For some reason, there’s a difference between the band Stars of the Lid and the composer John Luther Adams, though I always think of them together. Both “compose” or “write” or “orchestrate” similar kinds of abstract, droning music that hits me right in my drone-y bone.
Go listen to Adams’ The Place We Began, and you’ll be forced to use phrases like “sustained, undulating whistling-pulsing sound” instead of the easier “humming,” which isn’t close enough to that witchy, enchanting note. Often, it’s like feedback, but not at all that piercing and unpleasant. It does sound like the kind of music we’re supposed to “bliss out” to, but I’ve always hated that phrase. As if listening to music could be pleasurable.
Then try And Their Refinement of the Decline by Stars of the Lid, and you’ll find the same nebulous operas apparently performed by the radio telescopes from the movie Contact. If, of course, those radio telescopes were toned down and stretched way out and playing violins. Yet Stars of the Lids gets billed “indie,” while Adams, who receives grants from the NEA and whatnot, is a classical composer.
Adams is in Alaska, and the music supposedly sounds like it, though to me, it could easily be from the bottom of the ocean, everything slow and barely lit, with the deep pressure of those weird, too-deep bass notes you feel more than hear. Stars of the Lid, meanwhile, claims to be from “Toiletville, Belgium.” Actually from Texas, though, another wide-open state.
It’s all marketing, sure, although in this case, the guy who’s supposed to be the “modern classical” composer seems way, way more marketed than Stars of the Lid, who seem to me more obscure, less concerned. I guess, really, the point is that I love music that hits the drone-y bone. You should, too.
Sometimes, a day starts off shitty, but you muster your energy and come out feeling like a winner (say, around noon). Then, after a while, the suspicions creep back in, and you can’t quite remember if you’re committed to the justifications you made for your belief that everything is running smoothly or to the belief itself. You begin to think that maybe the smell of success is just the fumes, that’s there’s nothing left to go on, that it’s time to give up.
Well, it’s not time to give up. But it’s not the time to win, either. Where to from here?
I haven’t been writing anything blog-like in a long time (my previous post was written in Iowa City, in May). The time to restart this crap machine is now. Or, rather, a few days from now when I write something of actual substance instead of a promise to write something of actual substance. I’m coming for you, internet.