Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's Bête Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Wednesday, May 26, 2004


I'd been in the habit of posting something every night, Sunday through Thursday, and then our computer went down, and so no blogging Monday or Tuesday night this week. And Monday night I was nervous & fidgety missing it. And so I played guitar instead -- something I used to do daily, for many many years, and got out of the habit of after the arrival of my son. (And before the blog -- don't blame the blog! No problem with the blog! I can quit any time!)


In my Sunday night post I mentioned that Virgil Thomson in the entirety of his book "The State of Music" makes explicitly positive mention of only two 20th century composers: himself and someone I'd never heard of & whose name I'd already forgotten. I have the book at hand; the other worthy composer is someone Thomson identifies only as Sauguet.

After he wrote this book, at the age of 44 or so in 1939, Thomson became a regular classical music critic for a daily newspaper. I'd be curious to read his reviews. He obviously knows music.

I remember reading in my early teen or perhaps just pre-teen years a book on the 10 Commandments that took "Mad" magazine satires as illustrations of how breaking the Commandments can lead you astray. The writer -- apparently a serious theologian & an ordained minister -- liked "Mad." He wrote the book with the permission of "Mad"'s publisher, and the cover was a picture of Alfred E. Neuman posing as Moses as he smashes the tablets with his retrospectively Dubya-esque grin. (The book is called "The Mad Morality," by Vernard Eller. I still have it.)

I mention this because something stuck with me from the chapter on the first commandment, which forbids a believer from having any other gods before God. Where you put your energy, where you put your focus -- that's your worship, that's your god.

It's only because Thomson obviously puts a lot of energy into understanding and hearing and writing about and composing music that I am able to believe that he loves it. "The State of Music" certainly doesn't give that impression generally. The tone is superioristic -- Thomson is superior to music, and certainly to the other fools who make it. As I said, I'll keep my eyes open for his more specific music reviews, but I'm not too hopeful.

I'm guessing that Thomson's haughtiness as a critic is what makes him so attractive to other critics. The idea that the critic is superior to the music. The nationally esteemed critic who touted Thomson during a speech I heard six weeks or so ago certainly seemed to have an above-it-all attitude toward music and other music lovers. He pooh-poohed another critic -- a critic who out-thought, out-heard, and out-loved him by far -- for prostrating himself before music.

I'm not advocating that anybody get on their literal knees. But I ain't saving no pews for no damned superioristic sourpusses in my temple.

"Do I exaggerate? I hope I do, for without exaggeration there can be no love, and without love there can be no understanding" -- Oscar Wilde (paraphrased from memory)


Turned on the car radio yesterday & was greeted by Hank Williams’s mournful caterwaul on “Rambling Man.”  Such a haunted haunting song – 8 bar couplets, over and over, never varying melodically or harmonically or rhythmically, just accumulating verbal detail and emotional power, Hank-in-the-song knowing that he’ll die before the beloved he’s addressing and that she will be standing over his grave, knowing that God has called home this rambling man.  Sometimes it breaks my heart to hear people consoling themselves with thoughts of an afterlife.  What a great song.


Lately I've added an all-hits station to my channel surfing route. Teen pop, all the way. And within that, great variety. Smooth R & B, rough hip hop, wailing hard rock all following each other. United by upfront vocals, which I like, up up energy, and a typical though not universal focus on unrequited or recently lost love. Most memorable thing I've heard so far is a whiny white-sounding teen-sounding male hard rock pop group lamenting unrequited love with the chorus, "I'm addic, I'm addicted to you." Except it sounds like, "I'm a dick, I'm addicted to you." Trashy funny rueful truthful, the self-deprecation of unrequited love.

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