Iain Cameron's Diary
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2003-12-30 - 2:40 p.m.

Back in Guildford from Suffolk – having missed B Eno yet again, damn it. My bid for Desertshore has been successful but now I have to work out how to pay for it in dollars. I am up early and its pretty cold. My sleep pattern is veering around rather. I am listening to 600 Lines – after it has already provoked me into an experimental linear piece. Actually mine is a lot less radical and is based on a particular chromatic progression that has grabbed my interest – for a while.

I was dredging through my brother in law’s CDs and I came across one given away with some health magazine - a collection of 70s soul tracks – many taken from live performances eg by Rose Royce and Chic. There was a version of the Temptations “Papa was a Rolling Stone”. The more I hear this Norman Whitfield produced material the better it gets. There is a passage in the book about Whats Going On which refers to a Detroit club where both MC5 and Parliament used to play live and the claim is made that Norman Whitfield used to hang out there and this is where he picked up a lot of production ideas which went into those recordings.

Who can tell? But the blend in these productions is - arranged and improvised elements within a long duration framework – across genres – between jazz blues soul funk and progressive – maybe even minimalism and loops. Its almost as if this is the point at which Detroit connects with the Ealing agenda – the music really grabbed me in the early 70s and I bought Masterpiece at the time.

James Brown is credited as the great RnB innovator at this time. His bass player, Bootsy Collins, did eventually join the Parliament/Funkadelic crew and features in Standing in the Shadows of Motown. But psychedelic soul is another trajectory – which leads, arguably, through Philly to salsa-soul at the start of the disco phenomenon around 75/76 in NYC. (That connection with dance seems important as I try to factor in Madonna at the University of Michigan at this point in time. You could write a book about migrations from Detroit to NYC, starting with Milt Jackson, then Elvin Jones, the Stooges and finally Madonna and Blue Gene Tyranny).

I spent time yesterday exchanging e-ms with Peter on the new Making Music page on the Highveld site. Peter has decided that we ought to have a new general section on the site looking at different topics, tools and techniques that are used in making the tracks on the site and the CDs.

The first page is about the Dhorn – with some photos that Peter took at our last meeting. The red background to the photos looks good on the yellow general page background – a lucky accident but one that helps with the impact. A total of 10 tracks are available on the page, some from the first two Highveld CDs and most of the rest from musical experiments which Gilbert Isbin and I carried out in 2003. The aim is to demonstrate the versatility of this instrument. I hope that other Frakctured diarists can be persuaded to offer some material for the Making Music part of the site.

The volumes on the site have continued to grow well at the end of the month and December is now higher even than May on some measures. The statistics suggest that some blogs written in Portuguese have picked up the site bringing in a growth of visitors from Brazil. Will the new page help reinforce the upward trend, I wonder? I am not aware of any equivalent sites on the net.

Peter tried making a video with the voice over I made for him using the software which worked so well with this South African film – but ran into bandwidth problems. I hated the sound of my own voice so there is an element of relief for me.

The Miles Davis book has certainly got me thinking . One novel suggestion is that in his final phase it was the performances rather than the recordings which were of greatest importance.Earlier the recordings were more influential than the performances. During the 80s I took pains to see Miles whenever he came to the UK and I was never disappointed – up until the very last tour when he seemed to be playing less. The recordings provided material for the performances but were not definitive in the way that for example Kind of Blue was.

So how should those performances be regarded? Were they the form that jazz had assumed in the 1980s? Were they the culmination of jazz-rock as a musical form? Were they an odd form of the rock genre – for example were they related to progrock – to Soft Machine? Were they unique? Did anyone try to follow that path? What impact did it have more generally? What did Bill Laswell take from his involvement in Miles 80s productions, through his remixes – say to the jamming band with John Zorn and Fred Frith?

Miles gradually assumed a stronger leadership role with his live band in the 1980s. With the first two great 5tets in the 50s and 60s Miles used a participative leadership style. He wanted his band members to have an innovative agenda and he would try to support and encourage their explorations offering enigmatic and aphoristic guidance. So I ought to go back to the live bootleg from the 80s that’s in the collection . One of the early comeback recordings – We Want Miles – was live performance and it has always been one of my favourites.

The other book I got in Cambridge – about the US economic revival in the 1990s – looks very promising. It engages which a set of issues that emerged from a literature review that I was finishing off just before Christmas. One of the big gurus of competitiveness in the last 15 years or so is Porter who is based at Havard. This book attempts to deepen Porter’s general ideas about how a locality can interact with innovative companies to increase their competitiveness. Best, the author, is based on the University of Massachusetts – and so there is a read across to the book I picked up in Durham from the Centre for the Quality of Management which is located outside Boston.

Just before Christmas the DTI published its Innovation Review which in my view is disappointing in its grasp of this contemporary US thinking. The trouble with the UK is that it tends to rest its laurels on its success in pure science – which is a national asset – no question. Because we have this asset and we believe that it must be developed. The big mistake is to impose a particular model of development on our attempts to bring about an economic pay-off. I have been trying to understand for years why this flawed model has survived so long – when people knew it was mistaken when I was one of the first generation of postgraduate students to be educated in this stuff 30 years ago – at the Science Policy Research Unit in Sussex and the Science Studies Unit in Edinburgh. Anyway, 2004 might be the time to be a bit more vocal about all of this.

Its light and there is mist on the hill behind our house. Somewhere the unseen sun is coming over the horizon and the mist is taking on unusual tints – pink and purple. That doesn’t happen very often. How Now is an ideal soundtrack.

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