Where is the Vanguard? On the unbearable difficulty of defining the “avant-garde,” a passage from Bolaño’s 2666, and a half-assed defense of Arnold Schoenberg

I “History is always written from the sedentary point of view and in the name of a unitary State apparatus, at least a possible one, even when the topic is nomads.” –– Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus For those interested in the “avant-garde,” “experimental music,” “the sonic frontier,” whatever you want to call it,Continue reading “Where is the Vanguard? On the unbearable difficulty of defining the “avant-garde,” a passage from Bolaño’s 2666, and a half-assed defense of Arnold Schoenberg”

Davis Stubbs’ Fear of Music, Zappa, and some ephemera

On a recent trip to the local bookstore I picked up two books: The Real Frank Zappa Book and Fear of Music. The former is pretty well-known: Zappa is a recognizable name among most people, even if they cannot tell you a single song of his besides “Valley Girl,” “Bobby Brown Goes Down,” and maybeContinue reading “Davis Stubbs’ Fear of Music, Zappa, and some ephemera”

This is Not Normal: Negativland Live

I have made it a goal to post at least something each week here, but last week I was busy with boring personal stuff that isn’t pertinent to this blog. So now we resume your regularly scheduled programming.  I recently saw San Francisco experimental music legends (?) Negativland, who are embarking on their It’s NormalContinue reading “This is Not Normal: Negativland Live”

Sontag’s Against Interpretation and Musical Analysis

“We have an obligation to overthrow any means of defending and justifying art which becomes particularly obtuse or onerous or insensitive to contemporary needs and practice.” — Susan Sontag, Against Interpretation My current analytical project (if I can be presumptuous for a moment) is based around understanding three pieces of music, which I consider toContinue reading “Sontag’s Against Interpretation and Musical Analysis”

Mahler’s Ninth: Preliminaries

Since I first watched that clip of Leonard Bernstein delivering a gorgeous monologue about Mahler’s Ninth Symphony, I’ve wondered about the nature of influence in this case: do I love this piece just because old Lennie convinced me that it was more profound than it really is? Or is the piece actually as brilliant asContinue reading “Mahler’s Ninth: Preliminaries”

It’s All Noise: a review of Alex Ross’ The Rest is Noise

The Rest is Noise, Alex Ross’ first book, was an instant hit. The New York Times named it one of the ten best books of 2007; it was a finalist for many prestigious literary prizes including the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction; the cover copy is littered with praise from critics, historians and musicians, everyoneContinue reading “It’s All Noise: a review of Alex Ross’ The Rest is Noise”