Two music-related books to get me through Sunday...
Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys by Viv Albertine (she of The Slits; if you don't know, you probably won't care, but maybe you should – she writes well about "art school, squatting, hanging out in Sex with Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren, spending a day chained to Sid Vicious, on tour with The Clash, and being part of a brilliant, pioneering group of women making musical history").
And Emily Petermann's The Musical Novel: Imitation of Musical Structure, Performance, and Reception in Contemporary Fiction:
The Musical Novel builds upon theories of intermediality and semiotics to analyze the musical structures, forms, and techniques in two groups of musical novels, which serve as case studies. The first group imitates an entire musical genre and consists of jazz novels by Toni Morrison, Albert Murray, Xam Wilson Cartiér, Stanley Crouch, Jack Fuller, Michael Ondaatje, and Christian Gailly. The second group of novels, by Richard Powers, Gabriel Josipovici, Rachel Cusk, Nancy Huston, and Thomas Bernhard, imitates a single piece of music, J. S. Bach's Goldberg Variations.
All I need is co-ordination
I can't imagine, my destination
My intention, ask my opinion
But no excuse, my feelings still remain
My feelings still remain...
Cindytalk got me through... much of my youth, and most of my twenties. This is an unreleased demo track recorded in 1982. It was, as Gordon Sharp says in the YouTube comments, one of the first ever Cindytalk recordings...
Twenty-six years ago. Fuck...
Music & Literature 3 brings to light the life’s work of three artists who have to date been denied—by geography, by language, and by politics—their rightful positions on the world stage. The Australian writer Gerald Murnane, a rumored Nobel Prize candidate, has been deemed “a genius on the level of Beckett” by Teju Cole, who opens this issue with a spirited exchange of long letters with the Aussie great. For the first time, Murnane’s entire catalog is introduced by top writers and critics, and we glimpse his three remarkable archives, which the author insists will remain unpublished until after his death. “The Interior of Gaaldine,” the infamous text that explains his fourteen-year absence from the world of fiction, rounds out more than 120 pages of new material on and by one of our finest yet little-known Anglophone writers. The issue’s second half is devoted to the Slovak composer Vladimír Godár and his unlikely collaborator, the Moravian violinist-singer Iva Bittová, who honed their crafts under the pall of the Communist regime and who only in recent years have begun cultivating worldwide audiences. Now, for the first time, Godár’s artistic writings as well as his manuscripts are available in English, alongside a portfolio of photographs and an oral history of Bittová’s career, as told by some of her closest collaborators and artistic partners.
Another excellent looking new(ish) journal:
Music & Literature is ... dedicated to publishing excellent new literature on and by under-represented artists from around the world. Each issue of Music & Literature assembles an international group of critics and writers in celebration of three featured artists whose work has yet to reach its deserved audience. Through in-depth essays, appreciations, interviews, and previously unpublished work by the featured artists, Music & Literature offers readers comprehensive coverage of each artist’s entire career while actively promoting their work to other editors and publishers around the world. Published as print editions (and soon to be offered as digital editions as well), issues of Music & Literature are designed to meet the immediate needs of modern readers while enduring and becoming permanent resources for future generations of readers, scholars, and artists.
Writing in The Quietus, Nix Lowery gets it spot on, calling 'Subterraneans' Bowie's "most po-mo moment on Low, and also arguably the most beautiful":
'Subterraneans' is a multi-layered and celestial piece, a sonic painting brimming with referentiality and subtext. With a reversed bassline taken from his rejected The Man Who Fell To Earth soundtrack, Bowie references his attachment to the film, to his character Thomas Newton, and to the general sense of a man out of step, and out of time, with his surroundings – allegorically explored earlier in his work through his 'Major Tom' character. The main melody, a sweeping and encompassing phrase, contains a melody audibly mirroring Edward Elgar's 'Nimrod' from his Enigma Variations. Whether coincidental or deliberate, there are subtexts to be read here. 'Nimrod' is part of a series Elgar wrote in which each piece obliquely referenced one of his acquaintances. 'Nimrod' referenced Augustus J Jaegar, who convinced Elgar, when in a moment of great despair, to continue writing music, citing the German composer Beethoven as an inspiration. Bowie, too, was surfacing from a period of disillusionment, despair and drug induced creative drought – perhaps Visconti and Eno were his Jaegar? Or perhaps the idea of Berlin, and its isolated idealists, was his muse? The shimmering ethereal backwards melodics combined with synth-strings recall Eno's solo work significantly – on 'Subterraneans' more so than on any other Low composition. Lyrically, Bowie echoes the cut-up style of beat poetry, and a lone jazz saxophone answers the lyrical call, summoning surrealism and the creative fire of Burroughs and Ginsberg. Regardless of the replete referentiality of this track, its real beauty is that it works emotively, a contemplative and fragile beauty like ripples on a lake, Subterraneans' melodies flow organically. Ripples too, of its magic can be discerned in Vangelis' Blade Runner soundtrack, and most audibly in Angelo Badalamenti's collaborations with David Lynch – Subterraneans reaches towards futurity with a surreal and mystical architecture.
Mike Kelley’s engagement and rupture with popular music began as a teen in Detroit, in the candle-lit gloom of the Catholic Church, with such polyphonic choral chants as the revised fifth-century liturgy “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence.” A piece of music that in “its dark and gloomy quality set the mold for much of my [Kelley’s] future musical interests.” The ancient order of choral music would evolve through popular tongue and secular insertion—French rather than Latin—to threaten, through undulating voice, the Church itself. Thirteenth-century clergyman Jacob of Leige decried this new music and its singers, saying that they “bay like madmen nourished by disorderly and twisted aberrations, they use a harmony alien to nature itself.”
Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence: The Voice in Mike Kelley’s Music by Mark Beasley.
Gorgeous piece from A Winged Victory For The Sullen (composer Dustin O'Halloran and Stars of the Lid member Adam Wiltzie)...
Interesting looking "book presentation and conversation", at The Swedenborg Society, between Brian Dillon and Momus on the release of their new books (Sanctuary and Solution 214–238, The Book of Japans) on Monday, June 27, 2011, 7pm (admission: £5.00):
Sanctuary is a fiction set in the ruins of a Modernist building on the outskirts of a city in Northern Europe. The structure, a Catholic seminary built in the 1960s and abandoned twenty years later, embodies the failure of certain ambitions: architectural, civic, and spiritual. But it is the site too of a more recent disappearance. A young artist, intent on exploring the complex and its history, has gone missing among the wreckage. Months later his lover visits the place, unsure what she is looking for, and finds herself drawn into the strange nexus of energies and memories that persist there. Sanctuary is a story about what survives – of bodies, ideas, objects and the artistic or literary forms that might describe them – in the wake of catastrophe.
Following the success of The Book of Scotlands, Momus has been commissioned to write another book as part of Ingo Niermann’s Solution Series. Solution Japan, or The Book of Japans, makes a case for the rehabilitation of the idea of the “far.” We live in a time when difference and distance have been eroded and eradicated by globalization, the Internet, and cheap jet travel. The Book of Japans restores a sense of wonder – along with a plethora of imagination-triggering inaccuracies – by taking the reader on a trip not just through space but also time.
Brian Dillon was born in Dublin in 1969. He is the UK editor of Cabinet magazine and AHRC Research Fellow in the Creative and Performing Arts at the University of Kent. He is the author of Tormented Hope: Nine Hypochondriac Lives (Penguin, 2009) and a memoir, In the Dark Room (Penguin, 2005). His writing appears regularly in such publications as frieze, Artforum, the Guardian, the London Review of Books, and the Wire. He lives in Canterbury. briangdillon.wordpress.com
Momus is the pseudonym of Scottish musician, artist, and writer Nick Currie. Born in Paisley, Scotland, in 1960, he has released twenty albums of pop music on independent labels like 4AD, Creation, and Cherry Red. He writes regularly about art, design, and culture for the New York Times, ID, frieze, Spike, and 032c. In addition to The Book of Scotlands, Momus has published a novel, The Book of Jokes (Dalkey Archive Press, 2009). imomus.com
Not quite sure why it is, when the history of postpunk / early dance music is written, that Pink Industry never get mentioned...
Sustain-Release is the private press of UK artist Richard Skelton. He started the label in 2005 as a commemorative tribute to his late wife Louise, with the intention of publishing her artwork alongside his own musical offerings. Since its inception he has released a series of raw and beautiful recordings presented in lovingly assembled, limited-edition pressings.
Operating under a variety of guises, including A Broken Consort, Carousell and Clouwbeck, Skelton creates powerful, elemental music out of densely layered acoustic guitar, bowed strings, piano, mandolin and accordion, often laced with delicate, shimmering percussion. The result is something unique - a music that is both life-affirming and yet etched with memory and loss, evoking equal parts Arvo Part and Ry Cooder, Nick Drake and Henryk Gorecki...
We focus most strongly at the margins, on the music that others may be blind to. We don’t care whether it is electronic, metal, jazz, folk, classical, noise, world music or whatever. We are as excited by the experimental, as we are exhausted by the ephemeral. We listen. We mosh. We think. We dance. We write words. We capture images. We hope to do justice to the art which inspires us.
We are The Liminal. We welcome all visitors with open ears and eyes.
Excellent new music zine The Liminal: very worthy of your attention.
A rainy and very busy Monday here... I have a few articles to put up on the site later today, and will do so as soon as I get a moment (should have been up already, actually; sorry 'bout that). In the meantime, I rather randomly took myself to one of North London's finer hostelries yesterday evening (The Lexington) and heard a very fine math rock / post rock band called Instruments doing their thing and doing it very well indeed. I wholeheartedly commend them to the House. They were very tight and remarkably funky for a post rock band. Their MySpace page does not quite do them justice, but it gives you a flavour. Personally, I'm very glad to have found them.
Slammed here today... Hoping to get Barry's piece about Orwell's 1984 up on the site later this evening. In the meantime, and proof that MySpace isn't entirely rubbish, I offer you Library Tapes.
Just as a very quick follow-up to my Sad Music post from last week (and thanks to everyone who commented on that -- and, please, keep those comments coming), I note that there is a Virgin ad on the telly at the moment featuring the beautiful Mazzy Star (David Roback and vocalist Hope Sandoval) track Into Dust from 1993's So Tonight That I Might See. Now, that song is a real beauty...
Indulging in listening to sad music is one of life's finer pleasures, I think. From Strauss's Four Last Songs, Schubert's Winterreise, Valentin Silvestrov's Silent Songs (the song based on Keats' La Belle Dame Sans Merci, sung in Russian, is -- almost literally -- to die for) through to David Sylvian's Let The Happiness In, the better (i.e. most melancholic) moments of This Mortal Coil, The For Carnation or Dakota Suite or parts of Jacaszek's Treny album, miserable music is a vital part of my armoury against the world. I'm always on the look out for me -- and this thread on violinist.com has pointed me to some new sad sounds to indulge in... but if y'all have any favourites please let me know.
I'm certainly not the person to write anything insightful on Michael Jackson, but k-punk has stepped up to the plate:
The death of this King - "my brother, the Legendary King Of Pop", as Jermaine Jackson described him in his press conference, as if giving Michael his formal title - recalls not the Diana carcrash, but the sad slump of Elvis from catatonic narcosis into the long good night. Perhaps it was only Elvis who managed to insinuate himself into practically every living human being's body and dreams to the same degree that Jackson did, at the microphysical level of enjoyment as well as at the macro-level of spectacular memeplex. Michael Jackson: a figure so subsumed and consumed by the videodrome that it's scarely possible to think of him as an individual human being at all... because he wasn't of course... becoming videoflesh was the price of immortality, and that meant being dead while still alive, and no-one knew that more than Michael (more...)
At the weekend, my dogs were "jumped" by a rather enthusiastic Black Russian Terrier (imagine a schnauzer the size of a Great Dane and you're almost there). Sadly, Silus, who was quite a lovely thing actually, was far too much of a beast for the elderly lady who was looking after him. She lost control of Silus as we walked past them and was almost dragged to the ground. Consequently, I had to grab our manic mutt before he did himself, or my dogs, any damage. Rather painfully, Silus pulled my shoulder half out of its socket. At the moment, then, typing, as you can well imagine, is not my favourite activity!
Despite this, I manfully took myself of to the badlands of Salford on Monday night to see the excellent Machinefabriek. This evening brings Jóhann Jóhannsson. I commend both to you for your listening pleasure.
A friend of mine argues that the collapse of Cultural Studies as an academic discipline in the UK was because of its own omnipresence. It seems that every broadsheet supplement you pick up now has an article speculating on fandom, consumption, people at play, etc... But, sadly, they’re not written by anyone of the calibre of Raymond Williams.
Mind body spirit publisher O books have a courageous new imprint Zero Books. Novelist Tariq Goddard (author of Homage to a Firing Squad, Dynamo and The Morning Rides Behind Us) has been busy commissioning some excellent, unsung authors to write short books on contemporary culture: educated, informed by – but not in awe of – theory, and genuinely provocative. The first is Wire writer David Stubbs on Fear of Music: Why People Get Rothko but Don’t Get Stockhausen which I’ll be fascinated to read as I’m sceptical of the middle classes newfound love of contemporary art (my own tastes tend to be the reverse: hate Rothko, love Aufgehoben) and suspect it has more to do with a pleasant afternoon in a white space. Elitist, moi? I digress...
With svelte prose, agile wit, and alarming erudition, Owen Hatherley pries open the prematurely closed case of early 20th Century modernism. This slim and shapely, ideas-packed and intensely-felt book is neither a misty-eyed memorial nor a dour inquest, but a verging-on-erotic mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Rediscovering the enchantment of demystification and the sexiness of severity, Hatherley harks forward to modernism's utopian spirit: critical, radically democratic, dedicated to the conscious transformation of everyday life, determined to build a better world.
They’re both out on the 24th April.
A list that -- where I've heard them -- broadly overlaps with my take on the best albums of 2008, can be found online at Boomkat (although, must admit, I was thoroughly underwhelmed, nay bored, by the new Portishead album).
With the centenary of Olivier Messiaen drawing nigh, here are some additions to my Messiaen 100 post of some weeks back. First, the DG label is releasing a mammoth, thirty-two-CD Complete Edition of the Maître's works, with authoritative performances by the likes of Olivier Latry, Roger Muraro, Pierre Boulez, Myung-Whun Chung, and Kent Nagano (his great recording of Saint François d'Assise). Also, I earlier neglected to note that the Cleveland Museum of Art is offering a strong cluster of events over the next several weeks... At Southbank in London, the unstoppable Boulez will lead a Messiaen concert on Dec. 10 and a Carter concert on Dec. 11, including something of his own on each night for the sake of variety — or, perhaps, continuity (more...)
In November, the University of Rochester Press will publish Variations on the Canon, a collection of essays by leading musicologists in honour of Charles Rosen’s 80th birthday. The book covers a range of topics from Bach to Modernism... more over on From Beyond the Stave, the Boydell & Brewer music blog.
Picked up a copy of Paul D. Miller's (aka DJ Spooky that Subliminal Kid) edited work Sound Unbound: Sampling Digital Music and Culture which includes artists, DJs and journalists writing about the expansion of possibilities for music in the 21st century, with contributions from everyone from Steve Reich to Bruce Sterling. A great collection with a CD of avant-garde music.
It also includes a piece by Simon Reynolds on the CCRU – the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit, a peculiar research centre that began at Warwick University (before moving into the cyber-ether), started by Nick Land and Sadie Plant, to explore the limits of cyber-culture (crudely, crudely put!). One particular member was, I believe, k-punk but also Steve Goodman (here he is on jungle), who is currently writing what will be an amazing book about 'Sonic Warfare', due out with MIT next year. He is also, as any dubstep nerd out there can tell you, the alter ego of Kode 9 and the label boss of Hyper Dub, the home of Mercury nominee Burial. But I digress! A fascinating piece that seems to suggest that the CCRU was almost some kind of cult…!
The latest interview here on ReadySteadyBook is with one of the finest writers we have on the world of contemporary music. I offer you ... Mr. Simon Reynolds.
This Fall book news is as good an excuse as any to bring your attention back to the recently much improved The Fall online website. If you want information and news about Sir Smith (a people's peer if ever there was one!) and the gang, here is your place.
I think I have learned that perfection can contain several different parameters and that I can choose how it may influence my work. Perfection and music are not necessarily related, I do not wish for the music to be perfect but to move the listener in some way.
Scott Walker: 30 Century Man: "Profile of the influential and enigmatic Scott Walker, which explores his music from Walker Brothers vocalist to his evolution into a radical soundmaker in the 1980s and 90s."
RSB contributor Paul Griffiths "is one of the University of Rochester Press' favourite authors. His biography of Jean Barraqué, The Sea on Fire, is a scholarly and imaginative triumph, while his collection of occasional pieces and reviews, The Substance of Things Heard, was described as "illuminating, translucent, sagacious" by the TLS. Griffiths is also an accomplished librettist..." and today he writes about recent performances of his collaboration with one of modern music's greatest composers over at the From Beyond the Stave blog.
The excellent Boydell & Brewer, publishers of the wonderful Joseph Conrad: A Life, has decided to enter the blogosphere with a music related blog which will give some background information on the numerous music books that they publish. It is nicely called From Beyond the Stave (d'you see what they did there!?) Still early days, but it will certainly be worth keeping an eye on this.
I'm only two years late, but today I am mostly listening to -- and absolutely loving -- Flares by Port-Royal. I'm rubbish at describing music, but this is post-rock in the more painterly, intimate sense of, say, Helios, with the gorgeous, shimmery hazes of, e.g., Boards of Canada, rather then the bombast of Godspeed! or the jazz-tinges of Do Make Say Think. (Can you say post-shoegazing? I really want to!) The effect-laden guitars are quite lovely, but this has plenty of beats and cut-up textures to keep things interesting too. The arrangements blend over the course of tracks that move from swirls of sound to something much cleaner and drum-led. In parts I was reminded of Dif Juz. And it is a good length too -- almost 80 minutes. I've only just discovered this, which is bonkers, as I love most anything on the Resonant label. Anyway, the even better news is that Port-Royal's latest, Afraid to Dance, is out next Monday. Yay!
Background information is typically scant with this latest release from William Basinski's 2062 label, but what we do know is that it features re-discovered tape loops that have been delicately re-crafted for a recent performance at the Montalvo Arts Center. Clocking in at just under 50 minutes, El Camino Real is another one of those breathtaking aural tapestries that Basinski seems to have such an intuitive feel for - effortlessly piecing together elements that bring to mind everything from Arvo Part through to the Cocteau Twins without ever letting go of his own signature sound. Because the source material for these loops has been de-graded and layered so heavily, it's hard to imagine where they could have come from or how they could have been made - all that we're left with are mesmerising remnants of a ghostly female voice dominating the undulating mix to almost harrowing effect. There's also something about this recording that brings to mind more recent contemporary musical experimentations, and in particular the work of Liz Harris under the Grouper moniker - its the same archetypal shoegaze aesthetic that dominates this extended piece and it has a similarly overwhelming effect on the senses : lulling you into a deep state of drift before reminding you that behind the velvety wall of sound lies an uncertain, complex world. El Camino Real is certainly one of Basinski's most absorbing pieces and, for us at least, offers the most contemporary re-interpretation of his own archive recordings to date. We just can't imagine anyone not being overwhelmed by this music - take a listen and sink in while you can.
Over at Spurious, Lars is listening to Jandek:
Sometimes I think there's nothing I want to hear except for Jandek and nothing I want to think about except for Jandek. Everything else is pointless, non-essential. I listen to Comets on Fire and Espers and Boris and all that sort of thing. It's good, all good, but not essential. I listen to Mark Kozelek, which is nearly essential, and Bill Callahan and Michael Head - all very good, close to essential, but not quite essential. But you have to be careful with the essential, not to come too close to it. You need distance. You need time and space set aside. Sit down on the sofa. Do nothing else. Listen to nothing. Just Jandek. Just that: Jandek.
The excellent writer and music critic (and RSB contributor) Paul Griffiths (whose The Substance of Things Heard I heartily, nay vigorously, recommend) is featured in the latest Golden Handcuffs Review. The issue features two chapters from Paul's latest novel let me tell you (the full work is out next year with Reality Street Editions). As Steve noted, Paul explains that the novel is "a narrative in which the Ophelia of Shakespeare's Hamlet tells her story in her own words – literally, in that she is restricted to the 481 different words she speaks in the play (including both quartos as well as the First Folio text). Where other characters from the play speak, they are similarly confined to the words Shakespeare gave them."
T.S. Eliot remix MP3s (via disquiet). No. Really:
A 30-minute segment of a piece that Janek Schaefer performed one month ago, on January 20, as part of the Sound:Space sonic arts symposium in England, has been uploaded as the latest entry in the Gene Pool Podcast series of the Digital Media Centre. It achieves its meta state through simple means. A man's voice is heard so that each phrase is spoken first into one ear, then the other, and perhaps a third. That the man is saying things like "present in time future" and "what might have been is an abstraction" and, ultimately, "footfalls echo in the memory" gives the repetitions additional meaning. The poem, of course, is T.S. Eliot's "Burnt Norton." In time, an additional element is introduced, chiming background synthesis that nestles the stanzas (MP3).
For a more raw take on this layering, download the version on Schaefer's audioh.com website (MP3). In that edit, which is just over three minutes, nothing is heard but the voice, playing out thanks to three separate tone arms on his single, ingenious Tri-Phonic Turntable. More info at sound-space.info and digitalmediacentre.org. Full text of Eliot's poem, if you weren't encouraged to memorize it during school, at tristan.icom43.net.
A couple of noteworthy new releases from the peerless Cold Blue Music:
Michael Fahres's The Tubes: "weaves together the breath-like sounds of the Atlantic Ocean as it strikes tubular volcanic rock formations on the Island of El Hierro (the westermost of the Canary Islands) with the breathy tones of Jon Hassell's trumpet and Mark Atkin's didgeridoo, creating a starkly beautiful study of breath patterns and the sounds of air in tubes".
Charlemagne Palestine's A Sweet Quasimodo Between Black Vampire Butterflies for Maybeck: "a piece for two pianos played simultaneously in a tremolo style that Palestine calls "strumming," a technique that has defined his piano music since the late '60s. It spins out its sonic tapestry in surges and ebbs, and dense sonorities with hypnotically dancing overtones grow from its few opening pitches. This live recording from the Maybeck recital hall also contains Palestine's short comments about his life in California in the '70s and, accompanied by a rubbed brandy snifter, his singing of a few very short "ritual" songs in his unique falsetto vocal style".
I've not really managed to figure out which my favourite (non-classical) albums of last year were as yet. Really, you know, I'm still quite tired! The Wire's Rewind 2006 (list not online annoyingly) often chimes with my own listening, as does Boomkat's chart, and the PitchforkTop 50 Albums of 2006 isn't a bad list either. I'm thinking, in no particular order whatsoever, that The Gentleman Losers' eponymous effort, Johann Johannsson's IBM 1401, Users Manual, Helios' Eingya, William Basinski's The Garden of Brokeness, Xela's The Dead Sea, Loscil's Plume and Library Tapes' feelings for something lost all deserve a mention and each were very fine in their own way. And I'm also thinking that this needs a lot more thought!
Robert Gable's excellent blog aworks :: "new" american classical music -- "why listening to this music is interesting, important, and maybe even fun" -- reminds me about the music of Keith Fullerton Whitman (which is, in itself, a good enough excuse to bring Robert's blog to your kind attention) whom I discoved a couple of years ago and have unfathomably neglected since:
I know next to nothing about Keith Fullerton Whitman but I am starting to think he is the long lost son of Terry Riley, in his pure keyboard pieces anyway, starting with Stereo Music for Farfisa Compact Duo Deluxe, Drum Kit.
As I'm thinking musical thoughts, I should probably let you know that Marcus Fjellstöm's second full-length recording, following the sublime Exercises in Estrangement, is just out. Entitled Gebrauchsmusik, his record label Lampse pimp the new recording thusly:
Taking influence from John Cage, Morton Feldman and David Lynch’s right hand man Angelo Badalamenti, Fjellström has developed a style which manages to transcend the current classical/electronic explosion. It is clear from the offset that the young musician has a deep understanding of what has come before as he blends elements of musique concrete, avant-classical and early electronic experimentations into his compositions.
Very busy here, as you'd expect. So please don't expect too much posting from me over the next week or so. Today is my Dad's 60th birthday -- happy birthday Dad. On Monday, it is my Gran's funeral. Ironically, I'm working on a large essay about death and literature (due to appear in a Time Out guide to books sometime next year). And I'm listening to the wonderful work of William Basinski: melancholy tape loops of minor piano chords. Sad, of course, but very affecting and quite lovely.
Hahaha! I remember this:
I'm a bit of a connoiseur of "difficult" music. We had a record player in the sixth form common room, and whoever bought records in, got to play them on it. There was a challenge to play something so annoying that everyone would leave. Most of the sixth form were incredibly dull and would occasionally treat us to a Phil Collins or Meat Loaf album, which was reason enough, I think to impose on them something a little more out there. Psychic TV's The Full Pack - ten minutes of wolves howling was my masterpiece - though I think the most unlistenable thing we ever heard there was the first Alien Sex Fiend album; approach with care. Reading in this month's Mojo about An Electric Storm by White Noise from 1969, I had to get it, particularly with the BBC Radiophonic Workshop's Delia Derbyshire involved. I must admit I was half expecting some unlistenable hippy shit, but it's actually great - first track sounds like Stereolab! So, not that unlistenable after all.
Very short notice I know, but today, between 1-2pm, in the Committee Room, 2nd Floor, Manchester Central Library (in partnership with Bloodaxe) there is a free poetry reading featuring Clare Shaw and Jackie Kay.
I won't be at the poetry, but tonight I will be over at Manchester's Common bar, attending the midweek Licktronica event, where the superb Helios will be playing live. Helios's new CD Eingya is gorgeous, wonderful, fabulous ... As is just about everything else on the peerless Type label.
Some new Ligeti goodies on UbuWeb:
György Ligeti: Poème Symphonique for 100 metronomes (AVI): Video from an ARTE (France) broadcast of Poème Symphonique for 100 metronomes. Since its world premiere in the Netherlands in 1963, Poème symphonique for 100 metronomes has been very rarely performed in public. The complicated scenographic staging, the detailed preparation by hand, the need for around ten technicians to activate more or less simultaneously the 100 metronomes, makes the demand for performances limited. Also, György Ligeti: Portrait, A Documentary by Michel Follin (1993). The Hungarian composer György Ligeti's biography typifies the displaced cosmopolitan, truly at home only in the international community of music. Appropriately enough, this revealing film portrait of his life and music has a train journey as its central metaphor, with Ligeti gazing through the window onto the changing middle-European landscape. His music - innovative, complex, brilliantly eclectic - accompanies his reflections and memories. (French, no subtitles).
Nice piece on RSB favourite Morton Feldman over at The New Yorker:
Wilfrid Mellers, in his book Music in a New Found Land, eloquently summed up Feldman’s early style: “Music seems to have vanished almost to the point of extinction; yet the little that is left is, like all of Feldman’s work, of exquisite musicality; and it certainly presents the American obsession with emptiness completely absolved from fear.” In other words, we are in the region of Wallace Stevens’s “American Sublime,” of the “empty spirit / In vacant space.”
Sad news: the composer Gyorgy Ligeti is dead. Born in 1923, to Hungarian Jewish parents, in the predominantly ethnic Hungarian part of Romania's Transylvania region, his father and brother both died in concentration camps in World War II. Ligeti fled to Austria in 1956 after the Hungarian uprising and, in 1967, became an Austrian citizen. Along with Karlheinz Stockhausen, Iannis Xenakis and Pierre Boulez, Ligeti helped revolutionise postwar music. An excerpt from his 1966 work Lux Aeterna was used on the bestselling soundtrack for Stanley Kubrick's Space Odyssey. Kubrick returned to Ligeti in 1999 using the composer's Musica Ricercata II as the theme for Eyes Wide Shut.
It may have passed your notice - it certainly passed mine - that a month ago (February 19th) was György Kurtág's 80th birthday. About 20 years ago, Kurtág, one of the leading European composers of our time, but hardly a household name here in the UK, wrote his largest work. Kafka-Fragmente is "a vast, 60-minute cycle of 40 separate movements amounting to a collage of Kafka's novels, letters and diaries set as the subtlest, most expressive duets for soprano and violin" (according to last Sunday's Observer). Performed by Juliane Banse and violinist Andras Keller, the work's four sections are a powerful testament to a great composer. If you like Shostakovich, give Kurtág a go.
"Suilven Recordings is quickly turning into one of the greatest sources for unconventional and totally unique music", so says Mouvement Nouveau ("the newest and most dynamic monthly online publication on classical and experimental music"). Daniel Patrick Quinn, Suilven Recordings supremo, says, "Me and the live band The Rough Ensemble are embarking on a debut UK tour next month, parading militarily south to the capital in two VWs and finishing up on the south coast. The Suilven Empire has so far confirmed the following dates:
- Edinburgh Henry’s Cellar Bar Monday 13th Feb
- Nottingham Maze (Forest Tavern) Tuesday 14th Feb
- Manchester (venue TBC) Wednesday 15th Feb
- Cambridge Man On The Moon Thursday 16th Feb
- London Betsey Trotwood Friday 17th Feb
- Brighton The Fortune Of War Sunday 19th Feb