Week from Monday 7th October 2013

THE ACCEPTABLE FACE OF FOLK MUSIC... Last week, one of BBC Radio 3's several 'jazz' programmes broadcast a session from the Brecon Jazz Festival featuring QUERCUS, a trio consisting of the [still] great JUNE TABOR, her long-time accompanist HUW WARREN and the (Loose Tubes/Earthworks/Food/Mirrormask etc.) sax supremo IAIN BALLAMY. This was sublime, timeless, category-defying music, played by three humans in full command of their instruments. A song that started "As I roamed out one May morning..." didn't make me so much as cringe, such was the delightful musical pallette on offer... It is also nice to see BBC Four's "TRANSATLANTIC SESSIONS" back on our screens of a Friday evening. Never a week goes by without at least one piece of musical loveliness triggering that all-important "HAIRS ON THE BACK OF THE NECK" reaction. By and large, I do prefer my 'folk' music to have an Amer'can accent. But as one of the younger musos on the show was heard to say, it's great to see the legendary DANNY THOMPSON still 'kicking ass' well into his seventies. Along with, I might add, a number of other old folkfaces who you'd swear have 'always been there' (various Bothies and Planxties and Moving Heartsies, alive alive oh!)

Having reported last week that "IT LOOKS LIKE AUTUMN"... well, wouldn't you know it, all that has changed again at the the beginning of THIS week, and we're back to bright and warm and SUMMER WALKS weather. Tortoises are still awake and running about (probably the bears too, if you know of any), the bunbuns think it's spring again... and I don't think the GEESE will be arriving too early THIS year.

Friday afternoon, and it's a bit of a 'twiddling thumbs' sort of day, really. The weather has got a little more glum and is recognisably Autumnal. Perhaps I should have kept my mouth shut earlier. Later, I have to text Uncle Willy with a reminder that he owes me monies... but, in the mean time, I spent the afternoon listening to a superb STEELY DAN concert (Hammersmith Apollodeon in the year 2000) via the secret space interweb. I'm also reading the programme for the forthcoming LONDON JAZZ FESTIVAL from cover to cover. I very much doubt that I will be going to any of it... but I can dream, can't I?

Week from Monday 14th October 2013

I spent the weekend feeling a little worse for wear, suffering with some major TUMMY TRUBS, almost certainly due to an EGG-BASED DISH that didn't agree with me. This morning I'm anticipating the OLYMPIC MOVEMENT that will put things right...

Wednesday afternoon, still grooving to the jazz-pop stylings of STEELY DAN... tested the website with OPERA. It's now been 'alpha'ed on all of the Windoze-based browsers that I can think of, as well as a Linux one, of course. I still need someone to look over it with a critical eye on an AppleMac, but I don't see that anything would be any different. All of the various flavours are catered for in my CSS. The only UNKNOWN FACTOR is with those wretched mobile things. It still remains to be seen whether the website will suit all-comers, or if I will once again have to resort to having a separate version of the site for those awkward sods...

DAVID BYRNE wrote a rather good article for "THE GUARDIAN" in which he discusses how the internet is killing creativity. He makes some very valid points...
"...if free or cheap streaming becomes the way we consume all [recorded] music and indeed a huge percentage of other creative content – TV, movies, games, art, porn – then perhaps we might stop for a moment and consider the effect these services and this technology will have, before 'selling off' all our cultural assets the way the big record companies did. If, for instance, the future of the movie business comes to rely on the income from Netflix's $8-a-month-streaming-service as a way to fund ALL films and TV production, then things will change very quickly. As with music, that model doesn't seem sustainable if it becomes the dominant form of consumption. Musicians might, for now, challenge the major labels and get a fairer deal than 15% of a pittance, but it seems to me that the whole model is unsustainable as a means of supporting creative work of any kind. Not just music. The inevitable result would seem to be that the internet will suck the creative content out of the whole world until nothing is left. Writers, for example, can't rely on making money from live performances – what are they supposed to do? Write ad copy?"
...although some of the less enlightened online comment-leavers take the "He's a millionaire, why would HE worry about a few cents here and there 'lost' to cheap streaming?" line, missing the point entirely. Here's my own tuppenceworth, as posted on my socialmediabloggospheres of choice:
"...while the argument that 'they want all the money for themselves' might be true of certain so-called artists I might mention, people like David Byrne [or Peter Gabriel] have a long record of investing their money back into the business to help others - building studios, starting their own labels (particularly for 'world' music) and supporting and founding charitable institutions. They've also opened folks' ears and eyes to a whole world of art that they might not have heard otherwise.

Frank Zappa said something like 'Some people make a lot of money and put it up their nose. I put all mine in my ears...'

In a future where the only revenue due to the musicians themselves is the pittance 'earned' from streaming sites, where are those kind of visionaries going to come from? We may never know. They're all locked away in their bedroom studios, creating masterpieces that no one will ever hear, or playing for pennies in one of the last remaining live music pubs, while trying to hold down a shitty day-job.

If all of the money is going to the middlemen (asset-stripping BUILD 'EM UP THEN SELL 'EM OFF commodity brokers), then we reach the point where 'MUSIC' is the least important part of the phrase 'MUSIC BUSINESS'. Thank you. Close the door on your way out.

Whatever the pros and cons of the old 'signing to a label' structure (and it certainly was NOT an ideal business model by anyone's definition), at least there WAS once a time when an artist could develop at his own pace, knowing that there was a system there which would support what he was doing. A system that invested in its own long-term future instead of going for the fast buck.

If the only way 'IN' for a musician is to go on telly and prostitute himself before Simon Cowell, then bland homogenous marketable 'PRODUCT' is the result and there's no longer a place in society for the leftfield mavericks of this world..."
Week from Monday 21st October 2013

HOORAY! The BURNING SHED fairies have been!

The latest multimedia extravaganza from STEVEN WILSON has just landed on my doormat. Is it an 'album'? Or a 'mini'-DVD? A bird? Or a plane? All or none of these?

The DVD contains the animated videos for "Drive On" and "The Raven..." and live footage of the band filmed in Germany earlier in the year. Yummy. I've already seen it all(?) on That YouTube They Have Now, bringing lumps to the throat and causing neck hairs to stand to attention on each viewing. But it's much nicer to have a tangible, fetishable, hi-fidelity THING to hold in your hand and put on your deck.

The CD half of the package contains all the live audio, the 'single' edit of "Drive On", an orchestral version of "The Raven..." and "The Birthday Party", a new tune which wasn't on the album proper (A ghost story of that name appeared in the booklet, but the music itself wasn't finished at the time). It's not at all what I'd imagined when reading the story though, being a Hammond-driven piece of frenetic MIDSEVENTIES MADMAN MUSICK, pitched somewhere between Van Der Graaf Generator and the twiddlier bits of UK. Pretty damn awesome, actually...

It's all very, very MELANCHOLY, of course... especially when the papier-maché Stewie Griffin loses his girlfriend...

BOOKS... I've just finished [re]reading MILES DAVIS' autobiography and I've made a start on [re]reading "Musicophilia" by the neurologist OLIVER SACKS. That new biography of JAMES JOYCE remains on the shelf until I 'get around to it', I really must make an effort sometime!

This week's 'SIDE PROJECT TO THE SIDE PROJECT' was to try to incorporate a Google Customized Search Engine into the 'new' website. I tried all sorts of devious CSS ways to make it LOOK like an integrated part of our own site, but there's always something left over that defies styling (as I once found when I tried to apply some 'Stylish' to GooglePlus and GMail). In the end, you just have to give in and LET GOOGLE BE GOOGLE... plumping for the default settings, so that it's all WHITE AND SHINY, like some kind of gleaming new kitchen appliance.

Week from Monday 28th October 2013

I'm posting this posting this morning using my laptop, because the BIG BEAST is in 'Windoze Classic' mode and playing a 1975 TANGERINE DREAM concert at me! BBC 6Music broadcast an hoursworth (of their Royal Albert Hall appearance of that year) in the early hours of Saturday morning. I believe the word is "WOOHOO!!" As far as I'm concerned, this golden period of their long existence is as good as The Fab Tangs EVER got.

But I'll never get used to using a laptop to type. Clearly, those of us who NEED some sort of tactile feedback when we tap away are a dying breed. This paragraph has taken me twice as long as it should, because the keyboard is fighting back! I find myself constantly going over it, again and again, self-checking... When typing, TOUCH SENSITIVITY is the key (ahem!), in much the same way as it is with a proper mechanical piano keyboard. You just don't get that feel with these flat 'membrane switches'... and then there's the touchy cursors that jump about because of over-sensitive scroll pads... and don't get me started on using virtual keyboards on a screen! Hateful! It's unnatural. No wonder the internet is so full of typos and broken english. Even some fairly reputable blogs I've seen lately can LOOK as if they've been typeset by an illiterate child wearing boxing gloves, with missing line or word breaks (or ones where there shouldn't be) and even entire paragraphs accidentally[?] repeated.

I'd better save this, hadn't I, before anything else 'accidentally' moves about!?!

Aha! I just found a SYSTEM SETTING in Linux that allows one to disable the touchpad while typing... that seems to stop all its JUMPING ABOUT mischief while I'm entering HTML and the like...
So, farewell then LOU REED. I won't try to pretend that I loved EVERYTHING you ever did. Some of it, quite frankly, was pretty awful. But you certainly made those three chords of yours go a long way and you weren't afraid to take risks. When it WAS good, it was very very good indeed. And it doesn't get much better than this...

(cue "THE BELLS", a magnificent, angst-laden, hymnal dirge from 1979, clocking in at just under ten minutes, which featured an early Roland Guitar Synth trying its best to sound like Nico's harmonium, plus the freeform trumpet stylings of one Mr DON CHERRY...)
UNCLE WILLY'S WEBSITE is now 'LIVE', in a state of what I suppose you'd call "PUBLIC BETA". At least that's what MySpace and all those other sites call it when THEY open up the site to public scrutiny and then carry on working on it! Difference is, there's a lot less that can go wrong with this one! The reason for this bold move is the inclusion of the GOOGLE CUSTOM SEARCH ENGINE doobry. In order for me to test that and tweak it to suit, it is necessary for it to search REAL pages on REAL websites in the REAL world.

I've got a 'new' CD player! And rather nice it is too, a PHILIPS CD723, approximate vintage 1999, which used to belong to my dad's jazz appreciation society. A decent bit o'tackle. Originally it sold for about £120, descending to around £98 towards the end of its shelf-life in Richer Sounds. The going secondhand price on that internet they have now is about £30, so I gave m'paw that much to put in the club kitty. It provides for a detailed, transparent and comfortable listen. I grant you, that is also true of the Toshiba DVD player that I'd previously been using as an 'EVERY KIND OF DISC INCLUDING CD'-player. But that particular beasty suffers from a common glitch amongst DVD players - The way it buffers tracks (treating them as 'chapters' in the DVD sense) means that it snips the first fraction of a second off the beginning of a tune. I hear this is also true of some Blue-Ray players. Not a biggy, but it did niggle me a bit (the first "fiddlap-fiddlap-pish!" of the first track on Steven Wilson's "The Raven..." always misses most of its first "fiddlap!". That's the proper technical name for it, by the way.)

Therefore I'd been on the lookout for a dedicated, as-hi-fi-as-possible CD player for a decent price. Sorted!