Iain Cameron's Diary
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2005-03-31 - 10:14 a.m.
Miserable weather. Someone drove into Keith’s car at lunchtime - he wasn’t hurt but he was quite shocked. Could have been worse.
I worked for about two thirds of the day on the new small engine project. I sent off a rough draft of the ACE to see what kind of reaction it generates.
Listening to Sylvian’s Dead Bees. Check Boucher Cohen and Dylan on amazon - a pretty strong press. Boucher makes some strong points - especially the strength of the drive towards electricity. Dylan explored electric music initially with John Mayall’s Blues breakers - lets hope it was the Beano line-up. When he got to go on tour with the Band he used a state of the art PA - big bins and foldback. I remember the first time I saw a rig like that it was with CSN - probably 1969. The Doors in 68 also had kit we hadn’t seen before. Anyway Dylan and the Band were touring with advanced gear a couple of years earlier - with the result that they were unusually loud and clear by the standards of the time. When he went electric he went really electric - no half measures.
There was a driven-ness about the way he developed his song-writing from Another Side onwards. It was genuinely unlike anything before - he adopted a methodology of creation which was a step into the lift shaft - an attempt to realise something he suspected might be possible but had no idea would actually work. Boucher uses the term “abstract expressionism” to describe the result. You could debate a long while whether this is on target or misleading. The songs are expressionist and use a great deal of abstract imagery. Weil,the model he drew on, was expressionist - as was Robert Johnson - another source )as indeed is the way that John Lee Hooker was recorded in Detroit in 1949.)
When people look for a parallel to Pollock and Rothko they usually look to free jazz - and after Deleuze, to Lamonte Young - maybe to the Grateful Dead. But these examples don’t use words - well the Dead excepted but their songwriting is at a different pole. Boucher poses a great question when he wonders how words might work in music of this kind. (Archie Shepp uses poetry as part of On This Night - but the words are about drugs.) (Cage and Feldman genuinely thought they were doing the absex thing.)
Have I mentioned Appel and his theory of the jazznocracy? In a nutshell his idea is that between the wars and up to 1955 there was a common ground in NYC between high and low culture - Parker jamming with Stravinsky, Mondrian and Boogie Woogie on 52nd street. Appel things this stops in 1955 or thereabouts when Rauschenberg paints Monk - and then a couple of years later Trane joins Monk (Trane said he stepped into the liftshaft.) At this point Appel sees a frakture.
I can think of about a million reasons why this is too pessimistic and ignores so many points of continuity starting with the rediscovery of the blues, Muddy Waters touring the UK with his electric guitar, Jimmy Smith discovering the B3, Yuseef Laseef and Davy Graham discovering world jazz etc - yet alone Johns and Rausch opening the space for Warhol. And there is the small matter of Berry Gordy in motor city or Miles meeting John Lee Hooker and creating hard bop etc etc etc.