June 10, 2008

I see you gracefully swimming
with the country club women

Sharon Shapiro, It's not the heat, it's the humidity

* Slate wonders: Was oral sex always normal? excerpt:

"Two days ago, I wrote that oral sex was becoming destigmatized and normalized, thwarting parents who had hoped they could 'stick to the basics' in talking to their kids about sex. Many of you wrote back, dismissing my assumptions as prude, antiquated, and out of touch. You argued that oral sex has always been more basic and common than vaginal sex and that the idea of recent stigma against it is a myth.

"When I said 'basics,' I meant the facts of life from a parental perspective. In other words, procreation: teaching your daughter how babies are made, not how to go down on the kid next door. But let's set aside semantics and morals. Let's look at the data, starting with a review of the scholarly literature, published last year in the Journal of Sex Research by Wendy Chambers of the University of Georgia.

Historically, fellatio or cunnilingus, hereto referred to as oral sex, were perceived among heterosexual couples as not only more intimate than intercourse but also to be reserved for those who were married (Michael, Gagnon, Laumann, & Kolata, 1994). It took Kinsey's studies to reveal the greater prevalence of oral sex; though it was not until the 1970s that societal attitudes began to perceive it as acceptable for unmarried couples as well (Michael et al., 1994). Thus it is a historical reversal that oral sex has become more common than intercourse among heterosexual, White, and better educated samples as well as a precursor to intercourse (Billy & Tanfer, 1993; Michael et al., 1994; Prinstein, Meade, & Cohen, 2003; Schwartz, 1999). … [S]tudies indicated a rise in oral sex among adolescents (Newcomer & Udry, 1985), university students (Woody et al., 2000; Grunseit, Richters, Crawford, Song, & Kippax, 2005), and adults in general (Laumann, Gagnon, Michael, & Michaels, 1994).

"Let's recap the overall patterns: Oral sex was stigmatized. The stigma has faded. Oral sex is becoming more commonly reported, through some combination of increased activity and decreased stigma. Nevertheless, vaginal experience remains more universal, and vaginal sex is far more frequent. Furthermore, as we learned from the timing data in Wednesday's piece, teens aren't starting with a 'basic' oral stage followed by an 'advanced' vaginal stage. They're losing both kinds of virginity around the same time.

"So, this notion that everybody's been going down on everybody all along, and that nobody's been embarrassed or secretive about it, and that it's obviously elementary and vanilla, is baloney. Yes, oral sex is common, and strikingly so among adolescents. But that trend is a novelty, and a story."

* Pitchfork interviews Jason Pierce of Spiritualized. excerpt:

Pitchfork: How long have you known Harmony Korine?

JP: Only since I met him when he came to see me at the Daniel Johnston show. He came to see me and asked me if I'd get involved with some music for his film, Mister Lonely. He's not like an old friend. He became a friend, but he put me-- I think it was kind of a dumb move-- in a studio to make some music. And it was hugely liberating because I didn't have to front the music I was making. It was literally incidental music. It was incidental to his film, so I didn't have to stand by it and say, 'Look, this is my new project. This is where I am today. This is what I'm doing.' By being in the studio just working with sound like that, it just became...I was producing a lot of music, and-- somewhere during that process-- I decided to work on my own album in parallel to the film music. So the two kind of bled into each other. There are bits of my album in the film. There are bits of the film in my album. And the film gave the album an atmosphere, a sense of space that it was in, which it didn't have before. Before I became involved with Harmony, the album just sounded like 11 old songs that came after each other. The film kind of gave it this space that it sits in now, that makes it work.

Also, Harmony is like the craziest person I've ever met. He really is out there. And the enormity of his thing, his film, put my album in perspective for me. He's this crazy motherfucker who's taking on that, and all I've got to do is piece these last bits of the jigsaw together. It was fortuitous and kind of the best thing artistically for me, but also on a friendship thing, you know?
Pitchfork: What was your goal for the music for the film, in terms of sound, idea and even technique? Or did you not have one in mind?

JP: The music for the film? [pause] There's a question. I don't know. I can't remember. I think I was just in the studio on my own, so it wasn't like trying to construct anything. It wasn't like being with people and saying, 'This is what we're trying to achieve here.' I just sat with a piano or a drum or whatever and just made music. That's why it's hugely liberating to do that kind of stuff-- I'm trying to achieve this kind of thing.

Making a record's a real fight for me. I'm constantly fighting with this thing inside of me that says I should be sitting in a room with Matthew Shipp or I should have Han Bennink on drums or this song should be playing for the next 20 minutes in my head, not a silly little pop song. It's constant.

Things like 'Soul on Fire'-- I didn't want that on the album. When it's a pop song, I don't really want to do pop songs, but they exist and sort of come out by accident. I couldn't find anybody to back me up on that. I couldn't find anybody to say, 'Yeah, that's a good idea. Take ‘Soul on Fire' off the record.' With Harmony's thing, I was kind of free to do that, to say I'm going to make some music now that doesn't have to fit into anybody's criteria. They didn't really even have to fit the film.

The beautiful thing about Harmony is that he's constantly challenging what works in a film and what doesn't. Whether you love it or hate it or whatever, it's constantly in this place where it's not a comfortable place to be. It's not like 'Ahh, yeah, I understand that on the simplest of forms, or on the simplest of terms.' So it didn't matter, you know? If he took it, he could have it. If he didn't, it didn't matter. I was still making these pieces of music because it made sense. And maybe, in an odd way, they were more about what I'd been through than these old songs that sounded like they were about what I'd been through.
Pitchfork: Mixing has always been so important to Spiritualized records. You're infamous for struggling through that process over a long period of time. What were the particular challenges of mixing this one?

JP: A lot of those challenges are the same as every record: You have to find that space. My records don't mix in a conventional sense, like, 'Oh, here you go.' I don't mean they're unconventional records, but they just have to find a space. It's almost accidental. I tried everything with this one, and I don't mind going down paths that I kind of know aren't going to be the one that will work. But I might get a tiny little gem that I can carry into the next process. It's weird because, what I ended up with this record, I ended up mixing it with no studio effects. I ended where I was with Amazing Grace, where anything that was added to it in the mix stage just sounded like I'd applied some reverb to it or whatever. So all the reverbs in the sounds are the rooms that the tracks were recorded in.

That was the energy in it, and I was quite happy because that's what I'd been trying to talk about when I was working on those albums with William Parker and Evan Parker and Matthew Shipp [2003's Spring Heel Jack Live]. Those records are all about performance and just sticking a microphone into the performance and capturing it, not about trying to produce a record, you know? I kept saying I got sick of listening to people's productions, like people who had no ideas, no songs, nothing to say but could still con people's ears into thinking those songs were there by the application of production. I kind of wanted my record a little more honest than that: 'Well, this is us. We put a microphone on it. Here it is.'
Pitchfork: Particularly with Let It Come Down, you talked about the songs not necessarily being autobiographical, so it seems that writing outside of yourself has always been of interest. You mentioned before finally making this record about characters. Why haven't you tried that before?

JP: I think that you've just got to be honest, and sort of the greatest music is almost recorded by accident, coming out of people that are not doing it to make...There's always this talk of the industry of music and about selling records and whatever, but that ignores probably the majority of music that isn't about trying to sell itself, that isn't about being connected to any industry. There's a huge amount of music where someone just happened to have a tape recorder and turned it on or hit the red button while they were in the back of church or recording something in their front room. There's a huge amount of that music from America.

I've just got this thing that music has to be honest. So I never really wrote about characters, but this album was definitely about a group of people that were going to populate these songs, which I'd never done. 'The Waves Crash In' was called 'The Old Man Says Goodbye to His Daughter at the Gate,' and it was about exactly that. It was about an old man filled with pride and sadness that his daughter was old enough to leave home and go out into the world. His whole future was embedded in this person, like this lineage of time. 'Borrowed Your Gun' was that kind of sentiment as well, that the future is with children. The lines at the end of 'The Waves Crash In' were the girl's lines back to the father. He's like, 'Look, I'm really sad to see you go, but I'll try and be with you forever.' And the girl's throwing these lines back that are saying 'I know you think I'm staggering but lately I've been staggering,' with both senses of the word.

But, like I say, that may have been where I started with it, and I can still relate that story about that's what it's about. But it kind of isn't about that anymore. It became deeply about me and where I was. Now that it's finished and it's out there, even that's irrelevant. Maybe it's relevant for a couple of weeks while I talk about the album, but eventually the songs become about and for whoever's listening to them. I've said the line about Ray Charles a million times, but nobody listens to him singing 'I Can't Stop Loving Yo'" and wonders who Ray can't stop loving. They apply that to their own lives. That will happen with this.
Pitchfork:You keep mentioning the sort of American music where there just happened to be a microphone, where a recorder happened to preserve an authentic musical moment. People always talk about you buying the Stooges record as a teenager, but when did you first hear this sort of soul or folk or gospel music from America?

JP: A little later than that. The blues thing was slightly more mainstream. There were a lot of kids who were into rockabilly when I was a kid, when I was 16 or so, and listening to John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters and that kind of stuff.

The Staple Singers was probably the first gospel stuff I heard. I used to listen with Natty [Brooker, original drummer of Spaceman 3]. He taped a lot of radio shows, like Alexis Korner radio shows. The Staple Singers was somewhere in the middle of all that. The main reason was they just sounded alien. I think the track was "Tell Heaven," and it's just this long, extremely slow vocal thing. A lot of what people were playing as blues then was more like white blues bands. So [The Staples] immediately sounded alien, like it just dropped from the sky or something. Once you get an in, it's like anything. You want to hear more. 'Where did this come from?'

It still seems like it's endless. I found those Mississippi Records from Portland, and they've got whole catalogues and more of that stuff. You listen to like the Rev. Charlie Jackson, and you think 'Wow, where's this from?' It's some guy in Kentucky with an electric guitar playing this amazing stuff...and then there's a whole ton more of this kind of stuff. All of the George Mitchell stuff that Fat Possum just put out...It's this kind of thing that, but for the sort of luck of that person being there at that time and putting something down, this music almost wouldn't be here. But for that kind of accident, they're there, and there's more of it. It's beautiful stuff.

* Twofer Tuesday: Warren Zevon

-- from the excellent and energetic 1980 live album Stand in the Fire

-- Bo Diddley's a Gunslinger

-- The Sin

* "I believe the common denominator of the Universe is not harmony, but chaos, hostility and murder." -- Werner Herzog


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