Friday, October 25, 2013

reborn (again) (gradually, by degrees)

now, you see, this could be what i was waiting for.

when i said "just around the corner" - i actually wasn't far off. but it's not quite that simple (when is it ever, with me?)... within minutes of posting last time, i was warming up the ipod with a choice bit of zooid, then plunging headlong into the willisau '91 transmission, studio half: regular readers - if there are any left, after i've so shamefully neglected the blog over the last few months - will doubtless remember my singling out this crucial set before, and earlier this year i had used it as the constant background to several days (or was it weeks?) of enthusiastic (re)discovery; ah, but let's not forget that i was pretty much high as a kite at the time. and as i've confessed since, my biggest problem recently is that with ganja no longer playing a part in my life (*1), i've been worried about no longer having "full access" to the music.

- so, back to where we were recently: i played the whole thing (well, the studio half like i say) and enjoyed it, and found i had no trouble penetrating it, really; indeed, i even noticed a couple of things i hadn't picked up on before. for example: the long and (to my ASD-inflected mind) rather oddly-titled comp. 23c + 32 + 105b (+30) features quite a lot of improvising around cells from the 23c superstructure (as we might term it)... i had previously allowed myself to state that this piece was always played as written, which is to say: through-composed, no room for interpretation, making it an extreme rarity in the braxton catalogue. well, so much for another easily-grasped assumption... but listen, the point is that although i enjoyed the music, there was no rapture as such. and this, of course, is what's really been missing lately, and why i haven't had anything to post on here.

... in the days and weeks that followed, i made several more efforts towards easing myself back in. now, several things have changed on the domestic front recently, and the upshot of all this is that i now find myself with an awful lot more free time on my hands: having had so precious little of it for the last year, i now have - literally - more than i know what to do with. during the day, once i've put my daughter on the school bus, i am free for anything up to seven hours at a time; and obviously there are mundane things to be done in that time, such as clearing up, folding laundry, walking dogs etc etc - but let's note that all those tasks can be done to the accompaniment of music. perfect opportunity to get back on it, yes? no..? well... not for the first few weeks, at any rate. and the week beginning 7th oct saw my daughter turn five, which means that the blog turned six at roughly the same time; i had had in mind to celebrate that by spending as much of the week as possible listening to b's music, and making a concerted effort to get back inside it, and it inside me; but for various reasons (none of them interesting or significant, even to an obsessive like me), it just never happened.

there was always plenty of music, mind you, and this state of affairs helped avert the depressive periods i've slipped into at times over the last few years; but, as i said last post, the vast majority of that music was guitar-based and none of it bore any resemblance to braxton. there a few choice items, slipped in there amidst everything else: a pinch of this to fill the room with positive vibrations, a spot of that to caress my ears; i even made sure i caught up at last with the "final" monthly tcf download (before the monthly memberships were cancelled, and i slid back into outsider status) - i had of course downloaded the file during august, but for the first time all year (probably discouraged by what had happened when july's recording had drifted past my ears without leaving a trace in the memory), i found that i had no enthusiasm for actually listening to it. well, that did change more recently and i even found that i could hear the shape of the music, without much trouble; as with the willisau discs, i enjoyed it while i was listening to it. in the case of the heidelberg loppem duo, there was even a brief moment where i found myself suddenly wondering "why don't i just listen to this sort of stuff all the time?" - but, as before... it just didn't last.

ok, but last week something slightly odd took place, and that in turn led me to a much-desired, but by-now-unexpected development within the last few days. typically (both in general, for me, and specifically recently) i have been finding it terribly hard to make good use of my new-found free time; but last friday, with no warning at all (having woken up most unwillingly, as usual, and struggled through the first part of the morning rather irritably - wanting nothing more than to get my daughter on the bus so i could traipse back home and collapse on the sofa) i found myself possessed with lots of energy, and did far more than i usually do. that in turn proved to be a bit of a weird false dawn, as within a few hours i had succumbed to a filthy cold that i'd previously been fighting off with no difficulty; and a frustrating and tiring weekend ensued; this week began with dreadful weather and the promise of plenty more to follow, and i battled to retain the sense of energetic movement which has seized me a few days before; and then, again with no warning, this wednesday saw me casually decide to start the day with another spot of room-filling, and -

- that kickstarted a process which has yet to finish. in more than forty-eight hours since, i have listened to practically nothing other than b's music, and this time, to say i've been enjoying it really would be a gross understatement. the pivotal moment seemed to occur just a few minutes into my second spin of the day - a recording which i acquired at some point over the last eighteen months, and had played a number of times with a notable lack of impact, finding it unusually hard to penetrate for some reason; but this time, like i say, with less than ten minutes on the clock i was really feeling the music, and - crucial indicator, i always take this to be - completely distracted away from what i was doing by the music itself. by the time i'd moved onto the live willisau discs, out with the dogs by this point, i was enrapt and could barely keep my excitement under control. (the version of comp. 34 on there (*2) had me thrashing around all over the place, confusing the poor dogs no end - if there had been anyone around i'm sure i would have looked like an escapee from some secure institution or other!) yes, fellow experiencers - there is no longer any doubt about it: this is what i have been waiting for.

... and here's the kicker: after all these years of only being able to immerse myself in the music when in a state of intoxication, this so-much-desired rebirth took place on my one hundredth day straight. no more, no less and i didn't even know it until i sat down and worked it out. it was only really quite recently that i discovered my petty obsessiveness over numbers is simply a typical indicator of asperger's syndrome, and says nothing personal about me at all; but what is a guy to do, when life keeps throwing such numerical coincidences his way? :)

more to come! c x

* see comments


centrifuge said...

1. i'm not saying that i would never touch the stuff again, and i'm certainly not taking any sort of strong stance against it. i just... don't feel like doing it any more, and more to the point, i no longer feel that i *need* it. being able to get properly into b's music without it is the last development that was missing.

now, as regards my previous *reliance* on it for access to that same music: this is hardly unique to me; indeed - though i can scarcely estimate how widespread it might be among other friendly experiencers - it is tied right into it. mike heffley was (is?) a smoker, for sure: the cover of this recording makes that pretty clear. but more to the point, i was informed years ago (shortly after the blog's inception) by another musician that b. himself was a known user, back in the day... and of course at the time i just thought "well that's that. if it's good enough for him..." - the same correspondent said that although some improvisers are known to like smoking "a jay before they play", he didn't think b. was ever one of these; and we know that the AACM, at least, *did* have a strong anti-drugs policy, since getting high is not generally linked to clear focus and diligent application to the task at hand - ! furthermore, b. has of course been a tenured professional academic for years now, and would not be likely to risk his career security by such transgressions; i rather think that these days the most he indulges in is a glass or two of red after a performance. BUT knowing that the composer's mental state was at times altered and expanded by psychoactive drugs is definitely relevant, and helpful to understanding how certain elements of his system got to be the way they are; above all, i'm thinking of the diagrammatic titles, especially as these became more and more elaborate.

- lastly, though i've yet to talk to the man himself about any of this, b. is an inspiration to me in more ways than one: if he can learn to hear, feel and experience higher vibrational states and dimensions in music without the aid of mind-altering substances, then presumably so can i. until very recently this knowledge was just a source of simmering frustration, since i myself could never quite figure out how to do it... but i do believe that i am at last on the right path!

centrifuge said...

2. actually, the track listing for willisau '91 gives this as "comp. 34a". the studio version of this piece is simply titled comp. 34; and although the piece has been much played in live contexts (either referenced in collage or later strategies, or actually played in full), these renditions have of course never been released officially, or where they have, collaged territories are not listed. the entry in the catalog(ue) of works possibly offers some clarification (although it also confuses things further, as we shall see!): the piece is described as being "in three sections", so it is very possible that the "locomotive-effect" theme is merely the first of these, and hence that the designation *34a* is actually correct; in which case, obviously the antilles album lists the piece wrongly. as for the extra confusion, that derives from the knowledge that the piece was intended for interpretation by "synthesiser, woodwinds and piano": i am pretty sure i have never heard this played by any band which included a synth. but there we are ;-)

centrifuge said...

the re-immersion process lasted about fifty hours or so in the end, wednesday morning to friday lunchtime. whilst it was not completely uninterrupted - i blasted some good old powerviolence at work on weds, not feeling that b's music was suitable to the environment there at the time (i changed my mind about that on thurs) - those two days saw me take in a lot of braxton in a pretty short time, mostly in extended bursts... i am pretty sure i have never done anything like this while *not* under the influence of cannabis. i am also pretty sure that it did me the power of good :)) - more specifics follow in the next post.

fwiw - in the (admittedly unlikely) eventuality that anyone is remotely interested - once the spell was broken and i decided a change of focus was needed for some mundane activities on friday, the bands i saw fit to follow this "braxton bath" with were: red fang, russian circles, oranssi pazuzu, neurosis, isis, mammoth grinder and mind eraser. (full albums in each case. that took care of the rest of friday, and saw me well into saturday.) some of these bands could even conceivably be of interest to some readers; this is more likely true of the names in the middle of the list than it is of the first one, or the last two.