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Back to Sequenza21
Friday, January 06, 2006
Of Interest?

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?


Veirs + Twee v Fey = TWP 10

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.

Lists? You Want Lists? No?

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.