"…apart from songs, [short fiction] is my favourite thing to write. I think that was the thing that really helped me with songwriting because a short story is similar to a song in that you have to really build something up, and really tell something, and make it feel big in such a short space of time."
"I call my alliance with this Brahms phrase an affinity because it fell short of love. […] I developed an instant crush on that phrase, and smack in the crush’s central seam I understood that the infatuation was implausible, a crush I had no right to feel, a crush that would not win me friends or sympathizers; by announcing to myself that I felt affinity with that phrase, I was destroying other pacts, other possibilities of sociability, belonging, conformity, communicability. […] I decided: I’ll side with what I can’t understand in Brahms’s phrase; I’ll side with the possible rottenness of an object I might one day love.”
Brahms struggled to compose his first piano concerto, writing in 1857 that he had “no judgment about this piece anymore, nor any control over it." Intimidated by his own ambition, haunted by Schumann’s fatal melancholia, and desiring of Schumann’s widow, he was, in no small way, tortured. The piece finally premiered to hisses; no one applauded. Dejected, he didn’t premiere another concerto for two decades. History lauded it a great work, but a century later, in the 1960s, it was again at the center of a public disagreement, Gould and Bernstein arguing over tempi in what became the anecdotal touchstone for whether soloists or conductors have greater sway.
When cultural critic Wayne Koestenbaum reflects on first hearing the piece as a teenager, he recalls a deep “affinity for the ugliness.” The concerto opened with neither kindness nor melody, nothing expected nor pleasing. It refuted an insufferable morality and capitalism and represented all the "dominant magnetisms (musical, visual, aromatic, tactile, syntactical)" he’d seek instead. On the one hand, protest. On the other, desiring the sublime.
"Notes on Affinity" was published in 2011 (in full here) and reprinted in Kostenbaum’s recent collection My 1980s & Other Essays (New York: FSG, 2013).
“Having people view a certain image of you is always hard to deal with. It makes you really self-conscious. Part of Cadallaca is creating identities for ourselves, and telling stories, and different people that you can be during a song, and different people you’ve been in the past. Being the writer of that is an answer to people saying, ‘This is describing you’ over and over again. I think the best way to be represented is to represent yourself.”
Corin Tucker in an interview with Tizzy Asher published in The Rocket, a now-folded Northwest local music rag. Here’s four minutes of “Oh Chenilla" at a late 90s birthday party for…wait for it…Miranda July.