Three things I wrote recently (a catalogue essay and two reviews). Silence is an Irish film, about sound and memory (and between the lines a reflection on the work of John Cage). Michael and Cornelius Cardew, father and son, were a potter and a composer respectively: this (PDF: scroll to p.5) was for the catalogue to the Crafts Council’s Sound Matters exhibition. And this is the teaser for the piece I wrote about post-war electronic music in Eastern Europe, though you’ll have to buy issue 86 of Eye magazine to read the whole thing. All three pieces somewhat hover round the tradition of the graphic score (pictured: Boguslaw Schaeffer’s PR I VIII), which has been all over the place recently: if I were a better journalist, I’d have got in early on this little flurry of trendiness, and then maybe some of the discussion would have been better also haha.
I 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.
Bashed-out notes on Wilko, Feelgood, Temple, collage, wives, mums and fans…
(link now works)
(also Russolo, Paik, Beuys, Warhol… )
… 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.
“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, esp.as 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.
“… 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
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.
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”