Chance is a funny thing. I took five days off work and went to the cottage for some relaxation.
While I was there I made some field recordings with my new portable recorder.
I recorded water:
and I recorded wind:
And I got home and went right back to work. After a vacation I am always more tired than before I went away. I almost cancelled a Monday night engagement. At the last minute I changed my mind and went. My bus home is on diversion. At 9:30 I walked passed Gallery 345 on Sorauren. Henry Grimes and Andrew Cyrille were playing. It was beautiful, inspiring and galvanizing. It was also depressing – to me, these guys are legends. There were less than 20 people in the house.
Henry Grimes had disappeared for 30 years. People thought he was dead. In 2002 he made a comeback.
After I saw him play I made this song. It is in no way related to the music he plays. I’m glad he’s playing it.
I’m reading a book about Glenn Gould right now. There is a quote in there about the right time to have idols – Gould puts it in the early teens, but something tells me he had a few in his adulthood – that made me feel a little ashamed of myself. I jump from one hero to the next, sucking as much inspiration as I can from them and then moving on.
John Fahey was a hero. I haven’t listened to his music in a year. Anthony Braxton was a hero – it’s been three months since I’ve heard one note he played. Two weeks ago it was Mozart – tomorrow Beethoven.
There are non-musical heroes as well – Shackleton being, of course, the most exemplary:
Cultural appropriation is a funny bit of business. Things get taken, recycled, reused, modified and eventually become the norm. No one using a twelve-bar blues format thinks that they are stealing a bit of ethnic music. But they are.
A couple of weeks ago I went and saw Huun Huur Tu – a group that plays ancient Tuvan music – at the Mod-Club. I thought that the deep reverberations of Tuvan throat-singing and a down-town dance club that referenced London in the swinging sixties was a strange pairing. I had no idea what was going to happen next. Huun Huur Tu came out and played with a New York vest-wearing producer called Carmen Rizzo. Rizzo put screen-savers up in the club and added canned beats to the music, turning this unique group of musicians (Huun Huur Tu) into glorified spa sounds. The “World Music” crowed seemed to love it.
I was not impressed.
“World Music” as a genre is one of the most confusing and misleading entities in all of mislabeled music. What does Ali Farke Toure have to do with Jorge Ben Jorge? Where are Java and Sumatra anyway? Isn’t gamelan a blend of Starbucks coffee?
In the 1970s the krautrock group Can produced a bunch of recordings they called their Ethnological Forgery Series. An honest title for what happens when a rock group puts a sitar in a song.
Ok. Let’s be honest. The last piece of music I posted owed very little to David Darling & Ketil Bjornstad. It owed a lot to Harold Budd. I admit it.
But did you know that Harold Budd and Albert Ayler were in a military band together? Ambient piano or other, that is a serious piece of credibility. A big hunk of it.
I’ve wanted to do a series of recordings of Albert Ayler songs in a Fahey-esque guitar style. Ayler’s lovely, folksy melodies perfectly match the pastoral Americana of Fahey’s finger-picking. But I thought this week I’d try to do it first in a new-age style, because I’m on a new-age kick.
Here is ambient piano, double-reverbs, harmonic stasis and a guitar theme inspired by Alyler’s lovelier moments:
A New Age Tribute To Albert Ayler
It turns out I’m not the only one who thinks Ayler and new-age are not incompatible. A simple google image search revealed this:
This morning I had to prove that I could snap out of this reverb-drenched funk. I recorded the Theme for Albert Ayler without allowing myself a single digital effect:
For Albert Ayler
Pat Metheny made a record with Ornette Coleman. Harold Budd served in the US Army with Albert Ayler. Sometimes the distance between avant-garde and easy-listening is only a reverb button.
A week ago I went to the Power Plant and saw new and recent works by Canadian Michael Snow. While I wasn’t particularly impressed by any of the show’s content, I enjoyed the directness and sincerity of his statements about the works. I was also excited about how interactive one of the works could be:
I’m standing by the stop-sign.
A week later at another Toronto art hotspot (The Drake Hotel) I had the privilege of hearing James Blackshaw perform. Blackshaw is an English guitarist who is very inspiring. He’s not yet thirty. His albums are beautiful, lush, well-recorded and full of a guitar sound and style that I love. That being said, I try not to listen to his music much. His music is so close in form and execution to the music I want to make that I fear being too influenced by this young Brit. What an arrogant and conceited thought! But honest.
Being in these two radically different spaces united by “art” (The Power Plant is large and auster, empty of people – the Drake was full of night-clubbers waiting for a Prince theme party to begin) I was struck by how divergent public creativity is. Michael Snow is associated with everything from Albert Ayler to the Eaton Center, Prince and Miles Davis planned on making records together, James Blackshaw curated a compilation that featured a lute-player. Ezra Pound’s great realization at the dawn of the twentieth century was that all ages are contemporary, but this week was strange.
So I listened to recordings I made when I was first hearing James Blackshaw and was pleased to find that his influence had not been pervasive – it was barely detectable outside the fact that a 12-string guitar was being finger-picked. Here is one from the vaults:
Some people suffer for their art – I’m one of them. I had just gotten my gong when I made this song and was so excited to use it. Usually you see gongs on stands, suspended gracefully in the air. Mine doesn’t have a stand. So I have to pick it up with one hand, holding it away from my body as to not dampen the sound, and bang it with my other hand. My back was in terrible pain for well over two weeks. I haven’t recorded the gong since.
People like to complain about the winter weather. I like it. Winter is a great time to bunker down and get some work done.
Winter is also wonderful at magnifying distance.
Distances, Measurable and Otherwise
The cold weather has given me plenty of time to work through more music from the blog Allegory-of-Allergies. One of the very special treats there was this album by Loren Mazzacane Connors. The opening track put me in a pastoral mood. I got my guitar out.
I hope the opening theme of this puts you somewhere between John Fahey and Pat Metheny. That’s where I was. At the end I snuck in some of my second-rate Sibelius-esque brass playing. You can’t blame a guy for trying.