September 25, 2006

Resolution Wanting

Like many, many others in fandom, I was devastated this morning to learn that John M. Ford died late last night.

I knew him mostly by his delightful (brilliant, funny, erudite) posts on Making Light; I knew his writing largely by reputation, though I'd just gotten around to rereading his story "Chain Home, Low" in The Sandman: Book of Dreams and marvelled at its loveliness, determined to find more of his work now that I knew who he was. And, of course, I knew him as the author of this, which remains, five years later, the most poignant, touching, fitting memorial to the events of September 11 I've yet seen.

I didn't have much interaction with him even on ML, and certainly never felt familiar enough to address him as Mike, as his friends did. He did leave one perfectly-turned response to a comment of mine (itself a reply to this), which had me giggling for hours; I wondered if he knew how much it made my day. I thought, in the way of fen who come to be in touch with the community of their literary heroes, that I might find a way, someday, to craft something smart and witty and poetic enough to properly repay him for it. I am sad beyond words that now I will never have the chance.

I will say this, though: John M. Ford was what I want to be when I grow up.

The world is too soon without him, and he is already sorely missed.

We work so hard to contain the fires of our spirits, and every day I am more convinced that this is an error and a tragedy. Better by far to be a bright sun burning fiercely against the vast cold dark. The other stars are closer than you realize, and they go out sooner than you think.

September 22, 2006

Beckon and Egg

Well, this is timely: We have finally got out act together and put up the long-overdue OVO page on MySpace, which also find linked at sidebar.

Mostly rough mixes, at this point, but nonetheless that's a whole new crop of material suitable for unsettling the listening public, available for download and for Vishal to sigh and give me a firm talking-to about my doubtless mangling of Sanskrit. Huzzah!

September 20, 2006

If I Had Some Words, This Is the Way I'd Sing Them

Well. Since the subject's gone and come up now, I might as well lay this out plainly - the closest thing to a manifesto I'm likely to do on my own tastes and on my philosophy of composition. I figure it's all going to be out there at some point, so I might as well go ahead and own it now.

I like music with solid, simple, repeating chord structures on which you can layer other things, and maybe improvise around, that's appealing enough to keep the attention but instinctive to jam to. I enjoy writing that kind of music; I'll no doubt do lots more of the kind.

I like music with the utterly straightforward three-chord phrases that have been used by folksingers for centuries - the progressions that get used time and again because they work, and provide the kind of melody that doesn't need to go anywhere unexpected to say what it has to say. I enjoy writing that kind of music, even if I've moved somewhat away from it more recently, and I'm sure that approach will always be one I eventually return to.

I like music that's complex and intricate, with strange and unorthodox chords and lots of little movements that add up to a cohesive whole. I'd like to write some music like that, though I'm only now starting to feel like I have the tools at my disposal to even begin to make it properly.

I like spare, stark, minimalist music that does what it needs to do in a few well-placed strokes. I'd like to write some music like that, if I can ever get myself to the point where I have the confidence to stop embellishing what doesn't need it.

I like shimmery, swirly, ambient music - the kind that's usually built around a couple of very basic pieces but piles on as many layers of sound as it needs to create its atmosphere. I'd like to write some music like that, especially if I can get comfortable enough with the requisite technology to really make it self-indulgent.

I like dissonant, difficult, experimental music that pushes the boundary of being just plain noise. Gods help me, I'd like to write some music like that too.

I like pretty music and creepy music, and the places where the two intersect. I like straightforward, sincere music and pretentious music. I like subtle, understated music and over-the-top, bombastic music. I like music that builds on ancient traditions and music that's so cutting-edge it still has fresh blood on it. I like, to use a favorite metaphor stolen from Tony, music that's been aged and corked and music with a screw-off cap. And if you want to know what music I'm interested in creating, I'm afraid my answer is going to have to be the same one I approach almost everything in life with: "A small slice of each, please."

What I'm not interested in is One-True-Wayism, or worrying about what's already been done ('cause it all has, kids), or limiting my palette out of fear that the Comic Book Guys of armchair criticism will sit around and say "Worst chord progression ever." I'm not interested in making happy either the proverbial masses (whoever they are, besides me and thee) or the self-appointed elite; indeed, I'm not interested in catering to anyone's aesthetic except mine and that of Folks Who Might Like the Kind of Thing I Do. And I'm really, really not interested in kowtowing to the opinions of anyone who clearly wishes I'd made something other than the work that's on the table. I am more than happy to accept that what I do will, inevitably, not be everyone's thing. At the same time, I have a reasonably good picture of the level of my own talent and skill, and feel confident in saying that if you don't like what I create, the problem is not mine.

Two more things bear saying now, so hopefully I don't need to say them again.

First: if you feel inclined to pass judgment on everything I've ever done, or contributed to, or indeed am capable of, based solely on the handful of pieces I've made available for free on the Interwebs: You are under the impression that an elephant is some variety of rope. This is understandable, under the circumstances, but you are not in possession of anything like enough knowledge. Please refrain from acting as if you are.

And second: Having an opinion does not entitle you to set aside all standards of discourse; that is to say, while your tastes are entirely your own business, all attitudes are not of equal merit. Or, to put it as plainly and unequivocally as I can: If you can't think of anything nice to say, go on and fuck yourself.

September 19, 2006

Pop Goes the Perkygoth

I wasn't sure I was going to link to this, but I think it really gives the following the necessary context; plus, hey! It's my first Internet your-music-sucks flaming! It's giving me that warm feeling of having arrived, somehow, like your first mugging in a new city.

The whole unfortunate exchange has cemented something for me about just what it is that gets up my squid about snobbery, and why I find stuff like What Not To Wear so unbearable, and why my own lingering elitism feels like the character flaw I'm most self-conscious of:

Snobbery is, in its essence, a form of bullying.

It's not about improving the world; it's about using that trusty old poleaxe in the Emotional Abuse arsenal, shaming, to bring someone else down and make them small and hurt. It says: if you enjoy this... make this... wear this... you are not only inadequate, you ought to be ashamed of yourself. And it's toxic and awful and, when you think about it, a horrifying way to relate to other human beings. And it gets a pass, I suppose, because the people who are capable of doing it are often clever or funny or talented, and because watching one person destroy another has been entertainment since the Coliseum and before; and now, we can say that, hey, no one died, and look! It's all worth it; you're a better person now! Your tastes have been corrected!

But it's not okay. It's not okay when spouses or lovers do it to each other, and it's not okay to do it to strangers, and it's not okay to make a spectacle of it for the sake of amusement at some poor clueless bastard's expense. (And it's really not okay to make excuses for it just because it's funny.) It's hurtful and nasty and it leaches joy from a world that does not have that resource in abundance.

If I'm coming across a little vehement here - well, I did just get called a no-talent paint-by-numbers songwriter today, so it's just possible that maybe there's a touch of stung pride talking. But also, as I said, part of the reason I recoil so strongly from this stuff is that it's a sin I very much feel the temptation of, which is no doubt one of the factors at play in having written my initial comment on Der's site with - to be completely fair - more vigour and heat than was really called for. I feel how easy it would be to condemn and snipe and set myself up as Better Than All You Lot; there's something very satisfying about the assurance that your tastes are right and proper, and everyone else is a moron. Part of this is, yeah, the frustration of just living (not to mention trying to create something worthwhile) in a world where relentless banality and Sturgeon's Law are ever-present. The trouble is that, when you really look at things, it's clear that "banality" is a slippery and subjective thing, and that there's very little agreement on what the theretical 10% of everything that isn't crap comprises. This suggests to me that we'd damn well better start learning two things: 1), how to get along with people who just plain like different stuff; and 2), that a preference is not a fucking virtue.

And that's all that probably needs to be said about that. You'll have to excuse me; I have some musically and lyrically uninteresting work to prepare to subject the clueless public to this weekend. I'll let you know how that works out.

You'll Think I'm Dead, But I'll Sail Away

Holla and avast! 'Tis that most glorious o' days again!

Yer stalwart cap'n has been adrift in strange waters some while now, what with peregrinations ta lands afar; but he's returned ashore, and is preparin' ta regale ye with no end o' salty tales, and mayhap a fine shanty or two. O' course, it be worth notin' that a mug or two o' the strong stuff might go far in recallin' his custom'ry loquaciousness, should ye be inclined to offer't.

Precedin' that, though, I've all this rigging ta see ter. Ye can find me later in port, and I'll open up this sack o' plunder and toss a couple o' doubloons yer way. Arr!