Super quick one between school and work:
Alyssa Bereznak, one of my favorite writers at The Ringer, published “How the Internet Ruined Mysteries” today and it got the wheels turning. It was about the unmasking of Elena Ferrante, as close as the literary fiction world gets to fireworks.
If you didn’t know or didn’t care, thus positioning you in a 99.9% majority, you can read Bereznak’s piece to get the details. She lays out the specifics better than I ever could. She also nails the surrounding arguments, in that she recognizes that both sides are, well, right.
True: The doxing of a writer using a pseudonym was kinda gross, even more so that it was a female writer of much acclaim. “Others declared the story a violation of female privacy, an investigative journalist’s chauvinistic grab at the “low-hanging fruit” of a woman who wanted to control her own agency,” Bereznak writes. Count me among the others, I guess.
Also true: As Hamilton Nolan makes clear (http://theconcourse.deadspin.com/the-identity-of-a-famous-p…), investigative journalists are going to investigate. Thinking that public figures, companies, ideas, etc. shouldn’t be questioned or researched or probed for accuracy is also kinda gross. And, while the hours logged on Ferrante could’ve been better used on any number of ProPublica stories, I’m definitely not going to get on my high horse when my investigative journalism over the past five years has amounted to a scrapped story about the freaking curse of the Velvet Unicorn.
So, while this news nugget burns bright for the next couple days, you get a fascinating squabble where two sides with different ethics lay out moral arguments that, shocker, don’t compromise their core tenets. And, shockier, neither side is misinformed. The residence of your ultimate opinion won’t be which side you think is true, but which side you think is truer.
But that’s not why Bereznak’s piece makes my wheels turn. It’s this:
“As the internet has evolved into a ruthless spout of indiscriminate information, we have gained things: a system of power checks, the ability to hold celebrities accountable for their vanity, the ability to order pizza by tweeting a single emoji. But we’ve lost the precious delight of an awe-inspiring mystery.”
To put it less intelligently, the result of the hunt is, *Chevy Chase bug-eyes*, BORING. When it comes to art, it’s the hunt that’s fun.
Anyone who suffered through Lost knows this. I honestly feel bad for the people on the Banksy beat because they don’t realize that they’re ruining everything enjoyable about Banksy. When Banksy is unmasked, all of that intrigue and mystery will disappear. Because, really, in the realm of art, mystery makes things extra interesting. (Hard science and history might be the only fields where the discovery is the interesting thing.) When the mystery leaves, you’re just left with a thing. And, because that thing’s interesting-ness (science word) had peaked when its mystery-multiplier (math word) was at its highest number, the thing by itself will always be something of a letdown afterward. Even if the thing itself is really good. Like Banksy. Like The Tuss.
The Tuss was a brother/sister IDM duo that sounded uncannily like Aphex Twin. No one was really fooled by this, much like people aren’t fooled by pleas to invest in water insurance from the water company. The Tuss released two great little EPs that, really, should’ve just been left alone without anyone confirming their Richard D. James-ness. Even Rephlex cofounder Grant Wilson-Claridge tried to make that point, writing “People seem more interested in speculation and celebrity than content, quality or music. Be careful you don’t miss something really great that isn’t really famous.”
But people inflated the mystery and that became the most interesting thing about The Tuss. “If this isn’t RDJ, who is it?” That was the fun part! “I guess we gotta confirm the source.” NOT THE FUN PART, GUYS. The problem: When RDJ admitted what everyone thought, it stripped The Tuss of its most interesting thing. Even though everyone already assumed the parentage, the definiteness still had that BORING effect. I still like those EPs, but I don’t think I love them as much as when it was a fun little secret that RDJ didn’t want/care to cop to.
To kick this into a more metal sphere, think how fun those few months were when Velvet Cacoon were wine-drenched black metallers playing freaking diesel harps. That stuff was a blast.
So, to preserve that sensation, I’ve tried to limit myself from researching some makers of my music. Case in point, I don’t want to know anything about Nikita Bondarev.
Siberian Ruins, his newest work, is made up of two parts that encompass ambient, field recordings, chamber classical, and more. It’s cold. It’s lonely. It’s wonderful. And I can’t accurately describe how this record feels to me. It’s one of those rare moments when you get to hear you; how you think, how you feel, your own internal rhythms. That’s not an everyday thing.
My fear is that if I learn more about Bondarev, the record will become less about me and more about him. That’s an INSANELY narcissistic thing, but I’m holding on to Siberian Ruins pretty tightly. Considering that I often have a hard time liking the music I used to love, and finding some fresh snow like this to play around in is so fleeting, I want to preserve that feeling for as long as possible.
And I kinda like what I can infer about Bondarev. Maybe he’s a drifter in the Siberian wilderness, recording bird sounds and, when the rare room and board presents itself, cracking open his soul all over his recorder. Maybe he lost everyone and he wants to be no one, just another nameless mound of snow. Maybe his way of battling ennui is losing himself until he’s found. Finding out he’s, like, a post-grad with a laptop would be kind of a bummer. Mystery: wooooooooooosh. Even if the music is still good, the not knowing is gooder (English word.)
However, all of this also makes me feel kinda gross. While I’ve said that knowing everything about everyone will make you like no one, I still want to know about people and their experiences. (As an example, the Solange record is SO MUCH DEEPER knowing a little bit about the artist and the context.) I want to relate to them on a deeper level. I also want to know what things inform them, even if those things are ugly and make me stop listening to them. Ignoring the rest of humanity for your own selfish ends ain’t no way to live. Not knowing anything ain’t a way to live either, even if, at the end of our time here, that’s all we really soak up anyway.
I don’t have a right to know, but I want to. I think. Sometimes. I just don’t really know where that puts me.