Saturday, November 07, 2009

Monday, September 21, 2009

Another month.

So this blog has sunk back again. Listened to some short story on NPR about a man who was recording his whole life, every day... and had been doing it for well over a decade. Seems utterly ridiculous, but i realized that this blog is itself a snapshot of my thinking about music over the last 4 years. When I read my old posts, i remember my state of mind, i remember where i was and what i was listening to. Its great to leave these crumbs behind. I dont know if anyone else will ever follow them, but I enjoy revisiting my thoughts from time to time.

Im going back to France in two weeks for a trip. Visiting and vacationing family and friends is the central reason... but it'll also be wonderful to be back in la france, i can get back to speaking french regularly. Then Turkey! thats by far the most exciting thing this year... visiting turkey and seeing the ruins there. I really look forward to it!

Ive found i havent been listening to much of the music in my collection... Its OK by me, ive heard all of it pretty well through now. Im greedy, and I'm begging to know where i can find the next interesting thing.

Anyone heard anything interesting recently?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

My lazy summer:

Ive having a wonderfully self-indulgent, sunny, warm summer. Basking in the post-graduation glow, I am being incredibly lazy.

On lala I've had the chance to listen to the lush electronics of the Helio sequence. Particularly their first and second albums.`This surreal track, filled with floating, spiraling processed sounds appeales to my taste for heavlily layered musical anarchy. Animal collective holds the same attracton.

But compared to the earler tracks of Animal collectve, the vocals here are more conventional, fitting in with typical indy-rock Sprechgesang melodic patterns .

Friday, June 26, 2009

Now that school, and its associated thesis is firmly out of the picture, I'm going to try and concentrate on music again. My goal is to write out the entire Music for a Suburban Scene out by the end of the year. Its high time I get the damn thing finished in some form (even if means later re-writes). I've also decided I want to undertake an even more personal project, the creation of pieces for all my close friends and family.

Right now I have written out one of these kinds of things. A short, simple piece called For February 18th (my friend's birthday) and I Have every intention of writing a For December 18th, For July 2nd, For September 26th, and so on. Its a little more personal than a card. I always liked doing art projects for friends. Gives me a purpose to make something. I mean, if its just for me, whats the point?

Monday, June 22, 2009


Now what?

(post #300, woo)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Me messing around (Improv )

So i have this etude idea i came up with the other day, and a friend of mine recorded it for me on cam. Sorry for the squeeky chair. Its an improv that kinda sputters out. The first part is supposed to be a little flashy.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Thoughts on Machaut.

One of the most striking observations of the west Ive ever encountered was written by an Egyptian novelist in the late 19th century. I forgot his name, and the work he wrote, but in it he expressed a bewilderment with the western worlds obsession with representation, reproduction and detached observation.

Westerners, in his mind, wanted nothing more than to place everything under glass to study. They wanted to re-create and represent something for scrutiny, for the academy. Life itself would become a museum, with this constant, futile aim to comprehend something through some kind of mirror, through a painting and a model, or a sculpture or a novel.

It could be argued that this mentality arises from the scientific method, from rationality, from the impulses of "modernism" in the western sense, and from the academic aim of expanding our knowledge. These mirrors westerners create may be, in the eyes of an egyptian, only two dimentional deceptive depictions of reality.

Listening to some of this, early notated music, looking at ancient cartography (Arab, Roman, Indian, Western Medieval), I cant help but think this wasnt an isolated western phenomenon. One cultivated by the academies, certianly. Machaut's gorgeous Notre Dame mass is music from the middle ages, written down hundreds of years ago and preserved like the scripture it recites. This begs the question, why was the notation of music seen in other literate civilizations? The arabs themselves during the period of Machaut were readers and critics of Plato and Aristotle long before Erasmus or Francis Bacon, and probably maintained much higher literacy rates among the general populations than in Western Europe at the time. Yet, why did they not leave an extensive musical notation system?

These were the people that introduced the Persian Tar to Spain, which evolved into the lute of Renaissance Europe and celebrated Spanish Guitar, these were people who influenced western musical development in this same period though trobador song. But where is the notation of this Arab music from the time of Machaut? We still have the traditions of Andalucian song in Morocco, Algeria, Tunesia, but was it a lack of this impulse for the preservation, representation and reproduction of music that kept beautiful arab script out of music? and is the fine-tuned precision of western notation the result of this same impulse?

Thursday, April 16, 2009


There is a universe of music waiting to explored. Yesterday, thanks to Smithsonian Global Sound ( accessed through my university) I fell in love with music from Azerbaijan and its neighboring Armenia. Hearing these sweet melodies and unfamiliar instrumentation brings out urges to travel and explore, the exuberance in this music lifts my ears. I look forward to getting to know music from the Caucasus region. Yet it is daunting, hundreds of tracks of music recorded in this small region (about the size of my state) and I still have so much to hear.

Just the other day I was enjoying the beauty of Oumou Sangare's music. From Mali to Azerbaijan, there are so many incredible corners of the world, and an equally dizzying number of beautiful pieces of music. is great for connecting up to this music, as it contains an incredible number of tracks online.

I need to travel again. I'm getting antsy.

Currently working on my thesis on 20th century urbanism in Marseille, France (not focusing on Corbu), who would of thought that it would have been so difficult to find writing on? ah well, that cosmopolitan city is my favorite in France.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

I've discovered that while the piano midi on Sibelius sounds like crap, the marimba midi is great. Conclusion: Everything sounds better in Marimba.

Been admiring the musics of The Decembrists recently. Never has a song about two gay male prostitutes (on the bus mall) sounded so beautiful. Their folksy melodies can span a wealth of emotions and moods, from melancholy to jittery and energic. Anyway, i'm impressed.

school has picked up again. Now i have some thesis to write and graduation to apply to. ? Still working piecemeal on my piece for my friend For December 18th I've decided to make it one in a series. The problem is, who's birthdays mean the most for a piece of music? I've nailed down family as immediately important, but how far does that extend? Better yet, How many people care?

Friday, March 06, 2009

Composing for a friend

My best friend's birthday was not long ago, and since he doesn't need more crap, I decided to do that artistic thing and make him something. Since I'm only good at making two things, music and sketches of buildings (this statement is very much debatable ) I settled on writing him a little piece of music.

Now thats all personal and crap, but when I actually settled down to writing the piece, I was faced with a problem. I like Louis Andriessen. Bang on a Can, Steve Reich and co. this comes across in a lot of my stuff... and i know, easy going peter will not enjoy tense, dissonant music. So ... I'm pushing myself to make something of a compromise. It has to be smooth enough and consonant enough that it doesn't provoke any intense feelings (and pianistic pyrotechnics are strictly forbidden!) , yet its gotta be interesting enough and progressive enough to be called contemporary. This aint easy, so its my work in progress.

Midi is a cruel mistress. My music sounds calm and smooth on my keyboard and harsh, ugly and uninteresting on the computer. It hurts a little, inside.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Cage on Branca

"My feelings were disturbed ... I found in myself a willingness to connect the music with evil and with power. I don't want such a power in my life. If it was something political it would resemble fascism" (John Cage, 1982).

When cage made this comment on Branca's loud, experimental-punk influenced music, he was hitting on something very relevant, a criticism that hits harder on this music, and other music like it, than any other critique I've seen. To describe it, as essentially musical fascism has a surprisingly sturdy foundation when we look at fascism more academically.

Fascist ideology, speaking broadly, is the ideology of power, the glorification of violence and militarism, the cult of the personality, and the desire for totalitarian oppression. It is anti-capitalist, anti-marxist, anti-socialist, anti-feminist, anti- democratic, anti-egalitarian, and anti-rational. yet it is not sufficient to simply define Fascism by what it isn't. Turning to the so called "fascist minimum" we can get a better picture of this cult of violence and action. Michael Mann in his book Fascists writes that the five elements of the fascist minimum can be listed as 1) hyper-nationalism, 2) Cleansing, or top-down purging and/or oppression and elimination of defined enemies, 3) paramillitarism

Music which seeks to overwhelm the ears, as Cage viewed it, was totalitarian music, and its aim was express that power and violence. What is interesting about this impulse within the music, is that within other musical circles the authoritarianism and violence of sound becomes manifest within the minds and actions of people. There exists, and has long existed a link between skinhead neo-nazi groups with Death-metal, speed-metal and hard-core punk. This aint a coincidence. Modern punk, and metal-skinhead groups consist of disaffected male youth who clearly glorify and enjoy violence, paramillitarism and action. They might don the apparel of a militaristic organization and fight against some abstracted, vaguely defined enemy. These types of people probably suffer from the acute anomie that sociologists ascribe to the fascist recruits of the early 20th century. These hooligans of the contemporary age mirror that identical type of group that helped push Mussolini into power, and helped terrorize the jews during the 30s. The age of most fascists, like hardcore punk/metal-skinheads, were 18-35, and they were predominantly male.

While it would be stupid to call Branca a fascist (i dont know his politics), it is not a stretch to see a parallel between the manifestation of aggression within sound and the emotional effect of creating an agressive mentality within the listener. Driving, deafening music controls your hearing, it can blast you, like a bombastic parade, into an excited emotional state. Punk-rock prides itself on action, movement and excitement. It asserts a clearly anti-commercialist, anti-intellectual, anti-status-quo mentality, and comes as a prefab identity for many followers and loyal fans. They dont wear arm bands, but they do wear tee shirts.

But does this really condemn any music at all? most music is disliked (or, conversely enjoyed) more for its association than for its actual musical language. So what does someone do when confronted with an art that might be tainted by fascist influences? Even After learning about the futurist affiliation with fascists, I still love futurist works-in-themselves, even if they're creators were very much lost. So does art stand alone despite the people who create, support, or help create it ( with a glance towards Karajan) ?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Any one else use Sibelius?

Because when it runs on my computer, shit freezes up pretty badly. I dont know how the hell Sibelius could be so demanding, but maybe its just too much for my poor ole laptop. Anyone else know?

Anyway, its making composition difficult, especially when i'm busy uses the internets for all kinds of important things. Like Email, and and video memes:

Yeah, i have a pretty crude sense of humor.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Philip Glass- Music in Twelve Parts (again), part 11.

I really wonder if I'll ever get over the sheer radicalism of early Glass. This is one of the prettier parts of the 12, despite its true minimalist austerity and constant pulse. The composer once described his music as functioning like wheels in a machine, which makes perfect sense to me. These arpeggios become conceptual spinning disks that morph with the music like clay on a potters wheel.

So to approach this music do we have to be armed with metaphors to describe it? Or can we just listen and enjoy? I think, since the music is so extreme in its forms and unconventional, that the only way to become accustomed to it is to approach it with this mindset. This adds to the music's radicalism, since it has to be understood through a conceptual framework, rather then through standard, accepted formulations, even for a 20th century avant-gardist. I would happily argue that the early work of Glass is some of the most challenging of the century, yet it has opened up avenues of thinking-in-music that never existed before. Suddenly music ceases to follow any western narrative form, no begining, no middle, no end. Music becomes the experience of sounds and rigorous patterns where a chord could be held for 20 minutes. Sustained tones become important-in-themselves, sustained patterns are the music. Change is not a given, it becomes a surprise.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

note on blog

Going for a re-vamp of the site. This poor blog has fallen into decline, and started that long, slow decline 2 years ago. I don't know if i can promise any kind of renaissance, but at least I can try and re-organize my links to make more sense.

Monday, February 02, 2009

I hate postmodern lingo and rhetoric.

hate it.

I'm currently taking a senior seminar course on European Fascism, which is fascinating, but i have stumbled upon, much to my chagrin, one of the most inane, pointless displays of verbose gibberish imaginable. Allow me to demonstrate:

According to our ‘reflective metanarritive’ of modernism’s dialectical relationship with modernity, the ardent craving for a new spirituality and new temporality that drives what Emilio Gentile calls Italianism expresses primordial longings for a new nomos, a new canopy of temporalized sacrality generated by a contemporary reality experiences as anomic, as decadent.

Has the author just lost it? Is there a point there at all, or just rhetorical meanderings? I believe I understand that what he intended to say: "That the fascist conception of modernism, as technologically, industrially advanced, or totalitarian, stood in conflict with the modern thought of French-revolution humanist types. "But the expression "modernism's dialectical relationship with modernity" is borderline meaningless in itself. Simply put, the author's language is pompous, self-satisfied and stupid.

I dont understand the point of writing so much and saying so little. I suppose the so called post-modern distrust of the"metanarritives" that can pop up in history might motivate them to create nebulous clouds of lingo, with vague, confused meanings. Yet the author can't sustain it for that long, eventually he has to make a fucking point:

....[ the perception of fascism as] political modernism bent on overthrowing a liberal system identified with the 'Old Italy', whose utter inadequacy to address the forces of modernization irrevocably sealed its fate.
Now, wait, so I just read a massive run-on for no fucking reason? hm. Guess so. And it left me so much the wiser. I now understand that there are some in academia who write down to the reader so as to stroke their own egos. I have little patience with this bullshit, especially when i have other, much clearer, and more thoughtful, well-written texts that I can choose from.