Sep 16

The song in this video, "You Me" by Hamacide and Chacha, is amazing — without much in the way of overt novelty it sounds completely distinctive, yearning and as wide-open as the inner-Mongolian ghost town in the video. Hamacide’s drums hit hard but are curiously sparse; the acoustic guitar, which sounds like every string is tuned to the same note, is percussive but weirdly resonant. Chacha, who sings in Mandarin, puts in a particularly fine performance here — at the “chorus” when the rhythm ominously straightens out, she turns up the intensity in a really controlled, portentious way. Looking forward to hearing more from this duo.

(Reblogged from likeapairofbottlerockets)
Sep 15

Help me solve a mystery, Tumblr! A couple of weeks ago I was wearing this shirt, for Boris’s album Dronevil, at Heathrow airport. (I tried to take a selfie but my hands are way too shaky.) I was just minding my own business, sitting and reading Leslie Jamison’s excellent Empathy Exams, when the guy across from me leans over and asks what the symbol on my shirt means.

"It’s for a metal band called Boris", I said.

"And do you know any significance of this symbol?"

"No, not that I’m aware of", I said, then, on impulse: "Are you?"

"I can’t tell you", he said, then slowly stood up, reaching for the handle of his luggage. “But the sun… is very important”, as he turned and walked away.

Was he crazy? Are the rap illuminati expanding into doom metal territory? Am I an unsuspecting vector for the conspiracy contagion?

Sep 14
I have loved Dr. Williams’ poetry since I was 16 years old and picked up a copy of his long poem Patterson just because I was fascinated by the symmetry of his name – William Carlos Williams. I have continued reading his work to the present. I find Dr. Williams’ finest work to be his late poetry written between 1954 and his death in 1963 at age 80. It is from this period in the poet’s work that I have selected the texts for The Desert Music – a period after the bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Dr. Williams was acutely aware of the bomb and his words about it, in a poem about music entitled The Orchestra struck me as to the point: “Say to them:/ Man has survived hitherto because he was too ignorant/ to know how to realize his wishes. Now that he can realize/ them, he must either change them or perish.” When I began work on The Desert Music I thought those words were too grave to set and thought I would use a tape of Dr. Williams reading them instead. When the time came to compose the third movement in the summer of 1983 I did know how to set them because the character of the harmonies in the third seemed to generate just the right setting. I was very glad now I did not resort to using a tape. In the center of the piece is the text, also from The Orchestra, which says, “it is a principle of music/ to repeat the theme. Repeat/ and repeat again,/ as the pace mounts. The/ theme is difficult/ but no more difficult/ than the facts to be/ resolved.” Those at all familiar with my music will know how apt those words are for me and particularly this piece which, among other things, addresses that basic ambiguity between what the text says, and its pure sensuous sounds.

Steve Reich’s programme notes for The Desert Music

Spurred on by Reich’s music, I’m reading some of this later Williams. (There’s an excellent short essay on Reich’s setting of the poems here.) It’s too hilarious that Reich became interested in Williams because of his symmetrical name.

Sep 13

(photo from the New York Times )

Steve Reich and Philip Glass’s concerts at BAM last week were two of the greatest cultural experiences I’ve ever had. I saw the Tuesday and Wednesday concerts, both of which began with Reich’s “Four Organs”. It’s as pulverizing as any other piece of music I can think of; hearing it rendered at an ear-splitting volume, with Nico Muhly headbanging the entire time, was an absolute delight.

I was also glad to have another chance to hear “Building” from Glass’s Einstein On The Beach — which I wrote about almost two years ago (!). I love the slippage between its rigid, quantized keyboard parts and the lithe, sinuous saxophone. The slow sweep of “Music in Twelve Parts”, on the other hand, was more sensuous and human than almost any Glass piece I’ve heard before.

But the best of all was Reich’s “Music for 18 Musicians”, which is probably my favourite piece of music ever by anybody. Its kind of beauty seems more like a mathematical elegance than an artistic one: more than almost any other piece of music I know, it’s difficult to imagine it being created by human hands.