Amoeblog

America Gets a Post-Racial: The Legacy of Lee Atwater

Posted by Charles Reece, August 30, 2009 10:03am | Post a Comment
The latest issue of The London Review of Books has an excellent essay, "What Matters," by Walter Benn Michaels (author of The Trouble with Diversity). In analyzing the recent arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Michaels answers my fellow blogger Eric's question of "who's black?" with another, more telling question: "who's poor?." To wit:

Gates, as one of his Harvard colleagues said, is ‘a famous, wealthy and important black man’, a point Gates himself tried to make to the arresting officer – the way he put it was: ‘You don’t know who you’re messing with.’ But, despite the helpful hint, the cop failed to recognise an essential truth about neoliberal America: it’s no longer enough to kowtow to rich white people; now you have to kowtow to rich black people too.

[...]

In the US, one of the great uses of racism was (and is) to induce poor white people to feel a crucial and entirely specious fellowship with rich white people; one of the great uses of anti-racism is to make poor black people feel a crucial and equally specious fellowship with rich black people. Furthermore, in the form of the celebration of ‘identity’ and ‘ethnic diversity’, it seeks to create a bond between poor black people and rich white ones. So the African-American woman who cleans my office is supposed to feel not so bad about the fact that I make almost ten times as much money as she does because she can be confident that I’m not racist or sexist and that I respect her culture. And she’s also supposed to feel pride because the dean of our college, who makes much more than ten times what she does, is African-American, like her. And since the chancellor of our university, who makes more than 15 times what she does, is not only African-American but a woman too (the fruits of both anti-racism and anti-sexism!), she can feel doubly good about her.

In the words of our first "post-racial" president's speechwriters, it's the economy, stupid (or, rather, the racially stupid economy -- even its staunchest proponents this side of Ayn Rand will tell you that capitalism is amoral). As the harbinger of racial peace through commercial success, a prescient Arsenio Hall managed to signify our current climate through one particular performance that bridged the old racial divide in popular culture, that of the poor black's blues and the poor white's country:

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Watering (Down) the Avant-Garden: Pierre Henry and Sampling

Posted by Charles Reece, July 20, 2009 10:35am | Post a Comment
Unpredictable, Opening Concert 25.1.2008, Volksbühne am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz, Berlin.

The recent issue of The Wire caught up with one of the fathers of sampling, musique concrète maestro Pierre Henry. He's been down on the contemporary state of electronic music for awhile. The article begins with a quote from a 1997 interview:

"Today I feel less inspired[.] We're living at a time where everything is controlled, planned and codified and even popular music isn't popular any more, it's imposed upon us."

And he's not any more positive now:

"I think it's a big mistake to call today's music electronic music[.] People do things with computers and samples but it's not the same approach as the way I work, or how Karlheinz Stockhausen worked in his electronic pieces. There is not the same craft, and it's not progress."

Suggesting by implication that the sound collages of El-P, the world creation of Tod Dockstader, Matmos' technological music, or even Björk's omnivorous use of the sounds she finds do not involve a high level of craft just seems wrong-headed to me. The "problem" was better stated in the older interview: codification. When a revolution takes place, there will then follow a prolonged period in which people work under the new order. Not everyone can be Chairman Mao (nothing's more ironic and true in this regard than Maoism -- the revolutionary figure par excellence was used as the ultimate criterion by which the subsequent potential equality of all others was to be judged). Thanks to the revolution of Mssrs. Henry, Stockhausen, Varese and Schaeffer, electronic music has now become a genre, whether Henry likes it or not. Why? Consider Thomas Kuhn's distinction between normal and revolutionary science as they pertain to working within what he called a paradigm:

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FAITH RESTORED

Posted by Charles Reece, June 14, 2009 10:53pm | Post a Comment
faith no more angel dust vinyl mobile fidelity

The above is the only remastered vinyl that I've been willing to pay 40 bucks for. What can I say? I'm still a fan, and it makes me pleased as punch to see these guys playing together again. But it's without these two:

faith no more jim martin cowboy hat
     faith no more chuck mosley
Jim Martin                                   Chuck Mosley

I didn't much care about the band after guitarist Martin was given the boot, and still don't. So, here are my favorite songs from the Big Jim-era albums that Faith No More played live at the recent Download Festival in Donington Park, UK:

Introduce Yourself's "Chinese Arithmetic" (coupled with a version of "Poker Face" from someone named Lady Gaga -- she's popular, evidently):


The Real Thing's "From Out of Nowhere":


Angel Dust's "Midlife Crisis":


And while mining the web for info about the reunion, I found this 2005 interview with Metal Hammer (it's still around!), where Roddy Bottom, Billy Gould and Mike Patton dish on their erstwhile guitarist:

Bottum: “Jim Martin had always been very conventional in what he wanted to do with the band, very much a fan of guitar music only and metal specifically. During the recording of Angel Dust it became apparent to both him and us that we were heading in very different directions.”

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COULD SOMEONE DIRECT ME TO THE CROSSROAD?

Posted by Charles Reece, February 8, 2009 09:44pm | Post a Comment
I went down to the crossroad
fell down on my knees
I went down to the crossroad
fell down on my knees
Asked the lord above "Have mercy now
save poor Bob if you please"
-- Robert Johnson, "Cross Road Blues"
Corporate-manufactured popular music aka The Mainstream is like a ninja, everywhere and yet hidden to me. The best place to hide from my ears is on the radio, out in the open. Thus, out of curiosity, I caught a bit of the Grammy Awards tonight. (It's still on as I write this: Smokey Robinson is currently teaming up with Jamie Foxx).  Here's something that I saw:
I've never been a fan of Stevie Wonder. In fact, I hold him responsible for the moribund course R&B has been on since he first appeared -- all that meaningless vocal gyration that's called winning on American Idol.  Just when I thought his music couldn't get any less soulful, he surprised me with the above. That's little Stevie performing with Generation Next's version of the Hanson Brothers. I'm guessing the Jonas Brothers are some spin off from a NIckelodeon or Disney Channel show.  Why is it that the more famous and successful a star gets, the more likely he or she has no concern for artistic integrity? I can understand why some up and coming bar band would be willing to sell one of their songs to an ad agency, but a rich artist who doesn't need the money? Hell, a Grammy appearance probably doesn't even pay, rather it's about exposure -- as if Stevie fucking Wonder needed exposure!  Anyway, his appearance reminded me of an old essay by John Densmore, drummer for The Doors.  He wrote:
Apple Computer called on a Tuesday--they already had the audacity to spend money to cut "When the Music's Over" into an ad for their new cube computer software. They want to air it the next weekend, and will give us a million and a half dollars! A MILLION AND A HALF DOLLARS! Apple is a pretty hip company...we use computers.... Dammit! Why did Jim (Morrison) have to have such integrity?

I'm pretty clear that we shouldn't do it. We don't need the money. But I get such pressure from one particular bandmate (the one who wears glasses and plays keyboards).

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Marxist Tales 3: Falling Stars, or When Art Imitates Art

Posted by Charles Reece, January 5, 2009 11:00pm | Post a Comment

Madonna falling in Rio back in December got me to thinking, naturally enough, about Mulholland Dr.'s use of "Llorando," Rebekah Del Rio's Spanish cover of "Crying." There's a lot of gravitas to gravity -- with one slip, the reality of artifice can be exposed. At the club Silencio, when the character of Del Rio (played by Del Rio) falls, but her singing continues, David Lynch is playing around with Bertolt Brecht's epic theater and his notion of estrangement. By having the work remind the audience of the layer of representation intervening between them and the emotions they're experiencing, Brecht hoped to create a more politico-rationally engaged experience -- that is, one of empathy, not sympathy (the former being of intellectual understanding, not the latter's identification).

rebekah del rio mulholland dr.naomi watts laura harring mulholland dr.

However, Lynch turns estrangement on its ear by using lip-synching as the emotional crux of his film. If you'll remember, the scene occurs at the point where the fugue world of Betty is fracturing, and the reality of Diane is seeping in. Diane had killed her lover, Camilla, out of jealousy, replacing her in the dream with the amnesiac Rita. Of course Rita can't remember who she is, because she's a manifestation of Diane's oneiric state, a displacement of Camilla, with all the bad stuff repressed. As Rita, she's a ghost, pure desideratum, or Diane's objective (objectified) correlative of the real deal. (In fact, the same applies to Betty; she's Diane's idealized self.) Just as the illusion of the film's representational quality is most exposed (Lynch's "eye of the duck" scene), Betty and Rita begin sobbing -- and (provided the Silencio sequence works properly) the audience along with them.

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