Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Cracked Mirrors, Part One: The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Singer-Songwriter

Brian Wilson in action, 1966.

“The men and women who produce works of genius are not those who live in the most delicate atmosphere, whose conversation is the most brilliant or culture the most extensive, but those who have had the power, ceasing suddenly to live only for themselves, to transform their personality into a sort of mirror.” Marcel Proust

The inimitable Elvis Costello once remarked, with his typical sarcastic bravado, that writing about music was like dancing about architecture. Now, far be it from me to contradict one of our greatest singer-songwriters, as well as one so prominently featured as a prominent Island in my own musical criticism over the years. However, some exception must be taken to the talented Mr. Costello’s observation. First of all, let’s readily admit that he is utterly correct, in so far as music, and especially the songs that it conveys to us, are both best appreciated in the temporal immediacy of the listening experience itself. But reflecting on their origins, their blueprint, so to speak, can often clarify how such songs so powerfully occupy the landscape of both our overall culture and our own personal lives. 

Monday, October 25, 2021

Panem et Circenses: Town Bloody Hall

 Germaine Greer and Norman Mailer in Town Bloody Hall (1979).

Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker’s Town Bloody Hall (1979) is an unauthorized record of a public “Debate on Women’s Liberation” held in Manhattan in 1971. I say unauthorized because the venue prohibited filming, but the filmmakers came anyway at the behest of Norman Mailer, moderator and author of the anti-feminist essay “The Positive Sex,” which served as the excuse for the event. Four prominent feminists take the stage with him, and the audience is a Who’s Who of the New York literati. You can read here about the fascinating background of the event and the film’s production history.