Iain Cameron's Diary
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2004-03-30 - 7:29 a.m.

Well I really don’t know. I started the day on that 6 note chord stuff I mentioned in yesterday’s splurt – which went fine esp on the cz101. Then I remembered that there was a meeting that I ought to be in the office to do and so there was a mad dash over the watershed.

When I arrived, a colleague said the meeting had been cancelled but that we (I) were (was) still in with a chance of a five figure contract. The phone call would come through this afternoon – but you don’t need me to tell you that we don’t have it yet. Five figures in the second quarter would certainly make my half yearly figures look good.

Returning to the flat, I found that I could make the pc talk to the Tascam MD 4 track via the Tascam US 428 and the USB connection if I pointed the Wavelab version 4 at the port. My strategy had always been that sticking with Tascam across different technologies would sooner or later pay off.

Somehow a brand new basis of looping fell into place. A Wavelab loop playing against a MD loop – but both built around the same round-the clock basic harmonic concept – which implied occasional consonance between the two loops. I let them roll for 5 mins – with some Dhorn phrases thrown across and some dropping in and out of the loops or as far as the 4 track is concerned, certain elements.

The instrumentation is grunge guitar, clean guitar, saxophone harmonies and lead saxophone plus a rap voice loop.

The grunge guitar part is quite heavily processed through a notch filter and heavily parameterised reverb which I can only access in the VST add-ons in Wavelab 4. The result is quite like the timbre of the saxophone quartet which I have coaxed out of the Box.

Another point is that the whole configuration is not very stable – mainly because the portable is part of the story and its old and falling apart – but also because its only a demo version of Wavelab and I am cheating the designers by taking a digital feed out. The whole idea of the demo version is that you an’t keep what you create.

The flow of sounds becomes permanent rather than transient when it hits the final 2 track MD – which is where the three elements converge – the Wavelab loop, the 4 track MD loop and the processed Dhorn.

Method and configuration don’t justify a piece of course. On the one hand there’s the looping and on the other there’s harmonic relations within each loop that make them knit together within a framework that deliberately introduces a random or chaotic dimension.

And then there’s the fact the whole looping field is constructed as a domain for the Dhorn to explore in real time. If I had to locate the enterprise anywhere I would say its around Soft 3.

Meanwhile back to another domain of grand theory. The origins of Cabaret Voltaire, deliberately taking their name from a Dadaist source and experimenting fairly chaotically with simple equipment in 1974 place them close to Mike Kelley’s Futuristic Ballet in South East Michigan – who also use emerging technology in an improvisatory fashion within a nominal framework taken from early 20th century art. (I suppose one could add Spandau Ballet to this.)

By 1978 journalists begin to detect a “school” in Sheffield characterised by drummerless bands – using synths and beat boxes – and CV are seen as the originators of this movement. This is simultaneous with the emergence of the Coventry sound and with the start of the Detroit experiments. Regionalisation is a theme here – obviously in a country the size of the US you will always get regionalisation – esp when within each region you get situations which are each very different but with their own creative chemistry.

It seems that something very similar is happening in England at the end of the 70s and the early 80s – in Cambridge, Sheffield, Coventry and Manchester. A key vector is the falling price of the kit thanks to globalisation meeting rising teenage incomes.

But if one compares the situation with the one which prevailed twenty years earlier the innovation is more orthodox rather than heterodox. In Belfast, Birmingham, Newcastle and South West London bands were independently converging on a particular musical model – white RnB. A similar convergence takes place in NYC and South East Michigan. You can model all this as diffusion from Chicago and from the old country blues recordings – and those recordings become visible again thanks to a limited number of specific individuals based in Brooklyn in the late 1950s. So in this wave you could use a radial diffusion model.

But does that model fit 1977-87. One approach would be to say that it is Detroit, New York and Chicago (once again) leading the way. But one of the major differences is that in at least one of these centres – Detroit – English (and German) experimentation is being mixed with indigenous traditions eg Parliament and Funkadelic. (I note in passing that Madonna emerges from this particular crucible too.) So this is much more like a network.

On the CV history you can hear them move towards a more funk inflected style and to my ears they end up sounding like Prince on the one hand and like Carl Craig’s homage remixes of the B52’s Mesopotamia – that last element is a retrospective of course – but from those three one could construct a musical cluster within which a key element would be the formal semantics of the beat eg relationship of the fill to the pulse.

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