Friday, May 6, 2016

Friday Miscellanea

Here it is, the perfect kickoff to the Friday Miscellanea, what we have all been waiting for, the Death Metal cover of John Cage's 4'33! They start with a little introduction, but then faithfully follow the score of doing nothing for three short movements. Crossover! (Blogger won't embed so you have to click on the link)


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I think I mentioned that there is an upcoming new release by Alarm Will Sound that looks interesting--partly because they are doing an orchestral transcription of the Beatles' piece of musique concrète, Revolution #9. That is so unlikely that I have to hear it. Anyway, there is a review by the excellent Allan Kozinn in the Wall Street Journal. A good review:
“Revolution 9” is the third panel of John Lennon’s “Revolution” trilogy, a group of songs that looks at political revolution prospectively, at first, in the laconic, mostly acoustic “Revolution 1”; then as an irresistible, sweeping force in “Revolution,” the fast, electric version of the same song; and finally as dystopian chaos in “Revolution 9,” an evocative piece of musique concrète that Lennon built of found sounds atop an idiosyncratic jam that was deleted from the end of “Revolution 1.”
The composer Matt Marks, who is also Alarm Will Sound’s hornist, has made a remarkably faithful transcription. But what makes the Beatles’ original so affecting is the sense of terror and dislocation created by its strands of dark, haunting, seemingly random sound. The orchestral version is impressively precise, and a fun listen, but its orderliness puts the work’s spirit at arm’s length.

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The Wall Street Journal has a review of Brian Eno's latest.


There is a note from Brian Eno on that YouTube clip:
"‘The Ship’ started as an Ambient work intended for a multi channel sound installation in Stockholm, but during the making of it I discovered that I could now sing a low C - which happens to be the root note of the piece. Getting older does have a few fringe benefits after all. From that point the work turned into an unusual kind of song...a type I've never made before where the vocal floats free, untethered to a rhythmic grid of any kind."
I think that whether or not he can sing a low C is rather a matter of opinion. He can certainly growl something in that general area, I'm just not sure it's singing. I have never found anything Brian Eno has done of much interest and, well, still don't. If you like long, hazy, droney washes of sound occasionally overlaid with someone singing a very low dirge on what sounds like a Scottish folksong slowed down to quarter speed, then this is the album for you!

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Is this one of the greatest album covers of all time?


Depends on your point of view, I guess.

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This is a fun clip: Prince jamming around with "Summertime" during a soundcheck in Japan in 1990. Towards the end we hear him accompanying someone else's guitar solo--why? Because he is playing piano. Pretty well!


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Does anyone else twitch every time someone uses the term "cultural industries"? Maybe it's from growing up in Canada where for a long time I have had the suspicion that there is a carefully coordinated system of regulation and subsidy designed to diminish competition while enabling a host of mediocre hangers-on to live off the gravy train of public money. Read this piece in the Globe and Mail and see if you can see what I am talking about: "The challenge of reshaping Canada’s cultural landscape."
Lawyers, lobbyists, artists and various stakeholders are all gearing up for the Trudeau government’s ambitious plan to redraft the laws and policies that govern the country’s $48-billion cultural industries.
Doesn't that make you shake your head in disbelief? Lawyers, lobbyists, artists and various stakeholders? Are all going to get together with government to revise the "the laws and policies that govern the country’s $48-billion cultural industries." Frankly, this is a horrifically bad approach. In order for cultural industries to be worth anything, they have to be about the creative use of materials and possibilities. What this government and stakeholder determined approach does is eliminate first, competition, and second, the need for creativity. It all goes together! This is a make-work job program for those who are clever enough to position themselves best to receive government largesse. The truth is that the Internet has been upsetting the applecart of a lot of the "stakeholders" (read talentless welfare recipients) and so something has to be done to control or eliminate that competition. There is a reason that cultural industries in Canada--television, movies, magazines, and anything else receiving subsidies--are so bad. They have found a way to avoid having to compete. Just get the government to devise "public policies", meaning regulations and subsidies, that control it.

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Massed guitarists in Poland trying to set a new Guinness record for largest guitar ensemble.


Of course, it's the several hours of tuning that has to precede the performance that is the real problem...

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I'm not sure, but this may be the first time I have linked to The Nation, where we can find a quite thorough essay on the importance of the Scottish philosopher David Hume: "Hume's Call to Action." I'm a big fan of David Hume and wrote some posts here commenting on his theory of aesthetics.
Because philosophy, for Hume, was charged with intervening in social affairs, it was obliged to understand the current state of society as well as its processes of change. In that sense, it was a skeptical commentary on its own time, guided by historical understanding.
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Now what would be a suitable envoi for today? Of course: Revolution #9. First, the original:


And the new version by Alarm Will Sound:


OK, that's kind of remarkable...

Upcoming, the string quartet version of Iron Butterfly's "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida".

7 comments:

Jeph said...

Ever seen "Wheels Ontario" from Kroll Show? great spoof on Canadian TV.
Big Eno-head here, Bryan, coming out in defense of my man. He completely changed the way I listen to music, maybe in the same way Reich did for you. He stripped it down to what he saw as the essentials, a few notes in a cycling amorphous rhythm. He produces this immersive, almost amniotic vibe that really resonated with me.
A lot of this sort of thing began to happen in the 70's; reaction against increasing excess, fussiness, complexity and bombast in music of all kinds (think Yes, Rush, ELP, disco etc). Punk, minimalism, ambient music, house music it all seems like the same animal to me.
The Ars Nova of our time?

Marc Puckett said...

There was an album by John Cage and Brian Eno, I believe, one or two songs of which I used to listen to obsessively, long ages ago; the 80s perhaps. I believe at the time the only thing I knew about either of them was that Brian Eno produced records.

That Trump fellow is in town tonight. I rode past the venue on the city bus after work. Helicopters circling overhead, protesters protesting, scores of police keeping order or sweating under the direct sunlight in any event, motorcycles roaring by. I wonder if there is any musique concrète I can actually like? But I'll give Revolution 9 &c another listen tomorrow-- I only made it through the first two and half minutes earlier.

Marc Puckett said...

Just ran across this and thought you might be amused: Aristotle's On Trolling. [http://goo.gl/tDkWGh] We are all good Aristotelians here!

Bryan Townsend said...

@Jeph: more power to you for your defence of Mr. Eno! I have not heard much by him, and have never heard anything that caught my interest. Could you recommend something by Brian Eno that might change my mind?

@Marc: I always think of Revolution #9 in context. It is the penultimate song on The White Album coming just after Cry Baby Cry and before Good Night. In that context (even better if you listen to the whole White Album) it has a poignancy and apocalyptic power it does not have when listened to on its own. Part of the point is that this is a piece of musique concrete dropped into a Beatles album. It is a very strange beast indeed.

A whole bunch of gold stars to you Marc, for discovering the strangely neglected treatise "On Trolling" by Aristotle. I don't think I have read anything so funny in a long time! And it is going straight into the next Friday Miscellanea!

Jeph said...

Eno recommendations: The Shutov Assembly, Here Come the Warm Jets, Taking Tiger Mountain, Another Green World, Music for Films

Marc Puckett said...

Am rushing, but there is an 'intellectual history' of David Hume reviewed in the May 26th issue of the NY Review of Books that you might be interested in.

Bryan Townsend said...

Thanks to you both for those suggestions.