It is trivially simple now to capture our everyday practice: our improvisations, our noodles and doodles, arpeggios, scales, the full day, 2, 4, 8 hours, whatever you like. You could capture the audio of course, but if you play, as I do, a midi-enabled grand (the Yamaha C6) it’s just plug and go, and a small amount of data no matter how long you ramble on. I don’t do that, of course. I do and have captured improvised sessions since the 1980s but to capture all one’s praxis, yeesh, who would have time to review it for gold? But what if we had the improvisations, the daily work sessions, the preparations and practice of Beethoven, Schubert, Bach, Chopin, Debussy, Bartok, hell any and everyone you can name. It’s true you’d need a thousand lifetimes to enjoy it all but it would be a rich trove, an endless fascination. Scroll to that delightful evening in 1821 when Ludwig v. was playing through the op.101 sonata (hearing it in his fingers, not his ears) and suddenly discovered something new that suggested a figure for the op.126 first bagatelle. Or in 1888, as Debussy tries a combination of harmonies that can’t help but suggest to our well-worn ears the cadence of a too-familiar bergamasque. But this is just archaeology. The real, longer lasting treasures would be in all the material that was not developed. Why didn’t he go there? Oooh what an amazing figure, what a gem! Another brilliant masterpiece of improvisation! Another, yet another, and perhaps the greatest, Bach fugue, or Bach fragment, never to be heard because it all went into the ether.
A friend of mine was once photographing me late at night in an auditorium as I played to an empty house but for the two of us. After the session he said, “I wish I’d brought a tape recorder rather than a camera.” Imagine if we’d had both for the greatest of our greats gone by.
“I think it’s quite extraordinary that Vivien Leigh’s art was a reflection of her life, basically. I mean, when you look at her on screen in Gone With the Wind, she is doomed already. You can see it in her eyes.“ -James Sherwood
This is remarkable bullshit and appallingly undermines her greatness. Of course every artist’s art is a reflection, in part, of their lives. But saying it of an actor and of the look in the eyes of the *character* she is playing is utter nonsense.
Manuscript Monday: LJS 47, Boethius’ De institutione musica
Dot Porter, Curator, Digital Research Services at the University of Pennsylvania Library, offers a video orientation to Penn Library’s LJS 47, De institutione musica by Boethius. The manuscript was written in France around 1490 in Latin and it is a copy of a Latin treatise on the Pythagorean-based theory of ancient Greek music, in which the text reflects an older (10th-century) tradition and the numerous diagrams related to ratio and pitch demonstrate later developments in the tradition.
See the full online facsimile of this work in Penn in Hand.
“The only line I know of that’s wrong in Shakespeare is ‘Holding a mirror up to nature.’ You hold the magnifying glass up to nature. As an actor you just enlarge it enough so that your audience can identify with a situation. If it were a mirror we would have no art.”
I think Eurorack and modular synthesis is becoming in the 21st century what the piano in the parlor was in the 19th and early 20th. That may sound a bit ambitious and off kilter given that it’s highly doubtful a great many (if any) folks are having friends to dinner and afterward firing up their rack to run through an array of novel drone sounds or even sequences. Still, hear me out. The Eurorack modularity is having a large impact on the popularity of synthesis in general. Manufacturers are scrambling to produce more and more modules. But who is buying all this gear? More importantly, what are these people doing with the gear? There can be little doubt that synthesis in general appeals to a number of different types of people, but chief among them must be the gear headed toolbar, the type of guy who’d just as soon fiddle under the hood of his car or DIY a workbench or recalibrate a telescope as go out and play with his rock band. This is not a disparagement. It’s just that if you look through all the so-called demo videos of new gear you’ll find something rather remarkable…to me anyway: there isn’t any music being made. There isn’t even any “soundscape” or “noise performance” going on. I’m not suggesting many or at least some of these people don’t know what they’re doing with their sine waves, I’m just saying it’s all knob twaddling. Which is fine as far as it goes. But wouldn’t you think on occasion someone would actually post a tune? Well, they do, in fact, if given a little incentive. Propellerheads, for example, sponsors the posting of stems and remixes using their software in an attempt to get other users to contribute and collaborate on real music. How successful it is, I leave to you to decide. But honestly, why are all these people buying all this gear? I’m sure the field of professional musicians is much broader than I can imagine, so regional/global performance opportunities and requirements put the numbers in the high — what, tens of thousands? I’m not talking about the elite group of live and studio musicians who support the pop stars of our age, that’s a much smaller number. Just the toilers and trundlers out there who go by names such as *Fort Noise* and *Ultrasmookler* and *Chocolate Nukes* and so forth. God bless them and Allah lend a hand too. At least one member in those types of bands obviously comprise a market for this gear. But my intuition, and I’d love for someone to tell me I’m on or off base, is that the much broader field is composed of non-composers. Just ordinary Joes and Jills who like to hear what comes out of the box when you turn the fiddlestick. Nothing wrong with that. Now I just hope they’ll play for their guests after dinner.
Between two musical notes there exists another note, between two facts there exists another fact, between two grains of sand, no matter how close together they are, there exists an interval of space, there exists a sensing between sensing—in the interstices of primordial matter there is the mysterious, fiery line that is the world’s breathing, and the world’s continual breathing is what we hear and call silence.
“Manaunaun was the god of motion, and long before the creation, he sent forth tremendous tides, which swept to and fro through the universe, and rhythmically moved the particles and materials of which the gods were later to make the suns and worlds.”
The nature of music is…perplexing, in its apprehension, in modern times. I’m listening at the moment to Anthony Braxton’s Opus 82, a piece scored for FOUR 39-piece ensembles. The density of the sound would seem to demand/require a live performance to even attempt a proper hearing. Even my worthy Munro Eggs, putting out fine sound, struggle with plenty of areas, most indeed — I’m not sure it’s possible to hear what may be unhearable? This is confusing to me. What is the threshold for music’s audition, location and conditions included? Of course we can get thrilling goose-pimpling results from an AM radio coming in mostly static from a station 500 hundred miles away on a handheld transistor in 1962. And the same could have been said for a gramophone a hundred years ago. It depends on what you can hear. The size and clarity of the ensemble are not insignificant. A trio. A solo voice with just the buzz of backers. Art Tatum on the piano. But using actual orchestras contrapuntally, well, it just depends on the music. Sometimes I can hear, sometimes I cannot. But in toto is the music getting a fair shake? Obviously Braxton submitted and warranted the idea of putting the work on wax to begin with, so he’s on board. I’m not sure I am.
[It goes without saying, which is why I’m saying it, that limiting your music, no matter what its intentions, to live performance, is to limit your audience to the size of those still listening to the ancient hymns to Apollo.]
[It also goes without saying that some of the equipment and room treatments that exist in the pages of The Absolute Sound could make a much better attempt than I’m making even with my Eggs.]
In addition to other activities, I am the piano player in the quintet, Bipolar, regularly playing at the Metropolitan Room in New York City, Bargemusic, and hopefully other international venues to come.
Consultant / Hobbs Emporium
Creative Director / Plural
Staff management, online strategy and creative direction
Art Director / AOL
A beautiful thing... for a while.
Mr Fixit / Wallace Church
Digital culture transition, print production, typography