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This Recording

is dedicated to the enjoyment of audio and visual stimuli. Please visit our archives where we have uncovered the true importance of nearly everything. Should you want to reach us, e-mail alex dot carnevale at gmail dot com, but don't tell the spam robots. Consider contacting us if you wish to use This Recording in your classroom or club setting. We have given several talks at local Rotarys that we feel went really well.

Pretty used to being with Gwyneth

Regrets that her mother did not smoke

Frank in all directions

Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais

Simply cannot go back to them

Roll your eyes at Samuel Beckett

John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion

Metaphors with eyes

Life of Mary MacLane

Circle what it is you want

Not really talking about women, just Diane

Felicity's disguise

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Monday
Dec232013

In Which She Had Heard The Song Before

Of the Season

by RACHEL SYKES

Something about music feels different in December. The sounds of Christmas are familiar, but the end of a year brings lists and the writing of lists brings regret. Thinking back on a year and wondering what was new, the music you listened to and the music to which you might have listened tend then to blur. This is the year in which I’ve grown stubbornly against recommendations, taking an instant if inadvertent dislike to that which people say I’ll love. In the same breath, I’ve grown lazier too, gaining music in fits and starts, as if my attention could only grasp the dirtiest beats.

From December 2012, a fallen post-it behind my desk lists songs by British Sea Power in the hand of someone I loved. An email from the same month, the subject line: Scott Walker, written by a friend who kissed, proficiently but tentative, whilst his new album played behind her. I have listened, now, to neither. Making room for the new isn’t easy. If favourite songs are incantations, the spell of the familiar must be broken to allow the new to take hold. I often think that to do so means emptying my mind entirely, the contents strewn upon the carpet perhaps sixty per cent lyric and forty per cent bass, each syllable bluntly punctuating what grey matter was left behind.

But each December I make a playlist, as if trying to guess what music will stick through January. Imagine then what these playlists would say about me. They tell me that last December I walked to my office to Azealia Banks, pounding steps to the rhythm in the hopes that my concentration would emerge at the end. As the drizzle turned to ice, frost settled on the lake and I would pass by, sometimes, with Jessie Ware playing softly, attempting to skate across the ice and into a calmer state of work, deeply praying that the frost wasn’t thicker than the soles of my new shoes.

As December began, I helped plan a conference that, like all conferences, felt like a failure until the mistakes had gone unnoticed and wine spilled down the shirts of our supervisors.

Waiting for the final speech to finish, we ducked behind velvet curtains that divided the audience from the food, running in and out of the grand hall with huge plates like we’d been given the keys to our kindergarten. Where the attendees could not see, we sprinted towards the wine bar and I jumped to click the heels of my shoes as Billy Joel played in the background. In the glee of partial success, hopeful in the potential of a leftover wine store, we sang Joni Mitchell around a piano and read from Moby Dick at midnight.

In the morning, we spoke of literature before the coffee brewed. Mid-December, I came home, and fell asleep in large headphones whilst listening to Marvin Gaye. Having obsessed and re-obsessed on Frank Ocean, I became nostalgic for the break-up albums my mum had played around me, hidden from new boyfriends in the glove compartment of her Nissan. “That comes from me,” she said, when Otis Redding was on my night stand, forgetting her larger love for Rod Stewart, the rotating tapes of Gabrielle and late ‘90s Simply Red.

My playlists might say all of this, but with technology I am careless, if not precariously near Luddite. Between this and last December I have plugged and unplugged my walkman into too many computers, with too rough a hand, and it has wiped and been wiped a dozen times or more. This is good for me, I guess, emptying out what I find comfortable, the chants and spells I pound into the pavement, in the favor of the new. These songs have been fortifying, but when you walk the same streets each day, stuck in the same riffs and hooks that are plugged so deeply in your ears, you risk becoming weighed by all the thoughts they’ve saved you from.

This December, for several days, my Walkman wouldn’t turn on. Fine, I thought, except that this loss coincided with the unusual need to learn seventeen disco songs. My first paid gig with a functions band, I struggled to differentiate between the lyrics of Chic, to keep in mind which line followed which, baffled by the lack of storytelling and how I could sing about being the peg on someone’s ladder. Without headphones, I couldn’t follow the eighteen bar break as the keyboards climbed, ominous, one tone at a time, blanking on which point I needed to interrupt with a yell of “Freak!” I sat in the bathroom during the interval with my eyes tightly shut, running the lyrics down the inside of my eyelids and wondering if I could gauge the right pitch by singing in my head.

Over the walls of the stall, two of the party guests chattered, asking which boss was drunkest, wondering about the deepness of my voice, and questioning the decision to extend ‘Get Lucky’ by ten minutes. But the band finished with our mistakes unnoticed.

This December, there was also Beyoncé, or a whole page of my notebook titled “Feelings about Beyoncé.”

For three days, I kept forgetting that ‘***Flawless’ had been written, rediscovering it when the videos shuffled and the thrill of conviction seemed new again in her eyes. No one I know will talk to me about it, so I have to use analogies. Imagine if the sports team you’ve followed your whole life won the championship. Imagine if a writer you’ve admired and supported suddenly pushed every envelope you didn’t know they knew. But Beyoncé, and my Feelings about Beyoncé, are bigger and more surprising than analogies can stretch to.

Perhaps, next year, I will need better friends; I have already started to make one. This December, I’ve been driven around, because I never learnt to drive. It’s become a family tradition; my biological father failed his test thirteen times and when he eventually passed decided he didn’t much like to. Having never deigned to drive, I have never much thought about playlists for driving but now, in December, I am starting to. Circling around our town quite early on a Saturday the kind of blinding sun that cracks only occasionally through December poured into the car. At the same time, Chvrches, a band I’d not really cared for, played too loudly for our heads. I’d heard the song before, of course, but the whole sound made more sense, right then, if only for that moment.

Rachel Sykes is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Nottingham. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here. She tumbls here and twitters here. She last wrote in these pages about Katy Perry and John Mayer.

"Valentine" - Jessie Ware & Sampha (mp3)

 

Friday
Dec202013

In Which Adam Levine Lent His Brave Story To Them

Perfect Body, Perfect Soul

by ELIZABETH BARBEE

My gym has several TVs that provide a constant source of nuisance, primarily because I am already angry that I am exercising. The treadmill has a way of turning things which would otherwise be mildly irritating (Kelly Ripa) into personal offenses. A few nights ago my workout session coincided with the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show.

Unfortunately I had not dressed for the occasion. My shirt, a freebie from my college dorm, was decorated in chili stains and sported the ironic words “Ellsworth Hall- We're Bringing Sexy Back!” I had chosen the stationary bike next to a full length mirror for reasons unclear to me now, and my iPod had just run out of battery. Not since middle school had I found myself in an environment so conducive to self-loathing. With a mind set on masochism and nothing to distract me, I peddled away and zeroed in on Cara Delevigne's thighs.

Thighs, I think, attract envious female eyes the same way that breasts attract lustful male eyes. They are the things that most dramatically separate supermodels from the rest of us, the parts of the body that are the most difficult to tone and virtually impossible to buy. The Victoria's Secret runway was full of long, lithe pairs like Delevigne's, each tanned set virtually indistinguishable from the next. The models' bodies were so uniform I might have forgotten other physiques existed if not for my own reflection in the mirror and Taylor Swift, who started bellowing near the middle of the show.

Don't be deceived by my use of “bellowing.” I love Tay-Tay. Her lanky, Gumby-like presence was a welcome relief. Although  appropriately dressed, she seemed just as victimized by the festivities as I did. Unlike the other acts that night who performed on a discreet platform, Swift was forced (I presume) to share the runway with the models. She served as both sound system and foil. Next to her stick straight hair the Angels' manes looked even more bouncy. Her much discussed virginity only amplified the naughty nature of the show.

She first sang a particularly vengeful version of “Trouble” in a sequined mini-dress and then joined Fall Out Boy in this sort of Union Jack/Ring Master getup. Both performances involved exaggerated arm movements and heavy footsteps as though she was determined to take up as much space as possible, which I respect. Periodically she bowed down to the models, pointed at them in a way that was supposed to be meaningful, or slapped them on their rumps.

I got the sense that all of this was very embarrassing for Swift, that the minimal but dramatic choreography was someone else's idea. The hilarious thing about her is that she always looks as though she thinks her grandma is watching. She is willing to capitalize on her looks but not her sexuality. That's why she was only sort of in underwear that night. She's modest.

Although Victoria's Secret is a company that depends upon women for its survival, it seemed like only men were enjoying the show. The camera cut several of times to a smug Adam Levine who, after lending his brave story to those Proactiv infomercials, makes so much more sense as a person. I imagine for him the night was a sort of retrospective of all the women he has dated, his presence in the front row a fuck you to the kids who made fun of him for having the occasional pimple.

Dehydrated and breathless, I transferred all of my feelings about the runway onto the only other person in the gym – a twenty something boy working the night shift. “I bet you think you're really something,” I thought as he played with his phone. Paranoia and leg cramps convinced me that he had intentionally programmed the TV to this station to whip me into shape. “Oh, you think I'm fat, do you,” I thought, burning another couple calories, while he remained disinterested. “I will show you!”

My anger eventually subsided but my feelings of inadequacy did not. I have downloaded calorie counting apps, taken to weighing myself daily, and vowed to never buy Victoria's Secret underwear again. I am proud only of the last point but feel compelled to mention all three, because I am unabashedly looking for pity. I probably need to work on that more than I need to work on my figure.

Elizabeth Barbee is a contributor to This Recording. This is her first appearance in these pages. She is a writer, graduate student, and adjunct professor living in Dallas, Texas.

"To Be Young, Gifted and Black" - Donny Hathaway (mp3)

"Just Another Reason" - Donny Hathaway & June Conquest (mp3)

Thursday
Dec192013

In Which Wittgenstein Stayed At Home And Sang A Little Love Song

A Totally Different Kind

It has been some time since we last sampled the zestful correspondence of Ludwig Wittgenstein. His philosophies were most impressive, but his private correspondence surpasses even that exacting standard. Ludwig was most certainly gay, most definitely eccentric, and intellectually demanding beyond all measure. His time at Cambridge brought security and stability to his career; he was often treated with kid gloves by an understanding administration. He was left to his own devices, and in his letters with Bertrand Russell, he hints at the machinations involved in the greatest philosophical mind of his century.

11/29/12

From the Minutes of the Moral Science Club

Mr Wittgenstein read a paper entitled “What is Philosophy?” The paper lasted only about 4 minutes thus cutting the previous record established by Mr Tye by nearly two minutes.

Philosophy was defined as all those primitive propositions which are assumed as true without proof by the various sciences. This definition was much discussed but there was no general disposition to accept it.

At an earlier meeting that term the Club had adopted the following rule: “The whole object of papers read shall be, as a general rule, to open a discussion, and therefore no paper shall last longer than seven minutes, except by special permission of the Chairman on a special occasion.”

Russell teaching at UCLA

6/22/12

Dear Bertrand Russell,

There are yet some nice events happening in one’s life e.g. getting a letter from you (thanks very much for it). Much less nice is the following event: I had a discussion with Myers about the relations between Logic and Psychology. I was very candid and I am sure he thinks that I am the most arrogant devil who ever lived.

Poor Mrs Myers who was also present got, I think, quite wild about me. However, I think he was a bit less confused after the discussion than before. Whenever I have time I now read James’s Varieties of religious experience. This book does me a lot of good. I don’t mean to say that I will be a saint soon, but I am not sure that it does not improve me a little in a way in which I would like to improve very much: namely I think that it helps me to get rid of the Sorge (in the sense in which Goethe used the word in the 2nd part of Faust).

Logic is still in the melting-pot but one thing gets more and more obvious to me: The propositions of Logic contain ONLY APPARENT variables and whatever may turn out to be the proper explanation of apparent variables, its consequence must be that there are NO logical constants.

Logic must turn out to be of a totally different kind than any other science.

The piece of poetry which you sent me is most splendid! Do come to Cambridge soon.

Yours most, etc.

Ludwig Wittgenstein

with Georg von Wright 9/20/13

Dear Bertrand Russell,

Types are not yet solved but I have had all sorts of ideas which seem to me very fundamental. Now the feeling that I shall have to die before being able to publish them is growing stronger and stronger in me every day and my greatest wish would therefore be to communicate everything I have done so far to you, as soon as possible. Don’t think that I believe that my ideas are very important but I cannot help feeling that they might help people to avoid some errors. Or am I mistaken? If so don’t take any notice of this letter.

I have of course no judgment at all as to whether my ideas are worth preserving after my death or not. And perhaps it is ridiculous of me even to consider this question at all. But if this is ridiculous please try to excuse this foolishness of mine because it is not a superficial foolishness but the deepest of which I am capable. I see that the further I get on with this letter the less I dare to come to my Point.

But my point is this: I want to ask you to let me meet you as soon as possible and give me time enough to give you a survey of the whole field of what I have done up to now and if possible to let me make notes for you in your presence. I shall arrive in London on the 1st of Oct and shall have to be in London again on Oct 3rd (evening). Otherwise I am not fixed in any way and can meet you wherever you like. My address will be the Grand Hotel.

I know that it may be both arrogant and silly to ask you what I have asked you. But such I am and think of me what you like.

I will always be yours

L.W.

8/16/12

Dear Bertrand Russell,

Thanks for your letter. I am glad you read the lives of Mozart and Beethoven. These are the actual sons of God.

Now as to “p v q”, etc.: I have thought that possibility – namely that all our troubles could be overcome by assuming different sorts of Relations of signs to things – over and over and over again! for the last 8 weeks!!!

But I have come to the conclusion that this assumption does not help us a bit. In fact if you work out any such theory – I believe you will see that it does not even touch our problem. I have lately seen a new way out (or perhaps not out) of the difficulty. It is too long to be explained here, but I tell you so much that it is based on new forms of propositions.

All this however seems to me not half as important as the fact (if it is one) that the whole problem has become very much clearer to me now than it has ever been before. I wish you were here and I could tell you the whole matter for I cannot write it down; it is much too long!

Do write again soon!

Yours most, etc.

Ludwig Wittgenstein

I feel like mad.

Russell hitting the UCLA campus

12/26/12

Dear Bertrand Russell,

On arriving here I found my father very ill. There is no hope that he may recover.

These circumstances have – I am afraid – rather lamed my thoughts and I am muddled although I struggle against it. I had a long discussion with Frege about our Theory of Symbolism of which, I think, he roughly understood the general outline. He said he would think the matter over. The complex problem is now clearer to me and I hope very much that I may solve it. I wish I knew how you are and what sort of time you are having, and all about you!

Yours ever most, etc.

Ludwig Wittgenstein

Russell at UCLA

3/25/13

Dear Russell,

I can’t refrain from writing to you, although I have nothing to tell you. I am as perfectly sterile as I never was, and I doubt whether I shall ever again get ideas. Whenever I try to think about Logic, my thoughts are so vague that nothing ever can crystallize out. What I feel is the curse of all those who have only half a talent; it is like a man who leads you along a dark corridor with a light and just when you are in the middle of it the light goes out and you are left alone.

I suppose you are staying with the Whiteheads at present and hope you are having a good time. If once you have nothing better to do, do send me a line letting me know how you are, etc., etc.

L. Wittgenstein

Russell in office hours

8/13/19

Dear Wittgenstein,

I have now read your book twice carefully. There are still points I don’t understand, some of them important ones. I send you some queries on separate sheets. I am convinced you are right in your main contention, that logical props are tautologies, which are not true in the sense that substantial props are true. I do not understand why you are content with a purely ordinal theory of number, nor why you use for the purpose an ancestral relation, when you object to ancestral relations.

This part of your work I want further explained. Also you do not state your reasons against classes. I am sure you are right in thinking the book of first-class importance. But in places it is obscure through brevity. I have a most intense desire to see you, to talk it over, as well as simply because I want to see you. But I can’t get abroad as yet.

Probably you will be free to come to England before I am free to go abroad. I will send back your MS when I know where to send it, but I am hoping you will soon be at liberty.

All best wishes. Do write again soon.

Yours ever,

B. Russell

Paul Wittgenstein is second from left; Ludwig Wittgenstein is at right.  

Russell wrote to the lady Ottoline Morrell about his encounter with Wittgenstein:

I have much to tell you that is of interest. I leave here today, after a fortnight’s stay, during a week of which Wittgenstein was here, and we discussed his book every day. I came to think even better of it than I had done; I feel sure it is a really great book, though I do not feel sure it is right.

I told him I could not refute it, and that I was sure it was either all right or all wrong, which I considered the mark of a good book; but it would take me years to decide this. This of course didn’t satisfy him, but I couldn’t say more.

I had felt in his book a flavour of mysticism, but was astonished when I found that he has become a complete mystic. He reads people like Kierkegaard and Angelus Silesius, and he seriously contemplates becoming a monk. It all started from William James’ Varieties of Religious Experience, and grew (not unnaturally) during the winter he spent alone in Norway before the war, when he was nearly mad.

Then during the war a curious thing happened. He went on duty to the town of Tarnov in Galicia, and happened to come upon a bookshop which however seemed to contain nothing but picture poscards. However, he went inside and found that it contained just one book: Tolstoy on The Gospels. He bought it merely because there was no other. He read it and re-read it, and thenceforth had it always with him, under fire and at all times. But on the whole he likes Tolstoy less than Dostoevski (especially Karamazov). He has penetrated deep into mystical ways of thought and feeling, but I think (though he wouldn’t agree) that what he likes best in mysticism is its power to make him stop thinking.

I don’t much think he will really become a monk – it is an idea, not an intention. His intention is to be a teacher. He gave all his money to his brothers and sisters, because he found earthly possessions a burden. I wish you had seen him.

wittgenstein's sketch of his house

3/19/20

Dear Russell,

It is a very long time since you heard from me. How are things with the introduction? Is it finished yet? And how is your collarbone? How did you manage to break it?

How much I’d like to see you again! I’m no longer in any condition to acquire new friends and I’m losing my old ones. It’s terribly sad. Nearly every day I remember poor David Pinsent. Because, however odd it sounds, I’m too stupid for nearly everybody.

Do write to me soon and also send your introduction.

Yours sadly,

Ludwig Wittgenstein 

Wittgenstein5/6/20

Dear Russell,

Many thanks indeed for your kind letter. But now you’ll be angry with me when I tell you something: Your Introduction is not going to be printed and as a consequence my book probably won’t be either. – You see, when I actually saw the German translation of the Introduction, I couldn’t bring myself to let it be printed with my work. All the refinement of your English style was, obviously, lost in the translation and what remained was superficiality and misunderstanding.

Well, I sent the treatise with your Introduction to Reclam and wrote saying that I didn’t want the Introduction printed, it was meant to serve only for his own orientation in relation to my work. It is now highly probable that as a result Reclam won’t accept my work (though I’ve had no answer from him yet). But I’ve already comforted myself on that score, by means of the following argument, which seems to me unanswerable. Either my piece is a work of the highest rank, or it is not a work of the highest rank. In the latter (and more probable) case I myself am in favour of its not being printed.

And in the former case it’s a matter of indifference whether it’s printed twenty or a hundred years sooner or later. After all, who asks whether the Critique of Pure Reason, for example, was written in 17x or y. So really in the former case too my treatise wouldn’t need to be printed. And now, don’t be angry! Perhaps it was ungrateful of me but I couldn’t do anything else.

Warmest regards from your devoted friend

Ludwig Wittgenstein

It would be marvellous if you could come to Vienna in the summer.

Wittgenstein

From the Minutes of the Moral Science Club

10/25/40

Prof. L. Wittgenstein: “Other Minds”

The second meeting was held in Mr. T. Moore’s rooms in Trinity, with Mr. Lewy in the chair. Prof. Wittgenstein read a paper in which he discussed various problems connected with other peoples’ minds. First he mentioned several of the answers which have been given to the question “How do we know of the existence of other peoples’  minds?”, and explained why he considered the analogical argument to be unsatisfactory.

Then he discussed the nature of this question itself; and, among other things, described at some length the sort of circumstances under which he would wish to say that a person did not believe that other people had minds, or did believe that flowers felt.

A discussion followed.

"Visiting Statue" - Grimes (mp3)