The Rambler :: blog

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

No comments for the time being whilst BlogSpeak clears some nasty viruses out of its system...

Apropos of nothing at all, I've just come across this large Jorge Luis Borges site. Which reminded me of this one, part of the massive and awe-inspiring Libyrinth site and a link to be shared. Well worth an idle hour or ten.

Friday, September 26, 2003

Black Sabbath, Status Quo, Hawkwind, Fleetwood Mac and others seemingly line up for PiL triple-disk tribute album... [spotted via NTK]

It's war!. And it seems Tim Rice can't resist a dodgy Victorian either.

RIP Edward Said. A good man, and a brave scholar, who achieved that rare and precious feat of giving theoretical scholarship relevance to the way in which ordinary people experience the world.

Lots of obits, here, here, here, here and here. Probably loads more too. An archive of his work is here. And finally, last month a 25th-anniversary edition of Orientalism, the book that made his name, was published by Penguin. Said wrote a new foreword to this edition to encompass the events of the last two years, an adaptation of which can be found here.

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Just because I am a big SY sucker.

Daydream Nation was actually the first SY album I bought, and to be honest I hated it the first three or four times. But back then £8.00 was a lot of money to a kid, so I stuck with it. This is certainly part of the reason why I'd always describe it as my favourite one of theirs. But these days Murray Street's the one I reach for first. Obviously everything released imediately post-11th September took on an additionally haunting quality that was never there in the first place - and since this album was recorded in the band's studio near Ground Zero, you can't help sense its unwitting presence. For me, 'Disconnection Notice' is the killer - 'Did you get your disconnection notice?/Mine came in the mail today' just sounds like its straddling the line between apocalypse and community normality that cut through that time. Disconnected from what? And why so calmly resigned to it? Just coincidence, but no less haunting.

Speaking of which, one of the first records I bought after 9-11 was Born into trouble as the sparks fly upward by The Silver Mount Zion Memorial Orchestra and Tra-La-La Band (subtitle: 'Plays a tiniest worried symphonies'). I was sitting on the train coming home reading the inlay card - and this was still in the days when people had one eye trained on the skies - reading track titles like 'Sisters! Brothers! Small Boats of Fire are falling from the Sky', and 'Built then Burnt [Hurrah! Hurrah!]'. You shouldn't read too much into these coincidences, but it really spooked me at the time. That album's final refrain 'Musicians are cowards/Musicians are cowards ...' still hurts.

Hits ahoy for Blissblog and Freaky Trigger. Or they would be if the Groanydad hadn't cocked their linx up... Blissblog's here, peeps.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Angus has been eulogising about the Melbourne streetmaps (I've never heard anyone get affectionate about the London A-Z...), but as I sit here beneath a map of the Balkans, I have to admit, I'm something of a cartophile too. And purely by coincidence, I've just read this passage, from Czeslaw Milosz's Noble Prize Winner, The Issa Valley (Penguin, 2001), which is great, by the way:

"Although the atlas showed neither Gine nor any of the surrounding locations, something it could easily be forgiven, Thomas became fascinated by maps - the way the finger went down, and under it were born forests, land tracts, roads, villages, and vast multitudes of people in motion, each distinct, each somehow distinguishable from the other; but how, the moment it was lifted - poof! And just as he had hungered for flight, for a higher perspective on those kneeling in church, so now he ached for a magical magnifying glass powerful enough to bring out all that was hidden beneath the paper's surface. The more we devote ourselves to that realm of contours, zones, and lines, the greater our enthrallment. The thrall is as great as when the mind tries to imagine what lies between two numbers. Now, if a map could be drawn to include every house and human, stationary or in motion, that would leave all the horses, cows, cats, plant species, fish in the Issa - not to mention fleas on dogs, shimmering beetles in the grass, and ants and many other things. That meant a map was always approximate. Another discovery gained through his map explorations: Seated up here in the chair is one me, but down there under my finger being held on the blank spot that ought to have been Gine is another. I am pointing at myself, at the shrunken me. The second me is not the same as the one up here; down there, it is merely one among many."

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Spotted over at It's a good ideology.... Amazing what you can find.

Anyone else think this is David Blaine stuff is getting a little beyond a joke? I mean, I have already come out in favour of people taking the mick out of the guy, and I stand by that. What he's doing in hijacking images of Gandhi, Tianenman Square, etc. for the sake of personal aggrandisement is pretty tasteless, and I hope the whole exercise is deemed a failure and he's pulled out early to consider the errors he and his publicists have made. And if he loses the money he was going to make out of the whole sorry episode, so be it. But I certainly don't want the guy dead, hurt, or arrested for the appalling crime of "being American".

Monday, September 22, 2003

"But enough of the contemporary musical scene; it is well known. More important is to determine what are the problems confronting the contemporary mushroom." [Cage, 'Music Lovers' Field Companion', Silence, 274-6]

Kenneth Goldsmith in this month's The Wire talks about his epiphany on reading Silence. I had one of those too - it's that sort of a book, really. I think what I get most from it is less Cage's philosophy towards sound - of which every composer has one, so why would Cage be different? - and more his philosophy towards actions, of which sound, and the production of sounds, are just subsets. The magic of Silence is contained in the stories of mushroom picking, which become music in Cage's book; the interconnectivity between everything and music. Music as part of everything. At a time when the European avant garde were rapidly pushing music towards the cosmic, Cage brought sound back to earth and made it vital and relevant. I've linked it before (here), but the Indeterminacy page is wonderful - the whole set of stories, accessed at random.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Ahhhh.... That's slightly less garish, anyway.

It's still early days, but I've been thinking about giving the Rambler a bit of a makeover, you know, make it look classy like. So finding this will be really handy.

Bonjour. Puisque c'est la quatrième fois ceci s'est produit, je vais dire que je n'ai pas les sous-titres de Goodbye Lenin ici. Je suis désolé. Mais merci de visiter, et je vous espère ai eu l'amusement.

Au revoir, et retournez vous!

For those of us not completely enlightened on the whole Deleuze-Guattari/electronic music interface, it is well worth taking the time to read this article by Alexei Monroe, published in the British Postgraduate Musicology Journal online, which goes a long way towards clarifying the issues. I'm always a little suspicious when musicians appear to latch onto recent philosophy (and this goes as much for Richard Strauss as snd) - it always feels as though they are using it as a prop to elevate/legitimate their music in some way, without having the confidence to let their music do the work. Having read Monroe's article I still need some convincing, but do at least see the difference between, eg. Strauss programmatically describing Nietzsche's philosophical thought in Also sprach Zarathustra and the Mille Plateaux label working within a more-or-less loose philosophical construct. As I say, I'm still not entirely convinced - when approaching a Mille Plateux record, you're immediately thinking Deleuze-Guattari because of the name on the sleeve, and not because of any of the music's content. Chicken, meet egg. It seems to me less that MP - and other labels/artists who would associate themselves with this field - are engaging with and developing the theory, and more that they are simply proving the strength of Deleuzoguattarian notions by setting themselves up as a test case for the theory and proving that it is a valid mode of operation and existence.

But I'm happy to be challenged on this.

Incidentally, Monroe's metaphor of a 'compositional virus' is one I might just have to borrow...

Well, I've just got broadband fitted, and there was me thinking I'd spend less time mooching around the net, since half my time wouldn't be spent watching pages load. Oh no. In fact, I've spent all morning nosing around here, here, here and elsewhere besides. So much for work, then.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

No, I'm no expert on garage or grime or whatever, but this seems like good sense to me. Plus a nice example to back it up.

Incidentally, if you want to hear those words read by the man himself (with bizarre musical interludes), then click here.

Unreal City,
Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,
A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,
I had not thought death had undone so many.

It's not just 'countryfolk' who have a conflicted relationship with London. All the great writers of London's mythology (Eliot, Dickens, even Dizzee) share the same unforgiving, violent, thrilling lover. That's what makes its stories so rich, so human.

antipopper excel themselves again...

Cripes, and lummie (as I, and probably no one else, would say). This will be something to watch!

Not much of a surprise, but satisfying nevertheless.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Guardian Unlimited: The Pixies

Ashamed to say I got one. Still more disturbingly, this was plugged by the Guardian as 'Are you ready for the Pixies', which prompted images of a duet with Elton John...

Monday, September 15, 2003

Yeah, I'm an unrepentant, irrational optimist.

I've been reading a lot of music journals from the 1950s and '60s recently (there's nowt much to do round our way), and never mind your two-pen'orths over on the BBC site slagging off Dizzee. Back then, people felt really threatened by the direction music seemed to be taking. Don't forget that this was the generation that saw the first reports from Belsen, Hiroshima, and was writing at the height of the Cold War. I don't have any quotations to hand, but go and see any issue of Musical Times, Tempo, Music Review or Musical Quarterly from the mid-1950s on and you'll see what I mean. What Boulez, Stockhausen, Cage et al were doing was barely taken seriously. Critics who were happy and sure of themselves reviewing the latest book on Renaissance Venice were suddenly dispatched to Darmstadt, Cologne or Warsaw and returned shaken and confused. One, Reginald Smith Brindle, has in fact been a long-standing associate of new music in Italy, and is the author of a number of books on 20th-century music. Yet he wrote a series of four articles, on electronic music, aleatory, and the like, grouped under the heading 'The Lunatic Fringe'. What you sense from reading many articles and reviews like these are that they have almost all been written to confirm, not confound, the suspicions of their readers; and these are 'serious' journals. Resistance to the new and the challenging in music ran much, much deeper then than now, when the loudest objections to Dizzee seem to be the semi-anonymous comments on pages like the BBC's (there's another, more balanced one, here), where they can be safely ignored. 'Iain' from England commented on one of these lists that the Mercury was becoming the Turner prize for music. Not really, in the sense I'm talking about here. Every year the Turner is blighted by childish editors on all the nation's broadsheet and taboid papers poking fun at its shortlist (and don't get me started on John Humphrys...); at least this hasn't happened here. No matter how irrelevant awards actually are, they do generate the real press, and the real public feeling: perhaps the least we can hope for is that music has put some of this in the past.

Update [23/09/03]: Found out yesterday that Smith Brindle recently died, a few days before I posted this. His obituary's here.

The Journal of Film Music. This has just been launched online. Don't know what it'll be like in the future, but worth flagging as it fills a need; by the looks of things, some articles will be available online as pdfs, which will save trips to the library.

Spotted via somedisco. And I bet those Polish pilots who made up one fifth of the RAF's Battle of Britain force - and were the most successful the Allies had - get even less of a mention.

Seems someone had the same thought as me this weekend re. Blaine.

Among my referrals at sitemeter today - someone reaches the Rambler searching for "x-files" and "full bladder". What must they think of me?

Friday, September 12, 2003

I really hope this happens... if anyone's going to be around Tower Bridge tonight, look out for a bunch of people with laser spotters, and let me know. Personally, I like the idea of taking loads of handheld mirrors to reflect the sun into his eyes.

David Blaine has obviously made a real error of judgment doing his thang in London. I mean, Times Square, fine, you're gonna get loads of happy people whooping and cheering all the way through. But London ... of course everyone's going to try and take the mick. According to a friend of mine someone managed to waft bacon smells across to him from the river bank. Hahaha!

Spotted via k-punk's comments boards, this has been keeping me amused all through lunch.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

Jump London (Tuesday, Channel 4), showed beautiful and extraordinary images of free runners over the roofs of London. But it was spoilt by producers and directors all too keen to write themselves into the programme. For a start, too much time was spent on a back story (and developing a lame philosophy), but then the programme makers devoted chunks of time on a documentary about getting permission to run across the Albert Hall and HMS Belfast. Who cares? They then went even further in dispelling the magic at the end by revealing that everything had been shot in multiple takes, and therefore relied heavily on editing to make the run look a seamless flow of human movement (of course it had, but you don't need to make the process the subject). The three incredible athletes were reduced, at a stroke, to session actors, playing their parts, doing the daily grind; and the off-screen director is really the magician, the one making it happen. He's the star of the piece. Not offensive, I think, because we still saw some astonishing feats, but disappointing. I could have watched them surf the South Bank all day.

Before Jump London came on I saw a fox. In the grass at the front of Alexandra Palace. This has to be my favourite part of the London: on a clear night like Tuesday the view looks like the cliché of glittering fairylights cities are supposed to be after dark. Londoners love foxes. I think it's because we identify with them, the struggling little urbanites who ought to move out one day but can't seem to shake the city off. Libertines amongst the concrete, like the free runners. Maybe this is partly why Londoners especially get so worked up over fox hunting; but then we don't have livestock to protect. If a fox came for our Marlowe I'd probably go after it with a pack of dogs as soon as the next man.

Today I saw a kid collecting stones to throw at birds.

Friday, September 05, 2003


Have you ever noticed

how you read a newspaper?

around, leaving articles unread,

or only
partially read,

turning here and there.

Not at
all the way one reads
Bach in public,

but precisely the way
one reads
Duo II for
by Christian Wolff.

John Cage (5 Sept 1912-12 Aug 1992): from 'Indeterminacy', Silence (1961)
With aleatory assistance from the OED and Google.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Spreading the love:

Thanks to somedisco for their link. I should be more thorough about plugging the people I enjoy reading... And hello to Luka - I took his advice and read heronbone from bottom to top yesterday, and now I get it, and it is a marvellous thing.

A wonderful thing: ran into an old friend I'd not since way back, on Paddington station. One of the few people I actually regret losing touch with. My day is made.

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Ahhhh.... that's better. Thank you BlogSpeak.

Now, I've just got to sort out the bloody mess html's made of my amnesia post below...

My Arsetation (there's a clever play on words for you) comments are up the spout. Don't know if have any (I've given up trusting the counters) because every time I click the link, my browser crashes. So I've stopped trying, and I'm sure I'm not the only one. I shall be taking my comments elsewhere, just as soon as I get a mo'.

Angus over at I Feel Love writes about selective amnesia when watching films. I get this all the time, with books, films, anything with a plot. I infuriate the hell out of milady, 'cos she writes novels, and can't understand how I can live with myself. And she's probably got a point. As I comment at the end of Angus's piece, I had to watch The World is Not Enough a couple of times - and then ask - before I realised why the woman had blown up her own pipeline. So I suck (and you wouldn't believe the trouble I’ve been having reading The Count of Monte Christo), but I have a well-rehearsed excuse. I reckon it's something to with me being a music person first and foremost. You see, I've spent more years than I care to recall listening really hard to music, and skimming through books just to fill the time or answer questions.

But novels/films/etc. rely on plot (OK, in the main, but even all the technical wizadry in Ulysses is in service of story and character). Just listen to any (worthwhile) novelist or filmmaker and they will constantly talk about The Story. It quite unnerved me when I first heard this, because for me (in those brief heady days when I actually wrote music, and didn't just pontificate on it), composing was about technique. You created some material - that mythical moment of inspiration - and then you spent the rest of your time moulding it. Creating structure, placing events in time, transforming one thing into another. Unless you actually are Elliott Carter (and if so, welcome!), musicians probably don't worry too much about 'plotline' or character development. I'm not saying music is not narrative in any way (I believe quite the opposite, in fact), but that form and technique tend to come first - to the listener if nobody else* - and then you might discern some sense of narrativity or development later on. With novels, and films, it's probably meant to be the other way around. The story comes first, even if in some embryonic form. The style of the work, the characters, the setting, everything else should follow the story's logic. But I can't help but watch Hitchcock for the shooting angles he chooses, the framing of his shots, all this sort of thing; by which stage I've missed all the plot intricacies and I'm left wondering what the hell they’re doing on top of that belfry...

*Alright, to this listener if nobody else...

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