The Geography Bands

August 18, 2012

In alphabetical order, each with one of their better known songs

  • America – Sister Golden Hair
  • Asia – Heat of the Moment
  • Boston – More Than A Feeling
  • Europe – The Final Countdown
  • Foreigner – I Want to Know What Love Is
  • Journey – Don’t Stop Believin’
  • Kansas – Dust In The Wind

Am I missing any?

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The cassette!

November 18, 2010

I spent some time digging to see if I had that cassette that I mentioned in the earlier post about Majella Stockhausen. Look what I found:

Unfortunately the case is empty. I have not located the cassette itself.

I fell in love with Majella Stockhausen 25 years ago as a teenage engineering student at Edinburgh. It was entirely the result of a BBC radio broadcast of Majella performing Klavierstück XII, a composition her father wrote for her and which she premiered. I must have made a cassette recording of it.

It seems perhaps I never entirely got over Majella. Yesterday I came across a bunch of Stockhausen music in MP3 files. One of the pieces was Klavierstück XII recorded by Bernhard Wambach which I downloaded and listened to.

Oh my! I haven’t heard this piece for probably well over 20 years but I remembered it clearly and my heart swelled. It’s a great piece in its own right—lovely melodies and a rhythmic coherence to carry you along.

And it’s so theatrical! The vast majority of the piece is performed on the piano’s keyboard in conventional manner and that alone is theatrical. But the vocalizing adds another whole dimension. Mr. Wambach’s recording is reserved but, as I recall it, the young Majella’s in that BBC breadcast was sensational. I was captivated by her charisma, audacity and the uninhibited generosity of her performance. I fell in love.

I must have. What else could explain the joy and agony that swept over me yesterday as I listened to Mr. Wambach’s straight-laced, professional interpretation?

It dawned on me that I had never in all these years seen a photo of Majella. Back then we didn’t have the world wide web but we do now. Looking now at these three images, all early 80s photos of her playing Klavierstück XIII, it’s clear that my student engineer’s heart knew exactly what it was doing all those years ago. I wonder if I will ever get over Majella.

There is a recording of Majella playing Klavierstück XIII on Stockhausen Edition CD 33 but I can’t find any reference to a published recording of her playing XII. If only I still had that cassette.

The first book I read by Thomas Bernhard was Frost, after reading a review of the new English translation by Michael Hofmann that came out a couple of years ago. I really like the book. The language is thrilling, the subject matter is relevant, I am generally sympathetic to the points of view which are often presented with such force that just reading them can be a release. Here’s one excerpt to illustrate my point.

Strauch, the story’s hero, was a fine-art painter in the Vienna scene, presumably around and after WW2 times. He quit art and went to live in a backwater village in a valley deep in the mountains where he walks around a lot and fulminates over the state of things. Here he comments on artists:

“You know,” the painter said, “that art froth, that artist fornication, that general art-and-artist loathsomeness, I always found that repelling; those could formations of basest self-preservation topped with envy … Envy is what holds artists together, envy, pure envy, everyone envies everyone else for everything … I talked about it once before, I want to say: artists are the sons and daughters of loathsomeness, of paradisiac shamelessness, the original sons and daughters of lewdness; artists, painters, writers, and musicians are the compulsive masturbators on the planet, its disgusting cramps, its perpetual puffings and swellings, its pustular secretions … I want to say: artists are the great emetic agents of the time, they were always the great, the very greatest emetics … Artists, are they not a devastating army of absurdity, of scum? The infernality of unscrupulousness is something I always met with in the thoughts of artists … But I don’t want any artists’ thoughts any more, no more of those unnatural thoughts, I want nothing more to do with artists or with art, yes, not with art either, that greatest of all abortions … Do you understand: I want to get right away from that bad smell. Get away from that stink, I always say to myself, and secretly have always thought, get away from that corrosive, shredding, useless lie, get away from that shameless simony …” He said: “Artists are the identical twins of hypocrisy, the identical twins of low-mindedness, the identical twins of licensed exploitation, the greatest licensed exploitation of all time. Artists, as they have shown themselves to me to be,” he said, “are all dull and grandiloquent, nothing but dull and grandiloquent, nothing …”

 

People who still like and use vinyl are probably aware of this already but just in case, here’s how CDs make you immoral.

Most LPs, and sometimes other vinyl disks, ask their owners to cherish them. They can wear out and do so very fast if not looked after. The sleeves can get dog-eared. But they reward loving care by being a delight to hold, admire and use. They are tactile. They actually sound like the touch of a touch of that tiny rigid finger caressing their shapely grooves. And this sound reflects the users’ physical relationship with them over time. LPs report to you on the care and love given them as they were mastered, pressed and previously owned. They are entirely submissive, tolerating abuse with graceful degradation that measures but does not judge their treatment. And they respond passionately to a new owner’s loving restoration.

LPs are large enough to offer satisfying presentation for a wide spectrum of sleeve art.

Most CDs ask you to regard them as disposable consumer ephemera. Molded plastic disks that hurt you fingers and molded plastic cases that crack, chip and break, usually before you can get the CD into a player. Their inserts can’t be extracted without bending, scratching or kinking, are nearly impossible to put pack. Handling them, you risk a paper cut or getting them under a fingernail.

The measly little space available for CD artwork allows only miniatures, a constraint that, judging by most covers, frustrates the cover artists.

And CDs, being digital, ask you to back them up, store the music files elsewhere, mutilate them with MP3 and other compressions, and use the data other than for listening. Thus they ask for the medium to be regarded as irrelevant.

So they force us into the morally murky realm of how we should reward artists for their efforts while we copy, share and modify the bit streams. So far we mostly don’t. How this will resolve itself is unclear but I doubt that musicians will be the winners. Cover artists are in mortal danger. CD users are complicit in these crimes.

The only thing a CD can do to redeem anything from this situation is to turn our attention away from itself with packaging. The more effective this stratagem, the more the CD itself is devalued and made irrelevant by its precious container. But this is a fetish — a perversion of the art and aesthetics of recorded music. Not even a gatefold LP with pages inside can be seriously accused of such falsification. Redemption demands equilibrium between disk and cover that engenders enduring love for the music as object. Mere arousal over an aestheticized prophylactic enclosure is no substitute.

So LPs encourage love and CDs selfishness. LPs espouse corporeal longevity and integrity while CDs are a mere throwaway delivery envelope for bits of information as durable and significant as an email.

Certainly there are exceptions on both sides. Some LPs are genuinely not worth a damn while some CDs are. (The 4CD issue of Toshi Ichiyanagi’s “Opera From The Works Of Tadanori Yokoo” comes to mind – but this, like so many nice CDs, is a sort of homage to LPs.) Nevertheless, the preponderance of the evidence overwhelmingly supports the thesis: Compact Disks make you immoral.

On Tuesday May 13th I went to this show at the Piano Craft Guild in Boston. I really liked it and I took some photos, a selection of which you can look at here. Click pics to view larger images.

 

SUDDEN INFANT & NMPERIGN – Swiss post-Aktionist Schimpfluch punk meets Boston’s own purveyors of nmperignity. Fans of bodily discomfort will find something they might be looking for. www.suddeninfant.com, http://www.bhobrainey.net, http://www.geocities.com/greyelkgel

WILL GUTHRIE & NEWTON ARMSTRONG – Two Australian ex-pats via Nantes, France & Hanover, New Hampshire arrive in town to lay it down. Electrical engineers weilding sharp weaponry… radio static and convulsive junk-electronics amplified splat from percussive detritus and homemade digital whatsis. Fans of Voice Crack or Jerome Noetinger, don’t miss this! www.antboymusic.com, eamusic.dartmouth.edu/~newton/