Iain Cameron's Diary
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2006-09-29 - 7:18 a.m.

The select committee evidence progresses and we find ourselves getting bolder as we speak to more and more people. I have a concern about how what we say will play out against the main political narrative – on the other hand I tell myself that this so bizarre that one shoundnt get entangled if one can avoid it. We are addressing humble backbench mps – in another part of the forest the contesting labour leadership factions are impacting on an initiative of some consequence. Our comments to the mps pour a certain amount of cold water on the initiative and indeed as we refine our evidence the water gets colder – certain other employer organisations have been firing great chunks of ice at the initiative. I suppose the thing to remember is that a launch is just an excuse for a free drink – it always looks more important beforehand. But afterwards the main focus is – where s the next free drink coming from – rather than, wasn’t that a brilliant launch. Ministers come and go – John Nott hated being told this and walked out the studio – but it was the truth.

All kinds of past history is coming out of the woodwork – one of the civil servants playing the ministers just now is someone I crossed in 1994. And the policy that we are cold-watering is one I spent a lot of effort on ten years later.

There has also been some fun at the regional level. I have been paid recently by the region and so I need to curb my tongue – but – one can’t help having a little moan about the way that the new regional economic strategy is being developed. Its so nearly not bad but somehow from the jaws of not-bad-ness they manage to seize rather-below-averageness. There is some quite interesting economic geography which overlaps with my niche vehicle cluster study – so I mustnt grumble.

Meanwhile I find myself tackling Pinnacle era Cubase. I think I can see what happened – the pricing strategy that Steinberg followed took too much value out – and so they sold the business to Pinnacle who started to innovate. They didn’t manage the innovation that well and the familiar software quality-cost-delivery dynamic meant that they didn’t really get the return on their investment. Now its over with Yamaha where the q-c-d approach will be quite different and the product may begin to get back to where it was.

The net effect though, is that I am picking up a software-compositional technique that I used in 2003 with material provided by Gilbert Isbin. This time the approach is being deployed on material also from 2003 but from the New York visit. I have finished the first run through on the first piece and another piece is in a completed state with dhorn and GI’s guitar – allegedly there are three others.

One of the issues around concerns how one thinks musical structure when that structure is facilitated by a particular software interface. Clearly different software presents different images of the music and each image-type highlights certain transformational possibilities and suppresses others.

The more interesting side is how that software-complicity connects with the instinct for musical form. There is a fairly hard-line philosophy of musical meaning around which says that the meaning of the musical phrase is prime. There s actually a sentence in late Wittgenstein where he speculates that understanding a proposition is quite like understanding a musical phrase – he gives up on whatever meaning theory he had been onto and moves towards a music based one. You can find support for this in Heidegger and in Adorno.

The issue that I am on at the moment is what it is at any point that makes one want to engage with musical form - a particular style of engagement – facilitated by a software view. There are plenty of reasons for not bothering at all. James and I have been kicking around the idea that the engagement represents a wider conflict – not just in the musical material but perhaps in culture itself. Ian Macdonald’s thesis on Shostakovich plays on this – there is a clear cultural conflict in 1930s and 1940s USSR and the engagement with musical forms in the works is a reflection of this. I listened to the first SQ again.

By the way at the weekend I listened again to Vasks SQ2 again – from the Baltic in the 1980s. Its really good.

There was a wonderful set of programmes last night on Radio 3 about Hungary in 1956 – superb.

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