by carl wilson

Heart-Shaped Boxes in Your Datebook
(Victo, Ubu and more)

Carla.jpg
Carla Bozulich appears in May at the Victoriaville festival in Quebec. See second item below.

Like most music-fixated people, I am, deep down, a romantic. But whether I'm in a coupled or uncoupled state, I'm not a fan of Valentine's Day. Overall it doesn't work out for holidays to be themed around our most crucial emotions - it's too much of a caricature. Valentine's Day squeezes rituals of love into awkward shapes that are bound to disappoint, much the same way that Mother's and Father's Days feel a bit phony (making one's love for one's parents seem, no matter what, like a kind of token gesture) and New Year's Eve is almost never a good party - "a good party," to my mind, being high up on the list of universal human themes, if not quite up there with romance. (Consider how important those two subjects are to music - between them they must cover 90 per cent of all songs ever written. Can you correlate the level of musical interest in a subject directly to the level of human interest? I think there are formal qualities that prevent it from being a one-to-one correlation, but it's still not a bad gauge.) Labour Day is kind of the opposite - it works because it's a negation of the thing it's celebrating, a day off work to recognize the value of work, a negation so complete (and convenient to various invested interests) that nobody talks about labour on Labour Day anymore. Thanksgiving, on the other hand, is one of my favourite holidays, because gratitude actually is not as far to the forefront of our minds as it perhaps ought to be, so pausing to give thanks is an effective gesture - I wish North America, like some cultures, also had a feast of atonement. But pausing to recognize love/lust isn't actually pausing at all; it's doing what we normally, unceasingly, compulsively, irresistibly are driven to do every day - but with the expectation, the pressure that it will somehow be more so on Feb 14, which is a little drop of madness.

So that was my theory of holidays, which may be the bloggiest blog post I ever have blogged.

To compensate, here are a couple of bonbon-boxes of news you can use: The first announcement has been made of the programming for the Victoriaville festival of "musique actuelle," and it's a gobsmacking roster: Among others, it includes Anthony Braxton with his baker's dozen band (aka the "12 (+1) tet") as well as with his SuperCollider-based "Diamond Curtain Wall Trio," John Zorn all by himself, "Acid Mothers Gong" (an alliance of Acid Mothers Temple and Gong (!)), the muthafuggin' Melvins, the Larry Peacock project from Berlin, Carla Bozulich (ex-Geraldine Fibber whose Evangelista was one of the most unjustly overlooked records of 2006, including by me), the Magik Markers, Daniel Menche, a Kevin Blechdom/Eugene Chadbourne duet (!, again), the premiere of the remarkable quartet of UK pianist John Tilbury (who's very high on my list of musicians to see) and violinist Stevie Wishart with Austrian programmer/turntablist Christof Kurzmann and bassist/percussionist/electronicist Werner Dafeldecker (of Polwechsel), and Keiji Haino with Merzbow! (If you don't know some of these musicians, Simon Roy's page has links.) I hadn't even been planning to go to Victo this year - but I think I'm going to have to change my tune. The full schedule won't be available till April, but meanwhile follow developments via Victo's freshly minted official bilingual blog.

And I'm very excited to discover that the long-lost "Fontana years" albums by Pere Ubu are being reissued in March - this means The Tenement Year, Cloudland, Worlds in Collision and Story of My Life, all of them some of the most melodic, poppy music Pere Ubu ever made, and the first two, in particular, include many of my favourite Ubu songs - for testimony to which, see/hear my guest post about We Have the Technology on Said the Gramophone last summer. In fact, the reissue announcement gives me some satisfaction - I doubt my complaint in that post that a properly recorded version of the song seemed not to exist has anything to do with the revelation from Ubu Projex that the original Tenement Year "does not seem to have been mastered" until David Thomas and Paul Hamann finally mastered it last month. But I can pretend. As is Ubu's way (and always to my slight trepidation), there will be new packaging, track substitutions, remixes and (this part is good) bonus tracks on each of the reissues, along with new liner notes from David Stubbs.

Finally, speaking of true love, I haven't been able to stop looking at Cat & Girl related material since yesterday (this is a loop I fall into every few months). One of the strip's web extras is a great flash app that lets you make your own Cat & Girl comic, and I started kicking around the web seeing what other fans had done. Most fall so far short of the original that it's pathetic, but there were a few successes, including a pretty inspired C&G;/Family Circus mashup. Did I make one? No way. I'm all for audience interaction, but I don't feel fit to wash Ms. Gambrell's pen nibs (or, I guess, her graphical stylus, but it doesn't have the same ring). If you want to consider that my crush confession for V-Day, go right ahead.

| Posted by zoilus on Wednesday, February 14 at 3:42 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (12)

 

COMMENTS

re: atonement and celebration
We know we should repair the damage we inflict on others as soon as possible. Atonement shouldn't be a religious, or special-day "to-do".

I guess I'm thinking there should be a more positive, no-cards-allowed, generic day to celebrate. A day of no-noise, or a day of walking, or a day of shaking hands.

Posted by pao on February 17, 2007 12:23 AM

 

 

"New Year's Eve is like Halloween for adults: a night with no limits on what can or should happen."

See, in my world that night is, rather too frequently, simply known as "Saturday." So when that element comes so far to the forefront, it, again, just feels like a grotesque excess. However, I don't mean that I don't like NYE: I've discovered that, as you say, it really depends on that hug with loved ones at midnight. So I'm a convert to the more intimate version of NYE. Rather than "Halloween for adults," I like to think of it as "Christmas for friends" - since actual-xmas is dominated, for me, by blood family, NYE becomes a day to appreciate the 'chosen' family. And then it does become a good party, just not an especially hard-partying party.

Posted by zoilus on February 16, 2007 2:15 PM

 

 

I never understood this insistence that New Year's Eve is bound to disappoint. If you like to party any other night of the year, what's not to like about the one night of the year when EVERYONE is partying? The streets come alive, the city is happy. As long as you don't make rookie mistakes like going to Richmond St. or trying to hit a dozen parties - and as a veteran partier, you know better - New Year's Eve is like Halloween for adults: a night with no limits on what can or should happen. Be with your friends somewhere you enjoy with music you like and New Year's Eve can be the highlight of the holiday party season. My favourite part is hugging and kissing of friends at midnight; you have to be dead inside not to feel good then.

Posted by Mike W on February 16, 2007 1:17 PM

 

 

> but as an ex-Catholic I don't recall ever feeling that Good Friday was when I had to take stock of my actions of the past year and account for them in some way.

Word. I'm an ex-Catholic too, and I also never got that out of Good Friday. And the thing about confession is that it's between you and your God (and the priest, I guess), whereas a more secular atoneoment ritual would make you get yourself right with the world around you.

Posted by DW. on February 16, 2007 11:25 AM

 

 

Yeah, Kate, I should be careful about those "we" statements - obvs there are people in North America who do have a day of atonement, but it's not taken up by the culture at large as a public occasion. And by that I mean Yom Kippur - perhaps for really hardcore Catholics there's more of an atonement vibe to Good Friday, and I certainly realize that there's some of that theme to the day and even to Lent overall, but as an ex-Catholic I don't recall ever feeling that Good Friday was when I had to take stock of my actions of the past year and account for them in some way. In part this is because Catholicism has confession, an ongoing process of doing the same thing, which has its plusses but is not the same thing in formal character - and yes, I agree, does not focus on "repairing relationships" the way that I think a day of atonement encourages.

Posted by zoilus on February 16, 2007 10:37 AM

 

 

Because I care. A LOT...and we share the same view of thanksgiving...albeit mine is always coloured by the fact my birf-day is celebrated on that weekend.

http://www.gorillamask.net/lamour.shtml


PS How do you feel about Flag Day becoming a holiday?

Posted by BF Mowat on February 16, 2007 10:36 AM

 

 

re: atonement. i know it's obvious that christianity and judaism have good friday and yom kippur, but coincidentally i have been thinking about those. i'm starting to think of them as the more useful flipside of a holiday that's supposedly about love.

my awkward position as a momentarily non-practicing Catholic was jostled again the other day by a friend's description of gory crucifixes on a trip to Brazil. To me, that kind of heavy imagery doesn't rustle up a great deal of empty guilt or fear, but something more oppressively weighty that is for sure keeping me from darkening the door of a church. It's the painful feeling of being loved so uniquely and inescapably that drives me to distraction. I'd kind of rather tune it out. I'm not having much success!

For me, a holiday of atonement would be about repairing relationships because we realize how it is impossible to run away from love. Otherwise why bother apologizing for anything?
I think that making up to a loved one might be one of the most literally, & positively, humiliating things we can do. Obviously for a deist that atonement/love situation is even more unfortunate, because there's that goddamned omnipresent being to contend with. what an effing hassle!

no wonder i spend so much time lying down.

hey carl! remember when we first met and i was singing that unbearable song about the crucifixion! YEAH! how bad was this first post in comparison?

yeeeeeesh.

Posted by kate on February 16, 2007 5:49 AM

 

 

Thanks for the link, I will take a vacation and buy the all-access pass this year. I'll try to catch as many shows as I can at the FIMAV.

Posted by Simon Roy on February 15, 2007 10:26 PM

 

 

We should totally have a day of atonement. That's a holiday I could get behind.

Posted by DW. on February 15, 2007 6:02 PM

 

 

forgot to add: "Pen nibs" is much sexier & more flirtatious than "graphical stylus."

and . . . I see now that you said "90%" for rhetorical exaggeration. whoops. sorry.

Posted by john on February 15, 2007 12:09 AM

 

 

What a lovely and stirring piece on "We have the technology." Thanks for reminding me of that fine song. The way I remember it (is this possible?), the summer I was 15, I had two cassette tapes I listened to over and over--Pere Ubu's "Tenement Years," which I bought because I liked the case cover and I think was an import, and 54-40's "Show Me," which I bought because of Video Hits. The following summer it was Pere Ubu's "Cloudland" and 54-40's "Fight for Love." At the time, I thought the two bands would make appropriate touring partners. I likely haven't heard "We Have..." since that summer. Cassettes broke, melted in cars, were masticated by walkmen. Simply lost. I look forward to hearing "We Have the Technology" again, but I wonder if I will recognize it. It has often played in my head over the years, probably in wildly mutated versions. It is generally followed by "One Gun."

Posted by jks on February 14, 2007 11:38 PM

 

 

(Sorry about the silent comment I just accidentally blurped.)

Hear hear -- down with V-Day! New Year's Eve too! (I remember exactly three memorably wonderful NYE's, none of them involving romance, and one of them when I was about 10 and a friend and my brother and I were allowed to stay up late to watch "The Point," that weird animated cartoon with songs by Nilsson ["Me and My Arrow" was the hit]. I remember exactly zero memorably wonderful V-Days, and you knoooooow what I like.) And excellent analysis. Gosh durn V-Day is insipid to boot.

One quibble: 90% seems too high for romance and/or party songs. Religious songs rate high, historically. Daily songs of daily life used to be important in Western culture and still may be in other cultures. Nonsense songs, death songs, birthday songs (the most famous song in the world -- Happy Birthday To You!), work songs, lullabys, outlaw ballads and their descendants in gangsta rap, war songs, political jeremiads, songs of economic lamentation (Hallelujah I'm a Bum!). Romance & Party do rule the roost in post-1900 or maybe post-1920 Western Pop, and that's our milieu, so this isn't a refutation, just a quibble.

Thanks! And happy Insipid Disappointing Romance Day to You!

As the sugar pill would say if I could hand you one -- You're Sweet --

Posted by john on February 14, 2007 7:35 PM

 

 

 

Zoilus by Carl Wilson