The Rambler :: blog

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

I've noticed a whole bunch of articles like this cropping up recently, bookmarked by the good users of del.icio.us. Keep an eye on the box on the left there if you're interested, and many more will probably show up. The timing's interesting - must be something to do with year-end sales figures and reports being released I guess - but all round the world the press are picking up the thread that file-sharing etc. is not doing as much harm as the RIAA fear.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner,
That I love London so.
Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner
That I think of her wherever I go.
I get a funny feeling inside of me
Just walking up and down.
Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner
That I love London Town

RIP Hubert Gregg.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

I've alluded to this before, but there are some pretty large and surprising gaps in my knowledge of the musical canon. These include Schuman and Dylan, and, until recently, Pavement. Somehow, Pavement passed me by at the time, back in the early '90s, but thanks to a best-of Minidisc given to me by a friend, this gap at least is partly filled.

And at last I get to understand what all the fuss was about back then. And it may be a happy conjunction of genuine spring mornings, a newly-fixed back, and a clear and productive head - or it may itself be the source of all three - but it's some time since any collection of songs made me so happy.

Cheers, matey!

Christopher Bieg's old blog, cnwb, has been renamed and is now here. He says nice things about me, so you should go and click...

Monday, March 29, 2004

Ian Baxter, the man behind 86400 seconds also runs a DIY record label, Quiet Records. I ordered their sampler CD which dropped through the post this morning. Seven tracks, seven artists, bit of a mixed bag - but Quiet are happy not having a specific genre or style focus. Favourite track for me I think is the Fandago Boys' gloriously rough-and-ready, and hilarious 'Unlicensed Fighter', a demolition of the Beatles' 'Paperback Writer'. Among the other tracks, Jon Dalton's 'Mourning' is a muscular, minimalist improvisation - much more like John Adams' Phrygian Gates than the Philip Glass you might expect. Lots of clanging reverb, a hint of Mussorgsky's 'Great Gate of Kiev', perhaps. Ian's own contribution - 'U-238' - is taken from the two-track Uranium EP, and is a guitar-based Eno-esque slice of ambience. According to the site blurb, it's built up from loops, but if this is the case they're used to create a delicately shifting patina of non-repeats - sort of like Feldman - so that you know that what happens next will come from quite a small pool of possible events, but you're never completely sure what it will be. Like Music for Airports there's just enough of this in-built expectation to engage the mind, but never so much that you have to really work at it. Unlike Music for Airports, these are tangibly acoustic instruments - you can hear the scraping of fingernails on guitar strings - which brings an additional level of engagement - if you want to listen for it. In an analogy that I'm sure Ian will appreciate, it's like watching a session of test cricket after a boozy Sunday lunch, and all the better for it.

Friday, March 26, 2004

Now this is a great new development at NYLPM. And happy fourth birthday!


A few days ago, in the review of the Elysian Quartet/Gabriel Prokofiev gig, I half-accidentally coined a term that I'm pretty pleased with, but which probably needs some explaining.

Back in the day, before Schoenberg had fully developed serialism, or 12-tone composition, and was writing in a free atonal style, he was still searching for a means to create large-scale musical form in the absence of traditional tonal harmony. Most of the time (as in the monodrama Erwartung) he turned to a written text around which his music could be structured, and which could support an atonal, non-harmonic musical work. But this was an unsatisfactory solution, since Schoenberg understandably wanted to be able to write purely instrumental music too. One of the interim solutions he came up with was the notion of Klangfarbenmelodie, literally tone- or sound-colour-melody. The thinking was that the individual notes of a musical line or phrase could be given particular colours; by this means, Schoenberg asserted [1], he could create "progressions of tone-colours equalling harmonic progressions in terms of logic ... Progressions of tone-colours," he went on to state, "would certainly demand constructions different from those required by progressions of tones, or of harmonies."

Schoenberg, regrettably, never gets round to fully explaining what an internal logic of tone-colour progressions might look like, but the term Klangfarbenmelodie has proved useful. In fact, the short article quoted is a rebuff by Schoenberg that Webern might have invented the idea. Webern's music, particularly his later serial work such as the Concerto for Nine Instruments, is characterised by Klangfarbenmelodie, and at times it might seem as though the term had been invented to describe his music. In late serial Webern a musical 'melody' or phrase might be shared amongst several instruments. This idea would be taken to its probably extreme by the total serial composers of of the 1950s, most notably in Stockhausen's Punkte of 1952 (a work he more-or-less disowned), which is composed entirely of isolated 'points' of sounds. The result of Klanfarbenmelodie composition is a kaleidoscopic, fractured sound world, where conventional continuities no longer exist. Structure, musical differentiation, is heard sequential, almost note by note, rather than horizontally between longer, interacting layers. The more familiar format of a melody, played on a single instrument, naturally, and an accompaniment has been abandoned; now every instrument is an equal partner in constructing a single, ever-changing continuity. If you just try listening to one instrument at a time in a piece of late Webern or early Stockhausen, the music won't make very much sense. For it to do so, you have to take an aural step backwards, take the whole in at once.

A similar effect can be heard in Timbatunes-esque stuff of the moment. Sonically everything is working towards the beat, the groove. Bass, drums, chords, melody - these distinctions no longer apply. Take 'Hey Ya', an example everybody knows, even if it's not actually a Timbaland/Neptunes job. There are a handful of elements (guitar, bass, snare) that work as one layer, certainly - but try pulling those apart. They're just components of a larger whole. Over this, you could say there's the vocal stuff (including interjections etc.), but this again is so tied into the beat that it's hard to really disassociate it (see the 'Shake it' section). We're not working with melody and accompaniment, or rap and beat, or even different voices in counterpoint. Just as Webern's Klangfarbenmelodie style conflated individual instruments into one super-instrument, so the components in the mix of 'Hey Ya' conflate into one super-beat. It's a homogenised unit. The 'Klangfarben' bit comes with the fact the it is the passing of the beat between instruments and parts that creates the texture, the overall effect of the track. So, as Klangfarbenmelodie is a melody with a shape and effect determined through shifting instrumental colours, so too Klangfarben-beat: the beat (which can be a straightforward 4/4 stomp) achieves greater definition and differentiation in the way sound is used to articulate it, to give it light, shade, variety, depth.

Just an idle thought, a way for me to quantify what distinguishes one production/song-writing style from another. Make of it what you will.

[1] see 'Anton Webern: Klangfarbenmelodie', in Style and Idea, ed. Leonard Stein (1975, rev.1984), pp.484-485

Listening round-up 

Ethical concerns about downloading or not, Fluxblog is about the most fun you can have on the 'net at the moment: there was that Celestial Choir track a couple of weeks ago, and then the Shame 69 and Bollywood Feaks tunes up at the moment. Ace is about the only word for it.

Naughty fun seekers might also want to head over here smartish.

But if all that gets too much for you, there's always here.


Thursday, March 25, 2004

Meanwhile, Kyle Gann is an American abroad, disappointed by the Old Europe music scene - and rightly so.

He also picks up on some of the spectral music he heard, but I disagree that what Murail et al are doing is related in anything more than a superficial sense to the American microtonalists - Partch, Riley, Gann himself etc. I think what is crucial to approaching spectral music - as I've mentioned on these pages before - is the sense of history within the music: it is a reaction against serialism (as well as a further refining of compositional scientism), and that sense of freedom is one of the strenghths of the music. It is also possibly because it is a reaction against a much-maligned past that it has won such popularity in European new music circles. American polytonal composition, by contrast, seems to me a reaction against a less-defined past, and one that in many circles is still widely appreciated. So maybe the reaction is less welcome? I don't know the American scene well enough to comment properly, but this is a hunch.

Also, anyone wanting to escape the serialist hegemony of European music should probably head down to The Warehouse near Waterloo for genuinely new music composed and performed by the very best of the new British experimentalists, and more besides. The Cutting Edge series - which starts up again in September - is not to be missed.

Hello to readers coming from K-Punk and World of Possibility, and welcome to the neo-Reaper!

Today's sacred cow is ....

Actually, let's leave that one until I'm in a more bilious mood...

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

This is horribly addictive.

Mark Twain: "When you catch an adjective, kill it."

Thanks to a pointer from Tofuhut, I noticed this album going for up to $149.99 over on Amazon. Which is a bit freaky, 'cos I picked it up in my local Oxfam only last week for just £2.49...

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Well, whaddaya know.

To be honest, that Loveless thing I wrote was more a poke at Kevin Shields, and even more a reaction to the fawning Guardian article. (Did no one else wince at how glibly both reporter and interviewee related how Shields had simply pissed Island's money up the wall, for zero return?) Mythology is a tricky, sometimes unpleasant beast, that must always be treated with the greatest suspicion.

Jon brought up the Pastels - one of the few tracks that MBV have managed to put down in the last 12 years (that the Guardian fails to mention) was 'Magic Nights', featured on the Illuminati: the Pastels Remixes album (there was also a cover of 'We Have All the Time in the World' on a Vox freebie CD years ago).

I don't know Dreams Top Rock to be honest (one day I'll start talking about music I do know about...); the only Pluramon track I have was on the Wire Tapper 6.

Listening to 'Come in Alone' right now, I guess I just want to follow up some of what Jon says: of course there is a cumulative strength to the record, and there's that top-end harmonics/tinnitus thing that I dig (cf Glenn Branca), but - and this comes from such a whey face as mine - I just wish it would kick off a bit more. One of my favourite shoegaze passages is actually the end of Ride's 'Leave them all behind', that minute-and-a-half of solid noise. Perhaps because he was so concerned with 'getting it right', Shields could never really let go of the controls and see what happened.

But this boils down to something deep in my own aesthetic taste: I prefer frayed edges, disintegration, mistakes, imperfection to polished sheen. What makes the South Bank - that monolithic, modernist, series of concrete blocks, the closest thing I can think of architecturally to Loveless - beautiful and moving are the water stains. The way this futuristic vision, a fantasy of cultural and imperial might, modernistic anti-time, is being marked, tarnished by simple rain water every week is really quite poetic. Shields should maybe have relaxed a bit more and let the damp open up some cracks.

I had a Googler stop by asking how to get rid of NTSearch from their computer (referring to an earlier post). If they're still looking for info, this is what happened to me:

This was all happening on my work computer, running Windoze 2000. It's also fitted with Sophos anti-virus software, which at the same time picked up that I had QHosts, SpoonerD and something called 'sp' sat on my hard-drive - from what little I know (and I'm hardly an expert) - QHosts may have been the one causing the trouble.

In the end, Sophos dealt with these, but the search thing didn't go away (and I couldn't use Google etc. either) until I physically deleted the files that Sophos was isolating. So, my advice is probably to get yourself a good virus cleaner, run it, then delete any residual crap.

The real catch with this thing was that sometimes, when I tried to use Google, it would bring up a fake Google.com page, with some blurb about how their DNS registry wasn't working or something, so could you try your search again using the box below. Which, stupidly, I did. And that is when I think it hooked me. So watch out.

Cricket, process music and growing things: the good life @ 86400 Secs.


I've recently been coming across this blog, which seems to be mostly about the retro music/machine interface (right down to the frames, ha!). Recently they've been running a series on things you can do with record grooves (lock grooves, inverted grooves, parallel grooves, that sort of thing), but the pièce de résistance has to be this piece on ZX Spectrum programs hidden in the grooves. Love the Shakin' Stevens game.

"Rap may be one of the most abstract popular musics in history, especially once its certain brand of formalism became an end in itself."

Now there's a thought to treasure, from Jess. I'm not completely convinced I agree (surely, say, Mama Said Knock You Out is so strong because the music is the [sexualised, masculine, testosterone-fuelled] aggression of the lyrics), but it's a bloody powerful point, and one I'm going to carry with me for a while yet.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

And now you've all signed up your details and registered at the Telegraph, you can cop a snoop at this review from Ivan Hewitt of that Squarepusher/Liddell/Sinfonietta gig last week. Nice piece.

This is a lot of fun.

Elysian Quartet, Cargo, 17 March 2004 

The Elysian Quartet's 'cellist, Laura, is a close friend of the Rambler household, so it was with pleasure that milady and I braved the Hoxton wastes to see her and the Quartet play at Cargo last night.

There's a little bit of background here [from the Telegraph, free registration is needed], but in summary last night's gig at Cargo was loosely billed as a launch for the Elysian's recording of Gabriel Prokofiev's new string quartet, written for them. The album features five remixes of the four-movement quartet, one by Prokofiev himself, who until recently has done most of his work in electronica anyway (he's also Sergei's grandson, as it happens). The other mixes are by Max de Wardener, David Schweitzer, Boxsaga and Ed Laliq, and all were played last night after the quartet were finished on stage. On first listening, and without being sure which track was which, it's hard for me to make any particular comments on the individual mixes. Suffice to say, though, they all seemed to steer healthily clear of the pitfalls of trying to remix classical music - cf Reich Remixed, and square pegs and round holes - and at least one of them went down that enjoyably tried and trusted route of throwing in a beat the size of a Range Rover. All good.

The fact that the remixes did, pretty much, work was I thought down to the fact that Prokofiev himself is a producer (although, for obvious reasons, most of his work has been done to date under pseudonyms), and large chunks of his quartet - particularly the last movement - demonstrate a beatz-and-samplez-based way of thinking about music. For all the familiar 20th/21st century string quartet sonorities (and I did think that Prokofiev strayed a little close to Bartók at times) at its best this was Timbatunes klangfarben-beats translated in spirit, if not in literal sound, into the chamber music salon. A tricky feat, but Prokofiev did bring it off.

As did the Elysians and support act, harpist Louisa Duggan, who played two pieces of Debussy, a piece based on Greek legend that I would have sworn was by Birtwistle, but turned out to be by Marius Constant, and a rather lovely little number by Cage which surprised several people in the room. Unpretentious, but moving, high-minded and interesting, and enjoyed over Budvar and chips, it pretty much summed up the whole evening.


Loved Less 

Just some words on My Bloody Valentine, more specifically Kevin Shields, since he's flavour of the week at the moment. I'm probably opening myself up to a torrent of abuse here, but I can't keep it any longer.

Loveless is not that great.

I like it, a lot, believe me, but I don't understand why it's consistently reckoned to be one of the greatest albums ever made. I mean, most of the time the top end of 'greatest albums' lists baffles me anyway - Sergeant Pepper, Pet Sounds, etc., but at least I figure that I was born thirty years too late, I'm not in a position to imagine how radical they must have sounded at the time, etc. etc. But in 1991 I was a floppy-haired indie kid who was just getting into Ride, Spiritualized and Stereolab. By all reckoning Loveless should be perfect for me, but it's not.

There's a tremendous mythology built up around this album: we've all read (still reading in last week's Guardian) the stories of how he bankrupted Alan McGee in his striving for sonic perfection, etc. The problem I have is that while he's found a pretty good sound for McGee's £250,000, that's all Shields has come up with. There's that brickwall guitar sound, with occasional pitch bends, and then some flutey keyboard stuff over the top. It sounds great, it must have taken a bit of work to perfect it. It's absolutely distinctive, instantly recognisable. Marvellous. But then it's used almost without definition across the entire album. Someone coming to Loveless after reading the stories is going to expect a kaleidoscopic aural feast, and they're going to be disappointed. I was myself, since I bought the album after reading various pieces in NME/Melody Maker with Shields wittering on about different weights of guitar strings. Someone who's acquired this attention to detail, I thought, must have a lot of pretty amazing ways of demonstrating it. And this is where the record falls down, for me. Each track is very good, and the whole 50 minutes is pretty exhilarating, but until 'Soon' offers any real shift in emphasis, you also feel slightly shortchanged. It's not quite the 'muddy splodge' Luka would have it as, but it's just that bit too monolithic, too samey. A harsher man than I might draw parallels with Oasis, circa 'Some Might Say' for the all-sounds, all-of-the-time production.

I repeat: it is an album I really, really like, and one I often turn to when I'm not quite sure what I want to listen to. But I'm suspicious of its canonisation. To me it just looks too much like too many people being sucked into an image of the tortured genius artist (a notion I hate anyway) that doesn't hold up to scrutiny alongside the musical work itself. I don't wish Shields any ill - his music has brought me a great deal of pleasure - but I'm just putting out a little plea for some perspective, that's all. For all the money, all the legend, all the pain, I'd want something that pushed itself just a little harder, took some risks in the new sonic world it had created, and avoided returning to the comfort of that. A record that opened more than just one, small, door.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Lots of good reading on the download issue over at Grievous Angel at the moment, including actual facts and figures, which are always a good thing ... ;-)

I'll be following silverdollarcircle's progress with interest. I like to think it'll end well, but I have my doubts...

Scott picks up the call-waiting thread.

P.S. Macclesfield winning = bad, but so does being 1-0 up on 82 mins, then conceding on 83 mins. Gah!

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Warp records/London Sinfonietta reviews 

[See an earlier post for details of the event itself]

Tom Service in the Guardian didn't think much of it. Richard Morrison in the Times got more out of it. However, it should be noted that Morrison seems to be coming at the concert from the point of view of a wide-eyed newcomer who doesn't know much Warp ["Warp Records, a pop-music label that promotes mavericks operating at the cutting edge of electronic music"], or indeed been to many Sinfonietta concerts ["London Sinfonietta concerts are worthy but austere occasions: dutiful parades of cerebral contemporary music performed to a smattering of cognoscenti"], or even seen much Steve Reich performed before ["It was as thrilling to watch the percussionists making their entries into Reich's Six Marimbas, for instance, as it was to hear the whirling metrical patterns diverging."]. At least, this is the impression he's happy giving - and this is the audience he's targetting his review at, one that is not at all familiar with any of the music performed. Whilst I share his delight that ensembles like the Sinfonietta are working hard to de-stultify the concert hall, as someone who wasn't at the gig itself, I'm more inclined to listen to what Service has to say about it. I know anyway that Tom has a pretty intelligent pair of ears on him anyway, but on top of this, his review is at least engaging with the events on stage (his description of Lidell's performance, for example, is much more revealing), and he's not tempted into the slightly patronising tone of Morrison's piece. In the end, Morrison, I think, undoes himself and falls into the all-too common trap of talking about contemporary music as some exotic oddity, rather than a pretty common component of cultural life, that thus contributes, in a small way, to its continued ghettoisation.

Amongst the usual bits of spam etc this morning, I received one (with compulsory don't-touch-with-a-bargepole attachment) that simply said

"you are a bad writer"

Sweet. Now everybody seems to know.

Monday, March 15, 2004

I've been offline all day, so no chance yet to observe that this actually happened! Test cricket, eh. Bloody hell.

And what a good weekend it was.

Friday, March 12, 2004

Last, lovely, words from Matt.

"If the current set-up of exhibition and distribution of music collapses (it wont ENTIRELY), and y'all have the "joy" of package-less dematerialised music, then it might be worth pondering the future. If lived experience and the specifics of geography make up 75% of music's power, what would music bereft of these things sound like? It would represent a music which doesn't have recourse to people's understanding of life, but which works solely in signification to other music without signification."

Pause for thought. Have good weekends y'all.

Apropos of me mouthing off that record labels never look after their artists financially, I was of course forgetting Kevin Shields.

Thursday, March 11, 2004



[Thanks to the splendid 86400 Seconds for both links.]

Don't like the sound of this. Trying to database what is and isn't under copyright, and then using that as a means to persuing piracy charges sounds way too dodgy to be worth anything. And then having to pay to be on that database in the first place ... yuck!

[Spotted via creativity/machine]

Fantastic stuff over at clap clap at the moment.

More ethics from Matt. You should go and read them.

I'm becoming quite militant these days, aren't I.

Telling, perhaps?

[And Magnatune are here]

Well I never.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Hmmm. Interesting idea from Branson. More to the point, I hadn't heard of the monthly payment options to be available on iTunes store and new Napster - which I like the sound of, and is at least one step towards sensible pricing of MP3s.

Loving that My Little Pony track over at tinyluckygenius.

Also loving Harveys sandwiches on St Giles, Oxford. Roast beef, horseradish, salad and onion is smelly but delish. And the guy who serves you must be the happiest man in Oxfordshire. A real tonic.

Le rock. Sounds marvellous.

Oh what a night.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Download schmownload 

Just wanted to add my two penn'orth to Woebot's download ethics dilemma (without getting lost in the growing list of comments, natch). Really, the thing to remember when having discussions of this sort is that it is always the artists who we should be thinking about. They're the ones who do all the work, they're the ones who do stuff no one else can or has thought about; they're the ones who excite us. But it's almost always the record companies who do the complaining: we have to be absolutely precise about distinguishing the two. The problem that the record companies complain about is one entirely of their own making, I believe. They made fatal errors of judgement 5 or so years back when they decided that the net was the enemy, and not potentially their greatest asset since the 7". By doing this, they made enemies, and put a potential 'conspirator' tag over the head of every using the net who likes music; which is ah, everyone. So now everyone thinks 'sod them', why should I listen to someone who would rather call me a criminal than a listener who gains enormous pleasure from their products. And isn't everyone, twinges of guilt notwithstanding, secretly happy to be getting one over on the bad guys by listening to free downloads, right?

Of course, people can, and do, pay for their downloads; an industry initiative (quick! bolt that door! the horse has only got 5 years' head start on us!) that simply takes the mick. I mean, c'mon. Aside from the fact that these sites are working on an exchange rate that means 99 US cents = 99 pence (er..., anyone else feel loved?), since when did an MP3 cost the same as a CD track? You have negligible storage, shipping, marketing, packaging, manufacturing, sales costs to consider, you can put your entire back catalogue up for sale at once, and yet somehow it still costs the same to get the raw data direct from the source as it does to troop down to Tower, where you also get a nice inlay booklet and something to read on the tube home. So, incredibly, while trying to catch the wave of people who'd rather buy virtual than buy real, they've actually made MP3s look the less attractive option, since you actually get less for your money. If they were serious about selling MP3s, they'd cost maybe 20p a track. Half that could go straight to the musicians (and they'd still be better off than they are), and the record company would still make money. And then, people would start to download tracks in huge numbers. I'd take an album a day probably - about 7 or 8 times as much music as I buy at the moment, and about 20 times as much as I buy new, rather than from MVE, or charity shops, so they'd make a killing off me for a start; and I can't be the only one.

And those twinges of guilt, anyway. Look at what people feel guilty about: they feel guilty about hurting the artists' pockets. An argument that is the record companies' own first line of defence - and a pretty flimsy one at that. Of all the artists with records available at the moment, how many really make a decent living from them? I mean really? 1%? Less? Even the really big guns, like the Stones, say, make all their money from touring. Those who make proper money from royalties must be minute - and then most of them through advertising/film/TV syndication. Album and singles sales put practically nothing in the pockets of artists themselves; and look at the size of the industry they support. Hmmm. Is criminalising millions of people around the world really the only way EMI, Warners and the rest of the majors can think of to support their artists better?

Not paying artists for what they do is bad, downloaders are not the ones doing the real damage.

Saturday, March 06, 2004

I'm a restless person, I know. I've tweaked the template again. Anyway, just wanted to say a big congratulations to Ireland. A victory well deserved. Somebody had to take that Twickenham record, and I honestly wouldn't have wished it for any other team. Cheers!

This is great stuff from Angus. I was brought up a Methodist, although I think I'm officially down as 'non-attending' - Methodists are good at keeping track of these things - so hymns are in my blood too. And it's true, you don't really take the words in at all. Hymns have that effect - you just follow the rhythms and the shape of the tune, and the rest is pretty incidental in practice. Although I'm sure Charles Wesley would disagree.

Mind you, that array of words and tune combinations can be pretty daunting, as I recently discovered when trying to sort out my wedding music. Try this site of metrical psalms - essentially Psalms shoehorned into the syllabic metres Angus mentions, and then set to hymn tunes - there are dozens of combinations for each one, and somehow you're supposed to be concentrating on the words as you madly flick through your Psalter to find the tune everyone else is happily belting out beside you. It's a minefield! So in the end, we ditched that idea and went for a straightforward Anglican chant setting, which reduces the confusion somewhat.

C'mon Fulham. I may still not have forgiven you for fouling your way past us in the 3rd div all those years ago, and for buying your way out since then, but c'mon, you can make me happy today!

Friday, March 05, 2004

One of the nicest things about reading blogs, something they have that no other non-fiction medium can really do, is that you can see people changing their minds, adjusting to changes, surprising themselves. The ever-excellent Sean at Die Acid House Die has been doing just that with the forthcoming Wiley album recently. [I've only heard one track from this - 'Problems', which popped up on Fluxblog recently - but I think I see what Sean's getting at when he says "Wiley has taken the MCing aesthetic and turned into a joyous pop art". 'Problems' is lyrically pretty angsty, nagging, picking fights etc., but musically it's in roughly the same territory as Madness's 'It Must be Love'. In spite of the tension in the rhymes, it's just fun. One in the eye for hand-wringing, Guardian readers who can't see beyond a stereotyped image of East London estates, I reckon.]

All this, and a top ten of theorists (and I shudder to think how much work all that was - Sean, for library geeks like me you're an inspiration!). What more do you want?

New Music in March 

A few days late with this I know, but here are the Rambler's picks for new music concerts and events this month:

Saturday 6th March

Tomorrow night, at the Philip Guston exhibition at the Royal Academy, there's going to be a performance of Feldman's massive For Philip Guston, performed, incredibly, for the first time alongside Guston's paintings. The two men were close friends, and Feldman certainly drew a lot from Guston's work. The work is for flute, piano and percussion, lasts over 4 hours, and will be introduced by Guston's daughter, Musa Mayer. Tickets are a tenner, and it should be a good 'un.

Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London

Friday 12th March

This is the concert lots of people have been waiting for (and that I can't get to ...): the London Sinfonietta/Warp records collaborations continue with this touring show featuring Squarepusher, Jamie Lidell, and music by Varèse, Reich, Aphex Twin, Cage and Antheil. The previous incarnation of this idea, the Warp Works and 20th Century Masters concert of last year was only a qualified success, the biggest problem being the arrangements of Warp artists' tunes for the classical Sinfonietta ensemble. This didn't quite come off for two reasons: firstly the musicians couldn't groove as well as the original tunes did; and secondly, the idea of arranging electronica for acoustic instruments is just a no-no anyway.

To the credit of all parties, though, they're persisting with what is in essence a good idea, and they've dropped most of the arrangements and gone for more straightforward juxtaposition (Squarepusher's sandwiched between Varèse and Antheil). Squarepusher and Lidell are both doing short solo sets, and Aphex has written a new piece specifically for the Sinfonietta.

Tickets (if you can still get 'em) are available through the Royal Festival Hall.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Sorry about the relative quiet around here, but I've got a phat pile of work on. So in the meantime, have fun with this.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Really, really lovely.


Monday, March 01, 2004


Your call is important to us 

Considering the way certain parts of my life (not the important ones, thank goodness) are falling apart at the moment (hello Macintosh, hello Outlook Express, hello Virgin net!), this could be the first in a regular Rambler series. But on the other hand, I'm sure we'd both rather rather it wasn't. Still, just as a laugh, let me present:

Call-waiting music of the week!

And congratulations to BT Openworld, whose post-modern collage approach to call-waiting music was pretty impressive; and a good thing too, since I had a good 15 minutes of it to listen to.

The extract I heard was loosely composed in three movements, corresponding to an ABA structure. However, after this point all comparisons with standard call-waiting music are meaningless. The two outer sections were based upon two different, but similar, balearic/trance house tunes; the second came with an added vocalist. The central section was shorter, and was built upon an MOR rock tune, which I'm guessing from the echoey voices beloved of late Beatles may have dated from the late 60s. It was also heavy on twangy guitar arpeggios.

In essence, this is fairly standard call-waiting fare, although it was striking that none of the three tracks were played in their entirety, but were abruptly sandwiched together. What was more striking, however, was an irregular ostinato composed of dialing tones, static clicks, and keypad bleeps, not unlike Saturo Wono's 'Overture', featured on The Wire Tapper 10 a few months ago. But, where Wono's sonic collage was composed entirely from phone noises, BT Openworld's effort was marked by the way in which these elements were crudely spliced over the more traditional call-waiting tunes in the background. Moreover, there seemed to be no discernible pattern to the repetitions of dial-tone (even the number of rings might vary), static or bleeping. At times, enough backing music would be heard to lull you into listening to it fully, only to be rudely interrupted by an electronic outburst. At other times, the bursts themselves seemed to take on a certain regularity which would itself suggest some formal musicality, only to be disrupted by the backing music, or an additional dial tone ring, say. By simultaneously creating a false sense of security in expectation of a musical development in the backing tracks, or an answered call in the foreground collage, and at the same time dismantling that security as it happens before your ears, BT Openworld's call-waiting music is an impressively thorough commentary on the whole Beckettian tragicomedy that is customer services*. It is a meta-call waiting work of the highest order. Just a shame that the chap who finally answered the phone was no help to me.

*Pace, Scott!

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