Iain Cameron's Diary
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2003-12-26 - 1:56 p.m.
I have just been peeling the potatoes and parsnips listening to Glass’s 600 Lines played by the Italian group Alter Ego which Santa was kind enough to drop off at the bottom of the Christmas tree. It’s a unison line played by a chamber group – marimba, electric guitar, synth etc – written in 1968 as one of the first pieces for the newly formed Philip Glass Ensemble.
It sits with “In C” and Lamont Young’s String Quartet and (say) Reich’s Pendulum Piece as one of the masterpieces of really deep early Minimalism. Of all of these it is perhaps the one that is closest to rock and jazz. It goes back to the erratic rhythms of the classic bebop head – like Moose the Mooch – or contemporary pieces by the Soft Machine. One’s first reaction is amazement that the musicians can be that together and so relaxed
Glass believes that the piece demands surrender to the process – well maybe – maybe you can fight against it as well. It certainly follows some of the most fundamental principles of Minimalism – the piece seeks to engage the listener in the contemplation of fundamental schemata constitutive of the genre itself. This is, if you like, the super-modernism of Min – the post Greenbergian dimension. This piece hooks into rhythm repetition metre and harmony working with the fundamental aspects of each and challenging you to assess how they might variously be the carriers of form and meaning.
The harmony is there in the roots fifths thirds and seconds that the line uses. The use of the second – rather than the fourth – is an issue in its own right. There are rare moments when orchestration joins the grammatical field While it recalls the world of Nauman, Smithson, Serra etc it is also feels absolutely contemporary. I feel I need to take up the challenge it throws down and see what Gilbert might make of it.
There is a piece which I sent Peter this week that is Dhorn with a couple of driven modules – played and recorded as one – a thick unison line with just occaisional harmony notes played on the keyboard with the right hand. It makes me even more eager to open that up
How Now – also 1968 – is even more surprising. In terms of soundworld it anticipates Reich’s Music for Mallet Instruments - several years later – that calm rippling surface with patten shifts underneath. Plus sudden step changes in harmonic environment – moving away from Ur-Minimalism to a more composed environment.
I read a bit of Ch2 of “the fold” – which introduces the idea of “objectile”. In the classic era of mass production objects are determined by the tooling that stamps a form on them. A modern car would be a classic example where the body panels are formed by pressing steel with expensive high precision tooling – a multiplicity of entities are virtually identical emerging from the production process.
Deleuze sees that we are moving beyond that. The object is a moment on a trajectory because the product form is in continuous evolution. Kaizen or improvement is one example – the object gets better in terms of its manufactured quality thanks to a continuous feedback loop. But in the truly world class models of production, this fluidity applies also to the design – hence the idea of a prolonged product trajectory – where each stable segment my only last a matter of months. In this way the object becomes objectile. Its easy to make the point – that CDs can become objectiles because its so easy to refine them – on this machine – to insert a track for example. There is a related point in accountancy – whether assets should include unsold finished goods – or whether in fact these are a liability?
And so – onto Christmas lunch and then presents – shirts and ties for me plus from James for and against Henry K. Vita liked her sound system and Yvonne threatens to get to grips with her phone. James is absorbed in his books.
My next objective is to find an opportunity to get to grips with S Reich – Three Tales – Hindenberg/Bikini/Dolly. I wouldn’t want to spoil anyone’s Christmas with unwanted relics of 20th century history.