Media Detail



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Uploaded by : Benjamin Gottlieb | 11/12/09

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  • Title:
    Look at What the Light Did Now
  • Artist:
    Calvin Johnson
  • Year:
    n/a
  • Description:
    Calvin Johnson performing a cover of the Little Wings song "Look at What the Light Did Now" at an undated Slender Means Society show in Seattle, WA.
  • Disciplines and Movements:
    Folk
  • Themes and Tags:
    quiet, melancholy, absurd, joyful, anxiety and abstract

“I've seen Calvin Johnson perform live once; it was a wonderful and fun experience, and one that bolstered the impression – one I'd previously received only from the uncharacteristically inoffensive, if nonetheless less than enlightening, responses to YouTube videos of his performances – that many seem to think of his shows as akin in some ineffable spirit to performance art. I suspect that it is something in his aloof demeanor, the contrast of his blunt baritone with his unexpectedly effete gesticulations, and his unpredictable and capricious tonal changes that has sparked this comparison; the distancing effect that much performance art has on some audiences – who, in lieu of finding anything palpable to attach to, apply obscurity and obliqueness to the medium as if they were its essential elements – is replicated by Johnson's physical movements, which often seem as though they were the residue of thoughts made inarticulately manifest in insecure postures. But the best performance art, no matter how seemingly obtuse, usually direct the willing viewer or participant toward proper engagement; Johnson's movements seem off-the-cuff and capricious. If it were performance art – in the deified sense –, it would be bad performance art. I think he's probably just having fun. Johnson is one of the most pioneering forces on the independent popular music scene, and has been for about twenty-five years now; but, to watch him sing, it feels as though you're witnessing someone pushing himself beyond the limits of his quite limited talents: his dancing is awkward, his voice not "good" in any traditional sense, his stage presence in no typical sense very strong. But I find his dancing and his singing beautiful, his stage presence entirely charming, and it's largely because it feels as though I'm watching someone have fun with himself, unconcerned with whether or not others share the sentiment. This video of him performing "Look at What the Light Did Now" – it's a cover of a song by Little Wings, whom I don't know particularly well – is wonderfully emblematic of his beguiling style. I love how, during the chorus, his voice all but disappears beneath his whisper: we know the chorus; we don't need to hear him sing it. I love it it how, with confident unconcern and no apparent reason, he repeats the beginning of one of the song's tongue-twisting lyrics. When he makes a languid attempt at flight toward the end of the video, we're watching someone enjoy himself; I find it moving.”
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