black holes and gray matter. in one thousand tangos.

             
“IN THE WORLD of early-20th-century African-American music and people obsessed by it, who can appear from one angle like a clique of pale and misanthropic scholar-gatherers and from another like a sizable chunk of the human population, there exist no ghosts more vexing than a couple of women identified on three ultrarare records made in 1930 and ’31 as Elvie Thomas and Geeshie Wiley. There are musicians as obscure as Wiley and Thomas, and musicians as great, but in none does the Venn diagram of greatness and lostness reveal such vast and bewildering co-extent. In the spring of 1930, in a damp and dimly lit studio, in a small Wisconsin village on the western shore of Lake Michigan, the duo recorded a batch of songs that for more than half a century have been numbered among the masterpieces of prewar American music, in particular two, Elvie’s “Motherless Child Blues” and Geeshie’s “Last Kind Words Blues,” twin Alps of their tiny oeuvre, inspiring essays and novels and films and cover versions, a classical arrangement.
Yet despite more than 50 years of researchers’ efforts to learn who the two women were or where they came from, we have remained ignorant of even their legal names. The sketchy memories of one or two ancient Mississippians, gathered many decades ago, seemed to point to the southern half of that state, yet none led to anything solid. A few people thought they heard hints of Louisiana or Texas in the guitar playing or in the pronunciation of a lyric. We know that the word “Geechee,” with a c, can refer to a person born into the heavily African-inflected Gullah culture centered on the coastal islands off Georgia and the Carolinas. But nothing turned up there either. Or anywhere. No grave site, no photograph. Forget that — no anecdotes.
This is what set Geeshie and Elvie apart even from the rest of an innermost group of phantom geniuses of the ’20s and ’30s. Their myth was they didn’t have anything you could so much as hang a myth on. The objects themselves — the fewer than 10 surviving copies, total, of their three known Paramount releases, a handful of heavy, black, scratch-riven shellac platters, all in private hands — these were the whole of the file on Geeshie and Elvie, and even these had come within a second thought of vanishing, within, say, a woman’s decision in cleaning her parents’ attic to go against some idle advice that she throw out a box of old records and instead to find out what the junk shop gives. When she decides otherwise, when the shop isn’t on the way home, there goes the music, there go the souls, ash flakes up the flue, to flutter about with the Edison cylinder of Buddy Bolden’s band and the phonautograph of Lincoln’s voice.”
Another fascinating multi-media read from NYT:
On the trail of the phantom women who changed American music and then vanished without a trace.

IN THE WORLD of early-20th-century African-American music and people obsessed by it, who can appear from one angle like a clique of pale and misanthropic scholar-gatherers and from another like a sizable chunk of the human population, there exist no ghosts more vexing than a couple of women identified on three ultrarare records made in 1930 and ’31 as Elvie Thomas and Geeshie Wiley. There are musicians as obscure as Wiley and Thomas, and musicians as great, but in none does the Venn diagram of greatness and lostness reveal such vast and bewildering co-extent. In the spring of 1930, in a damp and dimly lit studio, in a small Wisconsin village on the western shore of Lake Michigan, the duo recorded a batch of songs that for more than half a century have been numbered among the masterpieces of prewar American music, in particular two, Elvie’s “Motherless Child Blues” and Geeshie’s “Last Kind Words Blues,” twin Alps of their tiny oeuvre, inspiring essays and novels and films and cover versions, a classical arrangement.

Yet despite more than 50 years of researchers’ efforts to learn who the two women were or where they came from, we have remained ignorant of even their legal names. The sketchy memories of one or two ancient Mississippians, gathered many decades ago, seemed to point to the southern half of that state, yet none led to anything solid. A few people thought they heard hints of Louisiana or Texas in the guitar playing or in the pronunciation of a lyric. We know that the word “Geechee,” with a c, can refer to a person born into the heavily African-inflected Gullah culture centered on the coastal islands off Georgia and the Carolinas. But nothing turned up there either. Or anywhere. No grave site, no photograph. Forget that — no anecdotes.

This is what set Geeshie and Elvie apart even from the rest of an innermost group of phantom geniuses of the ’20s and ’30s. Their myth was they didn’t have anything you could so much as hang a myth on. The objects themselves — the fewer than 10 surviving copies, total, of their three known Paramount releases, a handful of heavy, black, scratch-riven shellac platters, all in private hands — these were the whole of the file on Geeshie and Elvie, and even these had come within a second thought of vanishing, within, say, a woman’s decision in cleaning her parents’ attic to go against some idle advice that she throw out a box of old records and instead to find out what the junk shop gives. When she decides otherwise, when the shop isn’t on the way home, there goes the music, there go the souls, ash flakes up the flue, to flutter about with the Edison cylinder of Buddy Bolden’s band and the phonautograph of Lincoln’s voice.”

Another fascinating multi-media read from NYT:

On the trail of the phantom women who changed American music and then vanished without a trace.

“We conceive of time as a continuum, but we perceive it in discretized units—or, rather,as discretized units. It has long been held that, just as objective time is dictated by clocks, subjective time (barring external influences) aligns to physiological metronomes. Music creates discrete temporal units but ones that do not typically align with the discrete temporal units in which we measure time. Rather, music embodies (or, rather, is embodied within) a separate, quasi-independent concept of time, able to distort or negate “clock-time.” This other time creates a parallel temporal world in which we are prone to lose ourselves, or at least to lose all semblance of objective time.
In recent years, numerous studies have shown how music hijacks our relationship with everyday time. For instance, more drinks are sold in bars when with slow-tempo music, which seems to make the bar a more enjoyable environment, one in which patrons want to linger—and order another round.1 Similarly, consumers spend 38 percent more time in the grocery store when the background music is slow.2 Familiarity is also a factor. Shoppers perceive longer shopping times when they are familiar with the background music in the store, but actually spend more time shopping when the music is novel.3 Novel music is perceived as more pleasurable, making the time seem to pass quicker, and so shoppers stay in the stores longer than they may imagine.
Perhaps the clearest evidence of musical hijacking is this: In 2004, the Royal Automobile Club Foundation for Motoring deemed Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyrie the most dangerous music to listen to while driving. It is not so much the distraction, but the substitution of the frenzied tempo of the music that challenges drivers’ normal sense of speed—and the objective cue of the speedometer—and causes them to speed.”
Read on: How Music Hijacks Our Perceptions of Time

We conceive of time as a continuum, but we perceive it in discretized units—or, rather,as discretized units. It has long been held that, just as objective time is dictated by clocks, subjective time (barring external influences) aligns to physiological metronomes. Music creates discrete temporal units but ones that do not typically align with the discrete temporal units in which we measure time. Rather, music embodies (or, rather, is embodied within) a separate, quasi-independent concept of time, able to distort or negate “clock-time.” This other time creates a parallel temporal world in which we are prone to lose ourselves, or at least to lose all semblance of objective time.

In recent years, numerous studies have shown how music hijacks our relationship with everyday time. For instance, more drinks are sold in bars when with slow-tempo music, which seems to make the bar a more enjoyable environment, one in which patrons want to linger—and order another round.1 Similarly, consumers spend 38 percent more time in the grocery store when the background music is slow.2 Familiarity is also a factor. Shoppers perceive longer shopping times when they are familiar with the background music in the store, but actually spend more time shopping when the music is novel.3 Novel music is perceived as more pleasurable, making the time seem to pass quicker, and so shoppers stay in the stores longer than they may imagine.

Perhaps the clearest evidence of musical hijacking is this: In 2004, the Royal Automobile Club Foundation for Motoring deemed Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyrie the most dangerous music to listen to while driving. It is not so much the distraction, but the substitution of the frenzied tempo of the music that challenges drivers’ normal sense of speed—and the objective cue of the speedometer—and causes them to speed.”

Read on: How Music Hijacks Our Perceptions of Time

“It’s not that we don’t want to be signed. It’s just that there aren’t a lot of places that you want to be signed right now. It’s more hassle than it’s worth. If you have a brand name, you can sidestep some and go directly to customers. But it’s a pain in the ass if you’re just starting out nowadays, because how do you get noticed? Where? On the Internet, the biggest bathroom wall in the universe?”
Records Are Dying? Not Here
"When it opens on Monday, Rough Trade NYC — a branch of the London shop that has been an independent tastemaker since 1976 — will be the biggest record store in New York City, an ambitious bet on CDs and vinyl at a time when thousands of other music retailers have closed, and the music industry over all looks to a largely digital future.”
"Rough Trade NYC, on a not-quite-postindustrial block of North Ninth Street, near the East River, is the kind of place that most music fans had given up hope for in New York: an airy 15,000-square-foot temple to record retail, with a coffee counter and a 300-person-capacity performance space with a bar that will present concerts almost daily."

Records Are Dying? Not Here

"When it opens on Monday, Rough Trade NYC — a branch of the London shop that has been an independent tastemaker since 1976 — will be the biggest record store in New York City, an ambitious bet on CDs and vinyl at a time when thousands of other music retailers have closed, and the music industry over all looks to a largely digital future.”

"Rough Trade NYC, on a not-quite-postindustrial block of North Ninth Street, near the East River, is the kind of place that most music fans had given up hope for in New York: an airy 15,000-square-foot temple to record retail, with a coffee counter and a 300-person-capacity performance space with a bar that will present concerts almost daily."

I dreamed I was the president of these United States
I dreamed I replaced ignorance, stupidity and hate
I dreamed the perfect union and a perfect law, undenied
And most of all I dreamed I forgot the day John Kennedy died

I dreamed that I could do the job that others hadn’t done
I dreamed that I was uncorrupt and fair to everyone
I dreamed I wasn’t gross or base, a criminal on the take
And most of all I dreamed I forgot the day John Kennedy died

I dreamed I was the president of these United States
I dreamed I was young and smart and it was not a waste
I dreamed that there was a point to life and to the human race
I dreamed that I could somehow comprehend that someone
Shot him in the face

Lou Reed

NYT: Do you think of yourself as a synaesthete?

Eno: I wouldn’t call myself a synaesthete in the sense that Nabokov was. But I’ll talk about a sound as being cold blue or dark brown. For descriptive purposes, yes, I often see colors when I’m listening to music and think, “Oh, there’s not enough sort of yellowy stuff in here, or not enough white.”

There’s a famous anecdote about your coming up with the idea of ambient music while bedridden and listening to a record at too low a volume. Is it accurate?

Well, like all stories like this, one never recognizes something completely out of the blue. In the early ’70s, myself and a few friends were exchanging cassettes with each other. We’d all started to realize that what we liked best was long cassettes without much variety in them. You used to have allegro followed by andante and then largo and blah blah blah. None of us really wanted that. We weren’t after drama and surprise. We wanted a single continuous atmosphere. Then, when my friend Judy Nylon left my flat that day and left the record at too low a volume, and it was raining outside, I could only hear the music as part of the landscape. I wasn’t sure what was music and what was just the sound of rain on the window. That’s when I thought, “O.K., this is where I want to be” — sort of on the edge of music, not firmly in the center of it. …

You’re not troubled that so much work seems designed specifically to shock and awe?

Well, I was giving a talk the other day. I said, “The 20th century saw many art movements. Cubism, Futurish, Suprematism, Abstract Expressionism … ending up at One-Linerism.” Shark in a tank. It’s like, “Wow, yes, I get it.” Immediately. I’m not saying that all the works that can be described as one-liners are bad. But it’s almost become a qualifying condition. Confronting the work itself sometimes isn’t any more interesting than the title.

NYT Q. & A.

©2011 Kateoplis