To further my ongoing campaign to recontextualize “stupid,” one of my favorite adjectives these days (in much the same way Michael Jackson put a 180-degree spin on the term “bad,” way back in the late-’80s) I have a few names for your consideration: Alexander Scriabin, Christian Wolff, Lois V Vierk. These cats wrote some seriously stupid music.
Please allow me to further define what I mean by this before I go any further. Stupid, as I now use the term, is when someone does something, which, for all intents and purposes, should result in something unbelievably dumb, idiotic, asinine, and bad (pre-Michael Jackson usage), but in the end winds up creating something implausibly excellent…that’s stupid.
Getting back to the three aforementioned composers, over the past couple of weeks, I’ve learned that I wasn’t suffering from Scriabin-addiction in total isolation. Other composers and performers have synchronistically brought up the notorious Russian in unprompted conversations—is there a Scriabin resurgence in the air? Whether or not you’re a fan of his music, you have to admit that it’s completely over-the-top, to the point of ridiculousness and beyond. This is exactly what I love about his orgasmic piano writing. It’s completely enrapturing, and just when you think there’s no more headroom during the climatic moments, the music broods larger, jumps off a cliff, freefalls down a rabbit hole, and shatters into a million bits upon reentering the Earth’s atmosphere—it’s amazingly stupid.
Fits of impossible hysteria also plague the music of Lois V Vierk. Her music thankfully tackles only a few ideas which, at the outset of any given piece, only hint at the ultimate trajectory of where you’re going to end up—panting in the sidelines, catching your breath, recalibrating your brain after being blown away by the frightening sweep of notes and glissandos that you never thought possible. This, my friends, is stupidly amazing stuff.
Christian Wolff is a different breed of stupid, more along the lines of the dictionary meaning. His music imbues a childlike naïveté. It lacks any obvious rationality behind it, yet it somehow seduces us with its stealthy charms. Music that doesn’t need to be figured out in any way shape or form in order to be enjoyed is fantastically stupid. Excuse me now, I’m off to try my hand at writting something really, really stupid.