Iain Cameron's Diary
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2004-04-05 - 10:49 p.m.

I had a chance to check the Leamington price of those new Korean Telecasters against London today. It’s a good price, unfortunately.

I had a meeting at Centre Point which gave me a chance to nose around in Denmark St. which is really very close. I saw an interesting early 70s Fender amplifier too – like a champ in the sense that it is lowish power valve combination silver face amplifier – but in a larger box to predispose it to bass guitar. The quoted price was pretty high but I think they would come down. I didn’t hear it of course but I have certainly never seen the like before. The word “Mustang” features. Just as well that I am not in the area often.

The journey from Birmingham International to Euston was a lot smoother than it is sometimes. The landscape was good to look at – lots of variety – and quite wild thanks to the brooding weather. It’s a while since I made that journey and I could make more sense of the geology this time

I discovered that Prince is a Joni Mitchell fan which helps explain why I suddenly discovered that I was a Prince fan three or four years ago. There are references to her lyrics scattered throughout his work. Apparently the Hissing of Summer Lawns is a particular favourite of his.

I picked up a copy of the UK edition of John Rockwell’s All American Music – a series of essays on composition in the USA covering Babbit to Neil Young and Talking Heads taking in Keith Jarrett and Ornette Coleman. I have a US paperback and its falling apart and the replacement was only Ł3.

This edition has a 1996 introduction and Rockwell explains that when he joined the New York Times in the early 70s he found that much of the criticism written about “serious” music was very narrow. Rockwell teamed up with Kyle Gann and helped catalyse the downtown scene. He wrote about composers who were not recognised as such by the musical establishment. Apparently Rockwell’s position provoked hostility from Gunther Schuller.

In surveying the landscape changes between 1983 and 1996 Rockwell highlights the emergence of the jazz repertory movement led by Schuller and Wynton Marsalis. He thinks that downtown experimentalists have been overshadowed by neo-romantics – and that much serious music criticism in New York has been taken over by Brits who still hark back to European standards and narratives.

Rockwell describes himself as favouring liberal inclusiveness rather than pomo fragmentation and factionalism – and the advocate of a US musical ideal which is about freedom and liberation.

Isn’t it odd that in the UK that kind of aspiration is more often expressed in terms of the visual arts than in respect of anything musical. Indeed last year in the Guardian the claim was made that the pioneers of the US visual avant garde were flagging while the UK confidently powered on.

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