Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Spoken word in music

Spoken word is tough to pull off. I've never liked any of the Def poetry jam things. Sometimes you catch a spoken word track here or there on an album of your favorite artist, like it's old news now that Kanye West used a part of Gil Scott-Heron's Who will survive in America on his last album. So sometimes you catch a sprinkling of it around. I would say that most people don't care for it. Just a guess. Not sure why. It's sort of tough to do it well. Usually background music helps.

In a few days I'll put up a spoken word I created recently using the fabulous ATT Voice synthesizer that I love so much and an instrumental electronic track by Fennesz. I don't expect anyone to love it. But it's something different. And that's later anyway.

For now, a couple of tracks with spoken word that I think work. I'll start with this one. It's by the electronic artist Loscil and it's called the Making of Grief Point. Loscil is Scott Morgan. The voice is Dan Bejar from the band Destroyer. Probably because Scott also plays drums in that band.

Video link:

I don't know really why I'm doing this. People ask Why don't people read poetry? But what they're really asking is Why aren't people buying books of poetry? Because artful writing is everywhere, and you can catch it if you're looking for it. You just don't call it poetry. You call it lyrics or you call it screenwriting. It doesn't really matter what you call it. It certainly doesn't matter to the person who wrote it. So I guess that's what this post is about. How occasionally musicians gray the line between reading and singing, books and music. Because that's what spoken word sort of sounds like.

Hope you enjoy this one. Later I'll put up more. If you know of some good ones, let me know.

Lyrics to the video thanks to Songmeanings.net:
The journal starts late: six weeks into the making of "Grief Point," first off as "May Day," a song in honor of May 1st and the workers. Can you still be against the strike that only strikes for more pay? By "you," in this instance, I mean "me."

There is a certain kind of person to whom things come with great facility. They say this is the noise that gets made as my life is lived. So be it. But don't feel the need to record it. For a second I thought that this meant that they were not interested in history. But that's... wrong. Wrong, wrong. A bad reading of the situation. The right reading is that I just don't understand it. At all.

Grief Point — and "May Day," by extension — suffers from the same old shit. A potential, complete ignorance of ambience, real ambience, in that: Can you really construct it, every last bit of it, and just let the listener feel its effects? And is this the right treatment? Always the same question. In this case I would maybe say yes, just because it forces form onto the thing, "thing" as a bunch of words, two melodies, and the words sung in a handful of ways. Between J____ and D____, of course, the same old war rages: one into a tight and perfect digital palace, but super true to the genre; the other, wanting to draw on actual sounds, mix it up, humanize.

It's cool how for my part, this sleight of hand, the trick of making something confounding and great and potentially horrible, drawn up from air: all this is no longer of any interest. In fact, even seeing things in this light depresses me. And so I often come home at night depressed by what we have done, what we are doing. It's good. It means I've changed.

I have lost interest in music. It is horrible.

I should only make things I understand. I should only make things I know how to construct, however imperfect. It's not even like dictating to someone. It's less than that.

"May Day" itself is pretty cool, I have to admit. It condemns the world at such an easy pace. I intend to tell T____ it is like a happy "Shooting Rockets," a disgusting description of anything, to be sure. I think the world does not like me grim. It likes me melancholic, but not miserable. English on the Mediterranean, which is oddly enough some of the worst people there is.

At some point, when it is made, I will explain this record, word for word, swear to God. An ape with angel glands: when I know if it is good or bad, I will know what is good, and what is bad.

The answer to the making of "Grief Point" is picnic baskets, filled with blood.

Too rich, nothing at stake.

If ______ had to write lyrics for his songs, they would be cumbersome, pale blocks, like his riffs, but pale. So instead he went out and found a whaler, too stupid to commit to a single thing.

I assume not lighting up at the sight of your mother as a sign of madness in an infant. Patina, no name for a baby. Your firstborn, before they threw you from the bridge.

Bagna wrestles his dogs to the floor. Such a beautiful scene for some. They write plays, don't perform them.

The message from the critical reception of Dreams was quite clear: we will not be listening to you any further. Of course some tension is created. Cosmonaut in a bread line, et cetera.

I watched a pig devour the classics just to get to you. The barge endlessly circling, your mind finds out. It is done.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Marc Chagall

"Here, in the Louvre, before the canvases of Manet, Millet and others, I understood why my alliance with Russia and Russian art did not take root. Why my language itself is foreign to them. Why people do not place confidence in me. Why the artistic circles fail to recognize me. Why in Russia I am entirely useless.. ..In Paris, it seemed to me that I was discovering everything, above all a mastery of technique.. ..It was not in technique alone that I sought the meaning of art then. It was as if the gods had stood before me.. ..I had the impression that we are still only roaming on the surface of matter, that we are afraid to plunge into chaos, to shatter and overthrow beneath our feet the familiar surface."

Marc Chagall from Letters of the great artists – from Blake to Pollock