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My always Sonic Youth

June 29, 2009

Play this video while reading this blog post – it might be my favorite Sonic Youth song – before the show tonight (at the Vic in Chicago) I made a list of the ten songs I most wanted to hear them play tonight, and they played none of them, and I still loved the show, and I wonder how many other bands that might be true for.  So often at a concert – one without a set program – there’s always that one song you’re waiting to hear.  So while “Disappearer” and “Teenage Riot” and “Stones” and “Tuff Gnarl” were not on the setlight, it was filled with gems from Daydream Nation, Sister, and even their debut, Sonic Youth.  Point being, what other bands formed in 1981 are not only still touring, but also creating relevant, innovative music and performing it alongside of their first steps together.  That shows tremendous faith in themselves as artists and the music they create, and it just a part of my excitement about them.  Here’s another: the amazing list of artists who have create their album covers.  I’ve visited the Art Institute of Chicago a few times in recent weeks, and seen works by many of the artists who have collaborated with the band: Raymond Pettibon, Mike Kelly, Gerhard Richter, and Jeff Wall.  That intersection of image and sound, showcasing forward-thinking creativity – cetainly worthy of a paragraph of blog drooling, along with a pile of cd’s and a pair of tickets to see them again a month from now in Milwaukee. 

So at what point does the creation of art turn from being a personal expression to being something for an audience, having to break the rules in order to express a vision of the world.  Coltrane did it by re-inventing the sounds of the tenor and soprano saxophones; Grateful Dead did it by swallowing blues, bluegrass, folk, jazz, and rock music, digesting them and spitting them out in ways that continued to evolve over the course of a nearly 30 year career; Sonic Youth did it by re-tuning their instruments, experimenting with their electronics (indeed there are custom Fender Lee Ranaldo and Thurston Moore Jazzmaster guitars coming out next month).  But Toni Morrison, Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, James Joyce and others did it with their words.  Monet, Pollack, Warhol, and others did it with their art.  So does one need to know their art form before breaking the rules?  How well?  Is a wholesale re-inventing of the rules part of the key to creating something lasting and relevant?  This blog will continue to ask that very question – but for now, I’m out of batteries – one rule that can’t be broken.

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