Tagged exploration

Defying One’s Musical Expectations for Fun and (Non-Monetary) Profit With Strange Genres

That’s what I was listening to earlier this evening, after sampling tracks across the massive Merzbow catalog. I’m not very familiar with the noise music genre, but it’s pretty antagonistic. Not really what I would call music, really, but something like difficult listening? Or kind of terrifying listening. It’s what evil alien robots would put on for entertainment. There are ghosts of melody, and of rhythm, but the tracks keep frustrating attempts to pick stable patterns out. It’s overwhelming, but after a while, I got into it.

The other parts aren’t so confrontational, they seem more akin to the work of a musician I really like: Mick Harris, particularly his Lull moniker. Well, I like Lull and some other isolationist stuff a lot. But that moves glacially and is minimalist. This, especially the first track of Achromatic, is like chaos itself through a few distortion pedals.

But, again, I got into it. It’s a little like reverse meditation. Your discomfort becomes focus, because it pushes everything else out of its path.

If this were your “thing,” if this was what you purport to listen to casually and regularly, I’d raise an eyebrow. I’d miss too much of what I enjoy music for—melody, rhythm, repetition.

Defying your expectations and assumption is a way to break out of stagnation of any kind. Exploring insanely different things than you know is good, even if it’s uncomfortable at first. Everything worth experiencing has a non-zero amount of effort to acquire it.

Little Obsessions and Indulging Them Should Be No Big Deal

It seems like we get put down for carrying on a brief obsession with something, but it can be a reason to get familiar with something new or to experience something familiar with new eyes and ears.

My current is above, of course. The bass sound is gorgeously full, the slapback echo on the vocal is almost haunting, but still charming, and the melody and lyrics themselves are fun and earwormy. I hear something new almost ever re-listen, which is amazing. Now. How to apply this obsession to something I’m doing.

You Can Be on a Journey and Not Know Where You’re Going, and Your Work Is the Same

It’s something to think about. There’s a lot of advice and wisdom about starting long journeys, of a thousand miles or otherwise, but little about recognizing where you are if you don’t know.

But it’s okay. It really is more important to be journeying. If you keep traveling on, you’ll get somewhere, find maps and direction and purpose. And people.

In Which the Chronicler Expounds His Enduring Affection for Certain Bits of ST:TOS

What did I latch onto for comfort viewing the past two nights? Star Trek: The Original Series. Gosh, what a wonderful vision of daring and exploration into the unknown. Of course, this effusion is helped along by my sticking to several opinions of the [insert arbitrary and fawning superlative here] episodes of the original series.

In many cases, they’re a group of, well, adventurers, D&D/RPG-style. The rough & tumble nature of their whimsy is all in service to the story they’re telling week to week. Even so, the best moments focus on the relationships between. Insight into these characters is what makes them so compelling, and the show relevant and even inspiring.

There are so many moments that touch me. The earnest desire to understand the unknown, the sheer bravado. I’m kinda moved by a lot of these 60s teleplays.

So what’s this got to do with art? Art is an adventure, of course. If requires we feed our desire and expand our horizons, to outer space if need be.

Group Exhibitions Say a Lot at Once in a Single Space

This one’s worth looking at, too. The art collective known as Institute 193 is at the Elaine de Kooning House for an exhibition called “Summer Studio.”

Why do we care? It’s because it’s a way to think about things like why or how works are chosen, how they fit into a show’s theme, with other artists, and in the space they’re placed. Good things just to think about. If you’re lucky, as in this case, works are good and intriguing, too.

When I’m Feeling Anxious, I Turn to Real Genius. When I’m Frightened for the World, I Turn to Grosse Pointe Blank

There are certain habits I’ve developed over the past few years, moving around Los Angeles and finishing college. One is to fire up my copy of Real Genius, the film that’s become my favorite in the 33 years since it debuted. I find a weird comfort in it, a silly but meaningful story that contains numerous nuggets of wisdom I apply to life. It also centers around school, an institution I’ve drawn back to again and again in my life. Again, calming and comforting.

There’s another film I keep watching over and over. Grosse Pointe Blank, with John Cusack as an assassin-for-hire questioning his path. I tend to put this one on when I wonder how my society is moving, whether its direction is one I think I can help turn—or not. In it, the protagonist returns home, rather than being away from it, and tries to solve an internal puzzle, rather than an external one. It also has lots of violence and several deaths.

The films have something in common, besides lots of extremely wordy, quotable dialogue: a single female main character (though not the lead) who remains capable but vulnerable, uncompromising but open to possibility.

To segue, several former co-workers, my friends, were trapped in a hostage situation this afternoon when a man with a gun ran into their store after a police chase. He shot another of their co-workers, who subsequently died of the wound. It’s strange to watch a film that has so much shooting in it after hearing and reading about such a thing. It feels strange to me. I don’t know why it doesn’t disturb me as much. Perhaps because it’s such fake violence, movie violence. Real violence is sudden and terrible. It often comes with no warning and no logic.

What I get out of GPB is a sense that as Martin Blank is engaged in his existential crisis, so too am I. The only thing I can do is step back from a spiral of despair and disbelief and think about a bigger picture, re-examine my own path to see how I can further changes out there from examination inside. I feel helpless, and some of these comforts keep me from turning hopeless. They’re a weird kind of jolt, an attempt to spark, in the words of Minnie Driver’s character,

DEBI: You know what you need?
MARTIN: What?
DEBI: Shakubuku.
MARTIN: You wanna tell me what that means?
DEBI: It’s a swift, spiritual kick to the head that alters your reality forever.

Which is paraphrasing, but not far from the actual usage. It’s a good thing, I think, to have comforts and refuges. But we have to use them to get to a new place, not just return to the old ones.

In the Late Stages of the Evening, All I Want to Do Is Listen to Meandering Computer Music and Look at Strange Art

News and social media can wear you down. There’s nothing for it but to step back a bit, or completely, if you can. Unless you’re a journalist, there’s not much point in staying up-to-the-minute on the relentless news cycle. You have things to do. This is good right here, a real slowdown for the mind: The Last Ambient Hero

I’ve also got a newfound appreciation for art that’s funny. CB Hoyo is worth checking out, too.

Switching Tasks

Lots of advice on learning a new language (programming and foreign) or medium or instrument says you should just pick one and stick with it, not give it up and move to something else after the initial bout of getting the basics down. I’m not a big fan of this.

Life is short enough, and there are worse things than trying out several possibilities in a row. Sometimes you have to give something a shot to know it isn’t for you.

Or even that it’s not for you right this minute. In order to give learning something as complicated and slowly-progressing as language or the piano, you’ve got to have a connection to it. There needs to be a spark between it and you in order to make the tough middle part of the journey seem worth your time and occasional frustrated energy. Sometimes you don’t find it right away and you have to try a few different things.

After you’ve learned German or C++, you’ll often want to learn something else, and earlier experiences trying a little JavaScript or Spanish or oil paints will clue you as to the thing you want to put your heart and soul into. Or you dive even deeper into your experience.

But you won’t get chastised by me for abandoning things at the beginner stage because it doesn’t feel right, right now.

Long Live Subversion

NOTE: This post was originally crafted for Jun 13, but I found out later that some electronic mishap or other wiped out most of the text and links leaving only the partial draft unpublished, so I’ve tried as best I can to remake it.

If you haven’t seen The Carters’ (Beyoncé & Jay-Z, after the latter’s surname) new video, “Apeshit,” it’s a wonderful and powerful repurposing of The Louvre for the video. I’ve seen some shade thrown and trash talked about their lack of formal education, but Jay and Bey’ are avid art collectors and clearly know what they’re doing.

There are plenty of breakdowns online about the art and symbolism, but I wanted to point out a couple things I saw that I haven’t seen noted. The video takes place almost entirely within The Louvre, as staid and haughty an institution as exists in the art world. Its unmoving structure, for the most part consisting of neutral and white surfaces, is subverted by movement and color, mostly women of color, at that. Dancing in front of the Coronation of Napoleon by David is defiant, for sure, but also resonates with Beyoncé’s oft-labeled nickname, Queen Bey. She and Jay-Z lay claim to all the cultural heritage of the West, while simultaneously calling out the white-centric focus of canon past. Movement and music are not parts of the art world often celebrated by museums, and here we see a beautiful correction.

There’s lots to notice, particularly the works they chose to highlight, and probably more than can be absorbed in one viewing.

The final scene, too, is stirring, as the two artists join hands in front of the Mona Lisa, in effect declaring themselves “in,” members of the art world as much as any other. It’s a measure of their success and confidence in their considerable abilities that The Carters could rent out The Louvre to make this video. It’s a greater measure that they take pride in showcasing, critically examining, and paralleling the art inside, too.