Saturday, October 3, 2009

2005 : 56 "Gesine [Part IV]" by Giuseppe Ielasi

In his 2005 commencement address at Kenyon College, essayist and novelist David Foster Wallace presented the budding grownups with a question. How do you react when, in the context of a generally shitty day, you're at the supermarket and the place is packed with hideous shoppers, the muzak is denatured to the point that it shrivels your inner life on the spot, and the line is long, the injunction to have a nice day insincere, and your shopping cart has one super-cranky wheel that leaves black marks all over the floor? Most of us, of course, just get miserable and bitter. But DFW, in his wisdom, argues that this is where a real education comes into play. We all get to decide what has meaning and what doesn't. We don't have to be miserable in the checkout line. We all have the option of saying that everyday hellish moments are—in a very real way—not about us. In such situations, this enlightened approach can empower any of us to crack a joke or smile for real at the woman behind the counter.

But that isn't always so easy. So when I have a day that's just garbage and gets me feeling down and a little sinister (and, unfortunately, I've had a few recently) I often turn to art (music and poetry especially) that's open in form, open in content—art uninterested in pushing me into feeling sad about the dead horsey, or okay about my undying interest in having big sexy blue eyes trained in my direction. When an artist hasn't made easy assumptions about my inner life, recognizes that I often don't want an answer or an escape, I can be moved strangely, lifted, rejuvenated. Bring on the supermarket! This kind of art is my route to knowing, in my heart, that what DFW says about choice is true and it matters tremendously.

Guitarist and electronic musician Giuseppe Ielasi's 2005 album Gesine is one that brings me back into the realm of the emotionally capable. It's short (31 minutes long) but, in the vein of most instrumental electro-acoustic work, Gesine feels expansive. The album is also a study in contrasts: background versus foreground. The background, pretty much throughout, is composed of deliberately haphazard percussion and grinding static/feedback sounds, but the leading tone is that of Ielasi's acoustic guitar, front and center on most tracks. It's a complex tone, but mostly it's comforting. Ielasi draws on both the grounded blues-folk feel of John Fahey and Bert Jansch, and the silky, bright feel of Jim O'Rourke's playing on albums like Halfway to a Threeway and Eureka. Overall, Gesine does extremely well what a lot of electro-acoustic albums do pretty well: it allows the listener to get close to each piece as an aesthetic object/architecture. The stripped-down and roomy quality of the tracks, coupled with their self-possession, invites one to make genuine contact with their textures. Come on in. It's okay. You can let your guard down. Whitney Houston will not always love you here. Gesine, for me, is a good route back to generosity—so I can handle with dignity Sharon Stone's cellulite broadcast via tabloid cover. So I can chit-chat amicably with the bagger mashing my sesame seed rolls with the Drano.

Eric Burger

Listen: Giuseppe Ielasi >> "Gesine [Part IV]"


jpb said...

My favorite passage from that DFW speech is this: "The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day."

Darren said...

Hapna is a very interesting label.