Record Store Day Haul, What Cheer! Antiques, 4/16/2011 [UPDATED]

April 16, 2011

Bee Gees – Best Of
The B-52’s – Wild Planet
Laura Branigan – Branigan
The Chambers Brothers – The Time Has Come
Chic – S/T
Humble Pie – Greatest Hits
Curtis Mayfield – Super Fly
Elliott (James) Murphy – Change Will Come
The O’Jays – Back Stabbers
The Osmonds – Phase III
Pointer Sisters – So Excited & Special Things
Perez Prado and his Orchestra – Dance Party [this was actually just an empty sleeve, oops]
Lloyd Price – “Mr Personality’s” 15 Hits
The Raspberries – Raspberries’ Best (Featuring Eric Carmen)
Smokey Robinson – A Quiet Storm
Donna Summer – The Wanderer
Vanity 6 – S/T
ZZ Top – Eliminator

UPDATE Forgot this one: Super Stars/Super Hits no. 2

Ten for a dollar, but I miscounted and bought 19  so I bought 20 (including the empty Prado) for $2.


Vinyl Purchases, 10/30/10, What Cheer Antiques, Wayland Square

October 30, 2010

20 records for $10:

The Best of Mark Almond (I thought this was the guy from Soft Cell; I was wrong)

Burt Bacharach, Reach Out (Instrumental versions of “Alfie,” “What the World Needs Now is Love,” “I Say a Little Prayer,” etc., and a vocal version of “A House is Not a Home”)

Dino [Martin, Jr.], Desi [Arnaz, Jr.] and Billy, I’m a Fool I’m a Fool I’m a Fool (That’s how I feel for buying this)

The Original Soundtrack from the Motion Picture Flashdance (Chuck Eddy pick #1)

Marvin Gaye, What’s Going On (I hear it’s overrated)

Gloria Gaynor, Love Tracks (ft. “I Will Survive”)

Nona Hendryx, Nona (I hope this is better than its lackluster follow-up,  also Bill Laswell-produced, The Art of Self-Defense)

Thelma Houston, Any Way You Like It (I think I only know her cover of “96 Tears,” which isn’t on this record)

Loverboy, Get Lucky (Chuck Eddy pick #2)

Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66, Equinox

Liza Minnelli, Liza With A “Z” (I think this purchase was inspired by @wise_kaplan)

More of The Monkees (ft. “Steppin’ Stone” and “I’m a Believer”)

The Osmonds, Crazy Horses (Chuck Eddy pick #3; kicking ass on my stereo now)

Louis Prima Entertains

Charlie Rich, Behind Closed Doors

Rockpile, Seconds of Pleasure (Michael‘s been getting into them)

Linda Ronstadt, Living in the USA (Inspired by John Rockwell’s chapter in Stranded)

Rufus featuring Chaka Khan, Ask Rufus

Mary Wells, Greatest Hits

Tammy Wynette, D-I-V-O-R-C-E

Last Response

May 4, 2010

I think Joe is conflating two aspects of “preservation.” Les Back faithfully preserves white supremacist music as history without actively attempting to prolong the tradition. Nothing should be unacceptable of study. In fact, it’s only by ignoring fascism that we let it grow.

Back’s work contrasts with that of Shelemay, who is attempting both to transcribe and to perpetuate the Sephardic musical tradition. Yet even she takes pains to represent the ideological differences between herself and her subjects, e.g., when explaining the gentile origins of certain pizmonim. The fact that Back defines his study in terms of ideology, on the other hand, instead of sound, leaves him with little to promote.

Novak Critical Review

April 27, 2010

David Novak states the thesis of his article “Cosmopolitanism, Remediation, and the Ghost World of Bollywood” in its first paragraph: “But culture is produced anew in these ‘foreign takes’ on popular media, in which acts of cultural borrowing channel emergent forms of cosmopolitan subjectivity.” This isn’t much of an argument. What is more interesting is Novak’s emphasis on the innocence of such “remediations”: “[‘Jai Pehechaan Ho’] does not authorize Enid’s escape into the promise of an Other culture. Rather, it is part of her alienation from the very idea of culture[.]” Novak argues that both Indian and Western audiences interpret Bollywood songs ironically. This contradicts his first point: by keeping everything at a distance, Novak’s “cosmopolitan subjects” should end up with no subjectivity of their own. I guess this ironic distance is itself a form of subjectivity, and that there are different kinds of ironic distance, but Novak can’t make these points without getting bogged down in the incomprehensible jargon we’re used to mocking: “By always referring to other contexts and interpretations of media, remediations put pressure on the purification projects of culturalist discourse, without boiling down to the resignifications of reception-based resistance theory.” Although Novak has a lot to say about Ghost World, Bollywood, and Heavenly Ten Stems, I’m not convinced that he can make an overarching point about all three.

Challenge Question Round 3

April 15, 2010

I will start at the end of your essay and look at the idea of music as language. What interests me about this metaphor is where the idea of a language breaks down. With the exception of Esperanto, there are no firm guidelines defining languages. Languages incorporate different registers and dialects within themselves, and rub up against each other.

Thus, one person can’t be designated as the arbiter of a given language; instead, it might help us to imagine each individual as speaking her own unique dialect. In this way, every one is an “other” to every one else. This way, ethnographers would avoid letting individual informants stand in for entire cultures.

Taken to extremes, this philosophy wouldn’t be practical. It would be stupid to deny the amount of knowledge shared by Western scholars, and in particular the supremacy of Western notation. Yet this system doesn’t have to be so standard for ethnomusicologists. As the field evolves, I imagine it can do a better job of differentiating itself from the Western musicology programs with which it shares a building — that is to say, a future where ethnomusicologists don’t have to take Music 55. There are plenty of ways to describe music without Western notation, or any notation.

Finally, I agree with you and Agawu that Western universities should employ scholars from various backgrounds. Yet bear in mind that these schools will still be situated in the West and populated by Western students. It will take a long time for the world to get flat enough for Western students not to take their culture for granted.

Challenge Question Response

April 9, 2010

The short answer is, it all depends. What music is being studied, and who’s reading the scholarship? Les Back’s chapter about White Supremacists does a fine job of disinterestedly reporting on a controversial phenomenon. It’s hard to imagine Back’s book inspiring anyone to embrace racism, especially because it is geared toward an audience of open-minded ethnomusicologists. It’s equally difficult to find anything in the chapter that a white supremacist could complain about.

Two articles we’ve read that seem to get at these issues more directly are Kay Kaufman Shelemay’s “The Ethnomusicologist, Ethnographic Method, and Transmission of Tradition” and Kofi Agawu’s “Inventing African Rhythm.” Agawu warns against a reductive musicology that reinforces primitivist stereotypes; Shelemay observes her own influence on the musical traditions she studies. Both recognize the importance of advocating for their studied musics, but offer guidelines for how to do so responsibly.

Agawu’s question, “When was the last time an ethnomusicologist went out to hunt for sameness rather than difference?” summarizes his article. Yet a hunt for sameness can be just as reductive as a hunt for difference; as long as a scholar is “hunting” for anything, she is going to be biased in her writing.

Shelemay describes an occasion where she “consciously played a role directly affecting transmission in a direction about which I was personally ambivalent but that the community desired.” This dilemma fascinates me, as it highlights the inherent conflict between music’s changing nature and musicologists’ need to describe sounds as they are. By publicizing a musical culture, one raises its exposure to outside influences.

It is impossible to resolve the issues these articles raise. It is impossible to eliminate bias from a piece of writing, just as it is impossible to study a tradition without affecting it. I couldn’t object to anyone’s taking these limitations as license to write totally subjective ethnographies and change tradition as they see fit. But I would instead try to minimize these effects while remaining aware of them.

Janet Malcolm begins her essay “The Journalist and the Murderer” by writing, “Every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible.” Her argument holds true for scholars as well. You can’t fit the truth into one article. That doesn’t mean it isn’t worth trying.

Waxer Critical Review

April 6, 2010

Lise Waxer’s article admittedly struggles to prove its thesis, that “the circulation of musical styles between Cuba and North America suggests a flow of ideas and resources that not only came from the island, but also went back.” I would have been interested to see more discussion of overlooked Cuban influences in the works of African-American musicians like Richard Berry and Bo Diddley, as well as specific musical examples of American jazz affecting Cuban music. Still, I was excited to learn about the different styles of son, danzon, cha-cha-cha, and mambo.

The Invention of “African Rhythm”

March 9, 2010

“That the distinctive quality of African music lies in its rhythmic structure is a notion so persistently thematized that it has by now assumed the status of a commonplace, a topos.” So begins Kofi Agawu’s article, which continues with a list of musicological descriptions of African rhythm. Yet he only devotes two sentences to contradicting this interpretation. I would’ve been happy to see more discussions of why rhythm isn’t important to African music. Agawu asks, “Do we really think of ‘Western rhythm patterns’ without including pitch as a significant element?” in a discussion of musical notation. The difficulty of presenting rhythm as separate from pitch is a central problem to creating any concept of “rhythm,” and something I’d have liked to see Agawu explore. This chapter is more devoted to criticizing other ethnomusicologists than finding out the truth about “African rhythm.”

A couple of other quibbles:

1. “The first problem in these characterizations, then is the putative claim that African music constitutes a homogenous body.” But Agawu is making the putative claim that Western musicology constitutes a homogenous body. In fact, most of the works he quotes focus on one geographical area within Africa.

2. “Allied to the retreat from comparison is a retreat from critical evaluation of African musical practice.” While I’m all for critical evaluation, we know that Western ears tend to like things that sound Western. I guess that’s what Agawu wants when he asks ethnomusicologists “to hunt for sameness rather than difference,” but it still seems pretty limiting.

3. “According to Charles Keil, the word rhythm ‘really has no single equivalent in Tiv’ (nor, incidentally, is there an equivalent for the word music).” If music is important despite there being no word for it, can’t the same be true of rhythm? Agawu comes to the conclusion that “Rhythm, in other words, is always already connected.” Connected to what? What is that supposed to mean?

Still, Agawu’s overall point about hunting for sameness is worth keeping in mind.


March 2, 2010

I was nervous about missing the rugby team’s first drink-up of 2010, but my mom only turns 50 34 once, and missing the get-together lets me engage with different conceptions of fieldwork.

I first heard rugby songs from my friend Daniel, who would fit the stereotype of the intellectual Jew from the Upper West Side if he weren’t also built like a truck. Daniel was a high school wrestler who spent his free time on Marxist webforums; now he plays rugby and reads Foucault.

So I was surprised when Daniel voiced concerns about my project. Sure, I had heard him yell salacious rugby songs in the company of fellow ruggers from Columbia and Wesleyan. But I didn’t expect them to raise more than titters from my peers. “You know we sing some sexist stuff,” Daniel told me. “I don’t want you to jeopardize our funding.”

Now I think Daniel has taken too many MCM classes to be a sexist. But would that excuse fly for an offended classmate, professor, or dean? And what about the other rugby players, the ones who haven’t read de Beauvoir? Will I be able to convince myself of their good intentions? Should I risk depriving them of their game — or worse, of their songs?

As you can see, I’ve decided to press on, albeit cautiously. I’m considering making my future posts private. So far I’ve avoided quoting any rugby songs, even though the ones I’ve heard strike me as more sexualized than sexist. Right now I feel fine valuing the team’s free speech over any possible hurt that could arise from it. There are plenty forms of sexism more prevalent and more virulent than what twenty guys sing in private. 20 years after 2 Live Crew, I think these guys should be alright.

Why Fieldwork?

February 24, 2010

As you can guess from this post’s title, this week’s two readings inspired me to question the necessity of fieldwork. Kiri Miller’s article applies itself to an English-speaking culture of which she is a part. While her two x chromosomes and two graduate degrees might seem to place her outside of Grand Theft Auto‘s target audience, it would be sexist and classist to assert this as a fact. Furthermore, Kiri’s informants serve mostly to back up her points. Her fieldwork (beyond playing the game) adds little to her scholarship.

Harris Berger’s article also deals strangely with the question of fieldwork. Berger writes,

I had looked to fieldwork to acknowledge the suppressed and disparaged cultural difference of American popular musicians, but the new ethnography warned about the tendency to reify difference and exoticize others. The new ethnographers didn’t urge us to abandon fieldwork, but to be more reflexive and dialogic in our ethnographic practices. This came as a relief as I began to read the 1980s cultural studies scholarship on popular music.[…]A still developing literature, cultural studies was important in that it drew attention to the role of power relations in music and acknowledged the importance of popular culture as an object of study. However, much of this work seemed to have no concern for the experiences of the people who made and listened to the music and treated them as ideological dupes enacting cultural scripts. The old ethnography may have had its problems, but this new anti-ethnographic cultural studies seemed elitist and dismissive. (Berger, 66-7)

Unfortunately, Berger’s argument against “cultural studies” scholars does nothing but “reify difference.” Berger sets up a false dichotomy between the scholars and those (perhaps even “exoticized others”) “who…listened to the music.” The word “elitist” is particularly problematic, as Nitsuh Abebe shows in this post:

And something I’ve noticed, over the past many years of talking about culture on the internet, is that this privilege that’s being deplored actually tends to come from the people who are deploring it. They are conferring the very privilege they rail against. This doesn’t negate the complaint, or anything, but it’s an interesting wrinkle: sometimes the difference between a niche and an elite isn’t real power, it’s the fact that you respect the thing, you think the thing is important enough to consider it elite instead of dismissing it as a niche.

You can only call someone “elitist” if you think they’re part of an elite. It is hard to identify from Berger’s article any legitimate problems unique to either “new” ethnographers or cultural studies practitioners. Thus his attempt to create a flawless synthesis comes across as equal parts pointless and fruitless.

I’ll admit that I didn’t understand most of what Berger had to say about “phenomenology.” But what I did understand seemed so obvious as to not merit writing. E.g., “Husserl argued that to address the basic issues of Western philosophy, one must set aside speculative theorizing and ground one’s arguments on the only thing we have for certain — our experiences (68).” This is sensible (I’ve been known to criticize “speculative theorizing” myself) — so sensible, in fact, that ethnographers have been doing it ever since they abandoned their armchairs for the field. Not to mention that anyone who limits her studies to music (as opposed to “philosophy,” “culture,” or “theory”) has already grounded her arguments in a specific type of experience.

Of Berger’s “Three Tenets for Phenomenological Ethnography,” the first two amount to the same thing Berger claims to have learned from folklorists (before encountering Phenomenology): “practices of production and reception are one’s proper study object (65).” The third tenet is so obvious as to need no stating: “phenomenological ethnographers seek to partially share the meanings that their research participants find in social life (72).” Berger ends up with a “phenomenological ethnography” that looks no different from the normal kind. (Side note: which “-logical” were people objecting to in the last class? “Ontological”‘s my peeve, but “phenomenological”‘s almost as bad.)

What are the results of Berger’s phenomenological ethnography?

Respecting my research participants enough to engage them in a critical dialogue paid off, and the metalheads’ responses offered a realm of ethnographic insights. They made it clear that they were aware of the difficulties that they faced in deindustrialized America, and they depicted their music as a form of emotional exploration and a way of confronting the stultifications of daily life in a hostile world. A good show didn’t ventilate tensions and leave the person in a serene, apathetic state, they said; it removed the emotional stumbling blocks placed there by a hostile world. I would not have discovered this interpretation without engaging in critical dialogue. (74)

It would be unfair to ask Berger to summarize the results of his fieldwork in two sentences. But that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t try to do a good job of it. As far as I can understand the third sentence above, it translates to “Music doesn’t cure life’s ills, but it can improve your mood.” I’m sorry. Seriously. WTF is an “emotional stumbling block”? And how many interviews did Berger need to come to this uninteresting conclusion?

After writing this post, I think it’s more important to keep the practices of ethnography and cultural studies separate while allowing the fields to mingle. Musicologists should feel free to use ethnographic fieldwork when it provides an interesting interpretation, but shouldn’t feel obligated to use it when it doesn’t.