Books

'Masters of Sex' Is Educational and Entertaining in Equal Measures

The author suggests that Masters spent his entire life trying to discover love.


Masters of Sex: The Life and Times of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, the Couple Who Taught America How to Love

Publisher: Basic
Length: 440 pages
Author: Thomas Maier
Price: $16.99
Format: Paperback
Publication date: 2013-07
Amazon

To this day, sex is still a touchy subject in the United States. As technology advances, the world seems to become smaller in terms of how people are accessing information and youths are said to be growing up faster. Teen pregnancy still occurs more than it should (although statistically it’s been on decline in the last two decades), sexually transmitted diseases and other preventable issues are still occurring (the recent HIV infections within the porn industry making for a chilling piece of news), and films and television programs dealing with/or showing sex are censored in harsher ways than anything involving torture, violence and weapons.

It’s hard to imagine living in a world in which the notion of sex was even more conservative and cryptic than it is today, yet in the 1950s men weren’t even aware that women could fake their orgasms (because why would they, right?). Just in time to coincide with the release of the Showtime series starring Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan, Basic Books have reissued Thomas Maier’s deft biography of Masters and Johnson called Masters of Sex: The Life and Times of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, the Couple Who Taught America How to Love.

The book chronicles the studies on human sexuality developed by Doctor William H. Masters and Virginia E. Johnson, which more than five decades ago completely changed the way in which people thought about sex. Masters worked in the gynecology department at Washington University in St. Louis, where he was among the best in his field especially when it came to fertility treatments, but it seems that at some point he decided he needed to explore new areas related to his work and he began studying sexual behavior. Maier suggests that he was trying to stay away from home, basically because he was having problems getting his wife pregnant and who would trust a fertility doctor who is infertile himself?

Masters began studying how women responded to different sexual stimuli after realizing that books on fertility showed a particular aversion to the process of how babies were made. Because of the nature of his studies he conducted his first experiments inside a brothel because he thought that sex workers would be the smartest when it came to sex. Even though they helped open his eyes (especially by suggesting he teamed up with a female research assistant) he realized that even prostitutes weren’t the end all when it came to knowledge on human sexuality.

Masters reluctantly hired Johnson as his assistant when he realized that despite her lack of an academic training (she was a twice divorced mother without a college degree) she had a human quality that made people trust her. “She possessed a remarkable talent for discussing intimate subjects [patients] would never dare bring up in mixed company,” writes Maier and it was because of her straightforward approach to the matter, that people started lining up to help out in Masters’ study.

Unlike the report made famous by Dr. Alfred Kinsey a few years before they started their own work, Masters and Johnson didn’t rely on interviews, but on actual scientific facts. They were the first to introduce a camera (concealed within a glass dildo) inside a woman’s vagina to see what happened when she climaxed and the results shattered misconceptions on where lubrication came from and established the then shocking notion that, unlike men, women didn’t need to wait between orgasms.

Maier’s book covers the couple’s studies all the way to their somewhat inevitable marriage, the founding of the Masters and Johnson Institute and their impending divorce all done in a way where it serves an educational purpose as well as being rather entertaining. Masters himself was among the first to concede that there would be nothing salacious in reading his studies and even made an extra effort to make everything sound so clinical that readers didn’t fully understand what was written unless they had some medical knowledge.

Maier cleverly combines chronological storytelling with reflective passages that give us insights into why Masters was who he was (he remains a mystery in ways the charming Johnson never does) making the experience of reading the book feel like something cinematic (or televised for that matter) the book ultimately makes an impact because it goes beyond exposing Masters and Johnson’s work to people who grew up already “knowing” the things they discovered, but also because it ultimately finds poetic irony in the fact that the man who spent his whole life thinking and discussing sex, didn’t have the most pleasurable of lives. The author suggests that the good doctor might have spend his entire life shying away from love and disguising this under his studies. Maier equates Master’s studies to an atheist trying to discover god and failing even when everyone around him seem to be experiencing the divine.

7

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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