Tuesday, May 03, 2005

The War Against Silence

Yesterday I came across this website. The War Against Silence. The site is now defunct, but for ten years--since 1995, when nobody blogged--Glenn McDonald wrote music reviews on Wednesday nights: long, unweildy, spiralling, autobiographical, bizarrely poetic reviews of CD's and songs and musicians, built upon superlatives and words like electroencephalogram and isomorphic. Most of his reviews are quite expansive, but in his list of the best albums of 2004 he described Bjork's Medulla thus:
A porcelain doll in a broken ship sinks in the cold sea that warms towards us. If we find it whole ashore, it is a doll. If we find it broken, but entire, we will probably make a doll again out of the parts. But it was a doll before its time in the sea, and surely it is more interesting afterwards. So we lay out the parts as parts, from torso to shard, and let them be the story of their separation, but then this is not a story of a doll. Only when we stop finding doll parts do we think to stand on an empty shore and let the water alone tell us the story of all the dolls, and all the ships, and the sea and how we wait on the edge of it for what it brings us.
Man oh man! Then, in his list of best albums of all time, he says of Ted Leo and the Pharmacists' Hearts of Oak and Tell Balgeary, Balgury is Dead:
This is what it sounded like to grow up inside my head.
And of the Magnetic Fields' The Charm of the Highway Strip:
The ghosts of Bach and Handel, marooned in limbo with only some Casio keyboards, amuse themselves by filling in a color-by-numbers country album.
I love this guy. He lives in Cambridge, MA, in fact--close to me--and when I mentioned him to my Dad he said, "Oh yep, I met him a few years ago--that was one strange guy! He'd buy 15 or 20 CD's a week and just listen to them obsessively, and he had this cult following online. Like he was an outsider type, and then finally he met this girl and the story of him falling in love with her was sort of scattered across his reviews as time progressed." Wow.

And here is what Glenn McDonald has to say about delving into unfamiliar genres (pretty similar to what I do, actually, though I of course function on a much lesser scale):
My primary tactic for approaching styles of music about which I know nothing is to watch them leerily from afar for a while, picking up random bits of information of questionable relevance. Eventually a random catalyst will lead me to dart in and buy some specific album. If I don't like it, I instantly abandon the whole genre as a lost cause...If I do like it, though, that artist becomes my foothold; I begin obsessive catalog back-filling, and when that runs out, I begin buying things by the same record company, or things by the same producer, or things by people who appear on compilations with the first artist, or things with similar names or cover-art color schemes. A few weeks of this usually gives me enough triangulation points that I can start reading newsgroups, or expensive foreign magazines, or pestering people I know, and have some points of reference from which to evaluate what they're saying.
(By the way, I'm sorry for these huge quotes, but I just couldn't decide what to cut out! And it's great just the way it is. If you've been skipping the long quotes, I suggest you go back and read them; they're much more funny and interesting than anything I'm writing here.)

Two footnotes: (1) He went to Harvard (that's how he ended up in Cambridge) and here's a very brief, very heartrending story he wrote in college that I found on his site. (2) How he chose the domain name Furia:
"Furia", my portmanteau of "furious" and "Narnia", is the magical realm inhabited by everything about which you care passionately enough to get angry. If I won the lottery tomorrow, perhaps it would be the non-profit foundation/think-tank/
eco-terrorist organization I'd start; perhaps eventually, even without the lottery, I'll think of something other than maddeningly digressive music reviews to put on it.
Anyway, I spent much of the day yesterday reading these reviews instead of studying for AP's. Hah.

Also, yesterday I read half of Jamaica Kincaid's novel Annie John. It's very good; it reminds me a lot of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (except Annie John's set in Antigua...)--which, in fact, was the book that first sparked my romantic idealization of New York City. (And I loved the name Francie for years after reading that book.)

Have a beautiful day!


Anonymous oki said...

wow those reviews are amazing to read

I think I lost my mind during the AP test..so we'll see what happens..
or happened, whatever.

11:21 PM  
Blogger T.C. said...

I know! And don't you worry, you're going to blow them away.

12:17 AM  

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