pˆnk s lord sükråt cunctør
FT readers who are interested in writing about music and the specifics of its history in the UK, I have organised a treat for you (if you live in or near London, or happen to be visiting in precisely two weeks time = May 15-16 2015). It is THIS: a conference called UNDERGROUND/OVERGROUND: The Changing Politics of UK Music-Writing: 1968-85, and it is happening here: Birkbeck University of London, London WC1E 7HX (see below for details). I’m delighted (and in fact flattered) that a line-up of very interesting names and speakers (also see below) have agreed to sit on panels discussing a variety of things, from who exactly the constituency for the rock papers was in the 70s and early 80s, to how the hell did the countercultural voice get to cross from the underground press of the late 60s into what were at least ostensibly the trade papers of the leisure industry (viz Melody Maker, NME, Sounds, Record Mirror et al); to (finally) what can all this mean for us today, three decades on?
I am extremely excited! And nervous! And worried no one will turn up — or too many people will turn up, or there will be a fight, or everyone will agree with everyone else and it will be boring, or [insert OTHER things that could go wrong] [but don’t tell me what they are!]
KIND OF BLEUGH, or seven better stand-alone ways into jazz in the early age of the long-playing disc (possibly)
(Hoisted from comments on Tom’s thread re-exploring LP-listening in the age of the no-longer moored individual song)
So Tom had put Sketches of Spain by Miles Davis on his list, and in response the thread had discussed the mechanics of politics of tokenism: some idea how and why SoS so often ends up as a rock or pop listener’s one trusty jazz LP, and some suggestions as to better candidates. Inevitably, I ended up getting pre-emptively grumpy about Miles’s Kind of Blue, and was called on this. What’s my actual beef with KoB? And, given this beef, where I would I suggest starting? These were my semi-mulled thoughts, tidied up, with extras added, and responses to responses further down…)
so yesterday i had my first piano lesson in 37 years (ie my teacher wasn’t born when i had my last one): i went in VERY butterfly-stomachy — and came out combination buzzed&psyched, bcz it was AWESOME. Here’s why:
i: i like the teacher very much (he also teaches my niece, aged 6).
ii: we concentrated on basically two phrases — less than two lines — of one piece:
Sometimes you’re reading a book for purely aimless diversion and it strikes you that someone — some book-burrowing Arne Saknussemm — was there before you. I can’t really claim that C.S. Lewis ever read Donald S.Johnson’s Phantom Islands of the Atlantic: the Legends of Seven Lands that Never Were (since he died some three decades before its 1994 publication), but I am morally certain he had visited some of Johnson’s sources, long before Johnson.
very quickly (since i am DEFINITELY meant to be doing something else: writing a project proposal on quite a fierce deadline), i just wanted to scribble this about HINTERLAND/Y GWYLL. Much anticipated since it first ran last year on SC4 — round the time I was re-visiting that very part of wales with friends — I have been combination drawn to and disappointed by it so far (3 of 4 eps).
(image = beermat snapped in aber pub frequented by student piratemoggy)
1: i love the sheer slowness and sense of the mundane crappiness of much of actual rural life in a superpassingly beautiful landscape
2: i love love love hearing welsh spoken on TV (i grew up close to the welsh border and we visited often: i don’t speak it sadly except for a few words — araf! — but the sound of it, esp.mid-wales welsh, is very familiar and comforting to me)
3: the “cabinet of curiosities”/svankmajer/owl service-style weirdness — of abandoned houses, decaying tools, toys etc — is a bit over-amped and mannerist
[3a: total side-issue, the "cabinet of curiosities" has become such a cliche in present-day exhibition-curating circles that at work -- where we have to field info about and review many such exhibitions -- we have taken to calling it the "cupboard of rubbish"]
4: the lead is over-angsting by factors of ten, but i am enjoying his utterly matter-of-fact crew and their muted exasperation at his unprofessional emo-gothy shenanigans
5: his boss — who does nothing but gaze on everything via TV screens, looking as if he’s about to explode over who-knows-what but never doing so — is great
6: the stories have all been a bit “magical land of childhood terrors” so far, though i think many of the minor characters peopling them have been pretty good
7: so it’s getting some things right and some things wrong
warning: this is an insider-baseball tl;dr epic, responding to various questions frank kogan asked in comments on the oasis post (i.e. here and here and here and here and here and here), which i’ve placed here^^^ so as not to further derail that discussion (and also so that I could edit and link more easily, w/o risk of losing the whole thing while the FT back-end is being somewhat flakey). It’s about (among other things) Burke, Keats, Wallace Stevens, the internalised bureaucracies of the institutionalised intellect, and where music fits into them; and what we variously mean by the words “thinking” and “clarity”: it includes several more-than-usually digressive (!) notes-to-self abt things I need to think about further. Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate!
“THESE HAPPY FEET ARE ALL WE NEED”: some thoughts about dress-up and dance and video, motion and provocation, Adam Ant and us…
Above is the title to the presentation I gave in Seattle at the EMP Pop Conference 2014 (24-27 April), theme Go! Music Mobility. Strictly speaking it doesn’t exist as a paper, and never will — some people can read their own words vividly, but I’m not one of them. So what you get below is roughly written-up fragments, you can join the dots yourself (or protest that no such join exists). We had 20 minutes each: it’s quite hard to time an extempore presentation — I’m well aware by now that I tend to load up more ideas than I’ll get through, and I spent a lot of time paring it back. Then looking at what I now had and deludedly thinking “yikes that’s only about 10 minutes-worth!” and adding new stuff in. In the event, I did indeed have more than I could get through. I’ve put some of it back in below (indicating when I didn’t say it): the rest — which anyway probably wasn’t fully thought through — I’ll keep for another day (meaning the book I’m writing) (trufax!)
“Alice opened the door and found that it led into a small passage, not much larger than a rat-hole: she knelt down and looked along the passage into the loveliest garden you ever saw. How she longed to get out of that dark hall, and wander about among those beds of bright flowers and those cool fountains…”
—Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, 1865.
“‘I just want to rock and roll all night, and party every day.’ That’s an old Kiss song. But back when the song was new and my wife Leslie was 12 years old (this was before we married), she heard it as, ‘I just want to rock and roll all night, and part of every day.’ OK. Again, a necessary mistake, to make the dream accessible — imaginable — to a 12-year-old.”
—Frank Kogan, ‘Let MTV Ring’, Village Voice, 5 June 1990
In the mid-90s I was working as a sub-editor at the film journal Sight and Sound, a job I enjoyed a lot: the people I worked with were smart and friendly and entertaining; the magazine’s subject matter was detailed and interesting, and a lot of it was new to me; during work hours focusing on and absorbing the history of cinema, in my own time researching earlier histories of music and technology, I was able to push to the back of my conscious mind how exhausted and burnt-out I was on paying mind to present-day music; how dispirited and heartbroken I was at losing my job at The Wire, though this wasn’t the cheerful story I told myself. A brief season as chief explorer of an amazing secret path under the pop entire battlefield! And now an exile; or double exile, really…
Who would you keep? Who would you drop? Who would you draft?
Assume you have all the budget you could possibly need, and all the persuasive powers to cut through shyness (or else tell the story of who you think you’d fail to coax in…)
Is it still a lobbying ad for the BBC? Is it an ad for the BBC today (as opposed to 15+ years ago)? Is it something else entirely? You curate and you explain!
Would you strive for:
less of the wrong kind of cool (paging wichitalineman)?
less of the wrong kind of soul (paging punctum)?
less of the wrong kind of teenybop (paging puking purplekylie)?
less of the wrong kind of rap (paging everyone!)?
less of the wrong kind of reap!
less metal? (ok can’t actually be less metal i don’t think)
less repeat appearance-y?
less top-of-the-range nobbers phoning it in? (YES s/b FEWER SHUT UP)
less quilty pleasure (more actual real pluralism)? (yes i said QUILTY SHUT UP)
less unappealing to YOU THE CURATOR? (be bold! be interesting!)
less 90s? (go wild! you can after all travel in time)
List suggestions and manifestos in the thread and we will take it to RIGOROUS POLL SCIENCE
And under the cut, the 29 artists in the BBC’s original, just to remind everyone
Michele Kirsch is a friend from NME days; Mama K’s True Stories began as a column devised for City Limits in the mid 80s. It suited her writing style — and the need for it perhaps marked the accelerated dwindling in that time of the range of ways you were likely to be allowed to talk about music or books or film or life, at least in weeklies and monthlies devoted to record reviews and tour news and the promo interview run. City Limits was not long for the world in any viable form; I went on to edit The Wire and lost touch with MK till I ran into her on a Hackney street-corner a couple of months ago.