Sunday, December 17, 2006
No doubt she and John Lennon were deeply in love. And no doubt the house of cards that was The Beatles did not tumble down solely because of Yoko's influence. And no doubt the statements Yoko made in her visual art were both timely and evocative -
But I defy any of you to listen to more than 30 seconds of any of her recorded music without scraping your eardrums out with plastic spoons.
+3 for Great Love of the Century, -10 for musical gift to the world.
there, I said it.
Which is not to say everyone ought to like it, or anything; nor to deny that it's tough to get one's head around, or into.
But I think Ono, or at least the movement she was part of, opened a lot of doors onto what was possible with music. They might not be doors everyone wants to look behind, but that's not the point.
so. would you say her work is sort of the predecessor to, like Lou Reed maybe? what is meant by "avant/noise"?
what bugs me is that it seems like one can't have any sort of neutral opinion of Yoko - she's either a figure of angelic sympathy or the devil in big round glasses.
the short, wildly generalized, probably highly inaccurate version:
Any time you say "well, Yoko made significant contributions to the American art world, and its merging of auditory and visual experiences, by blahbleeblah and bleeblahblee," someone's going to pipe up and say "oh, christ, how can you listen to that garbage! you can't be serious! what a moron!" etc.
but every time you say "wow, I don't see what she's getting at. are you sure that's music? that's really hard to listen to. I don't think she should have ever stepped out of her art studio, myself," someone pipes up to say "what, you don't like Yoko because she's a woman, right?"
so, you know, WTF.
But also Sonic Youth, Cocteau Twins, Coil, just off the top of my head; probably all the industrial scene, really; and of course the really outre acts like Psychic TV and Merzbow.
I think it's perfectly possible to have a neutral opinion of Ono - to recognize her contributions as what they were, and if something in her work doesn't work for you, shrug and move on. I also think lots of people - especially lots of people with an interest in music and/or art - have a hard time distinguishing between "not my thing" and "shouldn't have been made." The first is a reasonable stance; the second almost never is.
Now you're on a subject after my own heart. I don't really see Yoko's atonal vocal stylings as influential on any of the above groups. (Especially not the Cocteau Twins.) The contemporary artist most influenced by Yoko Ono would have to be Diamanda Galas.
The post-industrial and shoegaze styles you're talking about are have their roots in (variously) early electronic music, musique concrete, minimalism, krautrock, and/or ambient.
In any case, you're right, in that I don't think Ono's work was a direct influence on the artists I mentioned (and there's certainly no mistaking Liz Fraser for Yoko!) - only that the avant-garde movement, in art and in music, expanded what was aesthetically possible, and Ono was a well-known and visible example of that movement.
(Also, it's not an outrageous suggestion that I'm just entirely talking nonsense, and drawing more meaningful lines of connection than objective reality allows for; that's certainly one of my quirky lumper chaos-magick reflexes. Nonetheless, I remain a defender of interesting dissonance [and creepiness and pretentiousness].)
Industrial only goes back to the mid to late 70s (going back to Cabaret Voltaire and Throbbing Gristle) and ambient goes back a few years earlier, to the early 1970s (actually earlier if you count the more ambient examples of krautrock and minimalism).
Everything else I described would be contemporary (or even earlier) than when Yoko Ono was recording. Musique concrète goes back to the 1940s – basically sound collage-based noise – much of Nurse With Wound's work could be said to be "musique concrete". When John Lennon and Yoko Ono were doing stuff like "Two Virgins" or "Revolution #9" and Frank Zappa was doing similar stuff around that time, this was basically what they were drawing on.
Krautrock is a catch-all for the avant-pop coming out of Germany in the late '60s and early '70s - basically, ultra-psychedelic rock like Can, Neu, and Amon Düül and early electronica and ambient like Tangerine Dream, Popul Vuh, and Kraftwerk. The electronic/ambient end of Krautrock pretty much represents the starting point of modern "electronica" in all of its forms.
Minimalism is a "classical" genre that started in the late 1960s by people like Terry Riley, Steve Reich, and LaMonte Young. Philip Glass is a later example. This one of the really important sources of later ambient music – Terry Riley's "A Rainbow in Curved Air" and Steve Reich's "Music for 18 Musicians" are good examples of this kind of proto-ambient.
The influence of conceptual and performance art from that time was important too. Yoko Ono was an active member of Fluxus, while Throbbing Gristle grew directly out of COUM Transmissions, who did extreme (and often self-mutilating) performance art along the lines of Hermann Nitsch, Marina Abramović, etc.
I dig that stuff.
so was Yoko more influential or influenced-by?
but I think I get it.
I don't know, maybe more "off on her own trip".
She worked with John Cage and LaMonte Young in the early '60s, so there was probably an influence there, but probably more in terms of pushing the boundaries of what's considered music than any direct influence.
I've read that the B52s and Le Tigre count her as an influence, and I guess I can here some of that in the B52s vocals. Perhaps she influenced other New Wave "scream queens" like Lene Lovich and Nina Hagen as well.
I may have to try, one day...
Whatever the hell those are. I think they're like sporks.
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