Putting into Words What Someone Else Needed a Song to Say

As part of my continuing effort to stalk the Oxford American, if for no other reason than to figure out who I have to bribe to get copies of the two or three CDs I’m missing, I went to Bill Friskics-Warren’s presentation at the Southern Festival of Books.

He talked some about his new book, which is about pop music and the urge to transcendence.  For me, his thesis–that there’s this theme in pop music that keeps coming up, which is this articulation of a desire to experience something that pulls one out of one’s ordinary experience and, at least for a moment, plugs them into the eternal–is a big “well, duh.  Now that he’s pointed it out, how can you not see that to be the obvious truth?”  But I guess that for others, it’s been a hard pill to swallow.

Still, I think Bill and I share a similar understanding of how music works and why it’s important, so I tend to trust that he’s on to good stuff.  Plus, he’s got a ministerly background and I’m certainly more familiar than most with what it means for someone to be plugged in to the eternal (both good and bad), and how compelling that urge is, to get beyond one’s ordinary life.

And then he read some from and talked about his article in this month’s Oxford American, which is about, as I think I mentioned, his musings on getting beyond the words when one talks about popular music.  He was arguing for some kind of more intuitive, gut level reaction to music, and the way that he’d set up his argument, talking about logocentrism and phallocentrism and rockism and such, it was clear that he was arguing for something we might term a more “female” approach to music criticism, an approach that values skills and insights we normally devalue because they’re so closely aligned with traits females have.

But Barbara Ching raised her hand and asked if this approach couldn’t be misconstrued as yet another way to close off music criticism from women, seeing as how one approach one might take to being less logocentric is to focus on instrumentation and production choices and brands of guitars and more kinds of data that men generally collect more often than women do.  And then she pointed out that when Bill was asked to mention his favorite critics, folks he thinks really do innovative work, the first people who sprang to mind–David Cantwell, Barry Mazor, and someone else whose name escapes me–are all men.

I don’t mean to make the exchange sound cantankerous.  It was, to me, as an audience member, really an amazing moment, to have these two people who love music so deeply and write about it so eloquently and who probably have a great deal in common in terms of how they approach experiencing it, really spurring each other to think deeply about what was being said in that room.

It was again one of those moments where I felt so unbelievably lucky to be there for.  It felt like a conversation that mattered.  Hell, for me, it felt like a moment where we actually came close to really experiencing transcendence.  Ha, I tease a little bit, but sometimes… and it’s one of the reasons I love scholars, even though I often think you’re very silly… sometimes you feel like you’re taking part in a conversation that’s been going on a long time and will continue on long after you’re gone.

It’s like, just for a moment, you step into a room, and there on the far side is Socrates shouting something and Elizabeth Cady Stanton hears what he says and shouts something in reply, but he’s too old and deaf to hear what she said, but Malcolm X wasn’t.  He heard it; he just didn’t see who said it, but he’s got something to say about the exchange anyway.  And you’re in the room.  You open up your mouth to say something and someone might hear you and that might change how they think about everything else that’s being said in there.  And long after you die, the ideas and questions you contributed to that ongoing conversation, are still going to shape the direction that conversation goes.

People of earth, how can you not be awed and excited about that possibility?

Anyway, I think it might be interesting to hear from a dancer about music.  Those are folks trained to feel music throughout their whole body and to interpret those feelings into movement.

Shoot, I’m half tempted, the next time I see Bill, to just go up to him and shake my booty and if he asks what I’m doing, I’ll tell him it’s music criticism. I think he’d get a kick out of that.

All I’ve Done is Eat and Stalk the Oxford American

I had lunch with Lindsey of Theology and Geometry, who was kind enough to eat with me even though she’s still not completely recovered from her illness.  We talked about dads and Methodism and whether or not, after this piece of WTF?! we couldn’t find a nice progressive branch of the Klan for Kleinheider to join, so that when he was feeling put upon and beset by people on the left, he could go commiserate with people who really understood where he was coming from*.

Then I went and spent more time contemplating the Oxford American and catching up with a friend I hadn’t seen in years.

Then, for dinner, we went to Huey’s, which is this amazing place on Madison in midtown.  Shoot, Hutchmo, if you want some place to try when you’re in town, try there.  The food is inexpensive and so delicious and the atmosphere is exactly right.  My co-worker ordered two vodka gimlets, a burger, some cheese fries, and some potato soup.  Her dinner, which was so much food that the two of us could not eat it all came to less than her two drinks.

And, we broke our rental car… well, just the gas cap, but I think they’re going to have to bring us a new car or I’m not sure how we’re getting home.

 And we’ve got to get home.  I miss my dog.






*I have to be honest with you and say that I debated long and hard about whether to make a Klan joke at the expense of Kleinheider.  I’m still not sure it isn’t a cheap shot.  But here it is, Carter: this post you made is ridiculous, but the comment you made in the thread is just about the cruelest thing I believe I’ve ever heard you say.  I have had my disagreements with you and lord knows, I’ve thought things you said were misinformed or misguided, but I always have believed you to operate from a position of well-meaning.

I have suspected that most folks’ opposition to gay marriage is based on some kind of fucked up enjoyment of making other people needlessly suffer, but I was holding out hope that maybe that wasn’t always the case, that a person could believe that the state should not expand the definition of marriage to include all loving, consenting, adult couples for some reason other than "Because it’s important to me to be able to do something gay people can’t do."

And I guess that I was kind of hoping that if anyone had a better argument than "Ha ha ha!  Fuck you, queers!" as to why gay people cannot marry, it might be you, Kleinheider.  But, no.  Not only is your argument against gay marriage reducible to "Fuck you, faggot." it’s also got a strong hint of, "Fuck you, faggot, if we’ve got to be stuck with these cunts, so do you."

Seriously, Kleinheider.  "Gays are perfectly allowed to marry they just have to marry someone of the opposite sex."

How funny did you think that was the first time you heard that?  Now, tell me, who in that little bon mot is above your contempt?  Do you not see how that works?  That’s only funny because it ridicules not only gays, but love.  The assumption at the heart of your witty comment is that all marriage is is some kind of business arrangement between any two people who meet the criteria for eligibility and not a sacred social commitment made by two people who feel differently about each other than they feel about any other people on the planet.

You want to talk about cheapening the definition of marriage?  It’s your fucking bullshit removal of love from the equation.  YOU.  You and your disregard for love, your spitting in the face of that brave and foolish miracle that makes two people believe their fortunes are better tied together, your insinuation that marriage is no more than a man and a woman and a piece of paper.  You, Adam Carter Kleinheider do more to fuck up marriage by stripping it of all its mystery and wonder and sacredness and kicking love to the curb, like some inconvenient puppy your kid brought home, than any amount damage done by gay people hoping to be able to be tied together in a legally recognized family could ever do.

You want to know who’s fucking up marriage?

Look in the mirror, my friend.

But that’s not my point.

My point is this: you are being a bully.

Your whole post is devoted to a slightly bullyish bravado, but that comment?

It’s beyond cruel.  If you know that someone desperately wants something, even if you think it’s a bad idea for them to have it, it is inexcusable to mock them for wanting it.  And that comment?  That’s mocking people who desperately want to get married to a particular person that they love.

I just cannot believe you would do that.  I’ve thought you were a lot of things, but I never took you for a bully.