the sugar in the plum (plum plum)

RocketshipI have a short piece in this: about Boney M. I haven’t read any of the rest yet, there’s little essays on or interviews with people I like a lot — George Clinton, Delia Derbyshire, Bill Nelson, Martin Millar — and people I’m unpersuaded by but interested in — China Mieville, Janelle Monae, Mick Farren — as well as half a dozen short stories. It’s a nice, tidy, pocketable little production, the size of an old Puffin book — thanks to editor Jonathan Wright, for asking me to contribute, and for being a shrewd and rigorous editor.

Defending Adorno from his own devotees…

… or what happens when you cross the streams? My good friend Julio emailed me this: I’d come across Richard Taruskin before, many years ago, and been very taken with his work (via an essay on Stravinsky, neo-classicism, recording technology, the idea of authenticity and the Early Music movement, if I’m remembering correctly across nearly 30 years) — and more recently Seth had piqued my interest all over again, from a very different direction. Late on New Year’s Eve, in a pub in King’s Cross, Julio mentioned to me that this 2007 piece discussed Richard Meltzer, and was visibly entertained by how confused and over-excited I got.

Adding: I say the piece discusses Meltzer, but (I’m a bit disappointed to have to note) really all it does is mention him. He’s introduced as a symptom of the failure of the critical conversation round classical music and the compositional avant-garde to interest or excite the best minds of the 60s generation. But Taruskin doesn’t give much sense of what might be interesting about Meltzer as a writer or thinker, which is a pity — or (which is surely relevant) that he was clearly in the process of wriggling out from under Hegel and Quine (both mentioned at best fleetingly in book-version of The Aesthetics of Rock; Quine just once, in the same sentence as one of the Hegels). Over to Frank Kogan for an all-too-brief primer.

model this

“Wittgenstein was insisting that a proposition and that which it describes must have the same ‘logical form’, the same ‘logical multiplicity’. Sraffa made a gesture, familiar to Neapolitans as meaning something like disgust or contempt, of brushing the underneath of his chin with an outward sweep of the finger-tips of one hand. And he asked: ‘What is the logical form of that?'”
(Norman Malcolm, Ludwig Wittgenstein: A Memoir, pp. 58–59)

Faintly recall from student days long ago that N.Malcolm was hard work and unrewarding as a philosopher (trans.: I was a confused and unsatisfactory philosophy student, far as Anglo-Am Analytical etc goes). But this is a good story, and — whether or not LW drew the correct conclusions at length — Sraffa’s intervention was strong, and Wittgenstein was right to be impressed and unsettled. I’m tempted to argue that music — all music, from Blobby to Boulez — is making much the same gesture to all other intellectual activity: here’s something you can’t do. That might be too strong — other things are always going on in music (including rapprochement, or attempts at same), and of course the various forces and layers never aggregate to a single decisive intent or content anyway — but it’s definitely an element I value in music, and don’t see well grasped in its discussion.

multiplicities of vision

“… our expectation that avant-garde art must puzzle, shock, and, above all, resist immediate understanding”: pianist-critic Charles Rosen on Elliott Carter (1908-2012) back in 1973

fah diddly qua quaaargh!

I’m writing about Adam and the Ants all week, at Hendrik’s excellent One Week One Band tumblr — a pleasure and an honour. I won’t quite say this is really actually what I became a music-writer to undertake, delayed by 30 years, except surely this is what I became a music-writer to undertake, and I only had to wait 30 years to find a way.

i’ve seen lots of pretty girls

All the talking heads in the Peter Green documentary were male heads, I believe; and — for all they’ve achieved a kind of artless wondering openness towards the discussion of what must have been very tricky passages of their long-ago past — none seemed especially wise heads. Green himself, hearteningly enough, has emerged as a cheerfully plump balding hobbit of a man, a long long way from the ethereal and curly-headed yearning elf-poet of yore: he has — for someone who’s been through the extended labyrinthine haze of mental breakdown, medication and ECT and long stays on wards — a strikingly exact memory of moments, artistic or chemical or inspirational, on the cusp of his breakdown. He’s vague enough about what he wanted, what drove him — a thing that wasn’t yet there, in his music and his playing — but he’s funny and practical about everything else. Continue reading “i’ve seen lots of pretty girls”

how to sustain an intellectual conversation (in your head)

one thread of the scott/amundsen post refers (without saying so) all the way back to something kogan wrote in why music sucks in 1989 or so: which i have been puzzling away at ever since — explanation in the FT footnotes when i get round to em (i hope and plan)