Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Retro Futurism Resumes

Retro Futurism will return to Triple R 102.7FM 6.00pm this Sunday 23 December. I'll be filling in for Jonathan Alley's Under The Sun for three weeks while he's on summer vacation.

Episode 6: Dubs, Versions, Copies and Covers will celebrate my role as 'cover' by playing 'covers'. Stream it here.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Sylvia Love: Extraterrestrial Lover

Best dance track ever?

And this 'aint bad:

Sylvia Love is back producing, details here.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Retro Futurism

New show coming soon:
Retro Futurism airs Fridays midnight - 2am on Melbourne's Triple R 102.7FM during November 2012.

Retro Futurism looks backward to look forward, celebrating musical modernists working on the edges of composition, improvisation, quantisation, from Schoenberg to Sun Ra, from Darmstadt to Detroit, from violin to VST, from yesterday to tomorrow...

Monday, 13 August 2012


Bands in bespangled uniforms play Beethoven's Ninth. Thousands of doves and coloured balloons are launched into the air. Behind huge, wind-whipped standards displaying the entwined circles, the Gods of the Stadium process on to the track in impeccable columns, their arms stretched out towards the official stalls where the great Dignitaries of W acknowledge them.

If you just look at the Athletes, if you just look: in their striped gear they look like caricatures of turn-of-the-century sportsmen as, with their elbows in, they lunge into a grotesque sprint; if you just look at the shot putters, who have cannonballs for shot, at the jumpers with their ankles tied, at the long jumpers thudding into a sandpit filled with manure.; if you just look at the wrestlers, tarred and feathered, if you just look at the long distance runners running three legged or on all fours, if you look at the clapped-out, shivering survivors of the marathon, hobbling between two serried ranks of Line Judges armed with sticks and cudgels, if you just look and see these Athletes of skin and bone, their backs permanently bent, their skulls bald and shiny, their eyes full of panic, and their sores suppurating, if you see all these indelible marks of humiliation without end, of boundless terror, all of it evidence, administered every hour, every day, every instant, of conscious, organized, structured oppression; if you just look and see the workings of this huge machine, each cog of which contributes with implacable efficiency to the systematic annihilation of men...

- Georges Perec.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Ain't Nobody

This release is wonderful, from which this is the highlight:

The Chaka Kahn original is no slouch either, an old favourite of my mum's, which i recall hearing around the house as a youngster.

This kind of disco-reggae hybrid I realise is among my favourite-of-all musical styles, triggered by these:

This has appeared here before, but it's oh so good:

Lara went on to work with Rhythm and Sound, where I first heard her, and provided my roundabout entry point to Jamaican music:

... which was properly kicked off by this:

Prior to hearing this on a listening station in Tower Records Shibuya I'd resisted, or rather ignored, Reggae completely, turned off by my brother's Bob Marley Best Ofs and dreadlocked Fremantle buskers. I wonder whether younger listeners today have such resistance to certain genres or is everything fairgame?

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Erik Satie, John Cage and Furniture

Fascinating article by Matthew Shlohmowitz on Cage and Satie found at Satie Archives. Shlohmowitz examines the degree to which our current understanding and reception of Satie is due to Cage. He begins by stating that if it wasn't for Cage, Vecations, arguably Satie's most well known and influential work, might never have been discovered, let alone performed:

Before Cage discovered the piece (Vexations) in 1949, few knew that it existed. This claim is easily supported: the first two biographies on Satie (by Templier,1932; Meyers, 1948) make no mention of it, not even in the "catalogue of works" of Meyers's book. Soon after he discovered the score, Cage had it printed in Contrepoints. Furthermore, and of even more significance, in New York in 1963, Cage organized the work's premier performance, seventy years after it was composed! Vexations is now one of Satie's most famous pieces. It has been performed many times all over the world; equally, a literature on it has developed. Testimony to this development, is that even the shortest articles about Satie in music dictionaries make mention of it.

From a 1969 performance by mini-Eric Idle-alike:

... and later John Cale performing it on a game show on telly:

A 9 hour 'complete version exists here, in very low bitrate.

Shlohmowitz also talks of Cage's understanding of musical structure, which he articulated only in relation to the music of Satie and Webern, as opposed to that of Beethoven (and everyone else):

Cage states that many new materials have emerged in the twentieth century: quarter tones (Haba); electronic instruments (Varese); and the prepared piano (himself) to name just a few. Cage sees the big development in methodology as the ability to create "continuous invention", be it through "means of the twelve-tone row" or "secundal intervallic control". And he states that there is a "new contemporary awareness of form: It is static rather than progressive in character." When it comes to structure, however, as we have said, Cage believes that there is has been only one new idea since Beethoven. He writes:

"And that new idea can be perceived in the work of Anton Webern and Erick Satie. With Beethoven the parts of a composition were defined by means of harmony. With Satie and Webern they were defined by means of time lengths. The question of structure is so basic, and it is so important to be in agreement about it, that one might ask: Was Beethoven right or are Webern and Satie right? I answer immediately and unequivocally, Beethoven was in error, and his influence, which has been as extensive as it is lamentable, has been deadening to the art of music."

Cage believed that the "fundamental" aspect of music is duration. His argument is that the only "characteristic" which both sound and silence share is duration. Silence is important, as it is the opposite of sound "and, therefore, a necessary partner of sound."

Cage's interest in Satie led him to Paris where he sought more information on Satie and Milhaud's musique d'ambleument, 'furniture music', or more accurately, as I recently learned, 'furnishing music'.

In 1949 Cage went to Paris with a grant to do some research on Satie. He was particularly interested on this research trip on finding out more about musique d'ameublement (Furniture Music). In collaboration with Milhaud, Furniture Music is best explained by the creators:

"We are presenting today for the first time a creation of Messieurs Erik Satie and Darius Milhaud, directed by M. Delgrange, the "musique d'ameublement" which will be played during the intermissions. We urge you to take no notice of it and to behave during the intervals as if it did not exist. This music, specially composed for Max Jacob's play claims to make a contribution to life in the same way as a private conversation, a painting in a gallery, or the chair which you may or may not be seated. You will be trying it out. MM. Erik Satie and Darius Milhaud will be at your disposal for any information or commissions."

Furniture Music was the first ever "Muzak"; as Milhaud wrote, "Satie was right: nowadays, children and housewives fill their homes with unheeded music, reading and working to the sound of the wireless. And in all public places, large stores and restaurants, the customers are drenched in an unending flood of music. It is 'musique d'ameublement', heard, but not listened to". And although today it disturbs many of us that Muzak is so ever present (that it is the soundtrack to our lives), in the 1920s this was a revolutionary idea. For Cage, Furniture Music was important, as it was a new context for music, and a context that broke from the traditions of the concert hall. It was also important in a way that Satie had not conceived. Namely, for Satie, Furniture Music would be a part of the sounds of the environment, whereas for Cage, the noise of the environment are the music. This manifested itself in Cage's work the empty spaces that are incorporated into many of Cage's works during the 1950s. The best example of this is 4'33".

'Children and housewives'?! Not all menfolk sit in their living rooms listening to Brahms and Wagner!

Satie's Furniture Music pieces are among his strangest and most charming works, pithy melodies drawn in strings and woodwind, looped into go-nowhere repetition, yet too kooky, even today, to satisfy their creators' demands for ignorability.

Oddly they remain largely unknown, with only one commercial recording in existence, of only three of the five works (Part 1:Tenture De Cabinet Prefectoral (Curtain of a Voting Booth), Part 2: Tapisserie En Fer Forgel (Tapestry of Wrought Iron: for the arrival of the guests - grand reception - to be played in an entrance hall), and Part 3: Carrelage Phonique (Phonic Tiles - may be performed at a luncheon), by the Ars Nova Ensemble under Marius Constant on an Erato LP, along with an excerpt of Vexations and the short trumpet fanfare Sonnerie pour réveiller le roi des singes (Trumpet call to awaken
the kind of the monkeys, who sleeps with one eye open). It has been reissued on a budget APEX CD, alongside the equally unknown Concerto for Trautonium and Strings by Paul Hindemith. This remains one of my most frequently played CDs.

For those who can't be bothered with the CD the Satie works are all freely available to download at Ubuweb.

What led me in a roundabout way to Satie was a friend's mention of the Fugazi song 'Furniture'. It's lyrics are noteworthy:

This is a song with no words.
But no one can hear the missing.
They just look at my mouth
And look at my mouth
And say hey man, I know where you're coming from.
Furniture has no say in life,
It was made to be used by people.
How many times have you felt like a bookcase
Sitting in living room gathering dust
Full of thought already written?
This is a song with no words.
But no one can hear the missing.
You can see my mouth and see that it's moving
I think you alreay know where I'm coming from
Right here.

I saw Fugazi live in Perth in 1993. It was an early evening show, filled with sweaty Australian stage diving men and boys, and me and a friend drank a bottle of Bundaburg rum.

There is also the early Handsome Family song 'Moving Furniture Around', a band I have never seen live but long wanted to. Here too furniture is equated with torpor and malaise:

The Handsome Family's 'Moving Furniture Around':

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Cheap Classical Records

I've spoken before about the joys to be had shopping for classical vinyl. You’re in a world of your own in most shops, scrounging through unorganised bundles of dusty $1 and $2 items, usually stored on the floor, in milk crates, under the racks of more marketable fare. It can be hard on the knees, unless you get to sit down, on an old chair or a box, as I did last week in my most recent haul. There’s perhaps more outright crap to wade through – bulky Reader’s Digest boxes, misplaced 1970s easy listening crooners and unloved sleeveless discards – but its also easy to find gems, even in charity shops.

Here’s what I just picked up:

Schubert - Selling in China for an absurd $120.

I discovered a recent fondness for the harp after hearing Cage’s wonderful In A Landscape played on harp by Victoria Looseleaf, on her album Harpnosis (he he, also includes great versions of soothing modal classics by Satie, Debussy etc.) Also heard a surprisingly pleasant Harpo Marx recording - DL here, low-fi, but better than you’d expect. The cover on mine is Part 2 of a budget Record Club thing not featured online. I passed on Volume 1.

I have a good recording of this by the Australian Chamber Orchestra on hybrid SACD I got for free, but it takes too long to read on my non-super CD player. Check the blurred photo

These guys are old champs

Vaguely surrealist cover for kooky Gould (and stern Schoenberg), I stretched to $6

One of DGs all time best sellers. I still don't understand the cover

Nice cover art on all these, yet strangely not related by label

Only link I could find to Soviet recording of the Shostakovich piano quintet and Stravinsky’s Three Pieces for String Quartet by the Borodin Quartet with Ljubow Edlina on Melodiya Eurodisc is a red herring to here

To sit unplayed with my other 10”s

Monday, 4 June 2012

Long Time...

'Time is the fire in which we burn'.

Delmore Schwartz