My dirty little secret

I am compelled to confess, to the ever-listening ear of the Internet, the most frequented of confessionals, that I prefer, deeply, wildly and guiltily the frenetic moment of the rock gig to the to the rarefied pleasure of the art event. Which is just fine if you are not an artist, but is I feel, a light slur on my sensibilities as an artist.

To be brutally honest I usually go to art events to talk to my friends or to bask in the worthiness of having made the effort to attend the opening rather than going to the show later in the week. Or because I felt like a glass of wine.

What is the attraction of the rock gig? The energy, the noise. Young musicians bursting with attitude, reinventing the world all over again, just for themselves.   Old musicians who really, really know it. All the people not caring if it is or isn’t art.  Maybe it is largely that I am not a musician or a critic, I have no way of judging it so I just go with it. I enjoy it when it is good, and strangely I kind of enjoy it when it is bad as well. It is like an alternative commentary on the state of play in the world.


I have been heartened however, to find on reading Dave Hickey’s book ‘Air Guitar’ (Art issues. Press 1997) that he has dedicated an essay to ‘ The Delicacy of Rock-and –Roll’. At the conclusion of this essay he compares the age of Jazz with the age of Rock

Both ages make art that succeeds by failing, but each exploits failure in different ways. Jazz presumes that it would be nice if the four of us – simpatico dudes that we are – while playing this complicated song together, might somehow be free and autonomous as well. Tragically, this never quite works out. At best, we can only be free one or two at a time – while the other dudes hold onto the wire. Which is not to say that no one has tried to dispense with wires. Many have, and sometimes it works – but it doesn’t feel like jazz when it does. The music simply drifts away into the stratosphere of formal dialectic, beyond out social concerns.

Rock- and-roll, on the other hand, presumes that the four of us – damaged and anti-social as we are – might possibly get it to- fucking–gether, man, and play this simple song. And play it right, okay? Just this once, in tune and on the beat. But we cant. The song’s too simple and we’re too complicated and too excited. We try like hell, but the guitars distort, the intonation bends, and the beat just moves, imperceptibly, against our formal expectations, whether we want it to or not. Just because we’re breathing, man. Thus, in the process of trying to play this very simple song together, we create this hurricane of noise, this infinitely complicated, fractal filigree of delicate distinctions.


Top gig for this ‘complicated, fractal filigree of delicate distinctions’ was Animal Collective at the Kings Arms a few years back.

Top recent gigs – Gorillaz, Massive Attack and Leonard Cohen (though I am not sure that counts as a rock gig)


People I would really like to see – Tom Waits, Radiohead, the White Stripes


Gigs I should not have missed – Johnny Cash, David Byrne





Published by Jill Sorensen

Artist and Fine Arts Lecturer, interested in how we function internally and in relation to other humans and animals.

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