November 17, 2002 (link)
Good summary of Elliott Carter's recent activity here, including this passage which I think sums up what I was trying to say in my entry at the bottom of the page:
Cooperation also has been a recurrent theme in Carter's recent chamber music. In the latest string quartets the contrasting personalities of the instruments contribute to movements of a largely unified character. In the Fifth Quartet, for example, the ensemble fuses into a single onrushing stream in the Allegro scorrevole movement, and becomes a kind of super glass harmonica in the ethereal Adagio sereno, composed entirely of harmonics. In the amazing coda of String Quartet No. 4 the conflict between sound and silence is enacted by the ensemble as a whole. These works are a far cry from the earlier quartets, in which the conflict among instruments or instrumental groups is the central drama.
current music: Pink Floyd - "Time", live in Frankfort on November 17, 1972 (thirty years ago today!)
November 16, 2002 (link)
Scattered thoughts for the moment:
Listening to Material's Intonarumori the other day -- specifically, hearing "This Morning" by the Jugganots featuring BReeze & Queen Heroine, followed by "No Guts No Galaxy", by Ramm Ell Zee and phonosycographDISK -- made me think: do I prefer MCs who tend to favor words with a Germanic, rather than Latin, origin? It's too small a sample to say, but those two songs brought the idea to mind. (Ramm Ell Zee was the MC I liked better.) Long "-ization" and "-ication" words have always sounded pretentious to me when a lot of them show up in someone's rhymes; I prefer things like:
It's that nickel slick near, keep it deep from my heads
(N.B. It's not my transcription, though I've corrected a couple mistakes I spotted -- as best I can, anyway.)
Good Low interview here.
It's kind of sad and funny that I only really started to like metal when I was already in my mid-twenties, i.e. when I was no longer surrounded by people like JDR who would love to play metal with me. On the other hand, being a bass player in a metal band can be kind of a sketchy proposition if you don't play with a pick.
By the way, my comment system seems to be working again. I guess it was a Tripod problem?
current music: Random Radio (when I started listening 45 minutes ago, out of the first four songs they played, three were by Low. And now, they're playing a song by my old bandmate's new band! And now a live track by the Black-Eyed Snakes! Hard to argue with a playlist like that.)
November 12, 2002 (link)
I didn't expect to be away from writing here for so long. In the meantime, I hope you caught a nice series of entries from Josh over the past couple weeks. His entries on Dots and Loops particularly caught my eye, as I'd just revisited that album within 24 hours of his first post and had been having somewhat similar thoughts. I always had a feeling that the man who delivers my mail, M., was a neat guy, but didn't put my finger on it until a month or two ago, when an offhand question about FedEx turned into a half-hour long conversation about Can and Kraftwerk and Gong: turns out he's into some pretty great music. He hadn't heard of Stereolab, but since he liked Neu! and so forth, I figured he might like Dots and Loops and made him a CDR of it. I don't remember whether he said this after having heard it, or as a way of trying to paraphrase my description of what I liked about it, but either way the line he came up with -- "It floats" -- pretty much hits the nail on the head, for me. (How different is that from Josh's "giving up to the groove"?)
Of course that elides a whole potential conversation about the interactions of beats and cyclical melodies, the subtle shadings of timbre, the rich and at times almost Debussy- or Miles-like harmonies, and so on. And yes, it's definitely something about the production -- I wish I could pin down what. The whole thing feels like everybody involved contributed the best parts of themselves, leaving out the off-putting or uninteresting aspects of their musical personalities. Maybe that's what bugs so many people about the record -- maybe they miss all the rough edges and awkward angles? It does have a faceless quality -- I've compared it more than once to Dark Side of the Moon, a comparison I don't intend pejoratively though many would -- but oddly enough, it's never seemed at all ironic to me, unlike say Cobra and Phases which seems heavily steeped in ironic detachment. And yes, it's not a rock record, it's something else -- what exactly, I'm not sure, but I know I'd been waiting to hear it for quite a while. Another comparison: Pizzicato Five's Happy End of the World, an album that rapidly lost the initial impact it had on me, but which elicited in me a reaction that was in some ways similar. Most records that seem "hip" or "sophisticated" to me also make me feel excluded a priori -- their vision isn't one in which I can see any room for me -- and I normally react negatively to that kind of thing. But Dots and Loops somehow manages to evoke that sophisticated feeling and yet give it universality -- which may really mean timelessness. (I still find myself wondering how much of this is about vintage compressors and that kind of thing; it's much more than that, but the production is definitely part of the synergy -- timbrally it needs the sound it has, the sound for which the album art is an uncannily apt visual match.)
So about 10 days ago I attended a performance of all five of Elliott Carter's string quartets, as played by the Pacifica Quartet (who were unbelievable). I should've written about it last week -- the adjectives come to me less readily now, I think -- but it was really an amazing experience. I can't think of the last time I've attended a classical music concert by which I was so fully engaged, let alone one of such difficult material! Maybe that's part of why I was so engaged -- knowing that they were playing this incredibly difficult music and nailing it, and that this was an incredibly rare thing I was witnessing -- but besides those kinds of elements, the music was also damned good on its own. It was really surprising to me how much of the first quartet I could remember, given that I'd only listened to it once since 1999 or so. Of course its language makes it easier to have that kind of relationship with -- the melodic lines are longer, more en dehors, and the form of the piece feels connected to things like the late Beethoven quartets -- but it's still nice when such a monumental, difficult piece feels familiar, even inevitable. I'd reviewed the Second and Fourth before attending the concert, but hadn't heard the Third since 1995, and had never heard the Fifth at all. The Fifth turned out to be a really nice piece, very easy to "get" on first listen, with very delicate, quiet passages that might well be among my favorite moments in all five. The Third was dizzying -- I enjoyed it, but not having heard the piece in seven years put a big damper on my ability to have much insight into it, which is a shame as they played the hell out of it.
The big shift, for me, was the Fourth; when I first heard it in 1995, I thought it was total nonsense, but now -- both after reviewing it on the day of the concert, then hearing it in concert -- I don't know what I was thinking, it seems perfectly intelligible. (Maybe the problem was the Arditti Quartet -- their recording of the First, at least, doesn't hold a candle to the Composers Quartet version.) It's a nice piece, ending with slow, quiet, lyrical material that's repeatedly interrupted by jagged, loud outbursts; at first it seems like the outbursts happen too many times, but somehow that oddly turns out to be the point -- the interruptions reach a kind of co-existence with the quiet passages that they couldn't have if Carter didn't push them past the point of the comic. In the end, the lyrical material "wins out", but it seems intimately bound to the other music in a way that keeps it from feeling like a victory/resolution/abandonment -- the outbursts have somehow become implicit in the quiet music. A friend of mine described it as being a little like "The Unanswered Question", and I think I agree.
current music: Pink Floyd - Yeeshkul! (live at Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, March 11, 1973)
Tom Jones, Henry Fielding
The Computer Connection, Alfred Bester