Wednesday, June 13, 2007


Pretty much any aesthetic topic, if you push it in the right direction, "really gets at the heart of what this blog is about," but let me relate an anecdote that really gets at the heart of what this blog is about.

When I was in high school, my friend Jeff and I were getting into punk and hardcore together.

[Brief aside: In a way, here we get to the heart of my whole aesthetic experience. On one hand, few things (Proust comes to mind) will ever be as rewarding as the experience of getting into punk, for me. On the other hand, I have become a complete junkie for "getting into things" in the hope of recapturing those ecstatic months/years. So, the irony is, I love something SO MUCH that I am always trying to find that joy in something else. C'est moi.]

We knew there was this band Napalm Death, who were maybe the fastest, heaviest, craziest band--but we had never heard them. Their name certainly was cool. So, using Jeff's dad's computer, we "downloaded" a clip of a song from a Napalm Death fan website. This was before Napster or anything, but because the average Napalm Death song is like 45 seconds, I think we were able to listen to a sizable part of a few songs.

I didn't really get it. They sounded weird. And probably a year or so went by until I ended up buying their second album. I am now completely familiar with this band's discography, they are one of my favorites, etc. And I can say, without any exaggeration, that my recollection of how they sounded bears no resemblance to any actual Napalm Death song.

We have a word for experiencing something that does not exist: "imagination." I imagined all the music I heard that day. My recollection does not correspond to whatever real songs were played over those speakers, or any music played over any speakers, ever. When I play this band today, I ALWAYS try to hear what it was that I heard the first time, but it simply is not there. The experience was completely imaginative. Or so you would think, except that I would bet $$ that Jeff heard the exact same (unreal) thing. We were listening to the same bands at the time, and were equally unprepared for Napalm Death, and had about the same reaction. We agreed that it was very fast, very heavy, and yet decidedly "off." That is, we were more confused than brutalized.

Stanley Fish writes about "interpretive communities." I would go back even one further, and posit a community of apprehension. This would largely be in the realm of imagination, of filtering new phenomena through tastes we have already developed, and expectations we can rely on.

In short, this "experience" (hallucination) is all I think about. The great irony is, while I didn't like what I "heard" that day, I am confident that if I heard anything *now* that sounded like that (which Napalm Death certainly don't), they would be my favorite band.

1 comment:

Slobodan Burgher said...

I know EXACTLY what you mean.