Iain Cameron's Diary
"Click here to access the Fruitful Album" - Click here to visit Music for the Highveld Project
2005-11-13 - 12:00 p.m.
I stayed in Leantown and made some headway with domestic chores - something that has been neglected to a degree you donít want to hear about. I managed to get the kitchen spotlights working - an all-time first. The town was a bit too crowded for me and I found it quite exhausting as I went round some of the usual venues.
I bought a re-issue of the only studio recording of Coltrane playing with the Thelonius Monk group - as a preparation for getting the recent rediscovery of 50 minutes of this group performing at the Carnegie Hall. Trane was in this group in the gap between two long stints with the first great Miles 5tet - at a time when he was trying to clean up his life and his style was becoming much more innovative. Monk stands alone as a innovative stylist in any event. I heard a track from the newly available recordings on the radio the other week - astounding. It really is a unique discovery for the history of jazz - hence the careful preparation.
Having watched the Miles IoW set in the morning, I found it easy to stump up seven quid for 2hours of the other artists on the bill . There isnít really anything new to say about the The Who but Ten Years After sound better than I expected - in fact itís a good sampling of late period British Blues - with Rory Gallagher, Family, Free and Jethroe Tull to boot. It must be one of the last performances of the Doors. You also get some Leonard Cohen looking young and fresh. The film plays out with Desolation Row.
Suitably - as I also picked up the hardback of Greil Marcus on Like A Rolling Stone for a fiver. His thesis is that the record captures the last moment when utopian possibility (or something like it) is still open to the US. The existential state that the record describes - the one that the singer wants to know what it feels like - is the state that more people would have to enter in order to realise that possibility on a grand scale. I am reading this following a bounce through Marcusí book about The Basement Tapes - where the argument is that that subterranean endeavour is about tracing that utopian liberal tradition in what has now become known as Americana. The BT project is after the RS moment of course - after, in Marcusí view, the liberation moment has passed. I suppose he thinks that having identified the moment and it having passed it was time to get forensic in the basement.
The Monk-Coltrane moment has been picked upon by one critic as a moment where the musical culture in NYC ruptured and where jazz as a utopian endeavour started to retreat towards the high cultural ghetto. There is even a Rauschenberg combine that is claimed to symbolize the event. I am definitely with Marcus in the suggestion that 8 years later in 1965 the culture is still in flux in a way that is rife with possibility - J Hendrix has started to hang out downtown, Sun Ra is playing in East Village where J Cale has just met up with L Reed and to jointly construct songs. There is a keen eye on what the Yardbirds and Who are doing with electric music in the UK. There is an enormous forward vector in the thinking about what art might be. The Coltrane group is in deep space and Miles is starting his second great 5tet.
If I were looking for episodes which demonstrate the end of that cycle of possibility then I would think of Ms Mitchell in Santa Barbara in 1979 and the recently acquired Laura Nyro in Boulder a couple of years earlier. Could I justify this? Ms M is on record about how it felt as the 80s started and thereís also Nested - but that hardly proves such an enormous point. A catty point would be that the European avant-garde took over the downtown scene in NYC - that was really the move that was falsely detected in 1957.
I uncovered a good commentary on Adorno by Robert Witkin who explains how within the piece the relationship between the whole architecture, the material and its development is the key - and that this represents the culture as a whole. Berg diminishes his material to get it to develop and to fit his (many) larger architectural plans - representing a negative view of the cultural possibilities of that time - possibly even a kind of totalitarianism. To be truly Kantian you have to not only find formal processes which make the piece go and with larger import - you have to show that these formal features are the way that the piece codes the response of the audience - a suitably cultivated audience.
At the moment I am kicking around this four voice harmony with different synth patches - very like Amiga music in fact. I made something from a part of the core sequence yesterday - with the Dhorn on top and started an AV round it - some words about Sappho aware of her own urge to wound.
The works e-m is bust this weekend which is annoying - I am expecting a copy of the article from the Cambridge student newspaper about ND. James put the author in touch and I supplied various leads eg to B Wells T Dann and M Pavey. I was wrong about the bio of course - it is Feb - TD says he will invite me to the launch.