I was talking to DP yesterday about an old friend/collaborator of mine who’d achieved modest renown over ten years ago touring his mix of Kirtan chanting and gothic/darkwave music up and down the East Coast. My DP, who can be a sort of witheringly incisive armchair business consultant, thought this seemed like a good trademark: unique, specific, memorable. I agreed, but noted the individual in question seems very happy these days doing stuff that is completely NOT that, which would seem to me more important than commerce.
Typical of chant and meditation music, the foundation upon which my friend’s music had been built was, of course, a drone. A device I’ve apparently had on the brain lately, given that the track I prepared weeks ago to release for Halloween is also a dirge of sorts with drone-like accompaniment, as is the mashup of two cover songs I have on deck for afters.
(I wasn’t brought up on any kind of drone music, but it seems likely I’d begin playing with it at some point, given my tendency to look funereally at the past, and my predilection for music that allows space for contemplation.)
It also happens I went on BandCamp yesterday and found that a “New and Notable” artist who was recommended under one of my own releases had composed his album around the limitations imposed by a broken harmonium.
Harmonium: the instrument my old collaborator and his then-wife would travel with for the aforementioned Kirtan appearances.
With all of this ripe in my head, DP and I went to our already-planned Saturday matinee showing of Todd Haynes’ Velvet Underground. (I have covered Todd Haynes previously in this blog, here and here.) Of course you needn’t be a diehard Velvets fan to realize that they are masters of the unconventional application of the drone. So, as seems to happen often with me, I realized my daily life had recently begun to develop a bit of a theme.
The documentary was painstaking and sensitive, like most everything Haynes lays his hands on. Aside from a moderate case of Lou Reed infatuation (which, to be fair, apparently afflicted just about everyone who came in contact with him), Haynes’ storytelling was loving but not overly glamorous.
Highlights (for me personally):
-Acknowledgement of how hardworking, competitive, and, yes, capitalistic (for better or for worse), Warhol and his entourage were.
-The importance of having a fearless leader whose mere presence in a room guarantees you better treatment in the entertainment industry.
-A Warhol cohort’s admission that the Factory was not the best place for women and that their being assessed as ornamental objects was a destructive but integral part of the scene.
-Moe Tucker’s rant (bolstered by Warhol Superstar Mary Woronov, through jump cuts back and forth) against what the group perceived as the cloying impracticality of hippy culture (“DO SOMETHING!”).
-Lou’s explanation of what it means to have a degradation fetish (Lou to friend: “You’ll never understand – you’re becoming a REPUBLICAN”).
-Nico’s restless longing to be recognized for more than her bone structure and appreciated as a serious, cerebral singer-songwriter. Her resulting slow gravitation away from group work.
-The latter-day phone conversation (familiar, banal, affectionate) we witness between Lou and Warhol, where Lou gives him updates on Moe and John and we have it confirmed that though these people dissed each other real bad at certain points, art-family blood was ultimately thicker-than.
And then. What was in our parking lot when we arrived home heatedly discussing the doc like we do?
A cluster of bananas (!)