I am in the fortunate position of someone who loves music but knows next to nothing about it. The hipsters learnedly compare postpunk and prog-rock and ska bands; the long hairs dispute which recording of Brahms’s String Sextet No. 1 is best; I, on the hand, still hear an immense amount of stuff for the first time and love it in absolutely naïve way. During tonight’s Mad Men, I saw a couple of times an iPod commercial that features what is now, as from about 40 minutes ago, one of my favorite songs — it’s by a band named Chappo I’d never even heard of. (Here’s the song. See if you can get it out of your head.) The musicians have a sense of humor; critics call them “garage-psych,” but on their MySpace page they describe their genres as “Japanese Classic Music / Spanish pop / Hawaiian.” That’s reminiscent of Bob Dylan’s puckish assertion in an interview that he viewed himself chiefly as a “song and dance man.”
Another music recommendation from today: the Agnus Dei from Benjamin Britten’s Missa Brevis. The gentlemen and boys of the acclaimed choir of St. Thomas Episcopal Church on Fifth Avenue sang it today during the Communion procession, and it was very appropriate in its terrifying beauty. (I heard this piece for the first time just a couple of weeks ago at St. Ignatius of Antioch Episcopal Church, and it has stuck with me; here is a good version by a girls’ choir in Denmark.)
And finally, on the music beat, congrats to Maureen Tucker. The Velvet Underground drummer is a tea partier, much to the consternation of the Empire of Monothought — so good for her for telling what she believes to be the truth despite the disapproval of the tribe. (I know all political groups, conservatives included, can get caught up in an Empire of Monothought mentality; but it’s especially egregious with leftism in the entertainment world.) I saw Maureen Tucker perform live once — at a tiny club in Washington, D.C., called D.C. Space, with magician/comedian Penn Jillette on bass. There must have been fewer than a hundred people there, and it was a great experience of someone whose music is honest and personal; a “different drummer” indeed, and evidently that goes for her politics too. I know it’s a cliché to think that her old band, the Velvet Underground, was great, and the summit of Cool, but when you’re a musical naïf you can have the luxury of reveling in the fact that some clichés are simply true. I admire the talents of music critics who can explain the why and how; I think it’s also helpful when someone, struck by beauty, just points to something and says, Wow, listen to this.