Monday, February 20, 2012

I Don’t Know If People Dancing Care

“Mother,” the girl interrupted, “listen to me. You remember that book he sent me from Germany? You know—those German poems. What’d I do with it? I’ve been
racking my—”

“You have it.”

“Are you sure?” said the girl.

“Certainly. That is, I have it. It’s in Freddy’s room. You left it here and I didn’t have room for it in the— Why? Does he want it?”

“No. Only, he asked me about it, when we were driving down. He wanted to know if I’d read it.”

“It was in German!”

“Yes, dear. That doesn’t make any difference,” said the girl, crossing her legs. “He said that the poems happen to be written by the only great poet of the century. He said I should’ve bought a translation or something. Or learned the language, if you please.”

“Awful. Awful. It’s sad, actually, is what it is.”

from “A Perfect Day for Bananafish”
by J. D. Salinger

“Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.”

So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city.

Therefore its name is called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.

Genesis 11:7-9

In an internet sort of way over the weekend
I discussed electronica with a musician
from Finland. He spoke English, I didn’t try Finnish.

Percussion synthesizers can generate a groove
and other synthesizers in sync can add color
in the form of cool sounds or gritty sounds or wild sounds
and a musician can adjust faders and twist dials
and slide a finger along a ribbon controller
and press buttons to manipulate the groove and sounds.

People dance to this. The musician has made music
and the process didn’t use even one instrument.

It didn’t use, that is, a classical instrument
and since many synthesizers do not use samples
recorded from a classical instrument playing
but instead generate sounds directly from waveforms
people aren’t dancing to classical instruments.

The theory is buttons, faders, dials and controllers
are instruments now. The network of synthesizers
is the instrument now. Manipulating programs
is the way a musician plays an instrument now.

But are these people musicians? Or operators?

That’s the debate. I don’t know if people dancing care
if there’s a fist-fight going on in the back alley
over the labels ‘musician’ and ‘operator.’

I do know Paul Shaffer got pissed off at Britney Spears
when Britney said Paul was David Letterman’s “DJ.”

I discussed electronica with a musician
from Finland. We typed the words into our computers
and the process didn’t require us to move our lips.

No comments: