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Joy Division [03 Jun 2005|03:53pm]

Why was I learning an instrument that was not even present in the music I was listening to at the time? Why did I not understand that I should actually listen many times to the songs I wanted to play? Probably because I was learning music from notation, and the ear had very little to do with it. It's taking a long time to reverse that "training".

"Transmission" by Joy Division is playing on my last.fm stream right now. It's been a long time since I've heard this song, and some long-dismissed memories are resurfacing.

I really wanted to be in a band when I was in middle school and high school. Bad. I had some musical skills, but those skills involved the piano, which was not an instrument that was used in any music I liked at the time, with the exception of Rush. I spent much of my time trying to figure out how I could be cool playing the keyboard. I spent much more of my time doing that than I ever did actually learning how to play the keyboard.

I had a friend, Chris T., who was learning to play the bass and also wanted to be in a band real bad. I had a friend, Matt K., who was a very talented musician, who could play multiple instruments, and who also automatically knew a lot about cool music because he had older siblings.

So he knew about Joy Division. Matt decided that Joy Division's "Transmission" would be our first song.

We had a drummer, a bass player, and me. Obviously we were missing the key ingredient, the guitar player. It was decided that I would play the guitar parts on my keyboard. That sounded like a great idea to me.

The band would be called Nemesis. I spent a lot of time drawing a mascot for us, along the lines of what Iron Maiden and Megadeth had. I thought then that if you were a real band, you had to have something like that. I came up with something, a blue warty thing with long talons wearing a crown and sporting demonic eyes. I drew it in crayon on newsprint. I was good with crayons, having taken an art class where we treated crayons with the respect colored wax media deserves. Then I made some t-shirts.

I don't know what ever happened to those t-shirts, but I do know what happened to the band. We never played anywhere, and we only practiced a few times. Matt K. quickly moved on to bigger and brighter musical things while Chris T. and I went back to playing more and more Dungeons and Dragons instead. I guess Matt got tired of running around playing all three of our instruments. I was unable to ever actually play the opening guitar vamp to "Transmission" on the keyboard, which, if you listen to it, is quite an embarrassing admission. The truth is, just now, when it was playing on last.fm, is the first time I have ever actually listened to the song all the way through.

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Deepening the mystery [03 Jun 2005|09:10pm]

Art versus ordinary life, round one.

Today's Art Quote of the Day from BrainyQuote.com was from Francis Bacon, "The job of the artist is always to deepen the mystery."

Universal pronouncements about art are generally worthy of skepticism, but by subscribing to Art Quote of the Day, I've basically agreed to suspend my disbelief in that regard. Part of me likes to read people's "always" statements about art, because what they usually do is show some aspect of art to be appreciated. I just ignore the "always" part, and the overuse of definite articles.

At least Mr. Bacon gives artists a job. We can always use one of those. But I don't have any idea what "deepening the mystery" really means. I tend to like art, especially writing, that does what's probably the opposite. I love the poems of people like John Ashbery, Frank O'Hara and Ted Berrigan, who involve many very mundane details of pop culture and "ordinary" daily life. A friend and I were talking yesterday about the way people talk, and the little phrases we say to frame our conversations, like, "I love the theater, but I..." Art can take these kinds of moments as its subject, or its form, or both, and I'm not sure any mysteries would afterward be deeper than they already were.

A quick handy example from "A Step Away from Them" in Lunch Poems by Frank O'Hara:

It's my lunch hour, so I go
for a walk among the hum-colored
cabs. First, down the sidewalk
where laborers feed their dirty
glistening torsos sandwiches
and Coca-Cola, with yellow helmets
on. They protect them from falling
bricks, I guess. Then onto the
avenue where skirts are flipping
above heels and blow up over
grates. The sun is hot, but the
cabs stir up the air. I look 
at bargains in wristwatches. There
are cats playing in sawdust.

This isn't the kind of poetry I hope to write, but it is a kind of poetry that I value and want to be informed by. If there's an opposite to the idea that poets should be preachers of morality and deepeners of mystery, this could be it. This guy's just shopping for wristwatches and checking out the construction workers.

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