Thursday, February 5, 2009

"I Went Away To See An Old Friend Of Mine..."

Tuesday, after a stop at Kaffeebaum of course, the three of us caught a train to Düsseldorf, where we took in a Kunsthalle exhibition dedicated to art, documents, and objects from or affiliated with Sonic Youth.

By age 17 I had officially adopted Sonic Youth as my All-Time Favorite Band, and four of their records were in my Top Ten Albums, as handwritten lists from the time attest. I'd like to at least hope that I'm not one of those guys whose tastes petrify in their graduation year, but my feelings for Sonic Youth have never changed. And, after all, why should they? Through Sonic Youth I discovered... everything. It isn't much of an exaggeration to say that the films I watch, the art I love, the books I read, and certainly the records I listen to can overwhelmingly be traced back, directly or indirectly, to a point when I wanted to know where the band were coming from and, library card in hand, followed Sonic Youth's expressway to erudite esoterica.

The Kunsthalle show wasn't enormous, but one could certainly fill an afternoon there. Included were works by Mike Kelley, Isa Genzken, Dan Graham, Jutta Koether, Cindy Sherman, Christian Marclay, Vitto Acconci, Rita Ackermann, etc., etc., etc. Lots of video works from 1980s New York too, like from Tony Oursler. Myrna had, I believe, her first brush with avant-garde film, watching some - and nursing through more - of a Lee Ranaldo piece with shades of Stan Brakhage. She was more interested in the multiple projection installation down the hall, perhaps because of the bright psychedelic colors. Sadly, we couldn't get any pictures of Myrna at the exhibition. A particular loss was the doubtless-incredible photo we might have taken in the room blanketed with a deep sediment of 33-rpm records.

As always, the baby distracted visitors and made new friends and, this time, that included a television camera crew documenting the exhibit. She and I were pulled from the Claire Denis video we'd been watching for a short man-on-the-street type of interview. They asked if Myrna was the world's youngest Sonic Youth fan. Then they asked why I liked Sonic Youth, and to give my perspective on the general cultural fascination with Sonic Youth. It would take a monkey and a typewriter an infinite amount of time to chance upon a reply to this question dumber than my own. All stammering inanities about Steve Reich and KISS, all incomprehensibly bad German, Myrna all shooting a glare at me like she'd never been so embarrassed in all her life. In fairness, I was caught off-guard and not speaking in my mother tongue, and anyway, asking me to explain Sonic Youth is effectively like demanding that I tell you why I find hands useful, or to justify education, or to describe what I like about bread or shoes or sunlight.

I had to work in the evening, so after a short wander through the Altstadt, we made an early retreat back to Köln. As best we can tell, the Düsseldorf air didn't have any overly adverse effects on Myrna's kölsch blut.

...I'll make this a multimedia post. Back in high school and very much under Sonic Youth's influence, I took an interest in John Cage. Aaron, as I recall, found something particularly puerile about Cage's "4'33"" composition, and would rant about it with an excessive rancor that betrayed curiosity. Today he can quote Cage at length, and plays several of his pieces on the piano, though I doubt he'd align himself with all of Cage's ideas all the time. Below is a clip from 1960 of a young Cage performing "Water Walk" for the game show I've Got A Secret, which played at the exhibition, and which is a well worth a watch.

And I should post a Sonic Youth track, oder? I don't think Myrna has a favorite SY song yet. But this morning EVOL is sounding good to me, so here's a live recording of "Expressway to Yr. Skull," from 1986 at Austin's Continental Club. Enjoy.

Sonic Youth - Expressway to Yr. Skull (Live at the Continental Club)


Mark Jabbusch said...

Rediscoverying your 'youth' already! Guess that is a sign of getting over 30. Fun entry!

Anonymous said...

Hopefully, you'll be able to find your "man on the street" interview somewhere online. I'd love to see that. Abigail

Kerry said...

man, all this Sonic Youth talk has me remembering when Kelly and I used to go over to your house and hide your tapes for fun. good times, good times...