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2006-09-25 - 8:10 a.m.

I have ordered Circular Breathing ,The Cultural Politics Of Jazz In Britain by George McKay – as part of an attempt to find out about George Webb. It seems that Owen Bryce was a founder member of this band in 1943 and I might as well get my facts straight on this point as Owen was the first person to pass judgement on my flute improvising ability.

There was a good programme on radio 3 last night about Steve Reich in support of the forthcoming 70th birthday celebrations and a world premiere of a new work at the Barbican next month.

There’s an interview here:

These days people are making a lot of the Steve Reich re-mix movement – the way it spans musical traditions. R3 also made a big clain about SR – that his music is rooted in a concerned engagement with issues in the same way as Beethoven. The first SR that I heard was 6pianos which knocked me sideways.

Now that there is so much attention on him I am wondering about the spirit of this piano piece and late impressionist piano. The 6p piece is in one sense mechanical but at the same time the mechanism is delicate – and that brings to mind the swiss watchmaker in Ravel. More generally the idea is that like this post first world war late impressionism - there is something in SR too that, in its utilisation of a slightly altered diatonic harmony, is inevitably nostalgic – but a nostalgia that is so disciplined that all you get is the yearning without the emotional wash.

Maybe the nostalgia is also there in Shostakovich. I talked to James a bit about the ups and downs with Stalin in the 1940s – he said that the trajectory was pretty common across the board.

There was a point in the not so distant past when the idea that Tony Blair might be destroyed by foreign policy came into my head and it seemed preposterous. I think I may have even kicked the idea around with Nick Sinclair Brown to test its validity. Now it seems obvious. I told James about the Hharmon idea to take foreign policy making out of the hands of professionals and give it some kind of citizen’s commission – he really liked the cynical daftness of this proposal – as I thought he might.

The last time I was in New York was in February/March 2003 – we all went round the United Nations building which James especially enjoyed – I rather suspect he has a thing about history unfolding in real time. When I came back I created a set of pieces in a particular way using the early 1980s Casio synth – the set is called NYC0303 – in fact one of them is on the Highveld site with some Gilbert Isbin guitar on it. I have wondered about the particular way that they were made and indeed whether they are finished. One option would be to take the pieces and develop them using the technique that I used on the 10 Short Stories – where Gilbert’s guitar was the foundation. The 10SS currently exist as videoworks – with an animation of Paul Wheeler’s short poems. I finished this in the week of 7/7 – in fact it was the Saturday after that I decided that that was it more or less done.

In the Observer yesterday someone I vaguely knew once wrote about the death of public debate – I sent a copy of this to Laurence who keeps on pulling away at public reason. Yesterday’s author once introduced me to Simon Schama who at that point was researching the English Civil War. In fact I thought about this moment when I saw the Godard film about Sympathy for the Devil a couple of weeks back. I also saw that Darcus Howe was on the case with the idea that with the collapse of a central leftwing narrative the dispossed have been left to a load of barmy superstition to make sense of their plight. It just possible that they were better off with obscure avant-gardism and rocknroll.

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