Back story: This recent piece on The National (which marked my debut as the new Slate music critic) sparked some conversation with friends about the liberating feeling of saying “yes, I suppose it’s good, but I have no use for it.” Which then led to the flipside sentiment: “Yes, I suppose it’s shitty, but I DON’T CARE I LOVE IT.” One conversationalist in tones of great shame brought up Carly Simon (who?). When I hear Carly Simon, I can think only of “You’re So Vain” (great!), “Anticipation” (meh) and “Nobody Does It Better” (horrifying crap), so I asked for further evidence to bring to trial. Someone immediately brought up this Chic-era Nile Rodgers (he’s on the new Daft Punk album, guys) production. Then I found the Paradise Garage remix by disco deity Larry Levan, and … if for no other reason, Carly Simon, we think you can stay.
Second, at one point in our conversation (mostly not used in the piece) he went off on a tangent about the Thai Elephant Orchestra (that page will lead you to music and more). His riff, meanwhile, went a little something like this:
“Music is still something that’s done only by people – except the Thai Elephant Orchestra. There’s something called the Rock Cats playing here in Los Angeles, but people have to train them to do that, so it’s not necessarily not about people. Whereas the Thai Elephant Orchestra is really not about people, on some level. They’re not trained; they’re given instruments that they could play or not, as they felt like it. The elephants enjoy playing the harmonica – they inhale and exhale and they have fun with that. They use the whole harmonica at the same time, of course. And then they had these gigantic xylophones that they used more by strumming than by getting individual notes out of them. In the future of human-designed elephant-played instruments, they might want to have much, much larger instruments, in order to encourage the elephants to differentiate between the notes. But then that would be human manipulation in a deliberate way.”
Like a John Cage piece, the Source of Uncertainty or the Thai Elephant Orchestra, another way to create music that liberates it from the confines of human will turns out to be to slow it down exponentially. This has been a popular thing to do the past couple of years, perhaps most famously to Justin Bieber, but I’d never heard it done with a song or artist I had a close personal attachment to. I want to listen to this 36-minute-long version of Kate Bush singing Wuthering Heights first thing in the morning every day, as a kind of Zen practice.
My question after seeing this post was: How does one preserve a candy heart?
Last weekend I went to a dance party where one of the DJs played Phreek’s transcendent “Weekend,” and that moved me to search for clips of it online later, and there I found a rare Youtube comment worth reading: “Sat night at the Garage, it’s 6:30 in the morning, the party’s at its height, you’ve been dancing nonstop for hours, sweat is DRIPPING off your body, I need a rest, I need a rest, but OMG is that …is that….Find a friend OMG YES whatchu been givin ain’t enough I’m goin out to find some love tonight…this song wore EVERYBODY out, breathless we were, tryin to keep pace with this fabulous song, thank you for posting”
A couple of days after that party, Whitney Houston died, and I wasn’t sure what to say about her here, because her songs that I loved best were the ones contemplated least often – I only danced to them, or played them for others, or sang them badly at karaoke. (Conflicted, indecisive consideration of “I Will Always Love You,” though, that I can give you.) Luckily, albeit forseeably, Daphne Brooks has us all covered.