Tag Archives: nobrow

RIP João “bossa nova” Gilberto (1931 − 2019)

João Gilberto was a Brazilian musician known for pioneering the musical genre of bossa nova in the late 1950s.

The history of bossa nova starts with this recording:

Canção do Amor Demais (1958) by Elizete Cardoso

Canção do Amor Demais (1958) by Elizete Cardoso features the compositions “Chega de Saudade” and “Outra Vez”, both featuring João Gilberto’s guitar beat, which would go on to become a staple of bossa nova.

Then there is bossa nova’s defining moment, the release of “Bim-Bom” (1958), most often claimed to the first bossa recording.

Bim-Bom” (1958)

While researching Gilberto’s death it came to my attention that bossa nova is considered a nobrow phenomenon, i.e. the mixing of high and low culture .

Perhaps Caetano Veloso was the first to make this point in 2013 in The Guardian:

“It [bossa nova] was possibly the first popular music where the themes were existential […] It’s part of what makes it high art. Third-world countries usually produce raw materials that are then transformed into capital by first world nations. This happens in industry, but it also happens in the arts. What was revolutionary about bossa nova is that a third-world country was creating high art on its own terms, and selling that art around the world.” —Caetano Veloso in “Why bossa nova is ‘the highest flowering of Brazilian culture”.

When I further investigated, I came upon this quote by José Miguel Wisnik in Robert Stam’s World Literature, Transnational Cinema, and Global Media (2019) which makes the nobrow point explicitly:

The result within MPB (Popular Brazilian Music) was a perhaps unprecedented synthesis of “high” and “low” culture. Wisnik notes the “permeability established, beginning with Bossa Nova, between so-called culture and popular cultural production, forming a field of encounters that cannot be understood within the binary between music of entertainment and creative and informative music.

RIP Larry Cohen (1941 – 2019)

Full version of ‘Q’

Larry Cohen was an American film director and screenwriter.

He is best known as a B-movie auteur of horror and science-fiction films such as It’s Alive (1974), God Told Me To(1976), Q (1982), Special Effects (1984) and The Stuff (1985), which were full of satirical social commentary.

Later in his career, he concentrated mainly on screenwriting, most successfully with the very cleverPhone Booth (2002).

Absurd bad news: RIP Colin Wilson (1931 – 2013)

Protest: The Beat Generation and the Angry Young Men, Panther Books edition.

I first read Colin Wilson in 2004 when I found The Outsider in a tiny second-hand bookstore about five hundred meters from where I live. This unrecognized — yet extremely prolific — author is very likable for several reasons: his autodidacticism; his love of the outsider and the misfit; his nobrowness and his dislike of pessimism and the pessimist existentialism of Sartre et al. He put the latter this way in a 2004 interview:

When I was in Paris in the early 1950s, Samuel Beckett had just been discovered. Waiting for Godot  was on in Paris and I thought ‘What fucking shit! Who is this half-witted Irishman who’s going around saying life’s not worth living? Why doesn’t he just blow his brains out and shut up?’ I felt the same about Graham Greene and Evelyn Waugh, and later on others such as William Golding. I had always had a passionate feeling that certain people I deeply approved of – like G K Chesterton, who spoke of ‘absurd good news’, for example – and people like Thomas Traherne… the mystics in general, that they were saying that we’re basically blind.

The Misfits is the book of Wilson which made the biggest impression on me. Among other things, it observes how John Cleland in Fanny Hill succeeded in slowing down time (and for me defined the concept of slow motion in literature): “the time it takes to read [some scenes] is obviously a great deal longer than the time it took to do.”

I’ve given attention to Colin Wilson on numerous occasions. At Jahsonic.com[1], on this blog[2].

Beware of the barbarians

[Amazon.com][FR][DE][UK]

When a friend of a friend recommended The Barbarians by Italian writer Alessandro Baricco a year ago I dismissed it as yet another instance of much resented cultural pessimism.

I was wrong.

It is the most refreshing cultural criticism books of the last twenty years. The discourse on the Chinese wall alone — “an idea written in stone,” Baricco calls it — is worth the price of the book.

The book is held together by four mottoes, one of which is “Zu Micky-Maus,” a fragment by personal poulain Walter Benjamin. Benjamin is also quoted with the dictum (new to me) “Boredom is the dream bird that hatches the egg of experience.”

In the first part “plunder” the author takes us on a tour around the pillaged villages of wine, soccer and books to inspect the ravages that the barbarians have inflicted.

The second part is about Google and honors Google with the title “new Gutenberg”. This part also speaks of us humans becoming fish, breathing through gills, becoming mutants.

The third part is about loosing’s one’s soul, a common complaint of cultural elitists.

Part IV is dedicated to some keywords of barbarism. I especially remember spectacle, and I could not help being reminded of Guy Debord’s The Society of the Spectacle.

10/10 for this nobrow masterpiece.

Once more, one thing leads to another

Encore” is a musical composition by Nicolas Jaar.

As usual, one thing leads to another.

This particular Youtube upload (above) features the photo “Dancers Wearing Gas Masks In England On February 1940“.

The photo stems from the Edward George Warris Hulton collection and features girls wearing gas masks and dancing a can-can-like dance.

The sample at the beginning of the song:

“from the labyrinth beyond time and space, seeks his way out to a clearing”

is from an audio recording of “The Creative Act,” a speech by ‘mere artist” Marcel Duchamp given in 1957.

In view of its non-elitist (although it can also be read as a defence of Duchamp’s own greatness) point of view (considering bad art also as art); its emphasis on reception and audience participation; its view as the artist as a mere medium, I pronounce “The Creative Act” to be a nobrow manifesto of sorts.

“Encore” by my poulain Nicolas Jaar is World Music Classic #699.