Week from Monday 5th April 2004
Inspired by a request from MERVYN PURVISS, for me to "contribute something, anything" to his latest album project, I spent an afternoon going through the "Works In Progress" tapes, looking for some little half-finished something that might provide a backing track for a "PIECE". I've honed it down to a track built up of a didgeridu and some sampled bhangra drums (from about six years ago), which I shall edit into some kind of "verse-chorus" structure (Structure? Me?!?) and convert it to an MP3 before letting the Merv loose on it.
This week's MIXING IT was more like it! NOBUKAZU TAKEMURA and his Child's View Band (Japanese chums and Chicago Scene types) did a session at Maida Vale. Now THIS is how you improvise in an Electro-Acoustic setting - with imagination! I also liked the funny little songs, reminiscent of Henry Cow or the ART BEARS.
I took in a CARBOOT SALE this weekend, gleaning a (vinyl) copy of ISAO TOMITA's "Firebird", part of which I remember being used as an intro tape by TODD RUNDGREN's UTOPIA during the "sphynx 'n' pyramid tour". I also found an early-nineties copy of an album listings catalogue (such as the ones they refer to in a record shop, when someone comes in and asks "Have you got the one by that bloke, the one that goes 'dumm dah dum dee something'...?") and a quid's worth of old magazine CD-Rs.
The WOMAD leaflets arrived (my ticket was already paid for online), featuring a strange Victorian carnival poster look (someone must have read my rant about the best "world music" having a CIRCUS quality to it). I had taped my second favourite film, "MAN ON THE MOON" last week, so that made for a good afternoon's entertainment... Any thoughts on a posthumous GOLDEN BANANA AWARD for Andy Kaufman?
Week from Monday 12th April 2004
Actually, it's Tuesday... yes, a double dose of "weekend" this week, so I did twice as much of nothing. I caught up on a few films and radio tapings (It has taken twenty years, but I've only just discovered BAUHAUS! It must be because my spiky haircut is starting to grow out). Of course, I also "did" a car boot sale, and got "The Rough Guide To Bollywood" for a couple of quid. One day I will get around to writing my major philosophical treatise "ZEN AND THE ART OF CAR-BOOT SAILING" (sic), in which I explain how life IS but a car-boot sale. More often than not, it is a massive disappointment, but one day you will encounter THE ONE TRUE BARGAIN. To find out which it will be, one has to get up on a Sunday morning and make THE JOURNEY. Only then will you BECOME AS ONE with the old Whizzer & Chips annuals, Steps singles and Ikea wall units with the doors missing. Or something like that... I haven't thought it all through properly yet... Hmm... "Twice As Much Of Nothing"? ...that's awfully Zen of me...
I had a terrible MAHLER-STROKE-CASSETTE INCIDENT this week: I had to rush to Fareham Library, renting the seedydisks of Gustav's Third Symphony (the Tennstedt/London Philharmonic recording), in order to replace the EMI originals that got chewed up mid-Adagio... No word lately about Shelfy's "BIG BOX OF ART" project, but it did prompt me to start a seedydisk project, of a similar nature, myself. I am currently gathering archive material onto the hard-disk for subsequent compilation... I found myself revisiting the WOMAD 1999 recordings, this week. Those were the days, before the BBC acquired a major "feet under the table" situation at the Festival - Their Radio 3 coverage comprised merely of a two hour "Highlights" show, half of which was taken up with yakking and the useful musical content totalled FIFTY SEVEN MINUTES. Very nice to hear the token FEMI KUTI tune again though, as well as the RIZWAN-MUAZZAM QAWWALI group doing "Babar Sat On Me Car-Keys" (For further details, see the MAGIC TWIT GAME on the WOMAD page).
Week from Monday 19th April 2004
Some pretty nasty weather was had this weekend, so there was plenty of opportunity to curl up with a good book... well, three good books, in fact. I finished reading the travel book about TRANSCONTINENTAL HARLEY DAVIDSON USAGE and I read an anthology of music journalism by IAN MACDONALD (No, not the bloke who played saxophone with King Crimson, the other one... No, not the one in Fairport Convention who changed his name to Ian Matthews, the OTHER one! The one who edited the NME back in the seventies? Yes, that's him!).
AND SO IT WAAAAS... I started reading DESMOND OLIVIER DINGLE's (Patrick Barlow's) wildly apocryphal "SHAKESPEARE: THE TRUTH", the follow up to "ALL THE WORLD'S A GLOBE" and a total scream, in fact, interestingly.
I continued research (i.e. LIST-MAKING) for my SECRET PROJECT which, I can now reveal, is called "PLAY SOMETHING WE KNOW". I treated myself to the second TRAFFIC album on seedydisk (again nicely remastered, with additional tracks of the day), for it is, apparently, my birthday today.
Shelfy e-mailed me with the news that his muckers, COUNTRY JOE & THE FISH are visiting these shores in June. I hope to have more details anon, and shall make an effort to actually go (having, through sheer lethargic complacency, missed LOVE WITH ARTHUR LEE and THE SEEDS earlier this year). We shall gloss over the fact that CHAS & DAVE may well be the support act...
All but one of the tunes for "PLAY SOMETHING WE KNOW" are now on the hard drive. Working out what order they should go in, may take a little longer.
I am now waiting for the postman to deliver today's "PROPER" job from Dorset... Bugger! Does anyone know how to reset the toolbars back to the factory presets in CorelDraw 11?
My RANT about the BBC World Music Awards (see above, 15th March 2004) was published in this month's SONGLINES magazine, albeit in a severely sub-edited form, altering some of its content/intent in the process. The line "Just because a song is not in English, that does not make it WORLD music" was singled out as a sub-heading, which'll probably cause a right kerfuffle (and they printed my real name!). My comment about the questionable merits of most RAP & HIP-HOP also coincides with an article on that very subject in this month's issue. I shall reiterate: IF THAT IS THE DIRECTION THAT (SO CALLED WORLD) MUSIC IS GOING IN, THEN I, FOR ONE, DO NOT WISH TO GO THERE... Still, I believe I am entitled to a free magazine binder for my trouble.
Week from Monday 26th April 2004
The "Songlines" article about "GLOBAL HIP HOP" prompts me to comment and to clarify some of my points made and lost previously. As Humphrey Lyttleton might say on "I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue", a song is made up of two elements, the words and the tune. For a "song" to hold ANY appeal for me, the "tune" must have "That Certain Something" going for it, to be musically stimulating or AT LEAST INTERESTING. The "words" have to convey a message or, failing that, the vocals have to trigger an emotional response on a purely musical level. If the song fails to stimulate me in either of these ways, then I simply can't be bothered with it, because there is far too much music out there that will! I am not a music journalist - I have to pay for my CDs and tickets! Rap is a spoken word medium. The words are pretty much the only thing it has going for it. If the message is lacking in conviction, or lost in translation, then what is left? A bunch of blokes shouting and posturing on a stage. Without "substance" this can have no appeal on any level, other than that of "attitude" or "street cred". It has been suggested that young African kids have latched on to hip hop, because it is a way of communicating their "message" in a way that doesn't need "expensive" instruments, by the power of the voice alone. All well and good, but in doing so they abandon a little of their own culture and merely copy the sounds of the American acts they no doubt aspire to emulate. Let's not forget that, though we "world" music enthusiasts might like to believe otherwise, bootleg cassettes of Michael Jackson shift far more units in these territories than any "local" artists. Why else would hip hop acts from Cape Town or Lagos (or Manchester, for that matter) acquire phoney, drawling American accents? By becoming clones of their American role models, they are no less ridiculous than the interchangeable, fashion-victim, bling-bling, Ali G lookalikes who populate the UK charts, haranguing and posturing like a bunch of thugs. There is some good hip hop out there. Some artists actually have something to say. Some do it in an original and stimulating way. Some construct their music from interesting sources. I just don't hear it, 99% of the time... If I want to hear someone shouting incomprehensibly, I'll go down to the bus station on a Saturday afternoon... If you enjoy this music simply because it is "cred", then you are no less of a fashion-victim than the spoonfed masses who crave the latest manufactured PopAcademyIdolBoyGirlBand product. If you want your "world" music served up as that palatable "BROWN SOUP" with all the sharp bones left out and if , for you, "world" music is just another style accessory, then stick with your GlobalLoungeBarChillOutBuddhaSpiritualVibes club DJ compilations. I enjoy listening to the music of other cultures when Anglo-American music fails to stir me on any level. If that "music of other cultures" ends up sounding exactly like western music, then where is the appeal?
...Thank goodness then, for artists like TINARIWEN, whose psychedelic desert blues guitar stylings are never far from my gramophone at the moment, and THINK OF ONE, brassy Belgians who do the "fusion" thing with panache - that "indefinable anarchic circus quality" of which I spake... (insert pun about THE BRIGHOUSE & MAASTRICHT BRASS BAND here...)
Robin Williams joke: 'A Buddhist walks up to a hotdog stand and says "Make me one with everything!"'