15 November 2007

8+

"La gazza ladra (The Thieving Magpie)" by Gioachino Rossini (performed by the St. Petersburg Orchestra of the State Hermitage Museum Camerata) which clocks in at 10:54

Approximately Exactly 4.5 people (truly, and I ain't about to round that up) have told me, over the past few years, that I should read Killing Yourself to Live by Chuck Klosterman. "Duuude, you should so read that," they said, "it's exactly the kind of book you'd enjoy." Wrong? I'd read Klosterman in Spin, and I wasn't so sure. But they insisted. They said that it was a book full of one man's love of metal, pop culture, women, sports, and death. Wow. That's, like, precisely my bag, innit? It is. And I knew it. I knew they were right all along, but being told that I should do something has never really made me want to do it. I call it "high school English class when they force you to read a classic novel but you don't want to, so instead you go and read your own selection - probably something like The Picture of Dorian Gray that wasn't on the syllabus but made you feel cool as shit and rebellious (in the most nerdy of ways) for reading it while everyone else was reading Ethan Frome - and then you just act like you read the book they were cramming down your throat and then intuitively find ways to discuss and analyze it in class, thus setting yourself up to feel like you've read it and therefore never in your life will you actually read it - aka, you ruined another classic for yourself" syndrome. Or, "spoiled ignorant weenie" syndrome for short. Bear with me, these designations are works in progress. But you get the point. I still do that, just like I still wear Nike Air Command Force sneakers. Pumpety-pump-pump, pumpety-pump-pump, look at Matty go. Some things never change.

But back to the book - Klosterman. Klosty the Snowman.

There must have been some magic in that poorly stocked, old JFK terminal airport bookstore I found; for, when I saw Killing Yourself to Live on the shelf I began to dance around. La la, la la la... One long line of clueless consumers later I was back in my seat at the gate waiting to fly away to Amsterdam and reading about Chuck Klosterman's fascination with dead musicians and ex-girlfriends. Weirdo.

As I read nearly half of the book on the flight to Amsterdam an idea hit me - perhaps I too could/should/would investigate my own life by visiting with death in a musical manner. And then I could tie it in to the three most important women in my life's relationship history and then create an imaginary conversation between the four of us and then that could become the true solar plexus of what had, up to this theoretical point, seemed to be an overly referential essay about music and tombs. Perhaps I too am weirdo!

I was already planning this (in fact) before I picked up An Idiot's Guide To Introspection. I figured I'd go back to my favorite Parisian cemetery and visit with the remains of some of my musical heroes, take a bunch of pictures, blow a lipstick kiss to old Oscar, bump and grind with Victor Noir's bronze man part, and write about the whole experience. All that would then separate this tale of mine from Chuck's would be a few missing sports references, a willingness to do drugs with Rhode Island rednecks in their pickup trucks, and a hot blonde boss. Thankfully, I think, for all of us, my mismanagement of time ensured the rapid decay/failure of my plan. I got to the cemetery much later than I wanted to and had to revise my course of action. There would be no visiting with the bones of the Lizard King or the Little Sparrow, and no humping of bronze statues - the sun was about to set and I had to get in and out of grave central before darkness fell across the land. I decided to head directly for the final resting place (NOT - come to find out, in 1887, Rossini's remains were moved to Florence) of Gioachino Rossini, composer of one of my most favorite pieces of music ever in the history of written music: the conveniently posted above "La gazza ladra".

There I was, sitting in semi-frightening near-darkness with the bones (again, NOT) of a true musical hero of mine. The skull that once contained the brain that birthed perfect crescendo after perfect crescendo lay in front of me in a crypt (NOT) and I could feel music creeping into my head. Not Rossini, but something else. It went: "Whatchoo gonna do..." duh duh - DUH DUH DUH DUH - Sabbath! It hit me like iron, man. There in front of me lie the bones (yawn, NOT) of the man who invented heavy metal. What? It's not too much of a stretch really. If Beethoven was the Led Zeppelin of the long long ago, then I'd put Rossini as yesteryear's Black Sabbath (and Wagner as Iron Maiden and Rachmaninoff as Metallica - I could go on and on) without pause. Perhaps that's why people who like classical music don't care for heavy metal - they've heard it all before. Rossini was the "Spiral Architect" of a formula of quiet-loud-quiet heavy orchestral/operatic music that presaged Paranoid by a good 150 years and set the course for all of the thunderous overtures that would follow in the century after his demise. Surely at least a good half of everything "heavy" that's come since he wrote his overture to the opera William Tell could be directly attributed to Gioachino Rossini. Bazookas, jet airplanes, the Third Reich, Atlas Shrugged, John Goodman - I was on to something in front of that tomb and I knew it.

Then, much like with Killing Yourself to Live, it was suddenly time to get out while the getting was still good. To skip the final third of the book and move on to Life of Pi.

No. It was getting dark is what I mean. So quickly the darkness fell over the cemetery that it was all I could do to make it to the gate before the dead souls started calling me. I raced to the front gate, trailed by an African man on a scooter telling me to hurry up. I wasn't afraid of him though, I feared the vicious insight of the dead souls. They'd rip on me and make fun of me for identifying with, yet hating myself for doing so, so much of the Klosterman book. "You think like this writer," they'd spit at me (except with a decidedly more French accent than what you've ascribed them), "you write about music and ex-girlfriends like him too - why you hate him then? Do you are is hating yourself too?? Hating yourself for to live, just like Chook has killen himself to live?"

Dead men tell no lies, or so I'm told, and apparently they do so in broken English with a thick French accent. But they're right. I AM confused about my feelings about the book, about life and death and music and ex-girlfriends and how the hell I could ever tie it all together in something anyone would want to read for longer than 160 pages. Maybe it can't be done. It's been attempted by one brave soul from North Dakota and he nearly succeeded. He had me for most of that book, but then it was (at times) so much like reading my own thoughts that I couldn't deal with it after a while and found myself wondering if I enjoyed Killing Yourself to Live solely for narcissistic reasons.

Shit, I'm not really sure where I stand on any of it. Maybe I'm wrong about the whole Rossini is/was Black Sabbath thing. Maybe John Goodman would be a bloated tank of a man even if there wasn't ever a William Tell Overture, perhaps Stanley Kubrick would've found something better than "The Thieving Magpie" to accompany the gang battle scene in A Clockwork Orange if there never was a Gioachino Rossini, and perhaps there's no need for me to write the way I think if Klosty the Snowman's already done it for me. Perhaps I AM hating myself for to live.

Nah, that's just the nonsensical words of some unnamed French ghost that I invented as a fictional device to move forward, and bring an eventual end to, this story. Heavy, isn't it? Meh, I liked it better when Klosterman did it.

*above image taken by me during a recent visit to Père-Lachaise

Buy Famous Overtures on iTunes.

EAR FARM's 8+ is a weekly feature that showcases songs longer than 8 minutes. In the recent past these songs were featured on EF's 8+:
The Fiery Furnaces - “Inspector Blancheflower”
Morrissey - "Moon River"
Miles Davis - "So What”
Tori Amos - "Yes, Anastasia"
Boduf Songs - “Bell for Harness”
8 Bold Souls - "Odyssey"
Artanker Convoy - "Open Up"
Dan Deacon - "Wham City"

To see a full list of every song featured in EAR FARM's 8+ click HERE.

22 comments:

Taylor said...

I don't know if I can read this. I hate Klosterman. I saw his name and I had to stop. Eeeeew.

Anonymous said...

thats the POINT of this post if i'm not mistaken, right?
because klosterman is (deservedly so) such an easy target yet maybe maybe (maybe not) has ideas to offer?

a fan said...

Matt, another great post from you. We're glad to have you back. That whole paragraph about classical and metal and Sabbath and John Goodman is classic!

stuart said...

Matt! Missed you!

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Mạnh Hiếu Pro said...

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