Monday, June 28, 2004

Oh Rufus, you silly pretty boy. What a fabulous concert you gave tonight. So fabulous you even have me saying fabulous, and that's something special, if I do say so myself. I loved your pretty white silk shirt with the orange flowers on it, and your little silvery flip flops. Who would dare wear such a combination but you? And of course your hair was immaculate as ever. I wish I could get mine to do that. I like how you would start a song then stop five seconds in every once in a while because you forgot to do the setup for it, and I like how you dedicated every song to something, like gay pride, your sister, or those dead men from the 1800s who built the wacky flamboyant buildings in Cleveland. I like how you told those Guster boys, who came out to help you with one song, to get offstage as soon as it was over. I was so mad when they wouldn't leave after Ben Folds had them on for a song and ended up ruining the last twenty minutes of his set. You, on the other hand, had the sense to bring out the catwoman in you and bitch them off while at the same time saying how cute they are, and alas all with girlfriends. You have tact, my friend. All this and a short "Down with Bush" moment, yay, and those new songs that you sang from the next album, Want Two. I couldn't have asked for a better concert. Thanks for the good time. One day I'll return the favor. ;-)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm glad it was such a good time!

Trivia: Nina Kiriki Hoffman's brother Kristian is a musician who used to tour with Rufus, and Rufus duets with him on Kristian's 2002 solo album.

- Karen

7:10 AM  
Blogger elad said...

cool. :)

9:56 AM  
Blogger Christopher Barzak said...

Oh that is so cool about Nina's brother. I knew he was a musician, but not that he'd toured with Rufus. That's awesome.

4:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bah. And now I'm jealous. I should've gone to the one out here, but I just couldn't get my act together and I waffle re: Rufus. Some days I adore his songs. Some days they're like too much chocolate would be, if too much chocolate was possible.

What did the Want Two songs sound like?

(so sayeth Hannah)

1:13 AM  
Blogger Christopher Barzak said...

Hey Hannah, I have my days when Rufus songs are just too much, too. I mean, they're really like seven layer cakes in a way, except for his smaller more intimate songs, and even those are like those little red hots. In any case, he played four songs from Want Two, and I liked three, but one of them just sort of annoyed me. It's called the Art Teacher, I think, and Rufus explained how it's like the first song he's ever written that has nothing to do with him. Which is interesting, because I didn't really care for it. I think he does better writing songs from his own experience. Writing from the inside out, rather than by observation. But this is a preference of mine in general. I tend to like my fiction/art/music etc. to have originated from an internal place in the artist, rather than an external impetus. I guess what I mean by that for example is say, Rufus in music (or Aimee Mann, Tracey Chapman, R.E.M.) or Frida Kahlo in art, and say someone like Jeanette Winterson in fiction. I'm not sure why I have this preference. I guess it's a feeling that these sorts of artists get at with their material. It feels, I guess, more raw, lived-in, felt, messy, scary, urgent. At least for me it works that way, so Rufus fits that bill. The other three new songs, I remember, were good, but none of them have stuck with me as some of his other work has, so they may be songs that work while listening to the entire album moreso than singly, without the context of the album's narrative around them. And this I'm sure is far more than necessary in reply.

3:17 AM  
Blogger Celia said...

I wonder if it's a reflection of music as being more...self centered? than writing can be? Writing is told to take personal and make it universal, but music to me is kept more personal (well, at least his sort of music is) so it's an introspective way of life, and adjusting to looking at others that way may be harder, whereas writers are taught to look at others and see how others and their experiences apply to their own writing.

But perhaps Rufus's music is more introspective just because it's what he's better at and I'm over generalizing and rambling to avoid going back to work....It's hard to say, really.

10:22 AM  
Blogger Christopher Barzak said...

I think you're probably right, Celia, in some ways I think it's a sort of "thing" where writers are supposed to look outward rather than inward, unless you're a poet or songwriter. Then it's okay. There are of course fiction writers who do write from a more introspective viewpoint, I just don't think they come to be as popular in a lot of ways. I mentioned Jeanette Winterson yesterday, but she's popular. And also I was thinking today of maybe someone like Aimee Bender. Even if she isn't writing from the inside, she sure does make it feel like she is.

11:08 AM  
Blogger Celia said...

I think we're supposed to use the outsides to talk about the insides, or perhaps as a reflection of the insides, where as poets and songwriters can just talk directly about insides. :)

12:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

With written fiction, regardless of how much it's coming out of the author's personal experience, it's usually the *story* that engages me, or maybe the beauty of the writing, or other things, but not so much a sense of real communion with the author. In music, at least in pop music, most often what moves me is a sense that the artist is spinning art directly out of their life, trying to tell me something about themselves, reaching out to bridge the gap between them and me. It's that sense of intimacy that gives the music much of its power.

- Karen

9:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes. Cake. That's it exactly. Or ice cream: the nasty goo-y stuff versus sorbet. I figure, he's odd and that's part of why I like him, but sometimes it's just a little too much. I hated Want One the first time I listened to it. Hated! Got over that quickly enough, but sometimes it's just a little too much of everything. Other times not.

And...hrm. Really neat stuff.

I wonder if it's a POV thing? Even if you're writing first-person, it's clear that the "I" isn't you. Even if it is--has to be--pieces of you. Different name. Different situation. But you get a song and that isn't explicit. For all you-the-listener know, every song out there is about the singer's own life. And so you (or maybe just me?) assume that it is.

I don't know. I don't really know anything about songwriting and the music industry, so I don't know what's the common approach. I do know that I can't tell the difference between a song written by the singer and a song written by somebody else. And now I'm wondering if Rufus mentioned that the one you didn't like, Chris, was a not-him song before or after it was performed?

'Course, it's also possible that he just hasn't had enough practice writing not-him songs to be very good at it yet. But that's not as interesting as the stuff you guys are on about.

(so sayeth Hannah)

1:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I must've had a little too much of a little too much.


1:54 AM  
Blogger Christopher Barzak said...

I find all this highly interesting, I'm often thinking about this stuff. Probably because I tend to write from the internal place. I think what Celia says about writing needs to be made universal is a truism, but I wonder, though, where that puts certain writers who don't follow that line. I wonder too if it's a particularly American line of thought. Many European writers have over the years made a sort of book in a style of semi-autobiography. Marguerite Duras, for instance, comes to mind. Are her books fiction or autobiography? She says in the same breath some of it is made up and some of it happened exactly as she describes. She says she tries not to make much of a difference between the two, because even something like memoir is inherently fiction, because the way memory works is itself a constant process of revising what happened, and also the idea of perception gets involved there, in the way of the blind men and the elephant, all holding a different part of the elephant and trying to describe what an elephant is. I'm not sure if music is inherently self-centered, or has more possibilities to be more intimate than fiction. What do you do with the musicians like, say, the Decemberists, who write songs about historical happenings? That sort of thing. They're taking the normal line of a fiction writer in that sense. I usually end up scrapping the stories I try to write from that looking outward perspective. I just don't end up liking them (the ones I write, I mean, as opposed to the ones others write, which is different). I make a whole bunch of stuff, whatever fits the story, but I often have bits and pieces in there that are the center of the story that may have come directly from my life. Or sometimes a work of fiction has absolutely nothing to do with anything in my life in that literal sort of way, but they capture a snapshot of something I'm going through or have gone through as a metaphor. The closest terms I've come to describing this process has been a metaphorical autobiography. M. Rickert says in a recent interview on Ideomancer that her stories are a truer record of her soul than any photograph or journal could be, and that articulates a lot for me, too. Oh, and Rufus set up before he sung that song, so it could have affected how I listened to it, but really I don't think so, because I was excited to hear what something of his sounded like that wasn't about himself, and was just disappointed. Not because it wasn't about him, but because I just didn't like the song, it felt really staccato and it didn't have any movement in it, and the transitions in the character's life felt really off and forced. It's written in first person, from a woman's perspective. And I didn't really think about the whole is his music good because it's about him thing until afterwards, when I started to blog about it, and that's when I started to wonder if it was an autobiographical issue or not. Maybe if he wrote more songs about other people, there'd be a better spectrum to judge, but he doesn't, and like Hannah said, maybe he just needs to practice writing more. Also there is the possibility that he doesn't sing it as well live as in the recording. He tended to rush through a lot of songs and felt nervous, it seemed, occasionally. He even stopped himself once ten seconds into a song and said, "I'm sorry, I tend to rush sometimes, mostly because I can't believe this is actually happening, so I'm going to start over." It was cool, seeing a performer being really honest about his bad habits while performing.

2:45 AM  
Blogger Celia said...

I've commented before in my own journal that songs get away with second person all the time. There's a Dashboard Confessional song that I can't remember--here. It's all 'you,' and it's not the only song like that I've heard, yet I've never heard anyone complain about the use of 'you.'

And I wondered if maybe that's because all songs are sort of supposed to be about you, and if that contradicts my previous statement or supports it--you the artist and you the listener, at the same time, whereas almost all writing is supposed to be about someone else, even when it's not really.

And Chris, I'm not sure that I see the use of autobiographical things in fiction as making it personal, because the only reason they work is because they are on some level universal. Though I suppose that's also true of songs, so I've painted myself back into a corner again, and someone is going to have to get me out.

12:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know about these "supposed to"s. Plenty of printed-word fiction is extremely personal and specific. Whereas plenty of songs are about things other than the artist's inner life, and in any case the implication of making a song that others will want to sing along to is that it describes an experience universal enough for others to feel the words can apply to their own thoughts, feelings, or lives. If you're looking at differences, I think they don't really come down to opposite writing goals so much as simply the difference in media. With a song, you're hearing a human voice calling to you. It's a briefer and more physical contact with the writer than you'd get from reading a book, engaging your senses at an animal level of communication. The word content of a song may not be any more intimate than what you'd find in a book, but it's a different connection between you and the author.


4:02 PM  
Blogger Christopher Barzak said...

I think Karen is onto something with the human voice connection. It takes the personal up a notch, even if the musician isn't being very personal. As soon as you engage a physical sense, that's how that happens. I think that's why how to write books and workshop leaders are always telling apprentice writers to use sensory detail in their fiction, because it appeals to this desire that the other arts can engage more directly.

6:52 PM  

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