01 March 2008

it's always fuzzy in genredelphia


last valentimes, i innaugurated [careful, noisylink] "genrephilia," a series of posts on genre based around a genrelovey podmix, in an interesting but not entirely successful (maybe?) bit of blog format experimentation. i only got partway through, stopping after ten posts with installment #3, about disco (working backwards from 12 out of a total of 14, including 0 and -1.) part of the idea was to establish a sort of point of reference for each genre, a pronouncement on the state of my relationship with that given musical arena, although i used it for various other purposes as well.

just for kicks, lets see if i can mount an actually brief, 1-2 sentence summary of the current states of those affairs, in the order of the original posts (and with links as appropriate):

12. valentine's - (oh, i forgot about that part. not actually a genre, is it - well anyway i just talked about that in my last post about my new mix; moving on then.)

11. country - unfortunately, haven't found anything to be nearly as excited about since that one keith urban album, though taylor swift may come close whenever i actually get her album; ditto miranda lambert (no, miley doesn't count.) i have become pleasingly, increasingly comfortable with the concept of country as a genre, though, listening to country radio on occasion and taking occasional steps to further my historical perspective. also very curious about this new dolly parton album (dolly's weird - an artist it has become hip for non-country-listeners to think is hip, but who doesn't seem to have much to do with contemporary country anymore, unless i'm wrong.)

10. dancepop - this post was kind of positing justin timberlake, or at least parts of
futuresex/lovesounds, as formally innovative in terms of pop song and album structure...i can't say i've heard anything since to really take that and run with it; the timbaland album i was so amped about turned out to be pretty disappointing. on the other hand, blackout and its unlikely compeers (including x and jordin sparks) are at least investigating some other formal possibilities, on the more micro level.

9. electronica - proceeds apace... last year i said i gave up on it, and i can't say i've heard anything really earthshaking to bring me back around - gui and axel and pantha et al. were nice enough but nothing too new... the return of big beat is possibly still progressing, but i can't quite tell where it's at now (justice are, apparently, Popular - as i learned last weekend, even people who can't identify "d.a.n.c.e." offhand know that it's from 'the cross album' - though it hasn't gotten them into the kimmel center yet.) if i ever hear back from the folks at klang/playhouse or ~scape, maybe i'll have something to tell you. [eta: oh, yo. yo.]

8. local/diy - staying out of it. i have officially not been to any of yr standard west philly basement shows - i haven't actually heard of many happening anyway - save for the recently begun, consistently brilliant weekly revues at 4814 hazel, which have little in common with anything else of the sort, seem to belong to no scene other than their own, and are rarely all that focused on containing 'actually good' music - it's all about the show. so i can't really comment, but maybe just perhaps there's been a lull in w-phi diy-land? dunno.

7. reggae - nothing new to report. oh wait i got that mighty diamonds LP - that's pretty sweet. really really sweet actually. (someday, when he's old enough to understand, i will make a mixtape for my nephew that will feature "dem never love poor marcus.") also, if it counts, the soul-jazz
rumble in the jungle cd compilation of mid-90s british ragga/jungle is one of the best things i heard in 2007, maybe the most vital music ever. (oh yeah, that's a new project: to realize/decide that dancehall/ragga/whathaveyou are actually subgenres of reggae, and maybe to get comfy with that historical progression)

6. contemporary art music - aka avant-jazz, post-classical, new music, world-fusion, interdisciplinary hoo-hah, non-profit org steez. or anything that gets programmed at the painted bride. not unrelated to some things i've been writing recently for amg - triosk, whom i pegged i think pretty aptly as "post-jazz" and adrian klumpes, their keyboardist, who's so far post that it's nothing to jazz, just straight-up avant. interesting too if that's functioning in an indie music context, not so much non-profit driven. actually, let me combine this with

5. jazz, about which i continue to wage internal struggles... still getting the hookup from matt - he took me to see the mingus big band at the kimmel center the other week, which was a blast - though, helpfully, i'm not getting the stream of new releases and info from him i was at one point; just an occasional something to sink my teeth in and get more out of - lately, genre transgressors adam rudolph and nels cline - but i'm not that much closer to feeling at home with contempo jazz, to really owning it.

[i was looking forward to writing something about the trio of concerts i was to have seen this weekend - the multi-ethnic jazz/world fusion of adam rudolph's moving pictures at the bride, the ball-busting gypsy/punk fusion of gogol bordello at the electric factory, and the cambodian pop/indie fusion of dengue fever (in arden, delaware) - but i only actually ended up seeing the first two, in the same evening, both of which were great and powerful in very different ways; it's hard to imagine two more disparate versions of globalized musical cross-pollination, though i'm betting dengue would have offered a third, if not something of a middle ground.]

4. soul - continues to get hotter (legit recog for sharon et daps? another sfj new yorker thinkpiece on winehouse? several of these picks def feel like a stretch, but still. apparently finnish funk is a thing? better get on that) but i can't say i'm really feeling the heat... dunno, just not in that groove at the moment, and i think it may have to do with my current suboptimal musical living situation. still, i've got plenty of material to sift through, and new leads to pick up on when i get the hankering, as i'm sure i will - for just one, spanky wilson, who mysteriously appeared somewhere on my harddrive in time to make it onto love is the answer.

3. disco - similar, maybe. that was a good post, wasn't it. (somebody read it and say something!) i'm feeling pretty great about disco, actually/still, though i'm not necessarily doing much about it. oh wait, i did make that mixtape.

the remaining four were, i guess, twee/indie pop (acid house kings), um, classic indie pop (the go-betweens), hip-hop (outkast) and then whatever jan jelinek counts as (i recycled that introbit for loveistheanswer, as you may have figured.) i guess i don't have much to say about those right now, though i have been listening to quite a bit of indie pop, and learning myself some more hist'ry (just bought a felt record...may get some field mice soon), based on the fact that the swedes i'm covering lately (the honeydrips and others on sincerely yours; all the labrador artists; billie the vision too most likely) definitely see themselves as part of a lineage.

but anyway, i'm not actually here to talk about genre. that's not what this blog is all 'bout. i'm here to talk about a mixtape. an actual cassette, and awesomely idiosyncratically cassettic too. dug it out recently to play in nava's car.

Title: GeNReCALiA
Format: cassette (90 minutes)
Date: July 2005
Packaging: front of insert as seen at the top of the post (though notso fuzzy.) back of insert like so (with apologies to sol lewitt):

also enclosed, in lieu of a tracklist, a type-written syllabus: not only is this a mixtape about genre, its contents in fact comprise the course materials for a (proposed?) course about, well, what else is there to talk about...?

Made for Alyssa. i don't even think she asked for it. she hailed it as the Mixtape to End All Mixtapes [caps hers - ed]. perhaps i should have taken the hint.


"explorations and provocations in the ontology of musicodiversity, 1960-2005"

visiting lecturer, bowtie askew

to countenance, underwhelm, exasperate, dismantle, recidivise, inactivate, and otherwise unanswer the question of musical (and/as) genre, in the context.

<-- syllabus -->
0. Intro and Praxis: . "genrefuck"
1. Keynote: "peaches en regalia" prof. zappa, frank (1969)

UNIT ONE: roots and counter-culture: cross-pollinations, 1960-1975
2. flirtations, the. "nothing but a heartache" (1969)
3. king, carole. "smackwater jack" (1971)
4. brown jr. oscar. "work song" (1960)
5. beefheart, captain. "frownland" (1969)
6. otis, shuffie. "happy house" (1974)
7. animals, the. "the story of bo diddley" (1964)
8. cline, patsy. "heartaches" (1962)
9. mamas, the, and the papas. "i call your name" (1966)

special topic: hey, Aretha Franklin drinks Coke !
10. kaada. "all wrong" (2003)

UNIT TWO: the Nonesuch School: pomo art music (for BoBos), '90s-'00s
11. Byron, don. "bounce of the sugar plum fairy" (1996)
12. cachao. "al fin te VI" (1994)
13. reich, steve (trans. evan ziporyn). "new york counterpoint"
movement III, 'fast' comp. 1985/perf. 1996)
14. cain, uri, and ensemble. "the goldberg variations" (excerpt)
variation 3-/quodlibet/drinking party/logic's organ prelude (2000)
15. trio, tin hat. "scarp" (2000)
16. frisell, bill. "the tractor" (2001)
17. bailey, derek. "please don't talk about me when i'm gone" (2002)

Midterm Exam
18. AmiYumi, puffy. "thats the way it is/Kore ga Watashi no Ikirumichi" 1998)
19. Haden, Petra. sings "Heinz Baked Beans/more music" (excerpt) (2005)


UNIT THREE: Intelligent? Dance? Music?: pomo beat excursions (for hipsters?), '04-'05
1. dj /rupture. "overture: watermelon city" (2004)
2. radioinactive and antimc. "movin' truck" (2004)
3. lidell, jamie. "you got me up" (2005)
4. busdriver (prod. dædelus) "yawning zeitgeist freestyle" (2005)
5. M.I.A. "one for the head - skit" (2005)
6. Optimo. "how to kill the dj, vol. 2" - excerpt: cissy strut/a minha menina; shack up; stand of the world (2005)
7. girls aloud. "love machine" (radio edit) (2004)

pop(?) quiz(!):
8. unicorns, the. "jellybones" (2003)


G UNIT (not on this tape)

Special Topic/Case Study: "folk" of the (naughty) aughties
9. akron/family. "suchness" (2005)
10. animal collective. "who could win a rabbit?" (2004)
11. frost, edith. "too happy" (1997)

Special Topic/Case Stubby: the tropicalian diaspora
12. gil, gilberto. "Só Quero Um Xodó"
13. veloso, moreno. +2. "das partes" (2001)
14. lindsay, arto. "prefeelings" (1998)

15. the books - "an animated description of Mr. Maps" (2005)

16. final fantasy. (?) (2005)


what is to be said? i don't think i ever intended to, like, explain what's going on here, any more than is already evident in the tape itself. or more likely i did, but it wasn't a very good idea. the tape is an intellectual endeavor, a multi-part hypothesis if you will, or maybe even a thesis (i typed multi-party by mistake), but it's also an art project; or, it's a conceptual/programmatic/didactic mixtape but it's also a dada/surrealist/situationist (ha!) one.

but perhaps... well, obviously, the tape is not very interested in existing conceptions of specific genres - i included a couple of "uncomplicatedly" "generic" selections - the flirtations' "nothing but a heartache" (an incredible, brilliant song, regardless of genre or lack thereof, which may be one of the few things it has in common with the rest of the tape), and, just maybe, edith frost's "too happy" (which i was too in love with at the time of mixmaking not to include, though it's also interestingly, though in no way unusually, utterly irrespective of genre. it got a wider airing later on october is eternal, but that kinda rulebreaking is the least of this tape's concerns) - to provide a starting point, or i guess to cover my bases. essentially, the kind of discussion of individual genres that i was perpetrating above has little if anything to do with this.

i was serious about "unanswering the question of [...] genre" - i was trying not to contemplate genre, but to actively destroy (or, i suppose subvert) it. if there's a systematic project here, it's to demonstrate that, even concurrently with the development of musical styles as we conceive of them, there has been plenty music being made that actively defied such categorization (even though the artists themselves may have succumbed to it.)

in other words, i strove to include music that doesn't neatly conform to (and hence actually undermines) any preconceived notions of genre, consciously limiting myself (for the most part) to particular historico-cultural domains (selected on the basis/bias of my own particular tastes and musical knowledge) which represent, perhaps, especial frontiers of genre experimentation and subversion - but with the working assumption that similar sets could be drawn from plenty of other such (vaguely defined) domains. key to all of this, of course, is that contemplation and understanding be based on the music itself, regardless of its contextual trappings and cultural associations.

lots of these songs have particular elements to add to that discussion, and it would be probably be fruitless to continue very much further without getting into specifics...

on another level though, i just wanted to make the most eclectic, omnivorous, kaleidoscopic, mix that i possibly could - while still having it make sense or at least work as an enjoyable listening experience, not just seeming completely random. that part of the project is just as significant as the headier 'conceptual' side, but, ideally at least, they shouldn't be so separate as to make the distinction relevant. which is probably why i should stop talking about it now.

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