New Beck – “Harry Partch”

Harry Patch, the longest surviving UK veteran of World War I, lived an honorable life, his very existence serving as a reminder to countless others of how far we’ve come, and at what cost, in matters of international conflict and discourse. And thanks to an initially subpar rocker beef that’s blossomed into something going on classic, Harry Patch has also served as a reminder of the life of composer Harry Partch, and how far we’ve come in matters of incorporating his 43 tone scale into countless blog posts. To recap: Radiohead wrote a song for Harry Patch the Tommy, which the Fiery Furnaces’ Matthew Friedberger mistook to be about Harry Partch the musician. After castigating the band for “brazenly and arbitrarily associating [themselves] with things that [they] know people consider cool,” which never happened, Friedberger tried to backpedal with a tongue-in-cheeky retort that again missed the mark, closing with: “Matt would have much preferred to insult Beck but he is too afraid of Scientologists.”

Too bad, Matt. Looks like Beck really, really wants to feel the wrath of Matt Friedberger’s zing, because he’s posted a song to his website titled “Harry Partch,” as in the radical composer and not the UK soldier. Hansen says it “employs Partch’s 43 tone scale, which expands conventional tonality into a broader variation of frequencies and resonances.” (In his initial slag post, Friedberger said it should be “48 notes to the octave.” But that was probably a joke. It’s hard to tell with him sometimes!) It sounds like a demented mashup revue of the last century’s popular, classical, and avant garde music forms, with a little outer space thrown in for good measure. Hear it at or below.

Beck – “Harry Partch” (MP3)

It’s 43-tones of ZING. And thanks to the Matt Friedberger for eliciting this crazy piece of music by the sheer force of hot air alone.

Is this the most fun feud of the decade? It might be, once we figure out how to get Jay Reatard to take a leak on one of them.

UPDATE: Hey, Matt’s responded. Twice! He posted his “Imaginary Respone!” and “Unedited Blog Post” at the Fiery Furnaces Myspace (via P4K). All spacing is his.

Somebody (he didn’t want his name mentioned (though he did want his new, great band, Circle of Buzzards plugged)) told me that Beck posted a song about Harry Partch on the internet.
A virtual response, therefore.
But doesn’t this imaginary feud demand imaginary responses? And therefore, imaginary response songs? Shouldn’t we step–isn’t now the time to ascend–from the merely virtual to the boldly imaginary?
When I made up my imaginary Radiohead song about Harry Partch (in full knowledge that there was no Radiohead song about Harry Partch, regardless of whatever Dave H. said to people before he talked to me (I love you, Dave)), and was sharply critical of it, I certainly didn’t imagine my endeavors in this regard would engender such a response. How tremendously for the best it has all turned out to be
How fruitful an imaginary song proved in practice! So as we all move forward, shouldn’t we admit that posting songs on the internet–being virtual, in other words–is so last year? So to speak. Isn’t that what every music management company intern from Northeastern recommends that bands do? That can’t be right.
I propose nothing less than the liberation and use of only our imaginations for the direct purpose of, not just pop music writing, but pop music production and distribution. And subsequent, now imaginary, blog discussion.
Won’t these imaginary songs sound sweet? I imagine they will. Think how adaptable to changing tastes and fashions they’ll be. And how many billable hours of intellectual property disputes they’ll cause! This thought-experiment rock is no doubt the breakthrough the industry professionals have been waiting for.
The music industry has already gone to the imaginary model in many respects. Bands–at least smaller bands–only get to make imaginary livings. (To say nothing of bands that imagine they are playing rock music by pressing the space bar on a laptop and hitting a floor tom. I am saying nothing about that.) Of course many fans–and fans are always the most progressive element of the rock music community–have long since gone to the imaginary model. They must really be imagining things to admire the music acts they do.
Let’s all follow their lead!


Unedited blog post
Someone wrote the band an email in which he wrote something about “the music community”. I have to write something now, because the music community, which doesn’t make much music and fosters even less worthwhile community, conceives itself, so it tells me, to be at the beck and call of whatever the music websites write about.
I am proud to have been raised to seek out, revere, and practice the power of the pun without apology–or explanation. And I am pleased to be in a position where I perceive it useful to write such a thing in such a style, both as a joke and in earnest.
The socially or individually idiosyncratic association of words and phrases on an aggressive, and often aggressively trivial, asemantic basis is so certainly a, if not the, main source of any sort of dynamism that pertains to the ludic, and what perhaps derives from the ludic (that what has often been conceived as the opposite of the ludic)–this is so certainly the case as to release me of my obligation to finish the sentence directly.
That was written in a style I associate with a certain sort of Zappa fan. Of course, if you admire and encourage an art of creative misunderstanding in others, and you practice the art of misunderstanding yourself, in both senses that might be taken, then you certainly expect to be misunderstood.
Which brings me to the next point. As a member of a rock band–a high calling indeed–I certainly cannot be concerned that something I say might be misquoted, taken out of context, quoted without reference to the tone in which it was said or the question to which it was an answer, and therefore be misunderstood, even in an inflammatory fashion, or, from a primitive perspective, unflattering light. To be concerned with such a thing in such a way is the exclusive business of the politician’s consultant or the marketing man. A member of a rock band has no truck with their conceptions or their proclivities. (Please don’t imagine otherwise on the basis of some extremely crude notion of Pop.) One simply welcomes any such misunderstanding as part of his or her calling. Rock music is a practice in which one explicitly does not control the context in which one’s work, in the sense of both objects and processes, is received and used. One does not, therefore, control or seek to control the understanding of one’s work, in anything but a trivial sense. And one’s work in a rock band includes the performance of ‘interviews’.
Rock music owes its current pre-emenince in the contemporary arts to the fact that it is pre-eminent in the art of being made one’s own. In this sphere, one is entitled, without regard to standard or competence. Expertise in all matters of operation is conferred automatically. This in the case in principle, but not in practice. The analogy I would draw is to a piece of progressive legislation, enacted but not enforced.