The Friday Morning Listen: Mephista – Entomological Reflections (2004)

Share this:

Is music created using electronics (samplers and other related studio wizardry) intrinsically less emotional than that created with “real” instruments? I was reading a screed about use of various new-fangled technologies on Bruce Springsteen’s Wrecking Ball in which the commenter implied that these things drain the emotional life out of the music. Another reader astutely pointed out that it seemed like people objected to the idea of these things as much as the actual sounds produced.

A person can prefer once set of sounds (or styles) over another, but there’s absolutely nothing attached to those sounds that make one “better” — or more capable of conferring emotion — than the other. The results are all in the skill of the artist and in the listener’s brain.

This got me to thinking about past arguments I’ve had about what music actually is. But first…

Many years ago, while under the influence of Frank Zappa (more on that in a minute), I got this idea for an art project. I was driving down the street and saw these antique windows that were leaning up against a tree outside of a home that was being renovated. I stopped and tossed four of them into the back of my pickup. At home, I cleaned out the cracked glass, painted the windows flat black, and then spatter-painted them with a bright enamel blues and reds. After that, I built a floor-to-ceiling frame out of 4×4’s and suspended the windows in the frame with chains and turnbuckles.

Tacked to one of the uprights was an index card with the following Zappa quote:

The most important thing in art is The Frame. For painting: literally; for other arts: figuratively–because, without this humble appliance, you can’t know where The Art stops and The Real World begins.

You have to put a ‘box’ around it because otherwise, what is that shit on the

At the time, I had been reading The Real Frank Zappa Book. He was saying that the perceiver of the art needs something to hang onto, something that says “This is art.” Reactions to my little project varied, but one thing was common: a sense (however slight) of discomfort. It was like people were afraid to say “OK, so…what the hell is that?!”

My intent wasn’t to make anybody uncomfortable. I was just kind of inspired by Frank’s ideas and put the project together. There really was no statement being made, other than “See this? I kind of like it.”

And that’s how I feel about music that most people might say lacks musicality. But here’s the thing: you’ve got to define “musicality.” I don’t like to use a dictionary definition. My definition of music is this: perceive it as music and it is music. So this crazed Mephista (a female whack jazz power trio of Susie Ibarra on drums, Ikue Mori on electronics, and Sylvie Courvoisier on piano) is something that I’m sure many people would describe as lacking musicality. The lurching rhythms, splattering percussion, and sploinking electronics make perfect sense to me musically and emotionally.

Feel free to hate it, but it is music.

[amazon_enhanced asin=”B0001XXBE8″ container=”” container_class=”” price=”All” background_color=”FFFFFF” link_color=”000000″ text_color=”0000FF” /] [amazon_enhanced asin=”0671705725″ container=”” container_class=”” price=”All” background_color=”FFFFFF” link_color=”000000″ text_color=”0000FF” /]

Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski is a writer and music obsessive based out of the woods of central New Hampshire. A past contributor to, and Salon, he originated several of our weekly features including the Friday Morning Listen, (Cross the) Heartland, WTF! Wednesday, and Sparks Fly on E Street. Follow him on Twitter: @msaleski. Contact Something Else! at
Mark Saleski
Share this: