Friday, January 06, 2006

Pitchfork reviews OHM+: Early Gurus of Electronic Music: 1948 - 1980/Various Artists. Sounds very much like it might be of interest to some of S21s readers and contributors. Here're a couple of paragraphs:
Lucky for us, three generations into the technological revolution, much of the shock of innovation has given way to something of a learned instinct when it comes to this stuff. The groundbreaking experiments of composers like Karlheinz Stockhausen, Pierre Schaefer, Pierre Henry, and John Cage have led to an age where blips and beeps are not only taken for granted but form the basis of a musical education that for most people starts in pre-school with such "advanced" learning tools as Simon Says. OHM+, covering electronic music from the 1930s to the 1980s, documents a clear and steady path towards an age when most music simply couldn't be made without electronic assistance. The characters involved were undoubtedly experimenters working on the edges of both technology and good old human ingenuity. In many cases, their results will sound strange to ears accustomed to more refined uses of the available tools-- but in others, the sounds are eerily ahead of their time. Regardless, OHM+ is one of the best documents of its kind, and a model for archival compilations.
Of course, there is plenty of the hard stuff: check the animated audience reaction to Cage's revolutionary tape-edit piece Williams Mix from 1952, or Tod Dockstader's creepy sound collage "Apocalypse II" from 1961. Stockhausen predates both surround sound and Zaireeka with his four-channel Kontakte, while Edgard Varese's "Poem Electronique", using seemingly random snippets of found-sound and ancient synthesizer squeaks, is actually one of the great early examples of mastering electronic music bit by bit. And if you're left wanting some good old fashioned humanity, Milton Babbit's Philomel excerpt, a duet of sorts featuring synthesizer and female soprano, forecasts just how integrated electronics would become with live performance.
The playlist can be viewed here. Lots of names I know (Sonic Youth!), lots of names I recognize from discussions I've read on S21, lots of names unfamiliar. Sounds like a compilation worth owning, and luckily I've got gift cards from festivus burning a hole in my wallet. Should I buy it? If no, what instead?

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Me, Cassandra - or: We are the Enemy, cont....

Within four months pignutters are going to be claiming that Liberals are ultimately responsible for Bushco's wise domestic spying on journalists, opposition politicians, domestic agencies and private organizations, and individual citizens in the years before the 2004 election.

Once more revelations of the extent of NSA/CIA/FBI/etc domestic surveillance are out, the justification will be that since only Republicans of steely resolve can keep America safe from its enemies, the reelection of Bush was by definition in the national interest. Combined with the argument that the President can supercede the Constitution in the name of national security, George Bush was not only well within his rights as Commander-in-Chief, he was morally obligated to spy on Americans, suspend their civil rights, in order to keep America safe.

And then we'll be condemned for our ingratitude and be branded as even more traiterous than pignutters in their pignuttiest could imagine in their pignut brain.

Special BONUS Cassandra: remember that 22nd Amendment of Constitution? Well, if the President can suspend his obligations to the Constitution in the name of nat'l security, what's to keep a ginned up war crisis in, say, January 2008, from giving Bush an excuse to run for a third term?

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Veirs + Twee v Fey

I have a weakness for female singer-songerwriters. I love - I love - Beth Orton, Mary Lou Lord, Stacey Earle, Thalia Zedek, Edith Frost, Rosie Thomas (mp3)- - - (and Beth Orton has a new album! out in about a month - you can hear a cut at the link).....

Laura Veirs doesn't break new ground, but she does till familiar fields in remarkable ways. You can hear four of her songs by clicking the launch the player prompt and following directions. I think "Galaxies" terrific.

I had a conversation with a friend about slowcore and emo and shoegazer, and we were debating the difference between "fey" and "twee." I think of Belle and Sebastian as being fey, Mazzy Star of being twee. She thinks of Belle and Sebastian as twee, Mazzy Star as fey. I don't like Belle and Sebastian. I really like Mazzy Star.

I think of twee as unintentional, fey as intentional. Twee as natural, fey as calculation. Twee as shy, fey as slyly, immodestly, falsely shy. Twee as innate, fey as affected. Twee because you're born twee, fey because you aren't twee but try to be anyway. Laura Veirs is twee.
Radio Radio

Big radio doings in DC today, as WTOP, the all-news goliath at 1500 on the AM abandons AM for FM, taking over the signal of WGMS, the remaining classical station in DC while that station moves to a different and far weaker signal. WGMS bumps off a crappy Beyonce/Blink 182/Whatever station, while the Washington Post takes over the old AM 1500 signal to launch something called Washington Post Radio.

I've never cared for WGMS for two reasons, the first being the commercials, the second being the hopelessly narrow predictibility of its playlist. I don't like Mozart, I don't like Haydn, I don't care for much baroque, and while I like Brahms and Beethoven and Bach just fine, I'm willing to bet there's more in each's canon than listening to WGMS would suggest. Even worse, they not only limit what pieces are played, they do not play entire pieces sometimes, just movements of pieces. How much this is because of the need to run commercials, and hence the station, on a clock, how much because they believe it good radio, I don't know.

It is interesting that another rock station is killed to save the classical station. Any claim of a classical revival in radio, with classical battling rock stations - and winning! -would be silly. The music business has discovered that delivering rock in formats other than radio is more profitable, and that, combined with the near uniformity of most successful rock radio stations, within genres, has rendered many stations redundant. DC used to have three "classic rock" stations; it's now down to one (and it's arbitron numbers are abysmal). That Bonneville thinks it can't lose any more money with a commercial classical station than it does with a Beyonce station says more about the fate of Beyonce stations than it does the potential of classical.

And AM? Now that I'll tune to FM1350 for traffic and weather first thing in the morning, I don't know that I'll tune to AM again come April.
Crystal Cynicism

Bush assails Democrats for playing politics with the Patriot Act.

Excuse me, but doesn't the assertion put forth by Bushco and its henchmen, sycophants, propagandists, and apologists that the President is not bound by any law or constitution in a time of war and can do whatever the hell he wants render the Patriot Act utterly superfluous, utterly irrelevant?

If Bushco believes that all laws can be superceded in the pursuit of national security, then the pursuit of an extension of the Patriot Act by Bushco is an exercise in gross political cynicism. Not only are laws mere inconveniences, once acknowledged as being non-applicable to the executive branch the law becomes nothing more than another partisan cudgel with which to beat the Democrats. Why yammer and hammer at every photo-op in support of a law you feel no obligation to observe?

There is no weight of law, only weight of propaganda.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

The Last, and Best, Best of 2005 List

Washington City Paper's annual compilation poll of their music reviewers Best of Lists for the year is a far more enlightening Best of than most. The CP, a free alternative paper very similar to the free alternative paper in your city, encourages eclecticism in its reviewers (and its readers), so their list is far more expansive (and eccentric) than the run of the mills.

Be sure to check out the individual lists on the page. I've always found Mark Jenkins' taste very reliable. He also writes a biweekly column on the rock music business - the current one is here.
Our Year of Phallicism

Abramoff's much-anticipated and now signed engagement to sing and sing loudly is the clarion call to the oligarchy's powerbrokers that this is, indeed, an election year. Abramoff's revelations, while damaging, can be relatively neutered by the Repig majority in both houses, which also reminds them that they'd better keep both houses come November. Imagine the hearings into misbehaviors congressional and misbehaviors executive if the Dems were to gain one house. Imagine if they were to win both. Only major Repigs know how extensively they've gamed the system in anticipation of Karl Rove's plan for thirty years of GOP dominance, and only they know how far their greed has outraced the cemented implementation of those three decades. Only they know how much they have to lose if they lose control of Congress. They have to win this election.

This blog entry by Echidne concerning two recent columns in the NYT by circlejerks Brooks and Tierney is generating lots of blog response today. Both columns, in their essense, bemoan the current state of the college educated, management class male and their disempowerment at the scissor-wielding hands of independent women. Leave it to Repigs to immediately blame the castrating vagina for their own insecurity, and perhaps we'll never know at what point Repigs' genuine fear of their own inadequacies and their shameless use of misogynism as a campaign strategy meet, but it's certainly a strategy, one of many like ilk we're going to see in 2006.

Democrats are going to be portrayed as effeminate, sissygirly on nat'l security, daffygirly in their nuances, cattygirly in their snarky traitorisms toward Maximum Penis. And that's before the reintroduction of state-sponsored homophobia as the GOP rushes to place anti-fag initiatives on ballots to energize their base of manly Christian wifebeaters and their goodly-beaten womenfolk. Because real men fuck obedient women and vote Republican. Real women submit to manly men who vote Republican and vote Republican because their men tell them to. That's American. And it's American to worship Maximum Penis. All Hail Maximum Penis! All blame to fags and bitches.

That's going to be the GOP gameplan. Watch. Listen. It worked before. What else do they have?