Archive for the ‘David Markson’ Category

bothfleshSOUNDTRACK: SIGUR RÓS-Von brigði [Recycle Bin] (1998).

recycleAfter releasing their first album, Sigur Rós was approached by Icelandic musicians to remix the album. And thus came Recycle Bin.  I realized too late that I really just don’t like remix albums all that much–they’re mostly just faster drums plopped on top of existing songs.  And such is the case here.  Despite the interesting musical pedigrees of the remixers, there’s nothing anywhere near as interesting as on Von itself.  There are ten tracks, but only 5 songs.

”Syndir Guðs” gets two remixes:

Biogen keeps the bass but adds some more drumlike sounds.

Múm removes the bass, adds some wild drums and trippy textures and reduces the 7 minutes to 5.  It is quite pretty but very far from the original.

“Leit að lífi” gets three remixes

Plasmic takes a spacey 3 minute wordless noodle and turns it into a heavy fast dance song with speedy drums, big bass notes and with spacey sounds.

Thor brings in some fast skittery drums and keeps the spacey sounds (which sound sped up).  And of course bigger bass noises.

Sigur Rós recycle their own song into a dance song by adding funky bass and drums.

“Myrkur” gets two remixes.  the original is a fast-paced groovy track.

Ilo begins it as a spacey non-musical sounding piece.  After two minutes they add a beat of very mechanical-sounding drums.  It’s probably the most interesting remix here.

Dirty-Bix adds big, slow drums.  It keeps the same melody and vocals as the original but totally changes the rhythm and texture of the song, (removing the guitar completely).

The remaining three songs get one remix each.

The original “18 Sekúndur Fyrir Sólarupprás” is 18 seconds of silence.  Curver turns it into “180 Sekúndur Fyrir Sólarupprás” and makes a muffled drum beat and some other samples from the album, I think.  It constantly sounds like it is glitching apart until the end where it practically disintegrates–an interesting remix of silence.

“Hún Jörð” 7 min Hassbræður increases the drums and adds a more buzzsaw guitar sound and makes the vocals stand out a bit more.

“Von” has delicate strings and Jónsi voice.  The remix by Gusgus adds low end bass and drums making it a thumping rather than soaring track.

I prefer the original, but I much prefer their next album to the first one.

[READ: end of October to early November 2013]  original articles that comprise Both Flesh and Not

As I mentioned last week, I decided to compare the articles in Both Flesh and Not with the original publications to see what the differences were.  I had done this before with A Supposedly Fun Thing… and that was interesting and enlightening (about the editing process).

This time around the book has a lot more information than the original articles did.  Although as I come to understand it, the original DFW submitted article is likely what is being printed in the book with all of the editing done by the magazine (presumably with DFW’s approval).  So basically, if you had read the original articles and figured you didn’t need the book, this is what you’re missing.

Quite a lot of the changes are word choice changes (this seems to belie the idea that DFW approved the changes as they are often one word changes).  Most of the changes are dropped footnotes (at least in one article) or whole sections chopped out (in others).

For the most part the changes were that the book version added things that were left out or more likely removed from the article.  If the addition in the book is more than a sentence, I only include the first few words as I assume most readers have the book and can find it for themselves.  The way to read the construct below is that most of the time the first quote is from the original article.  The second quote is how it appears in Both Flesh and Not.  At the end of each bullet, I have put in parentheses the page in BFAN where you’ll find it.  I don’t include the page number of the article.  And when I specifically mention a footnote (FN 1, for example), I am referring to the book as many times the articles drop footnotes and they are not always in sync.

Note: I tried most of the time to put quotes around the text, but man is that labor intensive, so if I forgot, it’s not meant to be anything significant. (more…)

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contficSOUNDTRACKTHAO NGUYEN-Tiny Desk Concert #5 (September 4, 2008).

thaoI had never heard of Thao Ngyuen (who admits that her last name is a phonetic disaster–it’s pronounced When) before this concert and man is she a lot of fun.

  She plays a great acoustic guitar—very percussive on the strings (and even some percussive noises from her mouth before the first song starts).  Her voice is a strange mix of a few singers, reminding me a bit of Björk (but with a kind of Southern sounding accent) and maybe Beth Orton, if Beth was a bit more excited.   Thao plays her guitar very loosely—a kind of sloppiness that is really fun—but not in a “she can’t really play” way.  It’s an I’m having a lot of fun style.

NPR dude Mike Katzif heard her band Get Down Stay Down opening for another band.  And he loved her off-kilter melodies (which are ample).  “Bag of Hammers” is played on the high strings and it has an almost Caribbean feel—boppy and fun and totally made for dancing. Her guitar playing is very fast strumming, especially on “Beat (Health, Life and Fire),” I love watching the chords she is playing up and down the neck of the guitar.

I really enjoyed the conceit of “Big Kid Table” and the Hawaiian vibe she gets from her guitar.  “Feet Asleep” brings out a bit more of a country vibe from her singing (she is from Virginia).  I love the diversity of her music and I’m looking forward to checking out both her band and her solo work. In addition to being a great singer and songwriter, she is also quite funny—the story about her grandma and her calves is very funny indeed.

This continues the greatness of the Tiny Desk concerts.

[READ: November 14, 2013]  “The Empty Plenum”

The reason I got involved with Wittgenstein’s Halloween was because David Foster Wallace had said Wittgenstein’s Mistress was one of the best books of the 1990s.

The whole list is on Salon, but here’s the quote about WM:

“Wittgenstein’s Mistress” by David Markson (1988)
“W’s M” is a dramatic rendering of what it would be like to live in the sort of universe described by logical atomism. A monologue, formally very odd, mostly one-sentence ¶s. Tied with “Omensetter’s Luck” for the all-time best U.S. book about human loneliness. These wouldnt constitute ringing endorsements if they didnt happen all to be simultaneously true — i.e., that a novel this abstract and erudite and avant-garde that could also be so moving makes “Wittgenstein’s Mistress” pretty much the high point of experimental fiction in this country.

I had also read his review of the book before [I copy everything I said then below].  I admit I didn’t get that much out of it before because it was mostly about Wittgenstein and a book I hadn’t read.  Well, now that I’ve read the Markson book, it seemed like a good time to revisit the review.

Two things strike me immediately–this was written after Wallace had written Broom of the System and some other fiction and yet he speaks of himself as a “would-be writer,” not a writer.  And two, this review really belongs in a philosophy journal rather than a literary journal–DFW was making the jump from philosophy to literature, but his knowledge of philosophy is very strong, so he is focusing on that aspect of the story. (more…)

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witmisSOUNDTRACK: NEIL HALSTED-“Wittgenstein’s Arm” (2012).

neil-halstead-palindrome-hunches-450Halsted was a founder of the band Slowdive, who I knew somewhat.  I don’t know anything of his solo work, although his name rang a little familiar.

This is a very pretty, slow acoustic ballad.  Halsted’s voice is whispery and with proper folk inflections. The chorus has a very catchy melody.  And yet the lyrics are really dark and sad.

And while there is a mention of an arm in the song, there’s no mention of Wittgenstein.

You can check out the video here:

[READ: November 3, 2013] Wittgenstein’s Mistress p. 181-end

This peculiar book draws to a close in much the same way that it started. There are a few interesting revelations or, if not revelations, then perhaps ponderables as to the nature of just what our narrator (who is apparently named Helen) is doing.

As this last section opens, she is revisiting some more of the things that have been on her mind for the book—the waterlogged atlas that lies flat on the shelf and that blasted arthritic should/ankle  .

I have been wondering about her constant references to her period.  In addition to simply being something that happens to her which she is recording, I have to wonder if it is a nod to her fertility and the fact that since she is the last person alive she will never bear children.  On a slightly related note, I also have to wonder if her focus on rape means she was once raped.  It’s not necessarily the case of course, but there is a lot of it in the book, like this next mention: (more…)

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witmis4SOUNDTRACK: PANIC-Requiem for Martin Heidegger (1978).

13+LP+Hoes++VoorkantPanic was a Dutch punk band.  Their album 13 came out in 1978 and “Requiem for Martin Heidegger” was the final track.  I love the album cover (and no I had never heard of this band either).

The lyrics are wonderfully simple (and no you won’t learn a thing about the man) with the completely singable chorus of “Hi-Degger, Hi-Degger, Hi-Degger, Hi-Degger, Hi!”

There are some other lyrics (including ein, zwei, drei, vier) and “Is he in heaven, is he in hell, where has he gone?  no one can tell.”

There’s some introductory chatter which I think is in German, but may be in Dutch.  But that’s all irrelevant, because this is three minutes of classic 70s punk.  And the video is a hoot too.

[READ: October 30, 2013] Wittgenstein’s Mistress p. 120-180

Although I read the first half of this book rather quickly, I took some time off before reading this section.  The good news is that this book does not require constant attention.  The bad news is that because there are so many details in the book (whether “relevant” or not) it’s easy to forget if she has talked about the different pieces before.  And that is kind of the point from her a well, since she constantly questions whether she has talked about something or not.

I’m breaking from my normal summary for a minute because I wanted to bring up something that struck me as I was reading this.  Several times throughout the book I found myself searching the web for ideas and facts that she mentions.  And it struck me that, while yes, in her world, the internet wouldn’t be working anyhow—there’s no electricity even—but she would not even have the concept of being able answer her questions with a few clicks.  This book wasn’t written that long ago, but when it was, the internet as we know it didn’t exist.  So our narrator does not know that she could have answered all of her questions in just seconds.  If this book was written now, it might even be seen as a “point” that the world no longer has such easy access to information.  But that is not an issue in this book.  Rather, our narrator simply knows that unless she is willing to dig through boxes or really wrack her brain to be able to remember where she found the information (and we know that’s not going to be successful), she simply won’t “know” what she knows.  And it’s interesting to imagine what it was like to read this book back in the 1980s without being able to quickly confirm  that indeed Wittgenstein said this or Heidegger said that or even that any of the artists she mentions really did what she says.   And I find that really fascinating.

Vaguely connected to this idea is her wondering about some details of the Savona soccer jerseys and then saying “One is scarcely about to return to Savona to check on this, however.” (122). (more…)

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witmis3SOUNDTRACK: TOULOUSE LAUTREC-“Yesman” (2013).

heroesToulouse Lautrec are an alternative rock band from Romania.  Once again, I would not have ever heard of them had I not looked fora song about Lautrec (since he is mentioned in this section of the reading).

Toulouse Lautrec have two albums out, Heroes and their new one Extraordinar. They sing in both Romanian and English and this song (which is the first thing that came up on my search) is entirely in English.

It starts out with some very cool guitar riffs (very math rock–I actually considered it might be an instrumental).  Even the bass is doing something interesting behind the guitars.  Then about 50 seconds in the vocals begin.  And the singer has an almost American twang to him.

The chorus is a simple one, with ooh hoo hoo hoos.  But the real fun is at the end of each verse–the I say no I Say no and I say yes I say yes.

I listened to this song a few times and really liked it a lot.  It’s simple but solid alt-rock.  Then I found their website and watched a few more of their videos.  I really like the sound that they get–kind of buzzy guitars but otherwise very clean.

Check out the video for Yesman

and their site (which is in Romanian, but Google Translate will help you navigate)

[READ: October 20, 2013] Wittgenstein’s Mistress p. 61-120

This book is proving to be far less daunting and far more loose and fun than I anticipated.  As you can see by my “read” date, I finished this almost two weeks ahead of time.  In part it’s easy because unless I am gravely mistaken, there’s nothing really to “remember” about the story.  There are details and I think they are ponderable, but there’s nothing that seems to really impact the story. It’s more a series of ideas.

It’s really quite an audacious piece of writing.

Wittgenstein gets his first mention on page 61

“Once Bertrand Russell took his pupil Ludwig Wittgenstein to watch Alfred North Whitehead row, at Cambridge.  Wittgenstein became very angry with Bertrand Russell for having wasted his day” [61].

There are some meaty existential issues brought up like

“Surely one cannot type a sentence saying that one is not thinking about something without thinking about he very thing that one says one in not thinking about” [63]. (more…)

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witmis2SOUNDTRACK: CÓDIGA DE GUERRA-“Wittgenstein Song” (2013).

codigoCódiga de Guerra is from Hidalgo in Mexico.  They have one album out (called Peyote).  I am having a devil of a time finding anything out about them.  You can stream the album on YouTube and you can even buy it from iTunes, but I can’t get any kind of band home page.

It should be apparent that I’d never heard of them before I saw they had a song called “Wittgenstein” and so here they are.

They sing entirely in Spanish, so I don’t really know what this song is about, but i really like it.  Indeed I like the whole album.  They have an indie rock feel–buzzy guitars and good melodies.  Some of the early songs on the album are even kind of mellow which made me think of R.E.M. for some reason.

“Wittgenstein” is the heaviest song on the album.  It opens with some echoed guitars (not unlike Kiss’ “Black Diamond”) but when the other guitars kick in, it is much louder (not heavy heavy, but louder).  The chorus gets kind of heavy again, but the song fades out entirely at around two minutes.  Then a buzzy bass comes back in and the echoed guitar plays the intro and the song starts again.  I heard the word logico in there so it may indeed be all about Wittgenstein.

Check out the song

or the whole album

[READ: October 16, 2013] Wittgenstein’s Mistress p. 1-60

Typically for a group read like this (especially the longer, harder books) I like to be a kind of touchstone–noting significant things that happen and trying to wrap my head around the book by summarizing it, without really speculating wildly about what will happen.  Well, Wittgenstein’s Mistress seems to studiously resist that sort of approach.  I am not typically a “solve it” kind of reader.  I don’t usually try to figure things out ahead of time.  If the book is well written, I just like to let it flow over me so I can think about it afterwards.

But this book more or less demands you to try to figure out what is going on right from the get go.

The cover image above shows the opening sentence:

“In the beginning sometimes I left messages in the streets.  Somebody is living in the Louvre, certain of the messages would say. Or in the National Gallery.”

followed soon by

“Nobody came , of course.  Eventually I stopped leaving the messages.”

Weird, right?  And then comes:

“I have no idea how long ago it was when I was doing that. If I was forced to guess, I believe I would guess ten years.”

Whoa.  And then the kicker:

“And of course, I was quite out of my mind for a certain period too, back then.” (more…)

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[JOINED: October 15, 2013] Wittgenstein’s Halloween

witmisWittgenstein’s Mistress is a largely unknown book.  However, fans of David Foster Wallace should know of it as it was one of the books that DFW often recommended.  He even wrote a formal book review about it (which you can read here).

The book has sounded challenging if not difficult, and while I can’t say I was chomping at the bit to read it (even in my post about DFW’s review of the book I said I wasn’t compelled to read it), but I have always sort of assumed I would.

It felt daunting although when I saw that it was only 240 pages, some of that daunt went away (I don’t mind reading a big book, but a big dense daunting book is another thing, at least at this time–because I have just started John Sayles 900+ page book A Moment in the Sun).  So when I saw that this group read was starting up and I decided it was pretty much now or never. (more…)

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dfwshelfSOUNDTRACK: LAND OF KUSH-Against the Day [CST058] (2008).

kushLand of Kush is a huge orchestra created by Sam Shalibi.  Shalibi is a maniac of independent releases, creating everything from orchestral pieces to solo records all with his unique blend of middle eastern tinged music (featuring his oud playing).

This album is inspired by Thomas Pynchon’s Against the Day, a book I have not read.  As such, I can’t say if the music works with the book, or indeed if the songs with lyrics have anything to do with the book at all.  The liner notes essay that Shalibi wrote reveal his deep appreciation for the book and how it made him hear this music.  Pretty neat.  Against the Day the book is over 1,000 pages, so I won’t be getting to it anytime soon.

The CD has 5 tracks: three of them about 8 minutes, one at 14 minutes and the centerpiece comes in at 21 minutes.  To read more than I’m going to say about this band and the album, check out the Constellation Records page.

In general, I find Shalibi’s music to be fascinating, but sometimes a bit much.  He is not afraid to pull out all the stops.  And I think that’s to his credit.  He does free jazz, psychedelic and middle eastern phrasing, often within one song.  And while it’s often very enjoyable, it can also be exhausting.

And that is the case with this disc. The 21 minute “Bilocations” is such a brilliant piece of music.  The main musical line is just fantastic: middle eastern instruments playing a sort of James Bond type suspense theme.  And the vocals are simply amazing.  The singer (and I regret to say I’m not sure which one she is) is snarling and sexy and brings the whole piece to life.  I’ve never heard anyone say “economics” with such emotion before.  And I enjoy probably the first 15 or 16 minutes of it.  The last five drifts into a sort of solo for voice which gets a bit tiresome, actually, especially after the intensity of the first part.

And yet it is then followed up by the last two songs, each about 8 minutes long, again with fantastic motifs that propel these weird and wild pieces beyond the middle eastern psychedelic soundscapes into actual songs.

Despite my amorphous criticisms (I think that the disc is just too long to appreciate in one sitting (and I find middle eastern music is hard for me to digest in more than small doses)) this is my favorite of Shalibi’s releases.  And some day I hope to read the book, too.

[READ: September 19th ish 2009] short uncollected pieces

This is my second (and final, I think) review of multiple DFW uncollected pieces.  There are a few uncollected pieces left that I’m going to read, but they’re all longer and will likely deserve their own post.  Most of these pieces are very short, and I don’t have all that much to say about them.  But, heck, I’m a pseudo-complestist, so I want to have them all here.

All the text in bold, including the links comes from (where else?) The Howling Fantods.  Thanks! (more…)

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