new science blog (or have a good name for it), send me an email using the link on your right! Ideally I'd like to have about ten contributors on staff.
09.10.03 @ 12:54 AM EST [link
oh bondage up yours
The first thing I always do when I pick up an issue of The Wire is to scan all the bylines for female names. This past issue I counted 4, which is better than it is usually, though most of those pieces were short reviews. Does having a Y chromosome make you better at thinking about experimental music? Why aren't there more females out there writing? Am I the only girl out there who falls asleep at night to the dulcet tones of 'Metal Machine Music' side 3? The music crit world is the only world I've come across since my science days that's so heavily male-dominated. And it's hard to understand why, because music seems to cross boundaries better than most media.
It wasn't til high school, I guess, when I really started becoming conscious of being a girl and what exactly that entailed. I remember when I got accepted to MIT and hearing some guy (who got rejected) mutter under his breath to a friend: 'Geeta got accepted because she's a girl', and how I almost beat the shit out of him. And going to a Guitar Center one day as a teenager and having the salesman ask me 'Are you getting that guitar for your boyfriend?' and again restraining myself from issuing a beatdown. What the fuck? How are you more musically inclined if you're male? Years of stuff like that made me, well, not exactly a 'feminist' per se, but much more in tune with issues of gender than I once was. So I silently cheer when I see a female name in a mag like The Wire, and hope that I see more soon.
09.10.03 @ 12:38 AM EST [link
I must admit to not being that buzzed about Kompakt Total 5 with a few exceptions, notably the Superpitcher track (that man can do no wrong), but I think I'm also kind of burned on listening to electronic music in my bedroom -- I'd rather it be booming from some massive PA out in the desert. Speaking of the desert, I was at Burning Man two weeks ago (no, I'm not particularly a hippie or a techie), for the second time in my life. I liked it, not necessarily because of the nonstop parties and chemicals and pyrotechnics, but because I really dig the hardcore survivalist aspect of it -- you really are living for a week in the harshest conditions possible: being pounded by the sun and sandstorms in 110 degree heat during the day, and freezing at night, with no access to phones, email, stores, or any other conveniences of modern life. My favorite part: the awe-inspiring night sky over the Nevada desert, so clear you could map out dozens of constellations and see Mars closer than it'd been to earth in 60,000 years with the naked eye. But another one of many great memories was being at some party in a giant geodesic dome somewhere in the desert, when suddenly the DJ dropped Akufen's 'Psychometry' and I finally got it; that micro-whatever-you-want-to-call-it music is music you can dance to. The rollicking beat, funny little blips, and that crispy grainy cyber-voice (which kinda sounds like what'd happen if the Speak n Spell I had as a kid started chain smoking), all made me think that the song was, well, really weird when I first heard it in my Manhattan apartment. But it somehow all made so much more sense (and sounded so good) booming over a massive system, with hundreds of people around me (myself included) dancing, under the gorgeous Nevada night sky.
09.10.03 @ 12:09 AM EST [link]
back to new york city
Back in New York, finally, after a week in San Francisco and a week in Nevada. After passing out for ten hours following the miserable (though cheap) flight (which included a 3-hour stopover in DC, of all places) and watering all the wilted plants in my apartment, I walked out into the streets of Manhattan, the nonstop hubbub a sort of salve for my soul. I missed Manhattan's skyscrapers, the virtual anonymity, the good public transportation, the raging toughness of it all. I do already miss many things about San Francisco -- the amazing people I met, the lovely weather, and the wondrous Amoeba record shop -- where I found tons of stuff which I could have sworn didn't exist, at least on planet Earth (an EYE remix of Manuel Gottsching's E2-E4? Cool!)
09.08.03 @ 07:44 PM EST [link]
Welcome to The Original Soundtrack in its blog incarnation. The Original Soundtrack was originally a webzine I started in 1998, back when webzines were a bit less ubiquitous than they are now. Assembled with a cobbled-together staff of about a dozen co-conspirators back at MIT, the first issue was a raging success, but it died as my attention focused to other zines and other adventures. After a five year hiatus, I'm going back online in full force with this blog, with various articles and photos and things to be added along the way. I've been really inspired by how much thoughtful critical discourse takes place online -- so much so that I've pretty much given up buying magazines these days in favor of hunting down the best that the school of blog-crit has to offer. I'm pretty turned off by whiny personal diary-type blogs so this won't be anything like that: it's more of a critical blog of every stripe, with stuff about music, stuff about film, stuff about science, stuff about things i've seen around the city and in my travels -- it's a staging area for me to hatch my thoughts before I inflict them on a wider audience. Thanks for reading.
09.08.03 @ 06:47 PM EST [link]