Iain Cameron's Diary
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2006-08-21 - 10:24 p.m.

Amongst the debris in the flat, my one Boulez CD has floated to the surface and prompted me to ferret around in his history. The CD contains the very early piano work – Notations – and it seems that in the last decade or so he has gone back to this piece and begun to extend it as an orchestral work – a pattern that is quite common for him, never to properly finish anything. I included one of the Notations in something I put together a few years back. Thinking about them again, I see them as atonal aphoristic pieces – prior to Boulez adoption and extension of serialism in the 50s – so before adopting Weberian systematisation he tried Weberian short music.

I used to have a MIDI file of one of his piano sonatas – well I still do have it but its marooned on a PC which isnt in use in Gfd. I had a lot of fun with it – using different voices as a free improvisational canvas. That mode is beginning to make sense again. I see that one of his major works is to do with nested folds - towards Deleuze on the baroque.

Those french – Keith ~(mouse/beefheart etc) has lent me Godard’s Sympathy for the Devil which has been distributed with a Sunday newspaper. Of course we still want to watch them putting the song together – all the input from Keith, the prominence of the piano, the way the backing vocals work even though the part is so simple and the singers look so silly and the silent participation of Brian Jones. There’s a good piece in Wikipedia about what the song might mean and some of the possible sources – serious stuff.

Then there’s the stuff which isn’t the song. Its not that this is obviously rubbish – its more that its so heavily coded – it was coded when it was done and intervening time has made the codes more impenetrable. And its not that whatever the other material is about is unrelated to the song – probably the opposite – they are almost certainly thematically related – if not at the time then by dint of how we look back at each side of the split.

Back to Boulez – I read a good article on Adorno and authenticity which explained the Boulez musical philosophy of total control as an absolute, an end-point, a final failure of centuries of systematic compositional endeavour and progression – an extreme inbalance between subject and object in music consonant with an equivalent more general cultural imbalance. And of course the music in the film isn’t remotely like that kind of autonomous extreme – you can tell that as the track is put together. And at the other extreme there was the control the director wanted and expected - indeed there was big trouble when he didn’t quite get it.

In fact the Wikipedia material links through to a good article on guitar-weaving – how Jones and Richards used to blend lead and rhythm – in the good old days before the time the film was made – and how Richards and Wood do the same these days – say on the current tour. There’s a good quote from Wood about how much it isnt about compositional control.

Watching the film made me think about the people I vaguely knew who thought that Godard was so important – and how marginal their perspective looks now – relative to say the right and proper blending of lead and rhythm guitar.

The article has much more to say – it takes a pop at ‘authentic’ period musicians for example. One gets the impression that Adorno might have more time for Keith Jarret’s approach to playing Bach than a more scholarly one – provided Jarret didn’t let on about the jazz. And it takes it for granted that we can say that a blues player is authentic – a point that Joe Boyd usefully opens up for debate.

But this all risks romanticising the corporate tax exiles – or even worse, risks romanticising the historical moment. Godard missed bits of the evenements when he was making the film which pissed him off a lot.

Perhaps its better to think on the fact that the DVD is given away as if its worth nothing – doubtless the second hand value on Amazon has fallen since the distribution. So the DVD has become a’white bicycle’ to borrow an image from Joe Boyd’s book – something that can be exchanged freely according to need rather than ability to pay. What we can’t tell is who just now thinks he/she needs it?

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