Posts Tagged ‘Boy George’

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).

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Divas & Dandies V

October 14, 2010

I går underviste jeg igjen til kurset “Divas & Dandies” (forrige post her). Denne gangen var prosjektet å undersøke forbindelser mellom begrepene glam, camp, og queer. Disse tre begrepene beskriver selvsagt ikke det samme, og det kan også stilles spørsmål ved i hvilken grad de overlapper overhodet. Men et forsøk på å diskutere ulike grader av overlapping fører til noen forbindelser jeg finner interessante, ikke minst i forhold til ulike maskulinitetsfigurer. Et utgangspunkt for meg er Philip Auslanders bok Performing Glam Rock: Gender and Theatricality in Popular Music (2006). I kapitel to, “Glamography,” diskuterer Auslander glam rock som sjanger, og skriver:

“That the music classified as glam rock ranges from the buoyant boogie of T. Rex, to the sophisticated, self-conscious deployment of rock and pop styles by David Bowie and Roxy Music, to the straightforward hard rock of Kiss, to the simplistic, minimalist pop of Gary Glitter indicates that this rock subgenre cannot be defined purely in terms of musical style. Glam rock is not distinctive in this respect: no rock subgenre can ever be defined solely in musical terms, for each one entails an ideology that is manifest not only in music and lyrics, but also in the visual elements of performance (costume, staging, gestures, etc.) and the visual culture surrounding the music (album covers, posters, etc.).”

Dette er ikke på noen måte kontroversielt, men det viser samtidig en utfordring i forhold til et musikkvitenskapelig arbeid. Det er ikke nok å ha et begrepsapparat for å diskutere musikken (det mange forskere fortsatt velger å kalle “musikken selv”), man må også kunne diskutere ulike kontekstuelle dimensjoner. Dermed ender studiet av populærmusikken med også å være et studium av et audiovisuelt fenomen. I Auslanders diskusjon av det han kaller glam maskulinitet kommer dette tydelig fram, og han skriver:

“Gender identity was another front on which glam challenged psychedelic rock and the hippie counterculture, not only because glam offered a new, implicitly queer, image of masculinity in rock but also because it disputed the ideology of authenticity by positing gendered identities as constructed rather than natural.”

Ikke minst er det denne implisitte queerness jeg er ute etter i diskusjonen her, og med et særlig fokus på hvordan denne kommer til uttrykk i forhold til maskulinitet. Et fokus hos Auslander og i diverse iscenesettelser av musikere på 1970-tallet er hentet I påkledning, sminke, hår, og grader av flamboyance i framføringene. Det første eksemplet her er Marc Bolan og T. Rex, og gitt kursets tittel må jeg selvsagt spille “Dandy in the Underworld” (enhver forelesning bør ha en låt med enten diva eller dandy i tittelen) (opptaket er fra 1977) (se eller tidligere post med Bolan og Boy George – som jeg kommer tilbake til – her):

Det androgyne som ofte framheves i forhold til glam rock er ikke så tydelig her som I andre klipp med Bolan, men det er liten tvil om at androgyne eller feminine trekk var sentrale i konstruksjonen av mannlige popstjerner innenfor glam rocken. Ikke minst er disse trekkene sentrale i framhevingen av hvordan kjønn er konstruert. Kjønn framstår som en reflektert eller selvrefleksiv praksis, noe som slår inn også i eksempler der androgyne eller feminine trekk ikke framheves i seg selv. Som eksemplevis her, der David Bowie synger “Changes.” Dette er et klipp fra en lydprøve til en konsert i Vancouver i 1976, men selv på lydprøven performer Bowie. Samtidig høres det også at han prøver ut stemmen og lyden, og at han nok aldri ville ha sunget låten slik på en konsert (jeg har postet denne før).

Her framstår Bowie i en viss forstand maskulin, ikke minst i påkledningen, men med den nære forhistorien present, kommer også denne maskuliniteten fram som refleksiv og konstruert. Og det er her jeg synes interessante momenter dukker opp for hvordan synet på maskulinitet går fra en heteronormativ versjon, utfordres gjennom androgynitet og en maskulint appropriert feminintet, til å ende opp med muligheten for en multiplisitet av maskuliniteter. Med andre ord, gjennom et utfordring av den heteronormative maskuliniteten blir det mulig å etablere mange ulike maskuliniteter, og snarere enn at disse “bare” forstås som avvikende framstår det etter hvert klart at maskulinitet må forstås som et flertallsord.

Det er gjennom performancen at denne pluraliteten vises fram. Som Auslander skriver: “glam rock did not posit androgyny as a ‘natural’ state. To the contrary: glam rockers specifically foregrounded the construtedness of their effeminate or androgynous performing personae.” Ta Bowie, fra Ziggy Stardust (1973) til videoen til “Ashes for Ashes” (fra 1980), henter han fram ulike dimensjoner, knyttet til det androgyne, til det feminine, og det teatrale. Og framhever dermed konstruksjonen av kjønn.

Her finner vi samtidig en musikkhistorisk viktig dimensjon, ikke minst i forholdet til myten om autentisitet. I glam rock, og i mengder av sjangere og subsjangere etter dette, vises autentisiteten fram som nettopp en myte. Det er konstruksjonen og framhevelsen av stil og posering, av konstruksjon, performance og teatralitet som blir fokus. Og det er her jeg mener at det åpnes opp også for andre måter å gjøre kjønn på. I gårsdagens forelesning gikk jeg videre til Culture Club og deres “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?” (fra 1982). Videoen må ses her (i sin helhet), mens det følgende bare er et utdrag:

Her framstår Boy George som en etterkommer av glam rocken, ikke minst i forhold til hvordan han framstår visuelt. Videoen har også interessante sider, der kjønn, rase (både visuelt ved blackface poengteringen, men også musikalsk ved reggae-dimensjoner), etablisementet (der kirke og rettssal tilsynelatende griper over i hverandre) og historie (gjennom tekst i videoen som påstår at dens handling beveger seg på tvers gjennom det tjuende århundret) alle griper inn i hverandre på tross av at låten i en viss forstand forblir identisk med seg selv. Med andre ord, det visuelle framhever en form for tidløshet som musikken ikke gjør, men i møtet mellom dem åpnes det for fortolkningsmuligheter.

Det siste nummeret jeg spilte i går er annerledes. I duetten mellom Ben Folds og Rufus Wainwright, der de gjør en coverversjon av “Careless Whisper,” er det ingen androgynitet eller femininitet. Her er det to menn som synger en duett (jeg har også postet denne tidligere). Det er heller ikke i særlig grad noen camp dimensjoner her, selv om Folds kan virke litt ironisk, som om han ikke helt kan klare å synge låten uten en ironisk distanse. Rufus, på den andre siden, virker “ærlig” i en eller annen forstand, eller i hvert fall i tråd med hvordan han ofte opptrer; en grad av spill (eller playfulness) finnes, men den kombineres med en gjennomført framføring. Samtidig, der George Michaels utgave av “Careless Whisper” virker å være sunget til en kvinne, skjer det noe i denne utgaven. Ved 2:52 glir duetten over i spørsmål og svar, før de to stemmene møtes og går opp i en falsett som er duettens klimaks. Og klimaks skal her forstås i alle ordets konnotasjoner. De to mannlige stemmene kommer sammen i denne utladningen, og låten blir en kjærlighetserklæring mellom dem – mellom stemmene eller stemmenes kropper. Her behøves ingen androgynitet eller femininitet, her er verken glam eller camp tilsynelatende nær, men George Michaels låt queeres og åpner for maskuliniteter som møtes tilsynelatende ubesværlig.

Disse eksemplene bringer oss muligens ikke nærmere en forståelse av dandyen som figur. På den andre siden, det visuelle, det androgyne, feminiseringen, viktigheten av påkledning, etc., er alle dimensjoner ved dandyen fra Charles Baudelaire til Oscar Wilde og videre. Det er de samme trekkene som finnes knyttet til Marc Bolan, men den historiske konteksten er endret. Hvis dandyen i dag ikke bare skal være en nostalgisk figur er det dermed viktig å diskutere de maskulinitetsfigurer som finnes innenfor popmusikken i dag. Og dermed åpner denne historien også for spørsmålet om hva en kontemporær popdandy kan sies å være.

Children Of The Revolution

June 23, 2009

Tid for litt nostalgi igjen, her er Marc Bolan & T-Rex med “Children Of The Revolution” fra 1974 med Elton John og Ringo Starr i bandet:

Og vi tar med en cover også, her er Boy George live fra 2003:

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.

You Are My Sisters

March 17, 2009

Jeg er enda ikke helt over Antony-konserten fra søndag. Samtidig merker jeg i ettertid at det også er noe med hans musikk og hans stemme som jeg heller vil høre alene – eller sammen med noen få – heller enn å sitte i en stor konsertsal. Jeg vet ikke helt hva det er, men muligens en slags intimitet i stemmen. På et til dels merkelig vis synes jeg muligens også musikken gjør seg bedre på cd enn live. Det er merkelig også fordi det er en enorm tilstedeværelse i Antonys (myspace) stemme, og på en cd er den jo engang mediert.

Nå. Alt dette er egentlig unnskyldninger for å spille en flott versjon av “You Are My Sister.” Her er den i samspill med CocoRosie (myspace), live fra Nantes i 2004:

Jeg har blogget “You Are My Sister” før, i en liveutgave i duett med Antony og Boy George.

Men den store låten i samspill med CocoRosie og Antony er selvsagt “Beautiful Boyz” (fra Noah’s Ark, 2005) Her er den i en liveutgave fra samme konserten (musikken alene kan høres ved å klikke på tittelen over):

Sound and Sounds of Music and More

March 14, 2009

Av en eller annen grunn kommer spørsmålet om hva musikk er til stadighet opp. Noen ganger er det en kortform av spørsmålet om hva “god” musikk er, og dermed at “det er ikke musikk!” betyr noe sånn som at det er dårlig (en klassiker i møtet med “det nye” for eksempel, hva enten det gjelder avantgardemusikk eller populærmusikk). Andre ganger synes det å være for å avgrense musikk fra andre, tilsynelatende beslektede, fenomener. Da etableres eksempelvis skiller mellom musikk og lydkunst, noe jeg synes er rimelig absurd. En ting vi har lært gjennom det tjuende århundret er at lyd – sound – blir et helt sentralt parameter innenfor musikken. Ikke at lyden ikke var viktig før dette, men fokus på lyd blir helt sentralt innenfor flere musikalske retninger.

Jeg kom over kortfilmen Sound?? (fra 1966) her i dag, regissert av Dick Fontaine, og med, blant annet, Rashaan Roland Kirk, John Cage, og David Tudor:

(Klikk her for del 2 og 3 – hele filmen kan også ses på UbuWeb her).

John Cage er selvsagt helt sentral for tenkningen rundt lyd. Og han fikk tidlig også et rykte innenfor en mer allmenn kultur, noe som kan ses her, der han spiller sin “Water Walk” på det amerikanske tv-showet “I’ve Got A Secret” i 1960 (noen lesere vil huske min referanse til samme tv-show her).

Og knyttet til dokumentarens innramming, her er Roland Kirk, som gjør en flott versjon av “I Say A Little Prayer,” live fra 1969.

“I Say A Little Prayer” er, som mange vil vite, skrevet av Burt Bacharach og Hal David, for Dionne Warwick i 1967, så her kommer jazzcoveren tidlig, og viser også at jazzverdens referanser til populærmusikken er en nærmest konstant dimensjon gjennom det tjuende århundret. Men siden jeg allerede har sprengt alle rammer for musikkreferanser i denne posten så viser jeg heller en duettversjon av “I Say A Little Prayer.” Her er Dionne Warwick og Boy George (fra 1985):

Oh, Boy!

November 24, 2008

Boy George er for tiden i retten. Han er anklaget for å ha lenket Audun Carlsen til veggen i sitt soverom, og for å ha banket ham opp (se Bergens Tidene, Dagbladet, og VG). Og, som BBC kan fortelle, Carlsen klarte å rømme kun ikledd boxershorts, sko, og håndjern. Boy George har flere ganger hevdet han er uskyldig i forhold til anklagene. Og med fare for å gjøre narr av (et eventuelt) alvor i saken, her er klassisk Culture Club: “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me.”

(Og jeg beklager min mangel på originalitet; dette er den låta ”alle” refererer i denne sammenhengen).

Yes We Can

October 3, 2008

Boy George er ute med ny singel, “Yes We Can.” Og her er videoen, laget av Ladypat (se også Myspace).

I videoen ses referanser både til Obama Barack og Amy Winehouse, så her går det i flere retninger. Det kan også leses i intervju i dagens The Times, med tittel “Boy George on sex, drugs and Amy Winehouse.”