Posts from 15th July 2002

15
Jul 02

THE BALANESCU QUARTET – “Autobahn”

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THE BALANESCU QUARTET – “Autobahn”

The Balanescus’ severe and beautiful string arrangement of “Autobahn” sparks familiar questions: what is the point of a ‘cover version’? What makes a good one? Can a distinction – for once – be made between songs written specifically for a particular singer or group and songs written for themselves, so to speak, perhaps by a professional songwriter? ‘Standards’, you might say. These cannot, strictly, be ‘covered’ – there need not be a dialogue between one version of “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” and another – and yet there almost always is, at least for the listener aware of multiple versions.

On the other hand, I have downloaded several performances of “Send In The Clowns”, and I have my favourite, but none of them require any of the others to exist. The interplay between them is delicious, but it feels like ‘The Song’ exists beyond that interplay – though, of course, the lack of ‘original’ means that the ur-“Send In The Clowns” I am sensing is a composite made up out of presences and absences in the versions I do know.

Whereas without “Autobahn” by Kraftwerk, there would be no “Autobahn” by the Balanescu Quartet – and this fact goes beyond the simple decision by Kraftwerk’s songwriters to record the piece rather than offer it to other artists. The existence of a second “Autobahn” does not (for me at least) create an un-hearable ur-“Autobahn”, a phantom perfected version of the song. This is because the Balanescus’ performance exists in relation to Kraftwerk’s like a close-up exists in relation to its parent photograph: an aspect of the whole is concentrated upon and magnified.

In this case the aspect is Kraftwerk’s relationship to Europe and its artistic and cultural history – a relationship nodded to in “Franz Schubert”, and brought to the fore by the Balanescus, who find in Kraftwerk’s apparent futurism the ancient, restrained sorrow of the European string quartet. But this sorrow is there in Kraftwerk already. Still, this act of magnification, this slight change of emphasis, seems to me all that can and should be attempted by a ‘cover version’: not reinvention, but a discreet shift in perspective.

The Jubilee Stuff

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The Jubilee Stuff is a five-part piece by The Pinefox, an 8,000 word quasi-diary of a week in June. It will be running every day this week on Freaky Trigger.

Also up on FT is His Wotanic Majesty’s Request, a very entertaining review of some Scandinavian bands (and a few others) by the Dirty Vicar.

A subject which often comes back up here is that of televisions in pubs

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A subject which often comes back up here is that of televisions in pubs. We all know the horror of the TV showing MTV while the jukebox is banging out something completely different. And we are all aware that no matter what is on a TV screen the eye is naturally drawn to its flickering luminescence. So you would think that I would be against this – Big Brother in pubs. Part of me is, but only due to its format – on ETV a terrible bar only subscription sevice. The idea of Big Brother live in pubs is fantastic, it fits perfectly with the other reason to go to the pub to watch TV, sport. Big Brother is akin to sport that you can watch it or ignore it at different levels. It can go on for long stretches without being interesting and then suddenly be amazing. The volume issue would be tricky, the contestants do have a habit of being very quiet and then squeeling. That said though with the amount they have been drinking this year all their conversations are natural pub conversations.

Anyway it would make Friday night easier to handle without waiting on spurious text messages from your lying mates.