Week from Monday 1st December 2008

I've just been watching a performance of MAHLER's 2nd Symphony given by VALERI GERGIEV and the LSO at the Barbican. Well, I'd read that Gergiev's conducting style was, um... eccentric, but nothing prepared me for THIS! Whatever all those funny little sub-microscopic hand gestures represent, they certainly bring out the best in an orchestra:- Orchestrally, this was the best "Resurrection" I'd heard since Lenny Bernstein's or Otto Klemperer's heyday; colourful, dynamic and the tempi sounded RIGHT! The featured soloists were no Elisabeth Schwarzkopf or Dame Janet Baker, but they stirred all the right emotions without grandstanding. Next weekend, I believe I have the 6th Symphony to look forward to... [You'll notice that, whenever a conductor sets out to do a complete Mahler "cycle" with an orchestra, that they never seem to do them in the 'right' order. Not that it matters really, I sometimes think that Mahler's works are all just interrelated parts of THE ONE BIG PIECE, a sort of  Zappa-esque "CONCEPTUAL CONTINUITY" for the early nineteen-hundreds, with recurring themes, motifs and 'clues' scattered throughout]...

...and so to the 6th, the so-called "TRAGIC" Symphony. Once again, I've never heard it played better. Very often with Mahler, with the large orchestral forces involved and all, it is easy to make the music sound muddy and blurry 'round the edges. But Gergiev's Mahler sounds so sharp, clear and full of detail, allowing a ray of optimism to shine through all the doom and gloom. Wonderful! I think this might be staying on the digibox for a while, alongside DAVID GILMOUR's Gdansk concert and JEFF BECK at Ronnie Scott's.

Week from Monday 8th December 2008

No, really, I HAVE been busy... watching Mahler concerts wasn't the ONLY thing I did last week! I did a little bit more WORK IN PROGRESS on Ooor Wully's website, had a flurry of activity for the EMPORIUM OF HAIR and uploaded a new video presentation to the STEEL BAND PROJECT webbo. I've also got a secret Christmas project on the go, in cahoots with the RENALDOs and any other SpaceMice I can involve along the way. It seems unlikely that it'll be done for THIS Christmas...

Ah, who am I kidding!? I've had such a great time working with a FEMALE voice for once (Evil Demented Bunny), that I've already got a finished track before anyone ELSE has sent me samples! In fact, I welcome the novelty of using a DIFFERENT voice of any sort, rather than 'the usual suspects'. I don't know whether if it still counts as a RENALDOs remix (although the RaTL samples ARE still recognisable). But we shall see...

My name (albeit the REAL one) came up on the FREAK ZONE again this week. Now if only they'd play some of our music!

It's likely that I'll have to buy a new peecee in the next few months; mine is definitely starting to show its age (the life expectancy of computers is now about four years - my MoBo tells me it was born in 2003!). I've been window shopping and comparing prices, weighing up the pros and cons of either undertaking another BUILD-IT-ONESELF project, buying a ready built CPU, or maybe a 'nearly new' system, or even a BARGAIN-OPPORTUNITY laptop (January sales perhaps?)... 

...but it's also come to my attention that my hi-fi cassette deck is dying a slow but inevitable death. It works erratically, if it works at all - not very dependable for recording Sunday teatime radio shows or late night jazz concerts "FOR 'RON". Could be an electrostatic fault, but the various diaphragm buttons don't always work. It prefers it if you sit it on an item of soft furnishing. Today, I tricked it into a sustained recording session by propping it up at forty-five degrees with a pair of boots! To get a suitable replacement, I'll have to buy second-hand - they probably don't make 'em anymore. What would be REALLY cool is if I came across another example of my all-time favourite, much missed TECHNICS machine in a bargain basement.

At this stage, I can play the waiting game on BOTH counts.

The LONDON JAZZ FESTIVAL highlights keep trickling out of Radio 3. This week we enjoyed [about half of] the HERBIE HANCOCK gig from the Barbican. I've seen Herbie with a funky electric band (the 1984 "Rockit" tour at the Hammy-O) and with an acoustic piano trio (an earlier LJF), but this is the first time I've heard him present all the various aspects of his musical career WITHIN THE SAME CONCERT. He did some Headhunters-type jazz-funk, he did some 'Mwandishi'-style, post-Miles, Spooky Space Voodoo Music, he played impressionistic solo piano. And these, as I say, were only highlights from a three hour set! We have been promised some more in the new year.

That little minx EVIL DEMENTED BUNNY keeps sending me Christmas songs, now that she has mastered the technology to do so! I suppose she's feeling increasingly seasonal on account of them having REAL SNOW in lil'ol'Loozianna. Our latest joint effort is a UNIQUE version of the 1957 BRENDA LEE b-side, "I'm Gonna Lasso Santa Claus", which'll grace my player while I'm waiting to upload the RENALDOs collaboration. Shelfy thinks I got TORI AMOS to sing on it, but I think it sounds more like NATALIE MERCHANT (if 10,000 Maniacs were to record for Ralph Records, that is). "LADY B, CRUSHER OF SOULS" (as she has just been renamed by one of her students -excellent!) has dubbed it "INSURRECTIONIST XMAS MUSIC". And who am I to argue?

Week from Monday 15th December 2008

Yesterday, I did a bit of spring-cleaning (Winterval Ablution?) of my SpaceMail boxes, clearing out some of the dross and saving the [worthy of being kept] remainder in the form of 'blog-like word processor documents. Call me old-fashioned... storing all your funstuff on somebody else's server is a pretty neat idea, but I still feel safer with a tangible copy on a disk! Meanwhile, I took the opportunity to watch both "THE BOURNE IDENTITY" and "THE BOURNE SUPREMACY" in one weekend. Believe it or not, I'd never seen them before, so I thought I'd see what all the fuss was about! The first was definitely the stronger film. The sequel might have had a bigger budget, but someone forgot to write a decent story for it. And the stylised [ab]use of hand-held camera and fast-cut editing got very tiresome very quickly.

I'm currently 'working' whilst listening to highlights of the GRATEFUL DEAD's 1990 run of gigs at Madison Square Garden, via their "Listening Party" facility. This was the period when both BRUCE HORNSBY and VINCE WELNICK were handling the keybo' chores. Nice stuff!

Well, it's still a week till Xmas, but already the 'proper work' has dwindled away, leaving me time to complete a few FUN-CHORES. It's taken twenty-five years, but finally, "CHUCKLETOWN EAST OF JAVA" is some kind of reality and not just a private joke between Shelfy and me. I also used some of the musical elements to put together a piece that sounds like it might accompany an Olympic opening ceremony on some far-flung Pacific island!

I've been reading MICHAEL PALIN's doorstep-sized diary collection, subtitled "The Python Years". When compared to his DAILY record of every little minutia, my erratic 'bloggery doesn't seem nearly so obsessive. But then, I suppose, he's experienced a lot more to write about than I have!

Week from Monday 22nd December 2008

SO THIS IS WINTERVAL AND WHAT HAVE YOU DONE? Watched hours and hours of FloydExtras on the DAVID GILMOUR deeveedees - but only a little bit at a time, because it makes me VERY SAD and I usually have to watch a MARX BROTHERS film immediately afterwards ("Meretricious... and a Happy New Year!")... Paid a visit to the DENTIST for my six-monthly check-up. I have to make a return visit in the new year for a small filling. Why he can't do the job here and now is beyond me! ...Downloaded another piece of vintage 1974 KING CRIMSON (this one from Washington DC)... Started work on another TOP SECRET music project (one that actually involves me LEARNING somebody else's song - a novel experience!)... Also laid down a few noodlings that might make backing material for somebody to talk over... A little 'light' reading on the current sorry state of the music business, linked via Mr Fripp's diary postings... Continued work on  my 'secret' music project on through Xmas Day Itself (despite the recurrence of FUNNY EARS)... How did people COLLABORATE ONLINE before the invention of the internet?

Week from Monday 29th December 2008

Help! Have I really been listening to just the ONE SONG over and over and over for nigh on TWO WEEKS? Are We There Yet? Are We There Yet? Are We There Yet? I think it's about time I took a break and listened to GENESIS or something... anything! And I know when I haven't given any attention to anything else, when I start getting e-prompted by Shelfy that my diary needs updating!

I've been doing a bit of BOOKBINDING before the workyear starts, building myself a new A5 notebook/sketchbook that will slot nicely into a filofax-esque leather folder that I got for Chrimbo. There is now a huge pile of the heaviest books in my library, sitting in the middle of the floor acting as weights, to keep the new pad flat while it dries. Talking of heavy books... Having finished skimming through Mr Palin's Diaries, I've got a copy of the frankly enormous coffee table tome "THE PYTHONS BY THE PYTHONS" to look forward to.

I went into Portsmouth today to 'window shop' the laptops on offer in Curry's. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm PRETTY sure that, in the so-called "SALE", they are actually MORE expensive than they were BEFORE Christmas! Certainly the sub-300 Hewlett Packard that was TV-advertised before is no longer available. Not to worry. As I said before, I haven't yet made up my mind what kind of 'new' beast would suit my needs, nor how much I'm willing to pay. I certainly don't want to pay for the 'latest' features that I will never need. There is no immediate urgency. I am also looking at the Novatec webbo, to price up another build-it-m'self project. A quieter case would definitely be a boon!

Happy New Year... I'm putting [what I hope will be] the finishing touches to my "secret" folk-rock co-production - This morning, I used intricate micro-surgery techniques to remove a microphone 'pop' from the original vocal track (the lost art of "Cardboard-Box-A-Phonics"). Then I'm finishing my no-hope entry to the FEMI KUTI remix competition. 'No hope' you say? Well, I just don't have a clue what is considered 'commercial' out there these days. I can't 'remix' to suit other people's tastes, only my own. And I'm TOO WEIRD! Once again, I have refused to listen to the original song until AFTER I've finished my piece. Apart from the distinctive trumpet part which I have made the main feature, it bears no resemblance whatsoever! Which, to me, is a good thing, but what do I know!?