Monday, April 16, 2012

CYOA Week 4: Responses

Wonder Town
Thirty years of Sonic Youth.

Sasha Frere-Jones' ability to capture music through words drew me in right away.  I had an unsuccessful go at doing music reviews while working at a radio station in Ecuador, and Frere-Jones captured everything I couldn't.  I found his choice not to mention Sonic Youth in the first paragraph surprising but successful.  He painted a great picture of grotesque rock and roll.  By the time he mentioned Sonic Youth it was a welcome break from the barrage of off-putting images he had listed.

The words Frere-Jones used to describe Sonic Youth's music almost made me hear it.  I'm not really a fan and, consequently, not that familiar with their sound.  Moaning, howling, whines--all of these words gave me a good idea of their sound.  I also appreciated the detail surrounding the band's lyrics, both in terms of the way they sing and the way that they compose their work.

I think the author did a decent job of covering the band's history and focusing on their current release.  The start was background heavy, which seemed important for those of us unfamiliar with the history of the band.  The subheading (I'm sorry, my vocab isn't up to par so I don't know if that's the technical term) implies that the band still produces music, so I knew to expect something current at the end.  I do feel like Frere-Jones focuses a bit too much on the band's past even when he starts addressing the present.  He mentions their new sound but immediately refers back to their 1980s albums, which detracts a little bit from the point.  I also thought the final paragraph could have been tied a little more tightly to the story.  It's important to note that they've become an institution, but maybe that should be mentioned earlier.  I would have liked to see the article end in talking about the album and the band's current work, not their image.

Shooting an Elephant

As a piece of creative nonfiction, I really liked this story.  I found it to have fewer journalistic elements than what we know today as narrative journalism, but that's to be expected from a pioneering piece of the genre.  I thought the metaphor of the elephant was intriguing, although at first I thought it was going to be a symbol for the people rather than a representation of imperialism.  In any case, it was interesting that George Orwell set this up as the overarching theme of his piece.

The convenience of this metaphor makes me question his credibility.  It's possible, I suppose, that the events unfolded as Orwell described them and that they just happened to be the perfect metaphor for his thoughts on imperialism.  However, it seems to me like he would have had to tweak some facts to make the story work in the way it does.  I'm hesitant to question it because I thought it was a really fascinating piece of writing that drew me in quickly and a lot of what did draw me in was the details that may not be real upon examination.

In terms of the success of the metaphor, I think Orwell took a little too long to develop it.  As I said earlier, I thought the elephant was going to be a metaphor for the colonized people.  He described it as tame but fed up with its situation, shackled but with some degree of freedom.  Both of those things for me called to mind the effects of imperialism on an oppressed group of people.  The way in which he finally comes to use the elephant as a representation of the way imperialism affects his own actions is interesting, but a bit confusing when it comes so late in the piece.


  1. Maggie,

    I had a similar reaction to the Sonic Youth piece. I agree that the author has a way with words and can effectively paint his picture, at times, sans music-related terminology. As someone who doesn't really listen to this type of music, I definitely appreciated this approach to narrative (and I appreciated not having to listen to it since his descriptions were so evocative!).

    I think it's interesting that you called the writer out for ending the piece on the band's image and not on their current work, album, etc... I agree with you that perhaps this was not the best finish to the piece. Perhaps something more engaging and more timely would have been an effective ending to an all-in-all well written piece.

  2. Maggie,

    I am glad to see that you also noticed Frere-Jones's "ability to capture music through words". This kind of sums up one of the reasons why Cam & I chose this article, because we thought that seeing an example of how another author could do it so well might inspire us to be able to do it ourselves, in our final piece. :)
    However, I also found that the author focuses a little too much on referring to their old sounds instead of focusing on their new sounds. Another student said they felt this made the ending of the article, where he discusses their new release, a little weak. What do you think?

    See you in class,