book spotlight: girl in a band
Of course, Kim Gordon would have a dog named Merzbow.
And, of course, you should probably read this book. Girl in a Band is Kim Gordon’s memoir and she’s had a remarkable life as an artist and a founder of the band Sonic Youth. The writing is serious and direct, but not weighty. Easy to read but very meaty at the same time.
The book has three things going for it that will appeal to the reader. First, for those interested in gossip, there is a lot about Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore’s personal life, including their divorce, which ended Sonic Youth. Second, the book has a lot of detail about Sonic Youth’s genesis and specific albums.
In my view, the best thing about Girl in a Band is that it describes a type of career that we don’t often think about – the “art music” career. Generally, musicians tend to be deep specialists. A lot of instruments require years of practice. Playing for audience is also a skill that takes years to cultivate. That is why most professional musicians do only one thing, music, and it is something they have done since youth.
In contrast, Gordon started out as a visual artist and the moved into music during college. If you know a lot about recent art history, you know this is common. A lot of visual artists like to start bands and just jam. Heck, even Basquiat was known to play the clarinet every once in a while in a band.
What is unusual is for these “art bands” to survive and make it big. Sonic Youth is an exception. Part of it has to do with the fact that “No Wave” music tolerated music that was raw. Also, time allowed Sonic Youth to grow and mature. Not surprisingly, Gordon has maintained a career as a visual artist and is able to show in some of the world leading galleries.
So Girl in Band is a good book, but it’s also an interesting book about a type of creative person that needs more attention. You also get some interesting discussion of art world celebrities. Recommended.