Wednesday, 29 September 2010

The Man with a Glass Nose - Kurt Schwitters.

Carrying on the work in progress theme that I've posted earlier (see links), I'm posting another bit of work in progress which I find interesting and fun, The Man with a Glass Nose.  The 'modern fairy tale' by Kurt Schwitters has come from Lucky Hans and other Merz Fairy Tales translated by Jack Zipes. My friend Irvine Peacock suggested that I may be interested to participate in the the project concerning the works of Schwitters that he any several other British artists are working on. 

After starting to work by myself on a sound collage (which still is a work in progress also), I decided that it may be interesting to work with another musician, or at least artist. I had been thinking of working using sound and electro-acoustics and so started to look around me for someone to collaborate with. It was at this moment that I came across Roald Baudoux, one of the professors of electro acoustic music and composition at Mons Conservatory (Belgium). We got together a few months ago and have since then been gradually working on various rough sketches for this project using improvised music, speech and electro-acoustics. 

I hope that it will be possible to develop this project even further and maybe include another musician or even a dancer, or actor. However, for the moment we are still meeting up from time to time and working on refining the basic project for a 'live presentation'.

Here is just one of our rehearsals - i.e. excuse the 'p' popping sounds every time I get too close to the microphone.

 Schwitters - The Man with the Glass Nose by joehigham


Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Deep Tones for Peace - DVD/CD

Deep Tones for Peace CD/DVD release from the Kadima Collective

Deep Tones for Peace is a project from the Kadima Collective run by (set up?) by Jean Claude Jones a bass player who emigrated to Israel in 1983. The project features master bass players mostly from the world of modern bass players, some classical, others from the world of improvised music and jazz. The players on this CD/DVD release are : -

Jerusalem : Hama'abada Lab - Mark Dresser, Barre Phillips, JC Jones, Bert Turetzky, Irina-Kalina Goudeva, Chi-chi Nwanoku, Thierry Barbe, Michael Klinghoffer,

New York : Manhattan School of Music - Sarah Weaver (conducting), Trevor Dunn, Henry Grimes, Lindsey Horner, Dave Phillips, Rufus Reid.

As you can see the players are split into two teams, why? Well, this is a project with a difference, and has been set up as a call for peace via the world of music and especially as you can see bass players. The idea (basically) is that two groups of bass players, in different places, play pieces of music via internet link up. SLM - for Telematic Contrabass Ensemble (I guess that's the piece Dresser talks about at the start of the DVD) is built on the bass notes of D and G, (meant to be) the lowest tones in the universe, or that's what Mark Dresser tells us, hence the title. However, what we get is much more than this, and a must for all budding free form music fans and off course bass players with a sense of adventure. I'll break the review down into the two separate elements, although from what I understand the DVD is a documentary about the project, and the CD is the performance of SLM.

The DVD 
Deep Tones for Peace - a film by Christine Baudillon and Francois Lagarde (1h 30) :
This is really the most interesting thing to watch and listen to first. For someone like me - musician, but not a bass player - it really helps you understand what you're about to hear (in more detail) on the CD, although the DVD is NOT the music of the CD! However, there is added interest here with the inclusion of :

1) Dialog from JC Jones, who briefly describes to (maybe ?) a journalist, the idea behind this project.  
2) Mark Dresser getting his team ready for the final project performance, which is heard only in it's entirety on the CD.
3) The most interesting bit is a chance to get to see the musicians performing, solos, duets, trios and sections together, although I'm not sure where these fit into the SLM - for Telematic Contrabass Ensemble project. From what we see at the end of the DVD - announcements from a presenter at the concert you see being filmed - this was several days of performances, with SLM being another part. The individual performances are very interesting, and mostly very accessible. Interestingly enough Bert Turetzky uses a poem over his piece which comes across very nicely and of course keeps your attention. Barre Phillips turns up in several situations, solo, in duet with Dave Phillips (via internet link up), and an excellent duo performance with Turetzky. We get to see Mark Dresser performing a very intense solo piece/improvisation (?) which is quite striking due to his masterful playing. Other performances that stand out are Irina-Kalina Goudeva performing a piece combining voice (hers) and bass, Thierry Barbe a piece using pre-recorded sound and bass, and JC Jones comes up at several moments solo, in trio, and quartet, much like Mark Dresser, with very strong emotional playing, or improvisations. I imagine that we are witnessing the first day - of concerts - with duo, trio, quartet and solo performances, or that's how it comes across.

The CD (48mins) (*)
SLM - for Telematic Contrabass Ensemble :
It's very interesting after having listened to and watched the DVD concerning the making of the music and it's performance. The music on this disc is made up of one long piece SLM - for Telematic Contrabass Ensemble, although everyone gets a feature at some point ..... I imagine? It is one of the small weakness with this edition that there is no information on who's playing at what moment, although one could argue, who cares, it's the music that counts. If you buy the CD/DVD package you'll also get to see more information about SLM - composed by Dresser and Weaver. There's a lovely booklet that goes with the package explains that SLM is a piece made using different compositional systems, including Soundpainting. (**)

Having said this there are some lovely moments of tranquil music which come out of the often dense sound of 13 basses. At 18 minutes a very lovely bowing solo from one of the players - Barbe maybe - brings in a nice rhythmical section using harmonics and low tones. At 21 minutes a solo pizzicato ostinato section with strange chordal sounds shimmering ushers in another soloist. The closest it gets to mainstream jazz (even post Coltrane) is around 34 minutes with another funky ostinato (Rufus Reid?) accompanied by percussive tapping from the bows. All in all the music reminds me of watching the sea, constant movement such as the swells of waves, long moments of very powerful walls of sound which eventually give way to more delicate sections. At the end of the piece the music kind of hovers for the last few minutes and finally comes to rest as if some sort of long journey is over.

Over all it's a very satisfying listen, if you're into hearing basses en mass, and if you're just open minded. You'll have to give it many listens to really get to know it well as there is so much going on through this recording. Often it's difficult to settle down to this type of music with such an unusual combination, and even though the music is almost 'epic' I think that in the end it's quite accessible, especially with a DVD to get you into the general climate. All in all it's an interesting addition to the bass catalogue, and after all where else will you find 13 of the worlds top bass players on the same record?

If you're interested to get hold of a copy I suggest looking at their website Kadima Collective here as I'm not sure if this will be available via larger outlets.


(*) I listened, whilst writing this review, on my computer AND when I placed the CD in my machine it came up as 'Interview with Keith Richards' !!!!!!! Unfortunately I can't tell you why, but if this happens, maybe you should let JC Jones know as iTunes could get this changed this way people know what they've really bought and are listening to.
(**) If you put Soundpainting into YouTube you'll find quite a few examples, which may help you to understand a little of how the system works 'practically'.

Monday, 20 September 2010

If you're a musician ..... weddings!

If you're a musician you'll laugh out loud at this one, I don't think I need to explain anything to you about this.
If you are either organizing or going to a wedding you may find this quite informative (!!!!). It's really frustrating playing this type of 'gig' and is actually very stressful due to the attitude of the people at the wedding (event) and of course the person in charge, who usually has no experience of music, weddings and just plain practical business. A friend of mine told me once how a woman came up to him at a wedding and asked them to play a certain tune, which they didn't know. When they explained this to the woman she just explained ;

"Oh, it's easy, just follow my feet!"

And stories such as this are legend among musicians, and don't all happen at weddings, some are stories from bars, events and other places. I remember having to play my saxophone wearing a kind of large condom with a flame on my head to advertise some sort of anniversary of a shopping center in Luxembourg, unfortunately I don't have any pictures. or of course the many amazing song requests received over the years.

Many musicians can tell you stories that will make you cry with laughter over this type of event. If you have any good ones, just let me know as I will be very happy to add them to this post.

You will find more of these here here and here ....... enjoy.

Friday, 10 September 2010

3 Mustapha 3

Just  a very short post to celebrate this ground braking musical band the 3 Mustapha 3. There is not much one can add to this post except to say that the 3 Mustapha 3 were of course well ahead of their time. I remember them being strong favorites of the alternative scene - post punk - with students, the unemployed, and anyone who enjoyed a bit of fun mixed with serious music. Of course what made the band so interesting was the Balkan music they used as source inspiration, along with oriental music, Indian, Japanese and other styles. Groups such as Pachora, The Paradox Trio, Balkan Beat Box etc didn't exist, and wouldn't exist until ten years later! The 3 Mustapha 3 were a truly genre breaking band, and had a lot of balls to be able to pull off such a stunt (making out that they were from somewhere in the Balkans .... as a joke of course), it also gave them a slightly mystical aura. The music sounds a little dated nowadays I suppose, but if I remember correctly from other peoples stories, the group was sublime in concert and didn't transpose well onto LP. However, I bumped into this video on YouTube and thought that it would be nice to place it up here for one and all to see or discover. Although it's not the band at their best it at least gives you a taste of their zany originality. 


I notice that some sessions were recorded for John Peels show (which I vaguely remember), so if anyone running across this post that has any live recordings of the band from this period ..... I'd be most interested to hear from you.

Monday, 6 September 2010

The music's coming back #2

Here's two albums that changed my view of music. The first is an album that I discovered (or remember) retrospectively, and the second is an interesting one as I bought and sold it almost immediately!

Nursery Cryme 1971 - although I first heard it in 1974.

When I was at school there were several different camps of music listeners, rock and roll (*) or progressive-rock - there were more things than that, but it sums up the basic listening camps. The rock and roll category listened to Hendrix, Free, Uriah Heep, Led Zeppelin, Groundhogs, Pink Fairies to name but a few. The intellectual prog rock crowd listened to Monty Python, Tangerine Dream, King Crimson, etc .... and Genesis. I should really add King Crimson's - Starless and Bible Black  to my list (  see later, and funny tale) due to the fact that I took some time to really fall under the spell of Crimson, but when I did. Anyhow, Nursery Cryme was album I heard around 1974 and somehow stayed with me until this day, yet I never owned a copy until a few weeks ago! Strangely enough I remember having this album recommended  to me by by a guy called Hans at my school. He had an excellent album collection, and I often popped by to borrow a few things. He was a few years above me and so had more sophisticated tastes ..... in comparison to my peers.

What struck me so recently about the music is the melodic complexity and tight playing of the band. Each song develops in a very natural way, keeping the listener engaged through the story (lyrics), which if I understand have often interesting hidden meanings (**). But the tunes themselves are all excellent from the opening Musical Box, which is one of the favorites (apparently) of the Genesis fans, all the way through to The Fountain of Salmacis, which somehow evokes King Crimson with the use of the mellotron which was apparently bought from the King Crimson crew. Peter Gabriel was a master of the  of the theatrical, spinning stories which mix Victoriana (such as the cover images at this time showed), Greek myths and 1970's imagery. The Musical Box, is a good example of how the band worked musically, moving between fine instrumental passages - combining Gabriel's flute, imaginative use of guitars, sometimes picked (a la classical), strummed or acoustic sounding - and the excellent use of dynamics. All this is being used to great effect whilst the story is being told by the vocals usually in sections, giving a pseudo classical form - i.e. sections that develop. Of course this method was not only used by Genesis, bands such as King Crimson and Yes among others also used this system of sections, something largely lacking in todays rock and pop music.

Starless and Bible Black - 1974.

King Crimson's Starless and Bible Black  is an excellent example of the two styles - long instrumentals and shorter songs. I remember this as my first introduction to KC, and far too advanced for my 13 year old ears at the time. I'd noticed this album in a local record shop 'Knights', where I wandered past every day to look through the LPs and see if something new took my fancy. This album was pinned up on the wall for show among the other new releases, and somehow it seemed intriguing and mysterious, although I didn't have a clue of what the music sounded like.  I finally bought the album on a whim and took it back to the school placed it on my turntable and blew my mind! That is to say, I didn't like it, it was very advanced for such a young listener as myself. I could relate to a couple of the songs - The Great Deceiver and The Night Watch and was also quite taken with a short track called The Mincer which had an interesting grungy feel at one point, plus a stop start thing with the drums and bass. But overall the two tracks on side 2 were just too much, and somehow I didn't see the point. The music was sophisticated and dense and didn't have recognizable guitar solos (aaahh), and I was listening (***) to more pop oriented music (everyday), so this music was difficult in comparison.

Anyhow, I sold the LP a couple of months later to someone in the school with more sophisticated tastes, yet the sound of the record stayed with me and I often thought about the music which I could hear in my mind. In between time my brother and I bought other Crimson albums which I grew to love. More recently I rediscovered the music in it's pure form on the Great Deceiver and Night Watch live CDs of these concerts. It was here that I realized that much of the music had been improvised and developed at a later stage (****).

(*) = My category due to the people I was hanging around with, although we were really just swapping LPs between us, so we heard everything. I remember hearing the likes of Gentle Giant and Kraftwerk (a great track called 'Ruckzuck') when they first appeared via an album called Suck it and See (a Vertigo Compilation) which we were all mad about.
(**) = Selling England By the Pound being a sly reference to Margaret Thatcher and her policies at that moment in time.
(***) = I was listening to the likes of Roxy Music, Free, Black Sabbath, The Faces/Rod Stewart, Slade, Ashton, Dyke and Gardener and other pop orientated music
(****) = It's interesting to realize how much of Crimson's work was in fact improvised, either completely or re-developed later as on the Starless and Red LPs. It seems that Teo Marcero was not the only one building collages out of live recorded improvisations, King Crimson used this technique on ; Larks Tongues in Aspic (the track of the same name Pt 1 on the album), on Starless and Bible Black - Trio and Fracture and on Red - Starless, just to name the few tracks that I remember. On the Night Watch live CD you'll be amazed to realize you're actually listening to the same tracks that are to be found on the studio albums as much of this material was cut a pasted in to various tracks!
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