Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Reader Response

I received two responses to my muxtape. Here is the first:

Subject: re: your your muxtape

""what do all the people know" is one of my favorite songs in the world"

Here is the second:


9:36 PM XXXXXXX: mazzy star? really?

People disclose themselves in the things they do, the small gestures no less than the large ones. In many cases, it's the small gestures that tell us the most. When confronted with a list of twelve songs selected in accordance with some principle, presumably that of admiration, love, or simple attachment, one person will write to tell you they loved one of the songs, that they shared your enthusiasm. Perhaps they hated the rest, or felt indifferently toward them: what matters is that they loved one of them, and they wanted you to know.

Another person will scan that same list and fasten on the one song that they can try to make you feel foolish for liking. Perhaps they liked the other songs, or felt indifferently toward them: what matters is letting you know that they can scarcely believe you included one of them.

It's a small thing, a subtle thing, but it's a very deliberate gesture intended to assert many things all at once: I know better than you; I'm in a position to judge your choices; I know what you were trying to do; you haven't done it. Not just that I have judged -- because of course we all judge -- but that I want you to know that I have judged you. And it exposes a certain way of looking at the world: that of a person anxious that he will choose or declare the wrong thing, a person that assumes that everyone else is engaged in the same project, and beset by the same anxiety.

The purpose of a mix-tape, as I understand it, is precisely to select out those songs that come from unexpected -- unhip -- sources and put them in a new context -- specifically, the context of one's own affective life. That Mazzy Star song is not a song for the ages, but it has a surface gorgeousness that left an indelible impression: one afternoon it transformed Brower Cafeteria in New Brunswick into a site of sublime beauty. I was young, I was nearly suicidal, and I was in love. It was ephemeral, and it was glorious, and it's never sounded quite the same again. But I listen to it sometimes to relive that moment. I'm not on the defensive about liking it, nor am I proudly flaunting it in the spirit of ironic glee that people bring to their purported love of Andrew WK or other things in that spirit, nor do I accept the attempt by another to put me on the defensive about liking it.

It's a good song, and anyone who listens impartially will agree.

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