by carl wilson

The Rest is ... Poise

Did you check Alex Ross on Colbert last night? Some fine representin' for the music-geek massive - I was surprised the conversation worked as well as it did, and it actually ended up being an aesthetic argument: Colbert playing the card that music means nothing to history (ie the autonomy of art) and Alex proving that it does, describing Shostakovich and Stalin's relationship and Reagan's history-blind use of Copland-ripoff music for "Morning in America," eg, though I kinda wish he'd hit the McCarthy theme with Copland, not to mention Eisler and Brecht... Just because it would've tweaked Colbert nicely. ... I do wonder, though, on a not-unrelated theme (music and ideology) how Alex feels about appearing on the show during the writers' strike? That's not a dig, because last week in NYC some friends were urging me to shoot for a Colbert appearance (this being the ilk of fantasies you can indulge in NYC), a conversation I couldn't quite imagine but did feel a little shiver in picturing, but then realized, mid-shiver, "What about the union issue?" (And surely for writers a writers' union issue especially counts.) I found the question painful to answer: It would be so tempting to get the book that level of exposure, and it's not like the interview segments are so scripted even under normal circumstances; but if there's a picket line there, I'd have a hard time crossing it.

Alex's new piece about Jonny Greenwood's score for There Will Be Blood is excellent and reminds me that I'd wanted to mention that experience here after seeing the movie: Not only is the score quite extraordinary in its own right, as Alex says, but it was the first thing almost ever to turn me around several degrees on Radiohead. I've been so fixated over the years on Thom Yorke's voice and songwriting, neither of which click for me, that I missed a whole other aspect of the band's essence. I happened to listen to In Rainbows for the first time only after seeing the film (shocking Internet music guy omission, whatever) and could hear them anew, listening for how the guitarist's musical intuitions might resemble Ennio Morricone levels of smarts as opposed to how far short of a million post-Kraftwerk artists Yorke falls in portraying man-vs-technology themes (and vocally short of anybody similarly lauded in his tonal range from Jimmy Scott to Klaus Nomi to Antony). So count me at last as a partial convert.

In a footnote, mutual-backrubbing thanks to Alex for the shoutout the other day.

General | Posted by zoilus on Thursday, January 31 at 1:50 AM | Linking Posts | Comments (1)



I was struck by Alex's crossing the line too, and your point about writerly solidarity suggests a lack of musicianly solidarity too, as classical is the most unionized of musical milieus. The spirit of Reaganism has so infused U.S. culture that even good liberals can cross picket lines without much fear of repercussion or rebuke; I haven't seen anybody comment on Alex's appearance in anything but the most positive terms. Alex is a nice guy and a good liberal; like you said, this isn't about criticizing him; the basic assumption of U.S. culture is, if it's good for the career, do it, because who has the luxury of depending on a pension? (And why have pensions disappeared? Could it be because of the successful Reaganesque assault on unions?)

In one way or another, we're all of our times. This episode shows: Times have changed.

Posted by john on January 31, 2008 9:55 PM




Zoilus by Carl Wilson