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

Monday, June 13, 2005


Deep in the comments of this post about why Coldplay doesn’t set his woods on fire, Carl Wilson, after dismissing speculation about sincerity as irrelevant to aesthetic experience (and I agree -- it’s also unknowable), bravely starts talking about “soul” in music, which I’m all for.

“Soul” is a metaphor for the distinct biological and cultural individuality that each person possesses, the myriad accidents of fate that make each of us who we are.  In Glenn Gould's case, the distinctiveness of what players call his “touch” rings loud and clear within a few measures of hearing him.  For another pianist to reproduce that “touch” -- Gould's distinctive sense of dynamics and legato/staccato -- would take a lifetime of study, and I doubt that anyone could completely pull it off.  It’s basically impossible, because for Gould, his touch was simply his truth, his beauty, and was the product of his working on his view of the truth and beauty in any particular piece.  For someone to reproduce it, they would have to worry more about Gould than about the truth and beauty in any particular piece.  The distance between the two is Gould himself, a space he occupies which nobody else ever could.

I'm highly suspicious of the “anybody can do it” mythos of rock, but there's an element of truth to it.  The Kingsmen's “Louie Louie” will never be duplicated, and not just because of the singer's distinct voice.  As Dave Marsh's book on the song points out, the drummer is out of his mind -- he mistakes the guitar solo for a drum solo, and he doesn't quite have the chops to pull it off, but he goes for it anyway, all stumbles and crashes and accidental pauses and noise, and it's great.  An un-reproducible compound of ego and enthusiasm and semi-competence that, magically, worked beautifully -- One Time Only.

Every once in a while I hear on a local college radio jazz show a trumpeter who has done a pretty good job of imitating Miles Davis’s late ‘50s trumpet sound. The style is consistent enough to emulate.  I have never, ever heard anybody come close to imitating the Kingsmen’s sound.

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