Wednesday, August 31, 2011

...and further confessions!

dear oh dear, pouring out of me like a tidal wave, they are ;-)

ok, well, the first one is easy enough: in one of my (numerous) comment-footnotes to the previous post, i thought i detected rhythmic assonance between dave holland's "four winds" and b's comp. 23c, but didn't check the date on the latter, being pushed for time and with a lot to get out (!). composition notes actually date that one to 1973... which makes holland's the "prior art" in this case (thanks to neil f. for that one!). except it pretty much doesn't, because b's piece is considerably more ambitious and would in any event be a case of only minimal convergence; if the other way round, holland's simpler and shorter theme might be deemed to show sings of influence. all we've been able to deduce here is that in this instance he/it didn't. not quite the same as influencing the maestro, but it's worth at least clearing that up.

staying on the subject of conference for a minute: fwiw i playlisted four of the six tracks from that album, back in the day (specifically 2002-3) and thus heard all of those, at least, on numerous occasions. the title track was indeed on one of my ballads compilations and "four winds" was on another. besides these, my favourite was of course "see-saw" which i've talked about plenty of times before (though i'm not about to chase up the links right now, maybe later if i remember to come back to it!) - loved it (frequently anthologised it for friends also)... until i discovered it was just a less ambitious reworking of b's comp. 6i. naturally that did take the gloss off a bit. the fourth one was "interception" which to my ear is a more interesting theme than "winds", though maybe not by much. it used to remind me of zappa somewhat too, though i can't now think (off the top of my head) which zappa piece/s it resembles.


now: i don't know how much relevance this has, probably some, it's really only just occurred to me to bring it up...



's true, 'strue... i must have been 14 when i started, and of course it's dead easy in principle: these days you would start with green day or something, but for me it was 1984 and learning began with the sex pistols, and other basic riffs like "iron man" by black sabbath or "smoke on the water" by deep purple... amazing how encouraging it is when you "play" your first "tune" - and how quickly one can start to put on airs when one "knows" some "chords" (this set of inverted commas refers rather to the (true) joke that what passed for chords in heavy rock back then and since time immemorial were more often than not a root-and-fifth, beefed up a bit if necessary with an octave... the ironic thing about that is that in my case, before i could get my hands on an axe of my own, i first had to indulge my curiosity with my mother's spanish guitar and chord book, thus learning the fretboard shapes (though not understanding the use) of all sorts of exoticisms which, of course, were seldom if ever employed in the realms of the tight trouser brigade - not back then; in these post-slayer days, all bets are long since off)... it lasted a few years, i played rhythm guitar in a couple of mates' bands, briefly attending rehearsals etc... nothing much came of that... was in a band called satan's choir when i was 15-16, playing (competent) rhythm and (duff, formulaic) lead - the other guitarist, my best friend at the time, was much better than me and also wrote all the original material - not that it ever got finished, and the only public performance the band ever gave was all covers and one joke original (which i shan't name right at this moment, ahem...). so... i didn't exactly set the world on fire. i had no formal training at all on this instrument and was entirely self-taught, copying records (as they were then)... and any attempts i made to dip a toe into theory ended up with a sharp withdrawal, so that i only ever had a motley, magpie's collection of (verbal and conceptual) terminology at my disposal - but, you know, i have known better musicians than me in my life and when i hear interesting things, i file them away and never forget them so... if i sometimes appear to use terms that only a pro would use... i pinched it somewhere, somewhen or picked it up at a bus-stop one day, it wasn't learned in college. but i think this is obvious enough ;-)

anyway... this is why i've never brought it up before. (some of my online friends probably know already, it's not a secret or anything, it never occurred to me that it was relevant.) but yes, thinking about it, i do have some background and here it goes... what now strike me as the relevant bits: raised on both classical and rock music, not much else, able to talk my way through rock and pop, and identify numerous major composers/pieces of music by age eleven, twelve (education in classical music frozen at same age, as it turned out)... one aunt was a music student, proficient on 15-20 instruments, good enough on piano to teach kids and play church organ for hymns/at family weddings etc - was once (as i understand it) a national standard recorder soloist, one of not many at the time, now much involved with the national youth recorder orch. of britain and a singer in the city of birmingham symphony orch's choir. she was my favourite aunt when i was a little boy, but she failed to make any headway teaching me recorder, which i didn't really want to keep learning and soon dropped. it didn't rub off at all, but the aptitude is in there somewhere: we did the "bentley ear tests" when i was at school (age 11 i guess) and i came second out of 2-300, however many it was (the guy who came first, my other best friend in those days, was the school prodigy, grade eight piano by age 11, remember him playing beethoven sonatas etc, i believe he is now a professional organist in the south of france). that in turn led me to being talked into piano lessons, and in theory violin also, but the latter never quite happened, partly because the former just didn't work - i quite enjoyed messing about on the piano for about a year or so, and for that matter enjoyed the pieces i had to play for grade one, but i couldn't read at all, could only play looking at the keyboard and if i made a mistake, i basically had to start again since i could not return to the score. all i had ever wanted to be, ironically enough, was a drummer, but again, at a private school that means learning (on a rubber pad) to read scores so you can stand there in your penguin suit reading page after page of rests and then going "bong" - no, that killed my interest in that stone dead, and my parents could afford neither a kit nor (i suspect) the room for me to practise it, so...

... forward a couple of years and the guitar comes out from under the sofa one evening after i'd been listening to something or other... probably the pistols... just getting into heavy rock etc... now, i've already outlined the extent of my glittering career, but for a while back there i did at least put some work into it... once thrash metal really bit in 1984-5, i was hooked and spent many hours figuring out riffs and trying to learn solos... as most readers here won't necessarily know, thrash raised the bar for discipline and technique in rhythm guitar (did less for the other instruments... although it also produced some very notable drummers - bearing in mind that modern metal drumming is all pattern-repetition and not much rhythmic sense in many cases, death metal being the exception - but then blame keith moon and roger taylor jointly for that one, i reckon *1) - and although most thrash was military-stiff, - either fast or slow, but in either case still pretty simple - there were also natural virtuosi in the scene from very early on, such as dave mustaine (megadeth, ex-metallica) and gary holt (exodus) who were excellent soloists and also capable of great rhythmic subtlety and sensitivity, so that not all my templates were "braindead headbangers". (haha, i myself could do a pretty passable impression of one of those at the time, mind you.) i practised and copied - could never write for shit, one of the things that led to my jacking it in - which eventually meant transcribing solos (in guitar tablature), so that i did have to learn how to distinguish tonal effects and different timbres, etc as well as varieties of attack, and so on. ok, maybe i actually learned more back then than i have bothered to realise. (*2)

yep... i am that cliche, the frustrated musician turned critic - except that i'm not, because a) i am not exactly a critic and b) i am not frustrated: have never stopped loving music, never had to forgive it for the fact that i was never anywhere near as good as i would have wanted to be. i always did have high standards... or at least, i wasn't born with 'em, but they sure got in there early in my development ;-)

- these things have (sort of) come up again... no, i am not a "proper" music student and never was (or even close - except via osmosis..!); and i cannot therefore be a "proper" musicologist... but still, i'm not entirely ignorant of these matters either. (though again - all modesty aside - is that not kind of obvious by now..?)


a comment was left recently by "jon-a" and although i acknowledged it, i haven't yet found time to give the matter my attention. it was left against, and concerns this post... anyone care to weigh in? i still haven't enjoyed much listening time lately (though as you can see i have been at least thinking about music again); although, the more i think back, the more it seems that i did notice (e.g.) some of the spoken passages repeated; i did not take the time to verify whether a part of the recording is actually duplicated. if so... i guess an email to mr leo feigin might be in order, to ask what that was about..? (i will ask the maestro too, though i rarely get answers to direct questions!)

* see comments

Monday, August 29, 2011

a confession

... perhaps a belated one... i'm probably not the best judge...

the blog was contacted recently - well, i was personally really - by a youngish (i think) bassist going by the moniker mars will send no more. i'm guessing that someone had told him about the conference entry from all that time ago... back in the blog's second rush of blood... and that he had hopped over specifically to check it out. in any case, i responded (as i always do and will, unless it's just anonymous abuse) to some of his points and discreetly left others unanswered * - anyone who is interested can of course read it all for themselves (if they haven't done so by the time they finish this sentence!). but the main reason i have returned to this matter in post form - having told mars... that i was disinclined to say any more about the whole business of conference in particular - is that i directed him to the quartet autopsy for evidence of my more measured, explicated and even-handed take on the "holland question" (i am more than usually happy with that piece btw)... and when i subsequently re-read the article myself the following day, i found myself thinking that maybe my correspondent had already read it; and that at any rate, if he hadn't and then proceeded to do so he would not be much reassured, would indeed probably fail to finish it (or even get very far through it perhaps) - which would be a shame, since the (very) good things i had to say about mr holland's abilities were mainly reserved for the last section (so as to go out on a good note, as it were).

so apparently again i find i am not finished with this. that needn't be so surprising either since i have never withdrawn the "go (directly!) to hell" warning from the blog sidebar - though until recently it had been a long time since anyone bothered to try and give me a hard time about "it"; several times i have thought about removing that superfluous and rather belligerent remark, and have always decided not to (again just this week). there is something about the fact that a (rather halfhearted, certainly informal) "review" that has been considered so far beyond the pale by some people should nevertheless be regarded as the best one published, by one of the four players who participated in said recording * - it brings out something in me that is not necessarily that likeable, but it's not on display very often in these parts and there may as well be an acknowledgement that it's there.

i digress... the other thing that struck me the day after i responded to the recent comment, was an old twinge of guilt or remorse or perhaps just embarrassment: as if on some astral plane i had found myself just then bumping into mr holland in person and having to introduce myself... would i not feel the compulsion to apologise, first? yes, i would for sure, though it would probably be accompanied with a laugh... after all, i can't very well take any of it back, nor would i wish to (none of it was intended personally anyway of course)... but yes, i would feel that way; and if it turned out he had read any of various blog entries himself, not to mention that one, i am honest enough to imagine that the apology might force itself out before i could even stop it. now, i am not necessarily very likely to run into dave holland in real life (though who knows... who knows) - so, and not without a great deal of preamble of course, here goes: mr holland, i am sorry if i have caused undue offence to you through the candid and at times rather irreverent way in which i have assessed your contribution(s) to mr braxton's music, or to music in general. it was not intended to be insulting, ever; but (of course) i was always aware that it could be received that way if you happened to find your way in here. after a long time of not properly facing up to that, i did feel that an apology was in order.

now... one apology was in order, and that was it. to those who have taken up "arms" on mr holland's behalf, since by now they may be awaiting their turn: much as i can sympathise with your motivations (and i can - i too have felt the need to defend someone else's reputation on occasions, including musicians living and dead), i don't feel the need to apologise to you guys and i'm not going to. (*) you just have to take it... that's how it goes... console yourselves with the knowledge that the devastating triumphs you have already enjoyed over me in your heads are as good as it gets in that regard; if we met in the flesh and you had your chance, it wouldn't go anything like the way you imagined it; that's not me puffing my chest out either, it's just... the way it goes.


ok, so... that longish gap between posts has finally been closed... the most likely next few posts are: one dealing with - or occasioned by - two of b's duo concerts with evan parker (or maybe the only two, i don't know); "student studies 3" which gathers up observations on some of the interviews with b. included as appendices in the composition notes; and then, haha, and then the frigging braxtothon which still somehow feels as if it's just round the corner but, like tomorrow, never comes... it will come, unlike tomorrow... but in any case the other posts and "postettes" variously promised or at least dangled under the reader's nose this year are not likely to be written any time just yet, which is not to say that they'll never turn up... keep checking in, you never know...

... there will also be a little "bonus post" in a couple of days, for once nothing (directly) to do with anthony braxton..!

* see first comment

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* see third comment