Saturday, August 23, 2008

item #7027

Miscellany, devotees etc. .... hello. Happy Duration Day! (31st August, pre-belate.) Dear spectres, I am something of a diffident oasis, as you know by now; insofar as I am ex-centric, becoming ever-mindful of all orientations as preferences to worship for false intimacy. 'If appropriate', you say; and I agree. But, can I counter, mildly, by saying that your individual limits range over me like implements of restraint? Oh yes, I await the unruly; as they become available to my appeal. But, perhaps your own eagerness to conclude is excessive? I neither welcome nor encourage those new to such end-gaming. Instead, I favour appointments devoid of versatility. I must be so obvious to you. Yes yes ... I can already hear you saying 'responsibility for effect'. Still, I insist, your scientism is too self-regarding to convincingly mock my welcome.

Speak soon.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


Again, cheers for your engagement, *.

I completely agree. As I've already said, I cannot see how any reliable system for objective measurement of success and failure for so-called experimental music can be devised. Your praxis/product model seems a good starting point to me. I like the way you expand upon this, too. The weird oppositions and ambivalences you describe chime here, for sure. One personal example is my love of John Cage - his words, the moves he made, and the idea of his music, but not most of his music as such. Cage, like a lot of essentially conceptual artists, serves to thrill and delight in terms of ideas; but one is often left with little in terms of pure entertainment. I feel this when thinking about that Shelley guitar solo - one is supposed to be enthralled by the cheek of it, but it's a one-shot deal, like all shocks of the new. Ditto, I'd say, with 4'33. Further - as you intimate - does one even have to see the performance itself? Doesn't it function as text, in a sense? I'm sure Cage knew all this, of course; so, that's all part of its meaning. In my view, there is something grander about those forms of art which include tenacious degrees of entertainment - or, one might say, continually resist reification, resist taming, preferring some kind of endless becoming as opposed to a muted, nulled being. Is there any such thing, anyway? I do like art to have something unfathomable in there, myself. Like, say, the film, 'Badlands' - a Bonny & Clyde affair in one sense, but as much a film about that as Conrad's Heart of Darkness is a book about a boat. It's maybe annoying, but science and its methods, so far, have failed to explain everything. We still need poetry. Hope I'm not namedropping with all these references, but here I'm minded of the subtext - or, in fact, text - of Poe's The Purloined Letter, if you know it. Derrida unfurled all this to great effect in his 'La Facteur de la Verite (in The Post Card). * may well be privileging ideology, as you surmise. I got the feeling that**********. Nothing is guaranteed by technical facility alone, in my view; nor when it dominates. There's a name for that ideology, of course; and I often sense versions of fascism in those who declare technique is king to the exception of everything else. Again, that's what I love about Fred Frith. He has technique but he's not afraid to unuse it. I might start my own fan club.
'...[F]ree improv challenges the subject-object relationship...'. Indeed. It's about process over product, certainly. It's very different, in terms of intentions and intended outcomes, to composed music, I would say. It's about different things and should be thought of differently. I always drone on it's more correct to call it experimenting music - signalling that becoming over being thing, again. Oh, how they all nod in agreement.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Cheers for your messages *.

Yes, Prog and its negative reactors. Even that's a development, though; as it used to be missed out altogether - with pithy televisual histories going from, say, Woodstock directly to the Pistols. Maybe one might be treated to five seconds footage of those lorries with 'Emerson', 'Lake' and 'Palmer' on the top, prompting one to mutter 'trio of t***s' to order. But, hell, I love lots of stuff from that era, even today.I even think it is infinitely more dangerous than Punk; indeed, in an Adorno / Debord sense, Prog seems successfully resistant to reification ... unlike Punk, that is, which has been thoroughly tamed by Capitalism and its historians. Even Greil Marcus' Lipstick Traces - admittedly a work of literary delusion - serves only to render Punk as a kind of 1970s neo-Dadaist recurring historical tantrum. I'm paraphrasing stuff I've thought about seriously for thirty years, but Punk's lapse into the safety-net of irony and moddish urban cool spelled an end of Modernity - progression, progress - in mainstream music. After Punk, one could just not be seen to be too serious, have too much technique, or be dealing with ideas. I think of that Buzzcocks solo - Shelly's one note, him staring defiantly into the camera. Thing is, like most of that brood, he was right there with his one note at the summit of his abilities. So, one was simultaneously seeing a cultural statement - valid, iconoclastic at the time - and a technical limitation which limited Shelley's options, in such away as to throw suspicion onto his action and to undermine it as a piece of political theatre. Worse, I think, is, now, when repeated, it's as bland and quaint as an ASDA commercial. Meanwhile, the exchanges between Patrick Moraz and Steve Howe during the instrumental sections of The Gates of Delirium... as dangerous and challenging as they were in the mid-70s. One could argue that overt technique means one is similarly limited - insofar as one is prompted to continuously demonstrate it. But the best musicians from Prog - here, I'd cite Fred Frith - deal with varieties of minimalism just as well as they deal with maximalism. Because of their application to progress, personal betterment and all that, they do this intentionally - is my key point; whereas Shelly, who has not improved one jot in over thirty years, plays in a limited fashion as a product of limitation itself. Personally, I can see no point being intentionally and artificially crap at something. That's not to say, I like the unmusical excesses of Steve Vie, Yngwie Malsteam (I had to Google spelling!) et al; I don't at all. At a push, I'd sooner listen to The Buzzcocks. In some sense, Prog went underground in about 1979. It went into stuff like Magazine, I think; into Killing Joke eventually; even more eventually, as you say, it emerged as Radiohead, as well as Godspeed You Black Emperor!, and so on. It also went into The New Wave of British Heavy Metal, and it became hideously retro - a kind of heritage industry - in awful s***e like Marrilion. I remember, for instance, the Yes of Drama - with Trevor Horn of The Buggles singing (an interesting clash of paradigms, worth discussion in its own right) - trying to sell that LP on the strength of its heaviness. In one sense, bringing The Buggles in was an amazingly iconoclastic, postmodern move. Pity the music was so poor. Other Proggers got into technology - justifiably as a way to make continued sense of the notion of progress, I'd argue; but, secretly, also to appear contemporary, relevant. This made for nightmarish technological indulgence; and, as technology does, immediately dates anything made between, say, 1982 and 1989. Again, I'm paraphrasing, but perhaps some sense of Prog-style progress returned with, of all things, Nirvana and the Grunge scene; and that, by-the-by as it morphed into a more diffuse 90s scene, made it ok-ish to be seen to care about progress again. Here, one gets Radiohead, Godspeed, Killing Joke's 'Extremities' LP. Of course, under the radar, things just went on as they did. Yet, just like The Beatles kind of killed off the Trad Jazz scene, Punk did make it impossible for Proggers to ply their trade. Serious if it's your livelihood. Thing is, I always get the sense that commentators like Reynolds - a journalist, not an historian, of course - are dressing up their journalism as history. True inquiry negates personal taste. But then that's idealism!
Best wishes,