Chris lives in Austin, TX, where he once shook Willie Nelson's hand.

Related Post Roulette

22 Responses

  1. Avatar dhex says:

    the role of ugliness in all its forms is an often underlooked component of beauty, especially when it comes to music.

    see also: swansReport

    • Avatar Chris in reply to dhex says:

      That’s certainly true. I know I like a lot of elements in music that would, taken independently, be ugly. But I find it fascinating that someone like Baudelaire (or Bosch) can have as their subjects such ugly things, selected precisely for their ugliness (Baudelaire, at least, was very up front about that), and make it into something beautiful. I think it probably says something important about the world.Report

      • Avatar dhex in reply to Chris says:

        context is king?

        heh, no, seriously though, i dunno. i’ve always liked ugliness and ugly things. plus with baudrelaire, et al, there’s the whole dramatic (or overly dramatic depending on your pov) quality to the entire thing – the drama of being aware of watching the world and yourself slowly rot, etc.Report

    • Avatar zic in reply to dhex says:

      Particularly music that doesn’t resolve; it leaves a question hanging in the air that discomforts. Beautifully.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to zic says:

        I was thinking of Monk, and all of those “wrong” notes.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to zic says:

        I’ve heard my sweetie teach students to improvise, “But what if I play a wrong note?” they ask.

        “Play it again,” he’ll tell them. “repeat it, with rhythm.”Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to zic says:

        Honour thy error as a hidden intention.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to zic says:

        I think “Blue Monk” may be one of the best songs to use in teaching what jazz is about, because there’s a standard blues tune (sounds like something out of the 30s, almost, when jazz was still figuring itself out), and then Monk riffing off it with improvisation. So when you hear those clearly “wrong” notes, and he always uses a lot of them, particularly from the far right of the piano, it’s very clear why they’re wrong, and that they’re saying something about the underlying tune. You can’t help but have a “holy shit, I see what’s going on here” moment if you listen to it a couple times.

        Here’s one performance:


      • Avatar zic in reply to zic says:

        Monk’s great at ‘wrong notage.’

        Also Rhythm n thing

      • Avatar zic in reply to zic says:

        Correction; rhythm n ning.

        And at about 2.3 there’s a guy tapping his foot; nice shoes, looked odd tap. And then I realized; he’s keeping the high hat beat. Dudes a drummer.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to zic says:

        And if you don’t mind a self-promotional hijack on jazz:

        Summer’s coming. And here in Vacationland, my sweetie plays jazz, and will be doing so regularly through the summer at Jonathan’s in Ogunquit. If you find yourself nearby, let me know and I’ll tell you when. He’s on piano, a duo with sax. But both players play both instruments.

        Maine would be a good place for one of your gatherings. You could visit the Other Portland and eat some really, really delicious food.Report

      • Avatar dhex in reply to zic says:


        “Honour thy error as a hidden intention.”

        this comment’s rather oblique.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to zic says:

        That @dhex , ‘e knows what I’m on about.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to zic says:

        “And if you don’t mind a self-promotional hijack”

        Dude, I just wrote a whole post promoting the music of an old blog friend. I can’t complain. 😉Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to zic says:

        Induced chaos.

        Here it is, electronic.Report

  2. Avatar Glyph says:

    I have to get my son to school so will listen to the tracks later, but after reading the text only, I have to say it’s gettin’ all Goth up in here. I like it. “The Ghost”, in particular, looks like alternate lyrics to “Lullaby”.

    I know this isn’t exactly what you are getting at here because it’s not “subject matter”, but in music I’ve thought a lot about how sounds that we would consider “ugly noise” can be deployed in ways that are themselves beautiful, or which throw into relief other elements in the music which are. All the way back to the apocryphally-intentionally-damaged amp in “You Really Got Me”, to the shrieking metallic industrial sounds on “Psychocandy” providing energy and texture to the rhythm and melody. There’s also the “distancing” effect it creates – if the receiver has to work harder to get to the core of the art, it seems more meaningful when they get there (both sender and receiver have *put effort* into the joint creation of meaning).Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to Glyph says:

      It’s a bit of a different thing in video games, where you can have “mood music” in the background, but it needs to play nicely (and be distinguishable from) sound effects.Report

  3. Avatar zic says:

    I think this may be why photography is such an interesting art form. We all love to take the beautiful, inspiring landscape. But honestly, unless they’re prints made with Adams-like eye to detail and quality, they’re mostly like so many insipid inspirational posters hanging in high-school guidance-counselor offices.

    No, it’s the ugly transformed into beauty; the action not quite completed. Photography has the power to reveal the decay we don’t see happening in our movement through life.Report

  4. Avatar Chris says:

    By the way, this is the first post I’ve written that is comprised of music I expect absolutely no one hear to have heard before.Report

  5. Avatar Boegiboe says:

    Though you don’t actually say this, I doubt Bosch would have tolerated the word “beautiful” to describe his work. However, you’re spot on with Baudelaire’s intentions. He thought all of life was worthy of poetry, of careful and inspired description, including what most would call “ugly.” He’s still my favorite poet and had a huge effect on my personal development. Thank you for this excellent essay!Report