Iain Cameron's Diary
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2005-02-04 - 9:46 a.m.
I picked up an Independent on the train and there was an obit for Susan Bradshaw who had studied alongside Cornelius Cardew and then went to study with Boulez. in Paris. The obit finishes with the tale of Cc performing Lamonte Youngís 42 for Henry Flynt and SB interrupting the performance by dragging him away from the piano. That stuff is so powerful - it baffles people even today - never mind 30 years ago. Maybe it isnít music but conceptual art with LmY also claims to have invented. This episode is evidence of how culturally marginalized that wing was in the UK - and why it couldnít make it through the 70s - not for want of energy or vision - but for the hostility of the environment. You have to hand it to YBAs to have surmounted that obstacle.
I listened to the Steve Reich R3 programme where they played New York Counterpoint and City Life - which I think are both from the mid 80s. They both sounded great to me - I always liked NYCp - but CL came through much more strongly than the version I had taped some years ago from R3. Today its P Glass and includes Music in the Form of a Square - now playing - I have never heard this flute piece before - why do they insist on talking over the most radical pieces? Also some of Music in 12 Parts which I have never heard before either . How did I become a fan of early Glass? This stuff is frighteningly familiar. Canít stand the piano music, though. I tried unsuccessfully to join the R3 discussion on this series to endorse the odd sane contribution out of the150 or so symptoms of cultural malaise.
I sense some disabling factors lurking - well what to do if anything about them? Let them happen? Surrender to the emptiness? The sound and vision edged further forward.
I listened to Jazzmatazz vol 1 where the main figure is Guru and which is claimed to be the first successful marriage of hip-hop and jazz. Also an assessment of Roy Haynes, the drummer, who was the stand by in the great Trane 4tet when Elvin Jones wasnít available. He is on After The Rain, for example. The supposition is that Roy Haynes and Tony Williams share a similar sound - both came from Boston.
Now hereís Shades of Blue with Ian Carr - he thinks it might have been 1964, with the New Jazz Orchestra - which I am pleased to say I still have on vinyl . Then a bit further on Geoff Castle with Carr - Geoff was a mate of Steve Ps and in the first Stoney Ground at Edinburgh Festival along with Paul W, Nick T and Derek R.
So - a meeting today which I was called on to host. I started pretty badly but warmed up. The chair was a Spanish woman who had studied EC systems and procedures at first and second degree level - a useful combination. I also met a journalist who had been on a local paper in Pretoria - and the person who is setting up a big college for VW in Milton Keynes.
Paul W mailed about Keith Jarrett and sociability. I found a really good Japanese article about shared product development and their expansion into the US market and the development of organizational capability. Its December 2004. You donít usually get that close to their current thoughts..
Here's a bit of well-I-never about NYC and early P Glass:.
An Uptown Outpost for Downtown Sensibility .
With composer Julia Wolfe and flutist Patti Monson on the faculty, and its contemporary music ensemble, Tactus, assuming responsibility for the US premiere of Michael Gordonís "Decasia" last September, Manhattan School of Music seems to be becoming an uptown refuge for the downtown music scene. .
Contributing to the schoolís downtown edge last night was the Anechoic Chamber Ensemble. In a large dance studio on the sixth floor, a group of about twenty to thirty people listened with palpable enthusiasm as the eight-member ensemble noodled their way through a string of early Philip Glass compositions: "Strung Out," "Music in Similar Motion," "1+1" (for amplified table top), and "Music in Fifths." .
With the big caveat that this music could have been much more enthralling with a little polyphony, the concert was a short and snazzy treat. The ensemble works, "Music in Similar Motion" and "Music in Fifths," exerted a sexy, groovy pull that was hard to resist. Glassís additive rhythms compensate surprisingly well for his lack of, shall we say, melodic ingenuity, and the ensemble gelled wonderfully. This music does, however, depend on a sort of collective energy: the violin solo, "Strung Out," just sounded flat and labored. .
I donít think Glassís music bears much substance, but at least in the early work the trashy lyricism that pervades his more recent stuff is absent. Glassís music may only be good for daydreaming, and music should do more. But we all like to daydream now and then, and a guilty pleasure, like "Music in Fifths," is a pleasure nonetheless. .
ACTUALLY ITS WORTH MENTIONING THE SOURCE: www.sequenza21.com .
Here s more where that came from: .
Friday, January 28, 2005 Meeting Murail .
Last night I attended a forum given by Tristan Murail at the CUNY Graduate Center. Murail, who teaches at Columbia, is the worldís leading "spectralist" composer. He derives the harmonic material for his works from computer analyses of the overtone series. First heíll record anything from a tromboneís low C, to himself hitting a glass with a spoon. Then, using the program "Open Music," he analyzes the wave-forms produced by the soundís harmonics. By isolating some of thesÄe overtones, he builds harmonies. By distorting the harmonics of a given series, or by employing a non-harmonic overtone-series (like that produced by a piano), he creates dissonance and consonance. .
It sounds technical, doesnít it? While Iíve always been impressed by the spectralists, Iíve always found their musical results a bit pedantic. And, while this can be true of Murailís and Griseyís work, Murailís presentation demonstrated that spectralism is no less intuitive a method of composition than any other; the "technical" stuff is just about reaching deep within a sound to mine it for everything itís got. But once youíve got it, itís all up to the imagination. .
Thereís a great CD of Murailís music currently available on Naive featuring the Orchestre National de France. Especially if youíre a fan of Varťse, you should check it out. Like Varťse, Murail's gestural pallette can seem a bit limited, but, also like Varťse, he produces color like itís no one elseís business. The orchestra piece "Gondwana" is especially worth hearing: itís like "La Mer" a hundred years later.