Iain Cameron's Diary
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2004-03-16 - 7:54 p.m.
Here I am involved in Lent music – the guitar solo has taken a definite shape and rationale. It is a coda to the Plundafonix album – showing that you can take that set of ideas another step. This next iteration – similarly grown from a well known Lent hymn - uses a standard piece of musical semiotics – a piece of music which clearly points at something beyond itself – and is for that reason a good vehicle for genre engineering. Taking one phrase and placing in more deeply into an unrelated genre is an invitation to the audience to reconsider the standard references – and one way in which the “Beyond Belief” theme can be developed.
The drone piece has the same heritage but a different trajectory – I hope the drone will fill the performance space and monopolise attention – maybe people will be invited to hum the drone. The use of the same theme on the flute will not be apparent especially at first. It is intended to sound like something without sounding just like its source.
What I have done to the drone is related to the Dream Chord where the frequencies are 12 16 17 18. These are 36 48 51 68 in the pure case. I found a new voicing for it on the guitar - say with an open E in the bass – Bb D and A on the top three strings with the little finger on the fifth fret. It will resolve to a B chord – my sliding the top shape up a semitone. I am using this chord a lot on the piano constructing pathways around a tonic major seventh. I wonder how many pieces can be made like this before they all sound the same?
I took some CDs round to Alwyn – including Plundafonix . Plundafonix was a move towards creating pieces via a new way using the technology. Bodyspace Lullabye is the latest step on that path – and somewhere between those two points is a great raft of material that I did with Gilbert – indeed Plundafonix has the first piece we did together. The Sufi piece that is dedicated to Regan is also a product of this alternative technical pathway – an alternative to just shoving it all into Cubase. In this other method, the music flows into being more.
There are various CDs representing stopping points on this path – 6 NYC pieces, a set of Gilbert collaborations outside the 10 Short Stories. A lot of this stuff must be from 2002/.
BEAST music is something else again – with that the flow is much more in the perception than the creation. Making BEAST music must be very difficult – just as Pollock found making drip paintings an enormous existential challenge. I think getting the continuity in a genre where material is used in a radical new way must be very hard – for example knowing when one of those drip paintings is finished. The BEAST music is like Lamont Young in that you just have to sit there and give yourself to it to realise that something amazing is going on.
Both BEAST and LMY are fanatical about the clarity of reproduction – I suppose that might be because (like Rothko and Pollock) the effect is partly in the qualities that are realised through the materials. If Wollheim was right and a lot of art is to do with particularities rendered with great care then you can see in all these examples some particular qualitative domain that engages our attention and draw us in. I can remember being drawn into a Rothko in DC and thinking – oh yes that’s what those Tate paintings do. There is a Tintoretto in Venice which does the same and an El Greco (usually) in Edinburgh.
The BEAST school enables each individual artist to select the sphere of particularity that they are going to work with. The challenge is to find a way of creating narrative engagement or continuity in any specific piece. Jonty Harrison explains one of his pieces as being about a sequence of episodes where you enter a new domain – say through a door – but then gradually find that that domain is enclosed – and so another entry is sought and found. That little summary defines a high level plan – you could criticise a piece which claimed to have that plan in terms of how well it had realised it – you might say that you found most of the piece convincing but that the plot was lost in the last four minutes. But it is a powerful plan – some people describe Coltrane’s sheets of sound period in almost exactly those terms.
I suppose if one were on one’s high horse, one might say that these narratives are close to the cultural DNA that one gets – say by being taught by a pupil of Webern or working with poets and songwriters influenced by Prynne or trying to use Wollheim to get to the heart of Wittgenstein’s method as far as improvised music is concerned. It is a way of constructing one’s own engagement with the material. The influences exemplify a way of going about the business which one absorbs almost unconsciously – almost an apprenticeship model – or from some Dean Moriarty or other. And in some places you get the conditions sustained for these apprenticeships and friendships to accelerate.
I think some of this is to do with faith – in the sense that Burtt found a faith in his Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Science. His great discovery was that the thing which gave early experimenters faith that there might be something sublime written in the book of nature - wasn’t itself science. It was the kind of weird intellectual/cultural construct that made (say) Botticelli different from Lippi – it was an intellectual ferment and a taste for the occult plus some sources to explore – it was also a social framework which meant that new groups of people got together to do the exploring. (Actually I think it was Ziff that discovered that last bit.)
In our youth we had just been given the idea of “paradigm” by Thomas Kuhn to link all this together.
I have started thinking about Rugby. Going east its Birmingham, Coventry and Rugby. Rugby is more on the Avon than the rest. It’s the home of the school that threatened to save civilization.