Rabin on Mediocrity, Bear

The AV Club’s Nathan Rabin praising mediocrity:

… As I get older I increasingly realize why people watch movies they know will not be any damned good. Great art generally challenges audiences. It makes demands. It upsets and provokes and confronts injustices we often would rather not contemplate after a long day at work. That is why I sometimes find myself thinking, “You know I’m in the mood for? A mediocre movie. Something’s not too good, not too bad but safely and comfortably somewhere smack dab in the middle.

-“In Praise of Mediocrity

Does this generalize to music?

Nathan doesn’t apply it to television in his experience, but does to books.  “There’s something lulling and soothing about genre mediocrities, movies that immerse us in the comforting, familiar realm of clichés and conventions,” he writes.

It seems to me that some – more than half? – people listen intentionally to mediocre music, either by seeking it out (avoiding challenging music) or by accepting standards that tend reward mediocrity (FM radio play, top sales chart positions, etc.) as their arbiters of music-judgment.

My iPod has taught me that I prefer a higher ratio of weird/awesome to mediocre music than I would have expected.  I’m downgrading artists I thought I really loved when they come up on shuffle (John Vanderslice except “Cellar Door,” nondescript punk music, virtually every singer-songwriter in my catalog) and assigning higher rankings to stuff that has a touch of the avant-garde or quirky about it (Squarepusher, The Mars Volta, Amandala! (soundtrack)).

I’ll cop to enjoying mediocre novels on a regular basis, along with a consistent-but-lower-than-expected amound of mediocre music in my library.  Movies and TV, I’d much rather see something good.  -h

Are We Anti-Edgy?

A tiny post by Robin Hanson from Overcoming Bias, quoted in its entirety:

In the art world something is “edgy” if it might well shock ordinary folks, but of course not in-the-know folks. The idea seems to be that ordinary folks are shocked too easily by things that should not really be shocking.

The opposite concept, which I’ll call “anti-edgy”, is of something that does not shock ordinary folks, but should. In the know folks are shocked, but most others are not. Why does the world of art and fashion emphasize the edgy so much more than the anti-edgy?

Robin crystallizes an idea I’ve pondered in fuzzy-form for as long as I’ve been writing songs; how is it that I can find my stuff pretty weird (h&s’ “near and far”) and others find it pleasant background music?  How did we manage throw classic rock guitars and cheesy keyboard drums together (Sally Ride’s “It’s A Trap”) to nary a “meh…”?Maybe we’re anti-edgy?  Shocking only to those (musicians, mostly) who have the ears to parse out what’s going on?

Even if we’re not, anti-edgy is something I aim for.  Music that functions well enough on the surface to get a person into it (whether that’s through rocking out, or catchiness, etc.) but will warp your mind a bit if you start taking it apart.

You know, like Chicago.  Or Mastodon :-)


Fifty Bears in my house

Matt and Drew came up yesterday to set up drums for Fifty Bears in a Fight recordings.  We’re not sure if we’re making a rough demo in order to get some local shows, or our first record.  Or anything in-between.

The drums sound great, though.  We’re going with a minimal mic setup – kick, snare, overhead – augmented by Matt’s MIDI triggers.  Not sure what it will sound like when it’s all done, but we want to have options.

Matt and I are going to record rhythm tracks live, then I will record my guitar/bass synth direct and re-amp later.  For the most part vocals will come next, and Drew last, covering everything in a layer of weird shredding and noise.

No timeline, of course! -h