Iain Cameron's Diary
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2006-08-29 - 2:41 p.m.

Last week was productive in terms delivering this and that to various clients and customers – which probably means that this one won’t be. I found myself going back to ETBG.

Yesterday I listened to Beethoven Op 59 no 3 – I thought it was too extreme. De Marliave says that’s its often compared with the 5th symphony; ‘the soul of Beethoven seems to rise from this surging theme to with an echo of unhappy memories in a far off past.’ That’s his style I suppose. (De M is a fallen hero of the Tombeau de Couperin.)

James mailed from Odessa and I managed to send a txt to his new Ukranian sim card and get one back. We went out with Vita for lunch to celebrate her 4As. She says that she is looking forward to getting back into creative endeavour plus the opportunity to be taught by practitioner artists.

I read more of Krauss and Ko – also some reviews of their tome which were generally favourable despite the overall tone of lostness that surrounds their final summation. M Collings takes issue with their treatment of recent identity-art. Laurence and I went and saw some of this stuff the other week at the Oxford Art Museum – he was more convinced than I was. Within this, I began to think about the idea of hybridity and how I rather liked it – and whether it’s the same as the tricksiness you get in some new Russian art using digital media.

One response recently has been to do back-to-basics. I sympathise to the extent that the reason that I am not doing much digital imagery - because there’s all that possibility and one should have sufficient reason for picking a specific area and set of transformations. My own take on back to basics is to try and get some chops back for 9 Sept in Cambridge – apparently we are playing in the chapel of Corpus Christi. I have spoken with Charlie and we have an approximate trajectory for getting from here to there. We are going to play Yardbird Suite and I started to learn some new voicings on the piano – not that I will be playing the piano but I tell myself that this sort of thing is good for the improvising mind – as well as practicising the cycle of fifths. The voicings major on rootless thirteenths which are kind of Webernian in that they have a tritone, 3 fourths and a minor second – also using one of these voicings as a substitute for a minor seventh with a flat fifth in a II-V progression. These substitutes make a familiar chord progression fresher. The last time I did much recording/writing I was obsessed with using these chords in a particular way – but this is a different way of using them.

I have been in touch with T Dann and some sort of venture looms – I read through his commentary on the songs at the back of the bio – also the rather good quote from E John that he managed to get on why the songs stand out. I started to think about all of this from the point of view of Actor Network Theory (ANT theory) – there s a good remark from Joe Boyd in White Bicycles about the BL instrumentals representing a tussle between ND and the production apparatus. This registered because in terms of actually having played one of them at the time the thing was being put together.

Talking of production apparatus there was a good radio 2 doc on as I drove back to leantown which homed in on guitar and drum sound in the mix – esp the guitar sounds on Avalon and the drum sounds on Born in the USA. I have been very struck recently by the fact that Running on Empty was Jackson Browne’s best selling album. I know that Jon Landau, the producer of the Pretender, – its predecessor - went on to manage or produce the Boss. You can hear a much fatter drum sound on the Pretender than the earlier JB albums – and hear the Pretender/Running On Empty as linked the matically Pink Moon. The very fat backbeat snare sound becomes a kind of cliché I think – you only have to think of the expression ‘80s power ballad’ to appreciate that. Apparently some of these snare sounds are comped into mixes even when the original drum part is played in a conventional way – not by a machine.

I can’t hold back the Adorno at this point – this has to be the culture-industry using techniques from the wider production-system to channel or constrain expressiveness. The irony is that these sounds start with a couple of albums that seem to be about the constraints on subjectivity – which were also very successful just before the dawn of the 80s.

This switch in the prevailing sound-world is also evident in the way that Miss Mitchell, enticed partly by the Police it seems, rethought her sonic landscape with the now rather unpopular 80s albums – although |I still can’t work out what she had in mind.

If you want genuine expression with this technology then maybe it’s the Belville Three who create a brief window for themselves before the genre is swamped – leads me back to EBTG and the way that they craft this production approach to more conventional song-writing techniques – and also to constrained subjectivity – whats missing etc. Usual suspects again.

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