Posts Tagged ‘Antony Hegarty’

Gendered Voices

April 18, 2013

I går holdt jeg et innlegg på et arrangement i regi av BLUS her i København, under tittelen “Gendered Voices: Singing, Performance, and Normativity.” Jeg kannibaliserer på tidligere blogginnlegg, så for gamle lesere vil det være litt resirkulering. Men her er manuset:

(Yesterday I gave a talk entitled “Gendered Voices: Singing, Performance, and Normativity” at BLUS here in Copenhagen. I am cannibalizing on some earlier blogposts, so for old readers there are elements of recycling, but here is the manus):

Gendered Voices: Singing, Performance, and Normativity

Imagine you are Justin Bieber, you sit in a concert hall for the MTV Video Music Awards, and suddenly a talkative Italian man comes on stage, smoking, being kind of obnoxious, talking about how it is to be Lady Gaga’s boyfriend. Then the man – Jo Calderone – gets to the piano and performs Lady Gaga’s “Yoü and I.” The performance is, of course, in one perspective at least, Lady Gaga in drag as her male alter ego Jo Calderone. “Yoü and I” was at that time the latest single from Lady Gaga, and here even Brian May – from Queen – comes on stage to do the guitar solo. The reference to Justin Bieber, however, is not a coincidence. He is in the hall, and the camera pans in on him at one time in the performance. And, not to ridicule him, but he looks like he’s got no clue about what is happening. And the question, of course, is: “do we?” “Do we know or understand what is happening here?” Let us see the clip, and I’ve decided not to go into the long monologue Jo is delivering first, but we go straight to the music:

Of course, Justin Bieber is a nice guy, and he sits politely watching the performance. He can still stand in for us, in the sense that we too watch the performance as it takes place. The question is how we respond to it – intellectually and emotionally. Personally I had a big smile on my face the first time I heard and saw it, which probably comes from having been pretty obsessed with Lady Gaga at that time. Obsessed in the sense of signing up on facebook to the events when she released her new videos, watching them as they were shown for the first time, following her – obviously – on facebook and twitter, being updated by LadyGagaNews on twitter and google alert, and much more. And remind you, I am in a position to call that “work.” I am, among other things, a popular music scholar, and so keeping myself updated is of course necessary. The other thing making me smile was, however, her particular performance. I had heard the song, seen the video – which is pretty awesome too – and I’d seen Jo Calderone’s pictures from the Japanese Vogue. I even followed Jo Calderone on twitter. In other words, I was willing to go along with the construction of Jo Calderone as a person in his own right, not simply Lady Gaga in drag. That is also, one could argue, what is taking place in the video to “Yoü and I,” giving that we can see them both in the same images. Going along with this construction is obviously something we do imaginary, but it can tell us something about how we relate to pop-stars (and film-stars as well). It is not “the real person” we are interested in (obsessed with), but the star – a character, and actor, a performer. We buy into this story, leaving “real life” behind.

Remember when we were kids and saw something scary on the television and parents said, “It’s only a movie”? That’s what I am talking about, but that statement is obviously stupid. There is no such thing as “only” a movie. Movies are what they are, and we immerse ourselves in them. We live in the movies; we do, for a short time-span, live as if the movie was the world. This “as if” mode is central for the life of the imagination. One some level we know that it is not real, but we buy into it, in what related to theater and opera is often called suspension of disbelief. Our disbelief, our “it is only a movie,” is suspended, and we take what we see for the real thing, or perhaps even for something better than the real thing. This is how fiction works; it is real. And then, probably, we reenter that other reality where we can reflect claiming that, well, it was only a movie. But back to Jo Calderone’s performance. There is an interesting dimension I haven’t commented upon yet, at least not explicitly. What is happening is that we watch a man (let’s go along with the character as the real thing), and then he goes to the piano and starts to sing. What do we hear? Are we hearing a man singing, or are we hearing a woman’s voice coming from a male body? Or what? This is, as my title today makes clear, the focal point of this talk, and I hope you will all go along with me in taking as a point of departure that we don’t really know. In other words, that our expectancies about what a man or a woman is supposed to sound like is not necessarily a given. That we really try to question these presuppositions. This, obviously, has to do with the performance as an audio-visual event, and this goes both for music videos, concerts, tv-transmissions, and so on. Listening to the song alone, on the other hand, opens for other questions. The question of audio-visuality is of interest for popular music in that, not least in today’s media-world, the images are everywhere and perhaps even as important as the sound. We still think of music as a sonic event, though, with the images as a supplement, but this is hardly how it works. And we can even see that in the use of the term “image” – “image” is how the artists choose to present themselves, or how they are presented to us by some kind of “management.” And in the case of Lady Gaga, for example, that “image” is clearly built equally much – if not more – on visuality as it is on aurality or the sonic. One could even make an argument that it is not the music that is the most important dimension of the phenomenon known as “Lady Gaga,” but that the music is one component in the construction of this phenomenon. And I say that both as a musicologist and as a Lady Gaga fan, implying, simultaneously, that as musicologists – but also as fans – we need to pay attention to more than the music if we are to grasp the pop star. But what if what we see and what we hear are in some kind of conflict? This is, arguably, one of the dimensions of drag, especially related to how we perceive the voice. And thus it is time to introduce the notion of normativity, and I want to do that from the point of view of a musicologist first, that is, the normativity of voices. Seeing my title you’ve probably been thinking that this is about gender normativity, and it is, but I am particularly occupied with the gendered voice, and thus to something we could call “voice normativity.” Working with different theories of construction of gender I have discussed this with vocal coaches and song teachers. And most of them claim, immediately, that as soon as we are grown up there is female voices and male voices, and that can never really change. We divide them – in the world of classical music into soprano and alto, tenor and bass (with some other possibilities in-between – mezzo, baritone) – but the gendering of the voices, as heard, are in a sense set in stone. What I find interesting here is a couple of dimensions. Firstly, we are used to think of gender as somewhat of a performance or construction. When I say “we” here, I obviously say too much, as I include you into this “we” even while not knowing whether you would agree with me or not. But let us say, for the sake of argument, that we are in agreement that gender is a kind of a performance. And I will come back to say some more about what that might imply in a short while. Secondly, agreeing on gender being a performance might lead us to ask similar questions about sex. And no, I am not talking about performing the act of sex now, that is, not sex as action or something happening, not about the verb so to speak. As you know, in Danish we only have one word covering both gender and sex – køn – and when trying to distinguish between the two English words there is a tendency to say “social” for gender and “biological” for sex, i.e., there is a tendency here to say that the one thing is a cultural one whereas the other is a natural one. Do we accept this? Is it at all possible to argue against it? I am inclined to say that “culture” is involved in understanding what both these categories mean, and that this is, then, also the case with sex and biology. That is to say, that how we understand “nature” is to a large extend a cultural dimension. I am not, then, saying that “nature” doesn’t exist; I am not saying that “nature” is a cultural construct, but I am saying that how we understand nature – and thus biology and sex – is a part of our cultural context and background. And this has everything to do with how we categorize and talk about this thing called “sex.” So then, back to the question above, is “sex” a performance (and no, still not the verb I am talking about). The reason for stressing these two questions is, as will hopefully become clear, related to the voice, and in particular the singing voice. Are voices natural? Are there a clear-cut divide between “male voices” and “female voices” in the same sense as the classical theory about sexual difference, where biology is understood as found, incarnated so to speak, into human beings being “male” or “female” (and without any other categories, or the “all-of-the-above” box to make your cross in). And this, then, deals with how we hear voices. How we here voices as always already gendered, and how we can challenge such a gendered hearing. And, as already said, one way such a challenge presents itself is in drag, or, to take an even less loaded term, how the singer presents her or himself visually.

In my own work I have been dealing with a phenomenon from the history of opera showing this brilliantly. I am, of course, talking about the castrato. The castrati were men who had been operated upon as young boys, so that their voice did not break as they reached puberty. Their bodies, obviously, continued to grow, but that one dimension of so-called natural maturity did not happen. And so, they had high-pitched voices throughout their lives. This, however, did not mean that they only sang female roles in the opera – although they did that as well – they sang both male and female roles, and we have to assume that whether or not the characters were supposed to be seen (and heard) as male or female was obvious from their dress, from their texts, from the lyrics, in other words, from their performance. Unfortunately we cannot really experience the castrato today. The castrato business went out of fashion in the early 18th century, and we are thus left with the power of imagination here as well. With the exception, however, of two particular cases. Firstly, we Gactually have a recording. It is not from the early 18th century, of course, but from the early 20th, and it is not very well sung. It is, however, the closest thing we have to a “real” castrato. I am talking about Alessandro Moreschi, who was recorded in the Vatican in 1902 and 1904, but at that point was too old to really shine. He had not, either, been an opera singer, but a singer in the Vatican, so we can assume that his vocal training had never really tried to make him shine as a castrato-star either. And, finally, the technological equipment to record his singing had – from the point of view of today – severe limits. That said, something about his voice still speaks to us today, in this swan-song of the castrato.

The other exception is even more related to technology, and is taken from the film Farinelli – about one of the most famous castratos in history. To make his voice in the movie two singing voices were morphed together in the studio, and we thus hear a technologically produced voice that is a mixture between a soprano and a counter-tenor (a high-pitched male), so that the pitch of the voice is kind-of female and the timbre kind-of male. In addition, the movie presents him as a peacock – literally, no metaphors here – in a baroque setting, meaning that it is open for interpretation whether we see/hear him as “strange” or queer or not. This scene I am to show, inscribes him into a pretty heteronormative relation, however, as it leads to a sexual relationship between Farinelli and a German countess. In other words, he might be cut, but he can still perform his heterosexual duties – or so the film leads us to believe. That castrati could perform – sexually – is a historical fact, however, a version of safe sex given that no semen were produced, but this does not mean that “suspicions” of same-sex relationships were not part of the discourse around them.

The historical example of the castrato leads some other important questions, having to do with how gender and sexuality have been understood throughout the years, that is, in a more distant past. The history, not only of gender-roles, but also about the images and understandings of gender, the history of sexuality, including challenges to what is “natural” from particular points of view. This is important work, in so many academic disciplines, and is at the same time related to comparisons between different cultural understandings of gender and sexuality. To make this point blunt: what if your view on gender and sexuality were yours alone? That is of course never the case, but it is often the case that it is a minor collective or community having particular views on these issues. Not only that in the past human beings behaved differently, or that in “foreign” cultures human relationships are differently, but also in different strata of our own community, the last known as for example subcultures, where the subculture has different practices and values than the mainstream culture, but it could also be related to religious understandings within a more or less secular community. If I call a castrato singer “queer” I obviously mix two different historical periods into one sentence: firstly, the period when castrato singers existed, and secondly, the period – our period – when queer is understood as a category of “identity” (for lack of a better word). This is, as most historians would say, anachronistic – and many historians would add that that’s a bad thing. In some circumstances I would both defend and even advocate being anachronistic, and when dealing with different ways of organizing, understanding, or conceptualizing sexuality would definitely be high on my list. Not least because it could tell us something about our own context, and the limits set for understandings of sexuality today, leading to the normativity I’ve already mentioned. So far, at least, and perhaps even more substantial than that, I find it important to postpone any statement about what queer is. As we’ve learned from Judith Butler, and later scholars, gender/sex is not something one is, but something one does. I won’t go into any long discussion of this statement – except saying that it is also, in my view, severaly misunderstood – but rather point to how gender is experienced or understood or interpreted, that is to say, how we view – and in my cases also hear – gender. It is not as if queer is by necessity the right word to use in all cases, but what the question of queerness at least opens up is to open up the normativity found as a basis for so much of our everyday-life as well as popular culture. And as soon as one starts to listen for the sound of queerness, or, in my context perhaps even more notice the discrepancies between expectations and result, between prejudices – based, more often than not, on norms – and performances, then the whole field of gender and of gendered performances open up.

Interestingly enough this takes place within popular culture, even popular culture of the more mainstream kind. It perhaps used to be that queer expressions were to be found in some kind of underground or subculture scenes, and, of course, this is still the case, but it has also slipped into the mainstream, and it is interesting to reflect upon what happens then. To take one example, here is Greg Pritchard from Britain’s Got Talent (in 2009):

When Greg Pritchard comes on stage it is pretty obvious that what is expected, by the judges and the audience, is some kind of indie-rock, or shoe-gazer stuff. What is heard is a surprise, and one reason for the surprise is the discrepancies between expectations and result, but also between what is seen and what is heard. It is, as Simon says, “like a dog meowing” – in other words, almost like a trans-species expression. And this is definitely mainstream popular culture, even of the sort that lots of academics claim is unnecessary to deal with at all. It is also an international popular culture, and I want to move over to Thailand’s Got Talent (from 2011), where Bell Nuntita sings:

What we hear here – and what the audience hear – both relates to the normative understanding of voices while simultaneously undermining it. She sings two songs, the first in a “female” voice, the second in a “male” voice. I would still not call this a “gender change.” She can move between the two voices, back and forth. She thus undermines the very thought that the voice – the gendered voice – is “natural.” It makes sense, in my view, to call her voice a “trans-voice.” This is a transgendered voice, in one way or another; it is, in a particular sense, a queer voice. What is important, however, is to challenge all kinds of understandings of such a “trans” or “queer” voice as freakish. Here I am aware that I am getting into a kind of normative territory myself, and I just want to underline that. There is, however, a reason for this, and it comes out of having followed – from years now – the media discourse around another voice: the voice of Antony Hegarty – singer in Antony and the Johnsons. Antony self-identifies as a transperson, and his voice has been at the center for the reception of his music. And it is clear that there have been difficulties in finding the right words to describe it. In addition to being called androgynous, it has been described as “angelic” and “ethereal,” and Antony has also been called a “creature” as if to challenge any notion of a gendered human being. It is, then, as if the very humanity of Antony is questioned, in a language strongly echoing how the voice of the castrato (and the castrato himself) was described. I’ve written about Antony – some of it available on-line – and there is no time to go into details about his voice here. What I do want, however, is to underline a phenomenon of interest for re-learning to listen to voices: it is the duet. Listening to duets we hear the intersection of different voices – be the voices “male,” “female,” or whatever we should call them. And it becomes easier to hear and recognize these differences. It is not that it necessarily becomes easier to find the words to categorize these voices, but the importance in discussing this vocabulary becomes clearer. As one example of a duet, take Antony and Boy George doing “You Are My Sister”:

These voices are both coming from artists with a non-normative sexuality. Whether that makes their voices queer is perhaps still a question. And the answer is related to what is meant by a queer voice. What I hope to have shown, however, is that listening to the particular voices, and to their particularities, not taking any categories for granted – not “male” or “female,” but not “straight” or “queer” either – might open up for other kinds of vocal experiences. And to end related to where I begun I want to play the Eurythmics from the 1984 Grammy Awards, singing “Sweet Dreams Are Made of This.” Here Annie Lennox is in drag, sort of an Elvis-clone, and opens the question of whether we hear her voice differently than when she dressed as “herself.” This is not “the same” kind of drag as in the Lady Gaga / Jo Calderone case, but the resemblance is enough – I think – to make the case. The case of the question of gendered voices. (And yes, Boy George makes a cameo in the opening of this video – it is, after all, 1984).


March 28, 2011

Jeg er generelt opptatt av stemmer, og ikke minst stemmer som utfordrer. Allerede i bloggens urtid skrev jeg om kastratsangere (her), noe jeg har gjort med jevne mellomrom (sist her). Jeg har også skrevet om ‘skeive stemmer’ (queer voices) (se for eksempel her), noe jeg blant annet har diskutert i forbindelse med Antony Hegarty. Og det er mange flere varianter. For snaut to år siden presenterte jeg Greg Pritchard fra Britain’s Got Talent, der hans stemme i stor grad overrasker så vel dommere som publikum.

Overraskelsen er knyttet til forventinger – og til normativitet. Han ser ut, stereotypt, som om han skulle synger noe indie-rock-aktig, og hans talestemme er “ordinær.” Men når han begynner å synger er det i sopranregister, mens han synger Nessun dorma, en tenorarie fra Puccinis Turandot (1926). Det er mellom forventinger i forhold til hva vi ser og i resepsjonen vi hører at noe skjer. Og, selv om jeg nok ikke behøver å si det, det har også med kjønn å gjøre.

I dag fikk jeg så tilsendt link til en video fra Thailand’s Got Talent. Det er Bell Nuntita som synger en slags medley av to sanger:

De to sangene hun synger er ikke ekstraordinære. Det er, for det første Calories Blah Blahs “Yahk Roo Tae Mai Yahk Taam”:

Og for det andre er det MiLds “Unloveable” :

Publikum kjenner åpenbart sangene, men det er der hun går fra den ene sangen til den andre at noe skjer (ved 1:22). Forholder man seg til normative stemmekarakteristikker går hun her fra en kvinnestemme til en mannsstemme. Og selvsagt er det, på et mer overflatisk plan hva som skjer, og hun spiller også med det. (Samtidig som denne utgaven, med engelske undertekster, også, ved 4:30, får fram en annen historie). Nå går stemmen rundt elektronisk rundt verden. Et google-søk viser videoer og websites, og det er selvsagt også derfor jeg relativt enkelt kan finne de sangene hun synger i originaler. Samtidig, hennes stemme utfordrer oss. I en viss forstand demonstrerer hun at hun har to stemmer, og om man mener at personligheten har avtrykk i stemmen vil dette være tricky. Men enda viktigere, hun løser opp i forholdet mellom stemme og kjønn. At hun ikke har likt å bli kalt “queer” som skjellsord er selvsagt fullt forståelig. Likevel, her demonstrerer hun en queer stemme, i ordets beste forstand. Samtidig, det er nettopp én queer stemme – en variant i en pluralitet av muligheter – men en som jeg her velger å kalle transvokal (en kategori jeg forsøker å tenke videre i forhold til).

Viva Katherine Wainwright Cohen

February 19, 2011

I Lian Lunsons film Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man (2005) intervjues Rufus Wainwright, som en slags opptakt til hans cover av “Everybody Knows.” Han snakker om først gangen han møtte Cohen, som følge av vennskapet med Cohens datter, Lorca. (Klippet på youtube lar seg ikke legge inn, men kan ses her). Jeg husket scenen i dag, da jeg fikk de siste nyheter om Rufus. I går la han inn en beskjed på sin hjemmeside, “for immediate release”:

Darling daughter Viva Katherine Wainwright Cohen was born on February 2, 2011 in Los Angeles, California to proud parents Lorca Cohen, Rufus Wainwright and Deputy Dad Jorn Weisbrodt. The little angel is evidently healthy, presumably happy and certainly very very beautiful.

Daddy #1 would like to offer everyone a digital cigar and welcome the little lady in with a French phrase from his favorite folk song, A La Claire Fontaine : “Il y a longtemps que je t’aime, jamais je ne t’oublierai.”

Med andre ord, Wainwrights datter er Leonard Cohens barnebarn, noe som etablere en annen relasjon mellom de to mennene. Og nei, jeg har selvsagt ikke glemt Lorca Cohen her, og mener overhodet ikke at dette bare er en historie mellom menn. Samtidig, gitt at jeg i min artikkel “Queering Cohen: Cover Versions as Subversions of Identity” (se her), argumenterer for at Rufus, Martha Wainwright, Antony, og andre queerer Cohen gjennom sine coverversjoner, så gir denne familienyhetene en annen tvist til diskusjonen.

Jeg har alltid vært spektisk til å trekke for mye på biografiske dimensjoner i arbeidet mitt, altså artistenes biografier spiller ikke så stor rolle for de fortolkningsdimensjonene som ligger i forhold til deres sanger. Dermed er en “queer Cohen” knyttet til hans sanger, og ikke til hans person. Samtidig, gitt Rufus’ historie er det litt vanskelig å ikke se hvordan biografi og sanger griper over i hverandre. Og det er rimelig sannsynlig at han kommer til å skrive sanger om datteren i nær framtid. I så måte vil han følge opp sine egne foreldre, fra Loudon Wainwright IIIs “Rufus is a Tit Man” (fra albumet Unrequited, 1975) og “A Father and a Son” (fra History, 1992) (se her) til Kate McGarrigles “First Born” (fra Dancer With Bruised Knees, 1977), men også sine egne sanger til foreldrene, “Dinner At Eight” (fra Want One, 2003) og diverse henvisninger til hans mor, sist til den kommende hyllestkonserten. Slik sett er det vanskelig, og det gjelder for hele familebildet her, å trekke skiller mellom biografi og musikk. Og den nyfødte skal altså nok også få sine sanger i framtiden.

Antony’s bands of the week

October 15, 2010

Denne uken har Antony vært gjesteredaktør for deler av musikksidene i The Guardian. I den forbindelse har han også kommet med sine fem tips i serien “New band of the day.” Og selv om bloggens lesere sikkert allerede har sjekket dem ut tenkte jeg å gi den samlede listen her (for meg en liste som også bringer tankene i retning av listen jeg laget i forbindelse med Warren Ellis’ soundtrack til Doktor Sleepless).

William Basinski (artikkel, myspace):

Jessica 6 (artikkel, myspace) (se også her):

Oneohtrix Point Never (artikkel, myspace):

Og her finnes det også en utgave med Antony:

Matteah Baim (artikkel, myspace):

Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black (artikkel, myspace):

Noen musikere er kjent for å ha følerene ute i forhold til hva som skjer på ulike musikkscener. Både David Bowie og Elton John har hatt slik status innenfor ulike mijøer. Og det er noe som tyder på at Antony har det på samme måten. Her er det mye flott musikk, og definitivt noe jeg selv skal sjekke ut nærmere.

Marc & Antony

October 9, 2010

I oktobernummeret av The Wire skriver Antony Hegarty spalten “The Inner Sleeve.” Han har valgt Torment av Marc And The Mambas (fra 1983). Marc And The Mambas var sideprosjektet til Marc Almond mens Soft Cell var på høyden, og Antony framhever dette albumet for sine egne valg. Siste avsnittet hans lyder:

“On the Mambas records, Marc explored the shadows of his feelings and desires with reckless abandon. I have always thought of Torment and Toreros as his Berlin. As a recording as well as in its artwork, it is the album that most influenced the direction of my development as a musician and an artist. Marc And The Mambos … Antony And The Johnsons … Get It?”

Her oppstår dermed forbindelser mellom Lou Reed, Marc Almond, og Antony. Og det bringer meg til et av mine store fascinasjonsobjekter: Antonys duetter. Han har spilt inn duetter både med Lou Reed og med Marc Almond.

Her er Antony og Lou Reed med “Candy Says” (se også her):

Og her er Marc Almond og Antony med “The Ballad of the Sad Young Men”:

Her er også en flott utgave av “River of Sorrow” (originalen fra Antony And The Johnsons første album, 1998, denne utgaven fra 2005):

Og, endelig, her er “Torment” med Marc And The Mambas, i en liveutgave fra 1983:

Jessica 6

June 24, 2010

Hercules and Love Affairs (myspace) debutplate var en av mine favoritter i 2008 (se mer her og her), og “Blind” var en av de beste låtene jeg hørte det året, der Antony hentet fram andre kvaliteter enn man først og fremst forbinder med Antony and the Johnsons (myspace), og viste at hans stemme også kunne passe fint inn i et neo-disco landskap (se her):

En av de andre stemmene hos Hercules and Love Affair var fra Nomi Ruiz, som jeg særlig la merke til på “You Belong” (se her):

Nå er Nomi Ruiz aktuell med et annet band, Jessica 6 (myspace), sammen med Andrew Raposo og Morgan Wiley. Her er “Fun Girl”:

Jeg synes definitivt musikken er dansbar, men det jeg faller totalt for er en fornemmelse av mørke i musikken.

Doveman & The Irrepressibles

January 14, 2010

På tross av mange utsagn om hvordan det står hardt til i musikkbransjen kommer det ut så mye musikk at det selvsagt er helt umulig å holde noen som helst oversikt. Man kan følge noen musikeres karrierer, og man kan selvsagt også forsøke seg med et eller annet slags overblikk – men det tar mye tid. Men, som jeg har skrevet før, jeg er samtidig sikker på at nettet gir meg innblikk i musikk jeg ellers aldri hadde kommet bort i. Og det er også noe med søkemuligheter som gjør at jeg finner en del.

Av de siste nyoppdagelsene jeg har gjort finner jeg to band som befinner seg i et slags musikalsk nabolag av Antony and the Johnsons (MySpace). (Faste lesere – hvis jeg fortsatt har slike etter at bloggingen ikke lengre er like aktiv – vil vite at jeg forsøker å følge Antony tett).

For det første er det Doveman (MySpace), der Thomas Bartlett er mastermind. Her er “Breathing Out” fra platen The Conformist:

Bartletts stemme er annerledes enn Antonys; det er mer luft på den, og den lyder også en smule anstrengt – ikke minst i sammenligning med Antony. Men det musikalske slektskapet er likevel åpenbart.

Det andre bandet jeg vil gjøre oppmerksom på er The Irrepressibles (MySpace). Her er likhetene enda tydeligere, ikke minst på denne låten – og videoen – til “In This Shirt” fra platen Mirror Mirror:

Sounden minner om Antony, og Jamie McDermotts stemme er heller ikke ulik. Og endelig kan man si det samme om videoen, som har noe av det barokt drømmende som også fantes på Antony and the Johnsons’ “Epilepsy is Dancing” (som jeg også skrev om her).

Kan man skrive slikt?

May 31, 2009

Jeg pleier ikke kritisere eller diskutere andre musikkanmeldere. Her opplever jeg at det er et skille mellom mine roller som musikkanmelder og som akademiker; innenfor akademia er jo kritikk av kolleger nærmest modus operandi, the favorite bloodsport, og en helt sentral dimensjon ved møtet mellom kolleger. Selvsagt skal det være en eller annen slags begrunnelse for kritikken, men mye (for mye, vil jeg nok legge til) tekstproduksjon handler om å forklare hva andre gjør eller har gjort feil. En sentral dimensjon i en slik akademisk kritikk er knyttet til språkbruk og skrivestil. Og gjort på den riktige måten kan det komme mye godt ut av slik kritikk. Jeg vil, for nå å si det slik, gjerne kritiseres for det jeg skriver. Når det kommer til mer journalistisk virksomhet opplever jeg det altså annerledes. Muligens har det å gjøre med at man skriver under press. Det er ofte kort tid til deadline, og man har knapt tid til å file på formuleringer eller tenke over metaforbruken. I heldige stunder blir uheldige formuleringer tatt av desken eller korrekturlesere (jeg har skrevet litt om dette her), men som oftest kommer det igjennom, og man kan selv gremmes når man ser sin tekst på trykk. Slik er det, og kan man ikke leve med det bør man nok ikke skrive for aviser. Men da snakker jeg om kritikk av mine egne tekster. Å kritisere, eller diskutere, andre anmelderes tekster er tross alt noe annet. Samtidig kan man noen ganger ta seg i å spørre “kan man overhodet skrive slikt?”, og det spørsmålet kom til meg to ganger i går. Og på tross av at jeg dermed altså kan se ut som om jeg kritiserer navngitte personer her (og det gjør jeg vel strengt tatt), her kommer de to eksemplene. Og jeg er altså først og fremst ute etter å diskutere dem heller enn å si at de er “feil” hva nå enn det er. (En beslektet post er denne, om “Stemmer, ben og legger”).

Så altså, første hendelse er BT-magasinet i går, der Sverre Drønen i sin spalte pop-preik har en side med overskriften “Sutrehomopopens venner.” Drønen, som ellers blogger på droneland, har brukt ordet før. Første gangen, så langt jeg kan finne ut, er i en bloggpost fra februar 2007, med tittel “Sutrehomopop?,” deretter i posten “Å, dra til Grønland!” fra februar i år, og deretter, for kort tid siden, i anmeldelsen av Bloc Partys (myspace) Intimacy Remixed i Bergens Tidene. Og nå altså i går (i en artikkel som ikke ligger på nett). Hva er så denne “sutrehomopopen”? Drønen definerer den slik: “musikk av og for homoer som synes synd på seg selv.” Og eksemplene hans i gårsdagens artikkel er Antony Hegarty (myspace), Rufus Wainwright (myspace), Morrissey (myspace), Boy George (myspace), Stephin Merritt/The Magnetic Fields og The Czars, mens Mika (myspace) blir stående som et eksempel på en som prøver men ikke helt får det til. Ok, innrømmet, muligens er det det banale faktum at flere av mine favoritter (som bloggens lesere straks vil gjenkjenne) opptrer i denne listen som får meg til å reagere. Samtidig tror jeg det handler mer om “sutre” enn om “homopop,” også selv om jeg nok ikke helt forstår hva “homopop” er, altså hvordan den skulle skille seg fra “heteropop” (eller hva dens motsetning nå skulle være). Men jeg tror det er mer at jeg ikke helt gjenkjenner Antony eller Rufus som sutrende. Drønen skriver sånn sett at det finnes “god sutrehomopop”; i anmeldelsen av Bloc Party synes Rufus å kunne stå for denne. Men likevel. Og det er nok i forhold til beskrivelsen av Antony jeg virkelig blir uenig, der Drønen skriver: “Vokalisten i Antony & the Johnsons har helt siden han introduserte verden for sin dvaske kropp og en røst som mest minner om en hvalross som er grunnstøtt i isødet vært en naturlig favoritt for sutrehomoene. Den ubestridte sutrehomopopsolkongen.” Lesere vil vite at jeg er uenig. Men, og dermed kommer vi tilbake til noe av problematikken med å diskutere/kritisere andre musikkanmeldere, slike utsagn er nå engang rimelig subjektive. Det ligger i anmelderiet som sjanger at det er (mer eller mindre) kvalifisert synsing.

Den andre artikkelen der jeg i går spurte meg selv om man virkelig kan skrive slikt stod i Politiken. Erik Jensen har en artikkel med tittel “Her er USA’s storsælgende jomfrublondine.” Og dere skjønner hvor jeg vil hen, og det er åpenbart at det er kropp og sex det er snakk om her. Hva slags ord er “jomfrublondine”? Artikkelen handler om Taylor Swift (myspace), storselgende ikke bare i USA, og Jensen skriver om henne i kontrast til Britney Spears (myspace), Amy Winehouse (myspace), og Paris Hilton (myspace). Han skriver også interessante ting om Swift, men likevel.

Så altså, “sutrehomopop” og “jomfrublondine.” To ord som begge så definitivt også reiser spørsmål knyttet til forholdet mellom musikk og sex (eller kjønn eller kropp). Det er spørsmål jeg synes er mer enn relevant, men det gjør det ikke lett å skrive om.

Antony i Guardian

May 17, 2009

Peter Conrad er en forfatter jeg har lest med stor glede. Hans Modern Times, Modern Places: Life and Art in the Twentieth Century, A Song of Love and Death: The Meaning of Opera, The Hitchcock Murders, og Orson Welles: The Stories of His Life har gitt meg gode leseopplevelser og tankeføde. Han skriver også i The Guardian, og i dag har han et intervju med Antony på trykk. Det er vel verd å lese.

Antony – The Creek

January 4, 2009

Da jeg i går skrev om Antony and the Johnsons’ nye plate hadde jeg ikke fått med meg meldingen om at Antony åpner en kunstutstilling i London om kort tid. Men 17. januar åpner utstillingen The Creek ved Isis Gallery, en utstilling som varer fram til 28. februar. Her er “Mountains and the Sea” fra 2007: