I’m an “immersive” listener and viewer, a purist for watching or hearing Art with total attention, no distractions tolerated. Not long ago I was perplexed to read some article about a “poptimist” music “critic” who publicly apologized for reviewing some Beyoncé album after “listening” to it only twenty times. Naturally, my most immediate concern was to ask how the hell any sentient being could stand to listen twenty freakin’ times to something as earnumbingly worthless as a gawd**mn Beyoncé record [NB: Truly, it is a sign of the degenerate age that we live in, that wordpress automatically edits in the superscriptimathing over the “e” in that talentless mulatto drag queen’s name]; but a secondary response was a twinge of regret. I haven’t quite bestowed twenty listens, at least according to my itunes’ record keeping, to The Rainbow Syndrome, and The Rainbow Syndrome is a Work of Art.
But then, my listens to The Rainbow Syndrome are immersive listens. I play that thing like a symphony. Damnit, I listen to The Rainbow Syndrome to be moved. Whereas that fool Beyoncé fan [NB: WordPress, bitch, please. That mutt ain’t French nohow.] obviously just had Beyoncé on repeat while he was tossing salad or whatever. Earth to poptimism: that ain’t listening.
I say all this, however, to come around to addressing an aesthetic pitfall in my practice, which is that my inner subjective state as an audience member sometimes succumbs to a sort of quadrophonic irrationalism. By which I mean to say, I can tend to miss the trees for the forest.
For example, when I watch a film– let’s say Kubrick’s The Shining, to give a consummately apt example– my mental attitude is to “see” the frame entire, as if the camera is a Spectator, even an Actor, and my eye is one with the camera, so that, as it moves or zooms, my mind’s eye is pacing the grounds of the Overlook. Just as there is no peripheral vision inside this movie “eye” that has become my “eye” (which is appropriate, since my own peripheral vision is rather poor, and so is my mental processing of it, which means that when I’m walking in public my “view” is indeed very much unidirectional and tunnel-focused like a Steadicam shot, which can be contemplatively fascinating but also hazardous to myself and passersby), so the contours of the frame and how it cuts the reality that is seen is foremost in my mind. Insofar as film studies honors a distinction between “framing” and “composition”, it may well be that framing is what is paramount in my own approach to film viewing (though I suspect this is a fault of taste).
But as a corollary, I also am little focused on picking out particular details, especially in a mobile take. The average “intelligent” viewer might well take to pondering the choice of a painting on the wall, for example. Not so much me. I try not to go cruising to pick out individual details within the frame: I want to mentally subsume the whole frame. The play of light, colors, photographic texture, as well as composition (in terms of my fantasy alternate life as a film director, I think I would be good at choosing light, color, texture, framing– composition, however, would likely prove problematic): these to me are the content of the shot, its primal “message”; to go mentally scrutinizing individual details for their semiotic meanings would be a literary heresy, a distraction. Unfortunately, however, this also means I can be weak at picking out the sorts of things Rob Ager excels in picking up on.
My cinematic orientation is pictorial rather than literary; I seek to experience the moving image as a motion picture, indeed as something symphonic. My musical orientation is more difficult to characterize: working back from my encounters with Mahler, I’d say I do read even the 18th Century symphonies in “dramatic” terms (Harnoncourt’s theory of the Mozart final symphonic trilogy as a “meta-symphony” or “orchestral oratorio” was seized on with great relish, as it validated my own inchoate sense of the trilogy as the explication of a “statement”). Pop music seldom allows for so much narrative; it has to be grasped sensuously and, as it were, “all at once”. At the same time, a great song like “My My” demands to be experienced as a kind of musical set-piece, a tour de force of rushing excitement like a fountain of ecstatic poetry pouring forth at a moment of peak excitement. “Wishlist” wafts onwards and upwards with a divine afflatus: this isn’t the sort of give-and-take, the drama of turns, that one experiences with a Minuet and Trio, but it has its own sort of “suspense”, as its yearning communicates tentativeness and delicacy even as it rushes on with the conviction of rapture. Something could be said, too, about the homophonic torrents of Von Karajan, with the strings subsuming all before them in a rushing ocean of sheenful sound, versus the twinkling interplay of delicate voices in the myriad of chamber orchestra recordings popular today, but I carry myself now so far afield it is best to retire from the field: it is late, and I am tired, and Karl Bohm [NB: wordpress does not know where his superscript goes, the racist philistines] turns in his grave to hear me anticipate comparing Mozart’s “Prague” Symphony and T-ara’s Temptastic.
Anyway: on a more mundane-ish level, the other day I suddenly came to attention when I realized that KARA inserts a reiteration of “Cupid”s intro “BAM!” exclamation in the first chorus after the line, “Get you Cupid chu!”. It’s obvious enough that I likely had noticed it at some level; but suddenly this “BAM!” asserted itself upon my full and delighted attention. How could I not have bestowed a full and grateful consciousness upon this teasing, flirty wisp of sonic yumminess before?
And then here, in this Inkigayo performance, they rub Youngji’s “BAM!” all up in my face with a flashcut close-up (with an “in-camera” literal flash effect too!); and what before had been a subtley that had passed me by suddenly becomes a show-halting peak moment.
I guess Hara has the next “BAM!” insertion, which is cool. People claim they can’t tell Seungyeon’s voice from Youngji’s when they’re singing at the non-diva-belting level (Seungyeon, obviously, can do that and Youngji can’t); but hell, sometimes I can’t tell Hara’s parts from Youngji’s. Of course, it’s Youngji that really makes “BAM!” for me, the sauciness of the wide-eyed maknae in her all-devouring knowingness. It’s like she’s splashing a wet water gun blast of love in my face [Ed.: The heck–?], halting me with her loving stare and demanding attentiveness. Ooou, straight to the heart!
Since I started replaying the Day & Night album in advance of the release of In Love, KARA has become probably the highest of my second-tier listens in K-pop, just behind the most exalted tetranity of A Pink, T-ara, Lovelyz, and Laboum. Actually, they’ve been getting more listens than Laboum. And to think, I was sure that Nicole and Jiyoung’s departures meant KARA was dead. Now, they’re more relevant than ever– even if one has to think nostalgically sometimes of that old quintet with so many great hits. But the quartet KARA of today is a living thing, a lively and lovely thing, and with Youngji’s help our KARA love lives again in this BAMful present.
And now– their new sister-group April is about to debut, which has me quite excited, because if their album is at the level of quality-control of the last few KARA and Rainbow records, they will probably rise quickly in my iTunes stable to staple-status– and perhaps reward my twenty-plus listens with all sorts of new secrets.
OMG yeah! Puh-leeeze let this be great! “My body is ready for this Swiss Miss disco!”