Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Song of the Day #164 - Radiohead - The Bends

Where do we go from here?

In this age of denpa, post-memerap, reironic bumrockwave, neoclassical-Japanese-murkysadgirlgaze, and Kanye West, the opening line of Radiohead's 1995 titular banger, now 20 years old, asks a profound question. Like where can you go in realism after the camera? Or something. And here, here's something I wrote to my friend about modern art this morning:

Steven I am so mad at this
This painting is worth over 2.3 million dollars

Well, all you can say is that someone paid 2.3 million dollars for it
And the reason they did that is very complicated and isn't entirety because they thought this took 2.3 million dollars worth of work to make
also yoooooooo
that painting is the MOTHERFUCKING TITS
it was on the cover of my lit theory textbook
imagine having that up on your wall it's like huge like the size of a door
and every time you're eating your breakfast or whatever it's like BAM
this permanent fracture of someone's emotional state is just staring you down
every time you see it you notice something a little different, but it's not like you're "figuring it out", there's nothing to "figure out", it goes on forever
sometimes you notice the lines sliding down the bottom and it feels a little soothing and a little sad
sometimes you "read" it from the left to the right and it feels like something launching into the sky and exploding and you feel like it's some trajectory for life
or maybe you read it in the opposite direction and it's the opposite trajectory
and then you remember that there's only one of these in the whole world and the guy who made them is dead dead dead
and since you have a billion dollars anyways it's okay that you spent a few million on it to make sure that no other billionaire buys it
and if you sell it later probably someone else will pay even more
cause something like this is honestly much cooler to you to have in your dining room than another yacht or island or whatever
and if it ever stops being you can almost assuredly get your money back because you valued it so highly and you're so high value as a person
omg look at this one
you could stare at it every day and every day understand it a little different and a little better
and feel a little more emotional about it
but you wouldn't be getting any closer to a "truth", because there is none
and because your own understanding becomes more and more personal
the painting becomes more and more special to you
yoooooo this one is awesome
what are they? closed eyes? ships with oars? could be anything???
paintings like this are good because they make such an abstract impression on you
like, with traditional realism, you remember paintings as "of" a thing, right/
"that's the one where they're all standing around the guy doing surgery and he's explaining what he's doing"
and you can kinda reconstruct it in your mind by remembering more and more details
but with modern art, there's an emphasis on qualities that can't be reduced to words
these paints can't really be described in a way that reflects the emotional impact on you
none of the meaning or purpose can be encapsulated in a description, or even a memory
as memory is largely just describing things to ourselves
we may be able to recall how it looks, in the way that we can picture things in our mind
but there's always a disconnect, especially when going from seeing the real physical thing in person (which i have to emphasize is TOTALLY different than seeing images online, although once you've seen enough modern art irl you can start to imagine better what it'd be like to see a painting irl that you've only seen online) to trying to remember the experience after
and likewise, in the creation of the artwork, there isn't a motivating factor of conveyance, that is... he isn't trying to say "i will paint a picture of ______ to convey the message of ______"
he has feelings, and a sense that of when it looks "right" based on those feelings
and those feelings are the entire work, there's no external factors in it
so when you observe it and try to understand his feelings, there's a very direct emotional connection
like this one looks "sad" to me, i think he was probably pretty bummed out when making it
thinking maybe "my mind feels all sludgy and every idea i have seems to melt away, what does that look like"
not "i'll paint someone who is feeling that" or "i'll paint something that makes me feel like that" but "i'll paint the feeling itself"
and again it doesn't matter if i'm "right" about this, it's that i feel like i have this sort of intimate connection, that's what makes the piece significant
not only is this approach more direct and intimate, but it also becomes more universal
there's no knowledge that i have to have that makes this one look sad to me, i just feel it, and i think lots of other people would just feel it too
that in itself has appeal
comparing this to realism would be like the difference between a sad poem and someone outright crying
to understand the sad poem, you need to know language, you need to know the meaning of words, you need to picture the circumstances of the poem, etc, etc. determining the emotion is a process, and that process itself may not be "sad"
but seeing some crying is immediate, universal, we can even tell when some animals are crying
so like... obviously realist movements can inspire emotion, too
but it's emotion conflated with recognition, with understanding, with identification...
like look at this classic
before you have any sort of emotional reaction to it, you probably first recognize what it is a picture *of*
you look at the details, you maybe think "wow this is really well done", which hell yeah it is
and you can have a whole processes of realization just about the quality of the work... thinking about the balance in composition and colour, the complexity, etc etc
but all of this is sort of a-emotional, it isn't a happy or sad thought process
with modern art, the idea is to remove all of that, and immediately get to the emotion
both creation and appreciation take place on the most primal level of base emotion
to me that's PRETTY SICK
other people might not like it AND THAT'S FINE
but i think people shouldn't dismiss it at least
or think of people who value it highly as "idiots" or whatever
and i'd recommend everyone try to go see this sort of art in person at least once
and really try to feel the emotional impact

He was asleep in Japan that whole time and probably won't care but I'm glad I spent the time to write all that.

But anyways.

This song is 20 years old now. I probably first heard it... maybe 14 years ago? When I was 10 or so? And probably before that I had heard it on the radio, but I didn't start deliberately listening to Radiohead until around then. My musical tastes have shifted pretty far away from the guitar/drum/bass/angst quadrificeta that is Radiohead from this era, and so have Thom's. And sometimes I think like... do I even like this music anymore? Do I even feel like this? I know I did at one point, and I want to believe that something did happen, there was somewhere to go from there, right? No, no, it must be true.

But it's still there. Like, do you have the thing where if people say a few words from a lyric of a song, you instinctively think of the whole line? Like whenever says "so _____ in here", usually "it's so hot in here" I think "GETS SO FUCKING HOT IN HERE/COME COME FUCK APART IN HERE AHHHHHHH", y'know, the Death Grips line. And whenever anyone ever says "Where do we go from here?", in any intonation, in any circumstance, I think, well, without thinking, it's faster than thinking, I hear in my head "the words are coming out all weird, where are you nooooooooow"...

And then when I realize that, how precious this music actually is, how deep it is into me, it's clear that, even if I have moved on, it is like how a tree grows, and that this stuff is still fundamental, still necessary, even if it isn't what is in the light. Or something. And man like did I ever really stop liking this song? That overpowering sense of the whole band surging forward, the dynamic shifts, I dunno, I dunno. I can't talk about it. It's like trying to talk about how great your right leg has been to you over your life. Enumerating things like "holds doors open" and "able to bounce it up and down while tense". It's thinking things like this that makes the idea of a "top albums list" so so so so difficult.

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