The F Word: The look, sound, and taste of words


The F Word. An online column for Frank De Blase to pontificate, ruminate, placate, and salivate. We'll have reviews and previews, we'll discuss trends in local and national music scenes, and we'll try to do it as reverently as possible. Yup. Let's get started.

Anthony Bourdain's work revolved around food, but it also revolved around words. Sadly, there are no more words as Bourdain took his own life last week in France.

In eulogizing Bourdain a few days ago, it got me thinking about art, its various disciplines, and their descriptive flexibility. When viewing or listening or reading an artist's endeavor — when you're taking it in, as you do — it becomes apparent that all forms of art share a lot of the same metaphors and hyperbole. Unleash those similarities and you double your pleasure, double your fun.

Language is an art in and of itself and when conveying an emotion outside of a medium's purview, it inflates the capacity in which a description is given. Bourdain's parlance was, simply put, delicious. But he went way beyond that polite parlance when describing his first oyster as if remembering a sexual encounter. Apparently it was epic.

"I took it in my hand, tilted the shell back into my mouth as instructed by the by now beaming Monsieur Saint-Jour, and with one bite and a slurp wolfed it down. It tasted of seawater ... of brine and flesh ... and, somehow ... of the future. Everything was different now. Everything. I'd not only survived — I'd enjoyed.

"This, I knew, was the magic I had until now been only dimly and spitefully aware of. I was hooked. My parents' shudders, my little brother's expression of unrestrained revulsion and amazement only reinforced the sense that I had, somehow, become a man. I had had an adventure, tasted forbidden fruit, and everything that followed in my life — the food, the long and often stupid and self-destructive chase for the next thing, whether it was drugs or sex or some other new sensation — would all stem from this moment."

The late, great Java Joe hipped me to this wider view of using one art's language to create something new when he based a coffee, Cafe Tubac, on a review he'd read about one of his favorite cigars. Joe translated the things said about the cigar into coffee lingo and ingredients. Cigar reviews typically discuss the sweetness, the smoothness of the draw, hints of wood, and the finish of a cigar. So Joe, with a dash of cardamom, a splash of cinnamon, and some other ingredients he took with him, recreated his favorite cigar in coffee connoisseur lingo.

And it's the same with music. I write about music with splashes of color that can themselves be turned around and described by music: A painting can be bold and loud, just as a song can be bright or moody. And both can be equally captivating, happy, or sad.

A sculpture can loom, and so can a string section. A guitar can sound as blue as the sky. A book can read with the rhythm of a drum. Music especially, can be used to describe virtually anything.

Sometimes it can be a bit of a stretch, especially in the craft beer department, where some ales defy description. For instance, it has been announced that Motorhead is coming out with a "Road Crew" beer. I love Motorhead, but I'm not sure any of that flowery terminology that describes beer really applies to the band.

Art that can be interpreted by other art is more durable and accessible. I suggest you give it a try; look at it as something other than it is. It'll broaden your view and improve your experience immensely. Enjoy the oysters. And for some added shits and giggles, once you've skulled a couple of the new Motorheadbrews, send me your descriptions in musical and non-musical words.

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