Aesthetics (also spelled æsthetics) is commonly known as the study of sensory or sensori-emotional values, sometimes called judgments of sentiment and taste. More broadly, scholars in the field define aesthetics as “critical reflection on art, culture and nature.” Aesthetics is a subdiscipline of axiology, a branch of philosophy, and is closely associated with the philosophy of art. Aesthetics studies new ways of seeing and of perceiving the world.
That said, I’ve been wanting to write this for far too long. Since before David Berman called it quits back in January. Like Cracker, and Leonard Cohen before them, the Silver Jew’s message transcended music.
I’ll never forget my initiation into the music of the Silver Jews by my friend Luca. He said “Listen to the words, not the fact that he acts like he cannot sing.” As a jazz musician, one strives to learn his or her instrument to the upmost degree, and to become what my friend, world renown jazz guitarist, Russell Malone, says a jazz musician must become; “Damn near a virtuoso.” (He is one.)
Sometimes it’s difficult to juxtapose these two worlds. It is something I have always done, though. Since my musical birth, I’ve always kept one foot in jazz, and one foot in modern rock, not to mention funk, r& b, rap, and hip hop. I’ve played and written about all of the above, happily.
But, the world of jazz and the world of indie-country-alt-rock are by far, the most separate. In indie rock, seemingly, it is not important to know how to play music at all. One of my favorite people in the world, a jazzer, calls alternative music, “the alternative TO music.” I’ll keep his or her name anonymous, even though they would not care at all, for they are “loud and proud.” Somehow though, I have always loved all sides, and can see beauty in the varieties of various musical art forms. Through my radio career, people who knew me best knew what a mixed (up) bag any station I would program could be, and so, they left me, contented, as ‘on-air talent.’ Actually, I don’t think I could ever settle on one style of music being my end all, and thus, this blog.
For the Silver Jews, like so many of my favorite bands before them, including Lambchop, (from which SJ’s hail,) the message transcends the music. The wordplay and the form are the centerpiece. It’s positively cocky. Coming from jazz where folks practice incessantly to master their instruments in order to be able to speak through them, today’s indie musicians speak before they can form musical words, regurgitating simple musical form to provide the underpinning of their art; words.
In January, David Berman decided to end his band Silver Jews to focus on other projects.
On the Silver Jews forum he wrote in a post titled “Silver Jews End-Lead Singer Bids His Well-Wishers Adieu”:
Hello, my friend.
Cassie and I went to the cave and it looks great. 58 degrees but the humidity makes it feel like 72.
I’m just going to play fifteen songs. My fifteen favorite ones.
A dollar per song. Plus Arnett Hollow. I don’t
want to keep you underground for too long. Fall Creek Falls State Park State Lodge is great by the way.
Yes I cancelled the South American shows. I’ll have to see the ABC Countries another way.
I guess I am moving over to another category. Screenwriting or Muckraking.
I’ve got to move on. Can’t be like all the careerists doncha know.
I’m forty two and I know what to do.
I’m a writer, see?
Cassie is taking it the hardest. She’s a fan and a player but she sees how happy i am with the decision.
I always said we would stop before we got bad. If I continue to record I might accidentally write the answer song to Shiny Happy People.
What, you thought I was going to hang on to the bitter end like Marybeth Hamilton?
Then, in another post a couple of hours later he posted something about his father in post titled “My Father, My Attack Dog”:
My Father, My Attack Dog
Now that the Joos are over I can tell you my gravest secret. Worse than suicide, worse than crack addiction:
You might be surprised to know he is famous, for terrible reasons.
My father is a despicable man. My father is a sort of human molestor.
An exploiter. A scoundrel. A world historical motherfucking son of a bitch. (sorry grandma)
You can read about him here.
My life is so wierd. It’s allegorical to the nth. My father went to college at Transylvania University.
You see what I’m saying.
A couple of years ago I demanded he stop his work. Close down his company or I would sever our relationship.
He refused. He has just gotten worse. More evil. More powerful. We’ve been “estranged” for over three years.
Even as a child I disliked him. We were opposites. I wanted to read. He wanted to play games.
He is a union buster.
When I got out of college I joined the Teamsters (the guards were union organized at the Whitney).
I went off to hide in art and academia.
I fled through this art portal for twenty years. In the mean time my Dad started a very very bad
company called Berman and Company.
He props up fast food/soda/factory farming/childhood obesity and diabetes/drunk driving/secondhand smoke.
He attacks animal lovers, ecologists, civil action attorneys, scientists, dieticians, doctors, teachers.
His clients include everyone from the makers of Agent Orange to the Tanning Salon Owners of America.
He helped ensure the minimum wage did not move a penny from 1997-2007!
The worst part for me as a writer is what he does with the english language.
Though vicious he is a doltish thinker
and his spurious editorials rely on doublethink and always with the Lashon Hara.
As I studied Judaism over the years, the shame and the shanda,
grew almost too much. my heart was constantly on fire for justice. I could find no relief.
This winter I decided that the SJs were too small of a force to ever come close to
undoing a millionth of all the harm he has caused. To you and everyone you know.
Literally, if you eat food or have a job, he is reaching you.
I’ve always hid this terrible shame from you, the fan. The SJs have always stood autonomous and clear.
Hopefully it won’t contaminate your feelings about the work.
My life has been riddled with Ibsenism. In a way I am the son of a demon come to make good the damage.
Previously I thought, through songs and poems and drawings I could find and build a refuge away from his world.
But there is the matter of Justice.
And i’ll tell you it’s not just a metaphor. The desire for it actually burns.
There needs to be something more. I’ll see what that might be.
if you want to know what evil Herr Attackdog is currently up to look here:
And so, it is all a simple matter of taste.