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Archive for May, 2006

I think I’m finally wrapping up this book report.

I’m working on Theodore Gracyk’s Rhythm and Noise: An Aesthetics of Rock for a little project, and enjoying the read. His initial assertion is that the “what,” or text, of rock is not a genre or style, but distinguished by being a recorded work. This is something I’d thought about but didn’t have the Ph.D. in Philosophy to back up. Beethoven’s 9th, performed 100 years ago in Vienna, last week at Southwest Texas State, or 200 years from now in Bahrain is always Beethoven’s 9th. But Elvis’ “Mystery Train” from Sun Studios in 1957 is only what it is as the original recording (or as close as we can get to it), and that’s what it is 49 years ago, 30 minutes ago, and 100 years from now. Not the notation on paper or the digital bits or the composer’s hillbluesy original – it’s that final creative collaborative effort, all that went into it, including the song itself, that makes it rock. What makes it music and what makes it good is something else (Gracyk’s other 200 pages).

So, he distinguishes rock from arts that are based in more dynamic media, other forms of music, etc. Rock functions like the visual arts or film, rather than other forms of music, even. So it lends itself to the development of a canon, and, oddly enough, a kind of fundamentalism (you know those people).

I like his quote of Bob Dylan: “there’s not enough roll in rock anymore.”

Doesn’t Theodore Gracyk sound like the real name of a member of a 70s punk band?

Anyway, the thing that probably really draws me to this theory is that I can rock without having to dish and drive for a live show. But, the more I think about it, the less I buy this option. In my experience, rock fans are more likely than a lot of music fans to want something more at a live show. Gene Simmons made a living off image, not enduring recordings. Even sweet Sufjan, from what I’ve seen in footage, can burn through a wurlitzer solo that you can only hear once, and then it’s gone. You didn’t come to stand and listen to the album together, and, despite the significance of the shared experience, you wouldn’t have just showed up to see all the bozos in the pit. You came for the performance – for the icon and the sound (and the bozos). Maybe Gracyk accounts for this somewhere, but so far I’m getting that he puts record over icon; maybe its icon over record. After all, it’s not just Mystery Train, it’s Elvis. Rock may not just be a subgenre of Pop, but it is an artifact of pop culture, and you can’t isolate those records from the fan clubs that build around the persona of the track.

But, again, I do not have a Ph.D. in philosophy. And I haven’t finished the book.

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This site is all about asserting my unsubstantiated hunches (and making self-referential qualifiers), so here’s one. When I was last aware of what was happening to pop music in the rest of the world, non-Western top 10 lists were made up of 4-5 American or European hits, 3-4 indigenous acts that basically made Western pop in a local dialect (and maybe a mix of regional instruments), and then 1-2 tenacious indigenous tracks that, strangely enough, was the one-of-these-things-is-not-like-the-other. So, what does it mean when you live in South Korea and your best bet at getting local flavor is to browse the World Music bin at Virgin?

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From the erratically surfed getreligion.org re: Newsweek’s DaVinci Code feature on Mary Magdalene:

“At least we can be thankful the story doesn’t indulge in hysterical Gospel of Judas-style predictions that Sunday-school teachers will have to rethink the entirety of their message because a Gnostic text preaches Gnosticism.”

heh heh heh.

I love how every year at Easter and Christmas or on the occaision of a cultural splash of interest in Christianity all the major news magazines start covering 100 year old theological scholarship like it’s moments from overthrowing the entire Christian Fundamentalist movement.

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Look at Gabe!

Gather ‘Round, Children: Recalling the good old days since 2006.

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“At this moment in the Church’s history in this country (and in the West more generally) it is less urgent to convince the alternative culture in which we live of the truth of Christ than it is for the Church to tell itself its own story and to nurture its own life, the culture of the city of God.”

Robert Wilken, “The Church as Culture,” First Things, April 2004

(courtesy of Mars Hill Audio Journal)

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One of the things I appreciate about Fuller: the president and a church history prof urging Christians to see and read the DaVinci Code, from the front page of their website.

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I love a good cringe at an original Grimm’s or Hans Christian Andersen story, where the severe moral message trumps a happy ending. We’d no sooner tell the young’un these stories than have him watch Scarface before bedtime. It occurs to me that about the only place where cautionary tales are a la mode is Drivers’ Education. If they included a covetous mermaid or a little ginger-bread-house-jonesing witch-bait here and there, they might still be just as effective, and even more memorable. Or perhaps a few minor changes to the originals would do. “When the little piggy reached for a donut in the passenger seat, the big bad oncoming traffic blew his straw car away.”

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