Preposterous Universe

Sunday, June 27, 2004
Modern cool

Occasionally the demands of the tangible world -- unpacking after a recent move, for example, or even trying to be a good scientist -- make it hard to indulge in blogging. Fortunately, wiser minds than my own have developed all sorts of coping strategies, such as the Sunday Song Lyrics you'll find at the Volokh Conspiracy.

So here is a Sunday Song Lyric of my own. In honor of moving, I'll offer up the first song that really struck me upon moving to Chicago five years ago: Patricia Barber's Postmodern Blues (punctuation as in original liner notes):
as the century ends and tradition turns in on itself
as Boulez screams and yells his music is put on the shelf
repetition is back, a rose is a rose, said herself
Bill Gates has won
i've got the postmodern blues

1900 began the obsession with function as form
with a hammer and nail and a paintbrush and camera they storm
in Russia the Bolsheviks conquer, the masses want more
Karl Marx has gone,
i've got the postmodern blues

line is fragmented, Isadora invented modern dance
philosophers ponder while communists squander their chance
illusion is captured in Cubism's reign over france
Picasso's gone
i've got the postmodern blues

the stock market rallies as futures are tallied and sold
pensions are raided and parachutes painted in gold
conformism packaged to save us all from the cold
Cezanne is gone
i've got the postmodern blues
I love Barber's lyrics, but they're not her strong suit -- take your pick from singing, composing, and playing the piano, she's fantastic at all of them. Although "jazz" would be the idiom you'd squeeze her into if you were so inclined, she is heavily influenced by classical music (her original training) and is somewhat celebrated for startling interpretations of pop tunes (both "Light My Fire" and "Ode to Billy Joe" are personal favorites of mine). The All-Music Guide sums her up pretty well: "Quirky, Cerebral, Ambitious, Playful, Melancholy, Sophisticated, Stylish, Intimate, Bittersweet, Freewheeling."

Best of all, she plays (most) Monday's at the Green Mill here in Chicago, five dollar cover in a cozy and historic venue. Another reason this is the world's greatest city.

Ideas on culture, science, politics.
Sean Carroll

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