Archive for April 1st, 2008

Just a Blink

More Suheir Hammad.

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Lumen Terroristi

People depend for their living on bosses and politicians and jobs and neighbors who make them speak and mean as they do; they are compelled, by societal necessity, to identify the “thing” (including their own person, mind, feeling) with its functions. How do we know? Because we watch television, listen to the radio, read the newspapers and magazines, talk to people.Under these circumstances, the spoken phrase is an expression of the individual who speaks it, and of those who make rum speak as he does, and of whatever tension or contradiction may interrelate them. In speaking their own language, people also speak the language of their masters, benefactors, advertisers. Thus they do not only express them- selves, their own knowledge, feelings, and aspirations, hut also something other than themselves. Describing “by them- selves” the political situation, either in their home town or in the international scene, they (and “they” includes us, the intellectuals who know it and criticize it) describe what “their” media of mass communication tell them-and this merges with what they really think and see and feel.

That’s Herbert Marcuse, and I must confess that I have no idea what ‘rum speak’ is. But the passage explains pretty well why Geoffrey Dear, former chief constable of West Midlands Police and HM inspector of constabulary, might refer to Marcuse himself as a terrorist luminary.

Yesterday’s Girl, or The Girl From Yesterday

There are lots of posts I started, but never finished. One I didn’t get round to writing about was the experience of listening to pop music in Spanish. The gist of it was, when it comes to listening to music in your own language, you cultivate your taste from within your own culture, and a lot of that comes from understanding the references in the songs, the cultural significance of the songs themselves, and being at home in the language in which the songs are written, not to mention the influence of the music reviews you read. But when it comes to other languages, you find yourself sort of rudderless. It becomes far harder to get to grips with the content of the songs, and you feel at a remove from their intended effect. This might be something peculiar to people who grow up in cultures where songs are only broadcast in one language: I have never noticed people from non-English speaking countries with similar problems when listening to English language songs.

Anyway, the above song is La Chica de Ayer (The Girl from Yesterday) from Nacha Pop. It is from 1980, and, I’m told, is a key song in the Spanish popular canon. I stumbled across it the other day on Last.Fm. Until then, I knew almost nothing about the group, which should illustrate how much I know about Spanish music in general, since they are very well known. I see they have a new album out.

That’s Me In The Footlight

There is a piece by Clive James in today’s Guardian on his lyric writing. It seems fair to say that, although he says of his longtime collaborations that the ‘music came first’, the rest of what he writes here indicates that in his approach to songwriting, the lyrics come first. That is, in a song, what is important for him is the effect of the music on the words. So he talks about how the ‘words were energised by the music’, the words ‘sit so comfortably on the musical notes’, and ‘the way music gave an extra dimension to the simplest words’, and how ‘a set of syllables (was) absorbed by a row of notes’.

Fine. There’s no right approach to composing a song, and doubtless thousands of great songs were composed by putting the lyrics down first. But what he says here got me thinking quite deeply about whether by talking about lyrics as isolated from the rest of the song as performed, we are entering a world of identifiable objects, categories, technical and commercial competence. And then I thought, nah, I can’t be bothered with that. Instead, I decided to note the following:

Clive James’s song on the Guardian website sounds a lot like what you might expect from two former Footlights people who are now pensioners: too clever by half, and half-way up its own arse.

Healthy, Wealthy….

Vecht suggests setting small targets, recognising attainments with rewards, “one step at a time. Don’t just say: ‘I expect you to be perfect at everything’”.Then she tells a story about her brother, obviously tailored for this audience. He was a waster, she says, until at 16 he discovered his focus and drive, buckled down – “and ended up running a hedge fund”.

Not an April Fool, apparently.

Check In

Ah yes, the random checks. Takes me way back, I tell you.

Handy With A Shot

Thanks heavens there are sniper squads out there to stop people blowing their own heads off. See kids? Guns are for good after all.


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