Friday, July 20, 2012

what i missed last term

despite (what for me was) a brief flurry in june, during (what for me was) an unusually productive week, there's just been nothing going on round here at all. i admit it, currently 75% of my attention that is not already filtered away into the day (and evening) job, the parenting,etc etc... has disappeared mainly into comics (again, damn, there's a lot of very high-quality stuff been produced in that medium and much of it has not yet been fully explicated... rmmmmmarrragggghhhhrrrrmmmmmhhhmmm...) anyway :-

- that's right, there is a big gap where there was s'posed to be something else, just something in fact, as opposed to nothing. what was scheduled to happen was this: get tape player sorted, start munching through all those fascinating bootlegs, no pressure, just curious to see what does come up (since there is bound to be something, and more than just one thing while we're at it, in this case!)... report back, pref. little and often, (ha!)... well, there were two reasons i think, namely the adjustment(s) which had to take place, stage by stage, as i got used to a completely different working week and also a very different working environment, job conditions, etc etc ad nauseam (*1); the other reason being, when am i ever now near a place where i could get a tape player?, and all that. most "kids" under 25 these days have never even owned a cd player, never mind records or tapes; what was still common enough 15 years ago might now just as well be laserdisc or eight-track.

anyway... gonna get that sorted, i am... just turned 42 last week. the big one, as d.adams would insist on having it (*2). so, gonna be some changes around here (and indeed elsewhere in my life). incidentally, it's come as rather a surprise to find that people do actually read this blog, whether they "still" read it or otherwise... i had ducked for as long as i could the trap of knowing how many page views we wuz gettin, having been a slave to this in my tenure at c#9 (*3), but recently blogger changed completely as we all know (and thus lost at least one of its leading lights, from my point of view anyway... 'bye mr lucky, the blogosphere is not and never could be the same without you *4) - with considerable trepidation i peeked at the figures that were suddenly laid bare on my new blogger dashboard, fearing confirmation that all this time i had been talking quietly, or indeed raving into a void with only the occasional dim and distant echo, or flurry of echoes... but it turns out that more people actually read it, even these days apparently when i don't, haven't been posting much. well, you know, thanks for sticking around and let's try and move things forward again.

- 'cos far from putting the braxtothon back yet again, i am hoping that a renewed energy-blast (such as that to be unleashed from a collection of previously-unheard music) will see me get that done too, since all it lacks now is to get started, really, it's not as if i don't already know more or less what i'm going to say about the duets - ok, so, can i actually pull my finger out and do it, now? i am about to find out ;-)

(admittedly, since i started this post, things have suffered a bit of a setback, in that i tried and failed to locate a source for a "new" tape player in swansea... i may have found a repair service online, though... watch this space)


some music, then: like i say, there has been all too little of this recently (*5), but i have found time for some braxton... three very different sets of (friendly!) experiences:

a) large chunk of this hot item, albeit cut off abruptly in media res on this occasion as i got rudely interrupted - this concert, incidentally, was just one of a series of european dates by this "one-off" trio, some (all?) of which are in circulation among traders and collectors. (the aforementioned uranian boot box offers me the tantalising promise of london, angers and two successive nights in aubervilliers, all a little later in march.)

this music represents something very unusual: to wit, b's taking his own music on the road and presenting it in recital form rather than via open-ended exploration; the only thing that will probably have changed is the order in which the primary sets of materials were engaged, since after all the running order for the wuppertal concert is different from that of the album, recorded mid-tour in amiens (*6); but still, the music i heard on this occasion struck me as oddly crystallised, certainly not sterile, but (to a far greater extent than usual) reproduced rather than just, well, produced i suppose. and don't get me wrong, the performances are of the very highest calibre as one would expect, the audience would be in no doubt that they had attended something of considerable artisitic value, but for me there is nonetheless something missing from the music here. or at least, that's how it came across to me on this occasion, and before i was cut off... whatever. it will be interesting (eventually!!) to hear the various tapes. are both nights in aubervilliers the same primary setlist, again? all will (one day) be revealed ;-)

b) on my birthday itself this year i didn't get a lot of music time. and what i did have, i had to grab quickly so i couldn't really pick and choose from my whole collection, it had to be something to hand, which then turned out to be the ninetets. actually i started with vol. 3 disc one, moving on to disc 2 in what turned out to be misplaced optimism (my time ran out, ten minutes in); the next day, with a bit more time, i carried on with both discs of vol. 4.

now this stuff just sounds better and better every time i hear it, regardless of how much attention i pay at first... when one looks at the line-up, not just for these performances but for many of the next few years, what is most glaringly missing is at least one brass player (*7) - yet in the listening, one would be hard at work listing many qualities present in the music before ever getting round to the concept of anything missing: the variety of mood, texture, atmosphere, timbral permutation (...) herein must have blown away any of the audience who were alert enough to be aware of how new and fresh this stuff was (and still is, let's face it... it's not as if the rest of the world has exactly caught up), alert enough and therefore paying close enough attention - ideas change hands with such swiftness that spacing out for a few minutes during the performance (which might see one miss a couple of solos at a jazz concert) sees one lose whole sections of a very large overall map. yeah, the only bit i remember now is a perfectly-formed, encapsulated quote from comp. 6k (lasting rather less than one second) which kevin o'neil tosses out there (*8), whether conscious or otherwise of whence he derived the pattern; struck me at the time as being beautifully holographic, a tiny cell expressing something of the totality (in this case - more than usually - a totality of possibilities, beyond the "actual" totality of the performance). i actually have all eight of the ninetets of the mp3 player but i'm not sure what chance i would get to hear the whole lot more or less uninterrupted ;-)

c ) a friend just provided me with a cd rip of this album, which i have been missing up till now (and which in principle is up for examination within the next braxtothon phase). and what do you know, it's remarkable... not that one would expect otherwise, but any of the typical responses to the notion "with strings" can be chucked out the wondow here: some of this is seriously knotty and even aggressive music, absolutely fantastic as far as i am concerned. what the album actually contains is a live (live!) performance (*9) originally broadcast on german radio, (in contrast with the trios from a decade later) a real double-dig exploration of comp. 17, one version with the maestro and one without, the programme fleshed out with six relatively short alto solo pieces.

- the ambience on the string pieces is thrillingly fresh and real, the sound of boundaries being torn back. obviously (as with comp. 22, et al) the pages of the score can be arranged in any order, guaranteeing a different experience each time (which shuffling the pack in '89 perhaps didn't..?), and the musicians just sound as if they can't wait to get their hands on the music. or, well, that's how it came across to me at any rate... the solo performances, it really goes without saying, are of the highest standard, but they inevitably lack a little drama compared to what has taken place amongst the strings. then again... look at it a different way, maybe it's just a perfectly-balanced programme of musical delectation... i must confess i have not (yet) taken in the whole thing, or at least not in its original order. (will definitely be coming back to this, but not too much in case i spoil it for later>>> arf arf)

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