Wednesday, June 02, 2004

The Big Idea

So I'm in this Brazilian Music Phase lately. It's been building up inside of me for, oh, I don't know how long: a compilation here, a label sampler there. An earlier day job of mine had me writing publicity for Arto Lindsay's recent albums, and his immense knowledge of the subject (to say nothing of his own beautiful work) really got me going. Friends have passed along a few albums and individual songs over the years, too. But a couple of months ago I picked up a used copy of Caetano Veloso's PRENDA MINHA live album and something snapped. The stuff of his I'd heard before that point had been so-so -- I liked the late-90s LIVRO album, was mildly appalled by his 80s-era PERSONALIDADE hits compilation. And even PRENDA had some low points, but the high points were so high that I was hooked; within a week I'd acquired two more live records, both of which were even better than "Prenda." (And one which was way worse. Details to follow in another post, if I remember.)

This bout of Caetanomania provoked hours of web searching which led me to Joe Sixpack's "Slipcue Brazilian Music Guide," an amazing resource in terms of album reviews, artist profiles, and other info as filtered through one man's very specific perspective. His writing can be very funny (urging readers not to avoid a certain album because of the singer's hairstyle on the cover, for instance); it's always smart and entertaining and just plain good. And it's addictive: I can spend hours reading reviews of albums I'll likely never hear. (Of the ones I have heard, I tend to agree with his assessments 9 1/2 times out of 10.)

Meanwhile, I've been hitting not just record stores for more discs but my local library, which has a deep, if eccentric, CD catalogue, and eMusic,, eMusic, a pay-download service I subscribe to (took me a while to catch on to their strengths, namely specific indie labels, and now that I've got the hang of it, I'm hooked). Been reading books on the subject, too. Now I'm scarfing up everything from folk music of the 1930s to electronic stuff from just a year ago.

In the process, I thought of starting a blog about Brazilian music, but honestly, I can't imagine shedding more light on any of it than Mr. Sixpack does. (One thing I can do that he doesn't do is encourage readers to post comments/recommendations of their own.)

I still intend to write about the music I'm learning about and listening to right now, but I've decided to broaden the focus here and look at/contemplate/write about the larger notion of musical obsessions in general. After all, the current Brazilian Phase is only the latest in an ongoing series of them over the course of my life: the Beach Boys a few years ago, electronic music a few years before that, old country/western before that, and so on. None of these tastes ever leaves me completely, it just moves to the back burner after a while. The pattern is typically the same from genre to genre: initial introduction, obsessive bingeing, gradual tapering off, incorporation into my daily life, new obsession, return to square one. Which, if you think about it, is not unlike the arc of a romance. (And a similar connection between art and eros is depicted in the titles of Pauline Kael's collected film reviews: I Lost It At the Movies, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang , etc.)But culture consumption in American culture is never simply about love, it's got to be about money, too, or at least the love of objects and the desire to collect them.

So that's the big idea, at least to start out: me, immersed in one kind of music for the moment, thinking about other immersions and the very idea of immersion/obsession, and wondering if you, dear reader, experience the same. Drop me a line in the comments section if you feel so inclined. Meanwhile, I'll be busy importing Rounder's THIS IS SAMBA! VOLUME 2 into my iTunes library...

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