Monday, September 29, 2003


That arbiter of critical-edge musical taste, The Wire, goes up in price to £3.60 an issue (unless you subscribe at a preferential rate) this month. Still a bargain at the price, no matter how modishly irritating it can be from time-to-time. An added incentive this time is a free double CD, number 10 in their sampler series, which features thirty ear lobe sized morsels from a vast array of (obscure and) creative musicians. You'll have heard of David Sylvian (a track from his new album, the first since 'Beehive' in 1999) and Jah Wobble, at least.

October's print fare includes a good feature on 'lost recordings', not least those of Miles Davis. Positively mainstream, eh fellas...?

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Friday, September 26, 2003


spnm (which prefers this acerbic abbreviation to the Society for Promoting New Music) celebrates its 60th birthday in 2003 with a season that features both its past and its future. spnm is inviting back more than 10 Vice Presidents, previous Artistic Directors and associated composers to curate individual events, workshops and talks that reflect their experiences of the organisation and their own diverse visions of a musical future. Programming emerging composers with established figures in events across the nation, and with styles ranging from jazz crossover to the avant garde, spnm's season "promotes new music for all."

15 October: Sir Peter Maxwell Davies and the Kreutzer Quartet
21 October: New Music Theatre
23 October: Studio Recital
27 October - 8 November: Wired Up To Wapping
23 November: Home Made Orchestra at London Jazz Festival
26 November: Music | Text | Subtext at Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival
29 November: Harrison Birtwistle's 'Refrains and Choruses' at Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival
10 December: Jane's Minstrels at Spitalfields Winter Festival

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Thursday, September 25, 2003

[202.1] U. R. A WALRUS?

Electric Walrus is "a record label based out of Needham, MA and New Haven, CT, existing for the purpose of releasing music by Alex Temple and related artists. The focus is experimental electronics, avant-rock, genre-bending contemporary 'classical,' etc., but don't hold me to that," says its leading protagonist. The site contains sound samples, details of existing and upcoming projects, and so on.

Temple's newest release is 'Agape Ludens', which he describes as "computer music that draws from noise, avant-rock, classic tape music, industrial, free jazz and contemporary composition." The albums are put outs as CDRs, but with professional packaging -- similar to Burning Shed's approach. Very worthwhile.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2003


Avantists extraordinaire, Godspeed You! Black Emperor are (in case you hadn't noticed it) featured in the soundtrack of the latest Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, The Beach) film, '28 Days Later'. The band, whose studious anti-commercialism usually makes them reluctant about tie-ins, agreed to allow Boyle to use 'Easting Hastings' ('Sad Mafioso,' specifically), but regrettably the piece does not appear on the accompanying CD. Apparently it appears briefly in some of the trailers for the film, alongside Brian Eno.

Kitty Empire writes about Boyle's collaboration with Godspeed here. The film was released in the UK last year, and in the US a little later.

"Their febrile, anguished instrumental pieces - sometimes using field recordings of old men ranting about the end of the world - provided a perfect pre-millennial soundtrack ... the sound of impending doom. But Godspeed themselves propose nothing less than a new rock, one that unites the disgust and uncompromising spirit of hardcore punk and a sense of tragedy best expressed by strings. They borrow heavily from the cinematic sweep of Ennio Morricone. Their refusal to give anything away is at once intriguing, heroic and infuriating."

Godspeed You! Black Emperor have no immediate plans to tour outside Canada, their home country, before 2004, I am told.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2003


The ever-inventive new music collective Bang On A Can tell us that 'Decasia', to which they contributed the music, is now available on DVD.

"Don't miss this one-of-a-kind film by Bill Morrison, made to music of Michael Gordon. The Village Voice writes, 'Bill Morrison's 'Decasia' is that rare thing: a movie with avant-garde and universal appeal... The film is a fierce dance of destruction. Its flame-like, roiling black-and-white inspires trembling and graditude.' Definitely not to be overlooked."

If you want to catch up with BOAC, the raw data is in the archives. There are upcoming events in Hungary, Austria and (22-25 October 2003) the Brooklyn Academy of Music Next Wave Festival in NY.

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Monday, September 22, 2003


Ever popped along to Kalvos and Damian's fabulous New Music Bazaar? Hosted by Dennis Báthory-Kitsz and David Gunn ('The Clones of the Wild Enharmonic') it's a net-based, non-pop international network, heard every Saturday from 14:30 to 16:30 EST on WGDR FM 91.1. Previous shows are archived on RealAudio, so there's no reason to miss out.

Last week was Kalvos and Damian's 8th anniversary on line, too. That's 432 shows broadcast, 188 guests already heard from (some several times), 47 newly recorded and ready to be heard, and over 563,000 site visitors.

There's also a new site-wide search feature. K&D is essential listening for the creative music fraternity.

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Sunday, September 21, 2003


Much publicity surrounded the launch of OMM (Observer Music Monthly), "the first British magazine published by a British newspaper." Why, even NFE gave it an anticipatory plug. In the actual product, which landed on my mat this morning, editor Caspar Llewellyn Smith wasted little time (and a whole column) telling us all how ab fab it all is: "the best in music from around the world", "the sharpest, funniest writers", "a magazine reflecting such diversity with style and authority is long overdue."

You can boast, Welly. You did in fact. But the content is dismal in its total predictability. Oooh, here's Britney! And Blur! And Bowie! and Dizzee Rascal! And a bit of hip hop! And "African pygmies" making weird noises in "the world's scariest place"! Still awake? Well, how about a bit of tokenism towards 'special interests'? Billie Holiday for yer dad. Arvo Part tacked at the end of a 'best albums' list, 'cos he's classical but kinda laid back, right? And tiny bits on Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (exotic!) and the Esbjorn Svennson Trio (jazz!).

Next, I suppose, they'll be telling us that The Darkness are post-ironic and having a daring pop at proggies in the highly innovative 'Lost Tribes of Pop' column.

Meanwhile... what did Saddam have on his Walkman when the bombs began to fall? Why does Carole Caplin find Andy Williams "simply inspirational"? Is John Tavener the new Marc Bolan? Just what did Paul Morley throw up twice at breakfast? Will Norah Jones ever play with the Beatles like her dad? OMM looks the sure-fire place to find out. Just don't mention "music". Except in the title. 'Cos it sells well, apparently.

(OK CD, though.)

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Saturday, September 20, 2003


Artists: Duo46
Title: Untaming The Fury
Composers: Lanman, Daniel Adams, Richards, McGarity, Schaefer, Jalbert, Penaman, Flory, Sarre, Garrop.
Label: Summit Records
Catalogue: DCD 346
Annus: 2002

As if to prove that the revived American interest in classical tonality is not simply the reduction of artistic possibility to a 'good chune', Duo 46 (Matt Gould - gtr; Beth Ilana Schneider- vl) tear hugely imaginative patches from the tonal repertoire of the past few centuries, studied and vernacular. Not that they are without their hooks and riffs, too.

Ten composers responded to commissions for a series of demanding chamber miniatures. The result is hugely varied -- from sunny Iberia to melancholic central Europe -- and rarely short of compelling. The scores are all available through Alfieri e Ranieri Publishing.

The temptation in this context is throw as many ideas into a small ring as possible, both for writer and performer. Occasionally these pieces succumb to that temptation. But they can also be profoundly developmental and contemplative at the same time (Russell Sarre).

Gould and Schneider are musicians of rare sensitivity, unforced reflexivity and effortless virtuosity, coaxing unexpected twists and twirls from the Mikhail Robert guitar (1999) and the Alceste Bulfari violin (1985). These performances have a paradoxically controlled yet 'near live feel'. The recording and mastering allows the different accents and colours to flood through. You easily forget that you are listening to just two varieties of wood and string.

Some of the compositions on this disc betray their origins, loves and influences with declamatory force. Others (Joshua Penman's 'Was The Sky As Liquid') reinterpret them with surprising subtlety -- drum'n'bass and Baroque harmony, curiously interwoven.

Duo 46 is all about breaking boundaries - emotional, harmonic, rhythmic, and textural. But there is nothing contrived or forcedly 'transgressive' about either their playing or what they play. 'Untaming The Fury' is ensemble music for grown ups who like to dabble and frolic, but not in a dilettantish fashion. At its heart is perception; a still centre.

And incidentally: if you've ever wondered what a Venn Diagram would sound like, Neil Flory has the answer pinned down in just 7 minutes -- an overflowing circumference of dreams.

On the title track (by Stacy Garrop) the acoustic suddenly flattens. The notes indicate a 9/11 connection. The buck stops here. Each piece is introduced by a pithy liner comment; just enough to leave the ears to do the most important work. Professor William S. Haney's paean of praise lends floridity a new gear -- but you can see his point. The sunny cover is tastefully restrained (but just as atmospheric), in contrast.

I missed Gould and Schneider's debut album, 'FM1: Homage To The Fifties'. Seeking it out is now a clear priority. The duo also works in other contexts (the None and Strung Out Trios, for example) and has performed on four continents. 'Untaming The Fury' encapsulates their art in just over an hour. In their end is their beginning... I shall return to this disc often, I am sure.

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Friday, September 19, 2003


The Northern Sinfonia is well-established at The Sage, Gatehead, these days. Their new season of concerts begins on 25 September 2003, and features works by Berio, Stravinsky and Philip Cashian (of 'Dark Inventions' fame). New music director Thomas Zehetmair is pushing the boat out with his programming. Let's hope he pulls it off. The orchestra's imaginative playing certainly has the capacity to enthral and entice. They have an excellent website and a good range of educational activities going.

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I have no idea what The Observer Music Monthly (free with the London-based Sunday newspaper) will turn out to be like. But its first issue is published this weekend, and it comes with a free CD from Blur, the indie band who turned left-field at 'Thirteen'. Their new album is 'Think Tank': "Employs cross-rhythms evoking images of the desert and sound textures from unorthodox sources. Blur are now using sounds to create their music rather than the standard rock line-up," says Caroline Sullivan. Deserves a look and a listen, no doubt.

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A number of people have suggested that I syndicate this blog. I'd like to, but I am advised by technical support: "We don't currently offer a way for users to add RSS to their weblogs. We're hoping to add a syndication feature soon." If any readers have better advice, please let me know. Incidentally, the quality of Blogger's service has improved a good deal since Google took it on -- in all but one respect. You now get anonymous, 'press button' responses to enquiries which irritatingly ignore the actual question you've asked.

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Just what happens to be closest to the sound system right now, including a number of borrowed and blue items which will shortly be finding their way back to a rightful owner.

Duo 46, 'Untaming The Fury' (Summit Records, 2002) -- review to follow
Andy Sheppard, 'Delivery Suite' (BlueNote, 1994)
Michael Tippett, 'The Ice Break' (Virgin Classics, 1991)
Anne Dudley / BBCCO, 'Club Classical' (BBC, 2003)
Akira Inoue, 'Tokyo Installation' (AI, 1986)
Airto Moreira and The Gods of Jazz, 'Killer Bees' (B&W, 1993)
Onion Jack, 'Country Miles' (Mrs.Vee, 2003)
Harrison Birtwistle, 'Earth Dances' (Collins Classics, 1993))
Allan Holdsworth, 'Hard Hat Area' (Cream, 1993)
Jason Rebello, 'A Clearer Day' (Novus, 1990)
David Torn, Mick Karn, Terry Bozzio, 'Polytown' (CMP, 1994)
The Mahavishnu Project, 'Live Bootleg' (Aggregate Music, 2002)
Art Bears, 'Winter Songs' / 'The World As It Is Today' (Arcades Music, 1979-1980).
Thomas Ades, 'Powder Her Face' (EMI Classics, 1998)
Yes, 'Tales From Topographic Oceans' (Rhino, 1973/2003)

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Thursday, September 18, 2003

[195.2] SWAN'S WAY

Well worth catching: 'The Silver Swan' with the Clod Ensemble, 20 & 21 September 2003, 19.45hrs, at the Royal Opera House Linbury Theatre. The madrigal we all know and love is blown open in a rather haunting and weird way. All Tickets: £5. Visit or call the ROH Box Office: 020 7304 4000.

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Sting has done it. Just about every ageing rocker and worn out celeb you can think of has done it. But the latest version of Prokofiev's jolly old warhorse, 'Peter and the Wolf', must cap the lot for sheer dumbing up. On September 1st Pentatone Classics released Kent Nagano and the Russian National Orchestra's version [PTC 5186011] - featuring an introduction by Mikhail Gorbachev, narration by Sophia Loren... and the premiere of 'Wolf Tracks' by Jean Pascal Beintus with a vocal overlay by Bill Clinton. That's the alt version where the wolf pulls through, incidentally.The cover has a fetching blue creature on it (possibly elephant, possibly wolf - I'll let you decide.) How can you resist? Answers on an e-postcard, please.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2003

[194.2] GOULD GOLD!

Hot on the heels of just about every interpreter since Glenn Gould, former Van Der Graff Generator organ player Hugh Banton has recorded a version of Bach's 'Goldberg Variations' which was released by Fie! Records on December 9th last year. Evophonic contains comment on this from Peter Hammill. Thanks to Charles Imperatori for pointing this out some time ago...

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In my earlier mentions of 9/11-related music, I unwisely made no reference to John Adams' proms premiere. This significant work received mixed notices outside the homeland. Many thought that its emotion fell short of genuine artistic expressivism.

One such was Andrew Clements: "One of the season's biggest disappointments [was] John Adams's ... memorial 'On the Transmigration of Souls', [which] certainly took the prize for queasy questionability, and only just stayed on the right side of mawkishness; it was the kind of tribute piece, heartfelt no doubt, that really should have stayed in New York."

I think this may prove a rather unyielding judgement. There is more about the project here.

Further afield (indeed right outside NFE's usual orbit) there's a bit of me that feels, in spite of the musical evidence, that everyone should go out and purchase at least one Dixie Chicks album – and then send G.W. a cheery postcard to tell him you've done so. The country stars endured vitriolic abuse in the US after Natalie Maines said she and her bandmates were ashamed that President George W. Bush was from Texas like them. She made the off-the-cuff remark in London shortly before the Iraq war. A semi-climbdown was to be expected, but at least the free speech principles haven't been entirely forsaken -- unlike the message board on the band's site, which rapidly filled up with obscenities and had to be scrapped.

This spat views very differently from inside and outside the US, of course. In Britain we take Blair-baiting in our stride. But as film-maker Michael Moore observed in his even more tactless Oscar speech: "Shame on you, Mr Bush, shame on you. And any time you got the Pope and the Dixie Chicks against you, your time is up ." The Chicks went on to offer £1million dollars to the US Red Cross from their 'Star Spangled Banner' cover, as a gesture of goodwill. Incredibly, it was turned down after alleged pressure from the White House. Write that check for UNHCR now, gals.

Nor is this just a squabble in the political gutter. There are wider musical ramifications, too. It is reported that major record labels are now introducing clauses into artists’ contracts that cover 'inappropriate' comments or incidents by them. This so-called 'Dixie Chicks clause' would make them financially responsible for downward CD sales spikes that might stem from 'negative' remarks or acts by the artists.

But the Dixies are not bowing low. Nigel Williamson wrote of a recent Memphis concert: "The show - which is prefaced by Elvis Costello's version of '(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding' -- is well received, even when a song called 'Truth No 2' is accompanied by a video featuring Martin Luther King, Gandhi and Malcolm X and footage of civil-rights protests. The film also shows archive footage of Nazi book burning before it ends with shots of the destruction of Dixie Chicks records and the on-screen messages: 'Seek The Truth' and 'Tolerance'. Throughout the show, Maines sports a 'Dare To Be Free' T-shirt, and it is lost on no one that we're in the city where King was assassinated."

The Dixie's have just finished a fairly low-key four date UK tour. They have been received respectfully, if not rapturously --by US citizens abroad, too. One in the eye for lumpen leaders, who talk about 'freedom of speech' and then bend all their best efforts to surressing it. "If you can't question your government then you are just mindless followers." -- Emily Robison.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2003


Nick Kimbereley (The London Evening Standard) on the Harrison Birtwistle European premiere on Friday night, 12 September 2003. This is another work with roots in Durer's painting 'Melancolia', incidentally. Musically, it is based in part on John Dowland's 'In Darkness Let Me Dwell'.

"Those who equate Birtwistle with shreiking modernism might have been mollified by 'The Shadow of the Night', which opened the Proms' last-but-one night. This was Birtwistle at his most sensuous, the music's progress simultaneously anguished and gorgeous, with melodies aplenty, albeit not of the singalong type. Mournful glissandos from low strings opened proceedings, the brass responding with distant moans. A brief trombone motif was passed around and reassembled; the piccolo turned it into an extended cry, clearing the way for a succession of fletingly lyrical solos. The Philharmonia Orchestra and conductor Christoph Dohnanyi played with loving dedication." (c) Nick Kimberley.

It was Dohnanyi, of course, who led the Cleveland Orchestra in the premiere of Birtwistle's earlier orchestral tour-de-force, 'Earth Dances'. Lasting some 25 minutes, 'The Shadow of the Night' is a far more remorseful (and less astringent, frenetic) proposition. But I suspect it will carry the same critical weight in the future. Andrew Clements adds: "'The Shadow of Night' is generally subdued and sombrely coloured, linear in its musical development, where the earlier work is fundamentally cubist."

The world premiere of 'Shadow' was given at Carnegie Hall, New York, on January 24 and 25, 2002. It is reviewed by Classics Today here.

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Onion Jack are Daniel and Peter Vincent. They make ether-melting mind music. Their fine, multi-layered EP, 'Country Mile' (Mrs.Vee, VOJCD02, 2003) is quite simply one of the best albums I've heard this year in the principally indie[scribable] category.

The atmospheric title track combines carefully calculated beats, electronic FX, guitar (both electric and acoustic), synth washes and haunting lyrics. A chainsaw buzz coda lays the central theme to rest in a welter of high wire emotion before the declamatory finale.

'Fake Moon Landings', an entirely instrumental piece, is reminiscent of Floyd's 'Echoes', but much more knowing and melodically creative. These guys sure like to modulate on the major-minor. Difficult to say whether the landing is ultimately successful (in purely stratospheric terms), but musically it is sucked up its own vortex. Painful to contemplate, stimulating to listen to.

As it happens I had Jane Bown's retrospective photo shoot from The Observer open on the table when 'In The Country' first came on. Several spins later I'm still convinced that this is what Lennon would have sounded like if he had got into new folk. Deceptively simple. Angular. "She believes that Jerry Springer's real." Not after this, she doesn't.

'One Evening In May' returns to the guitar / electronica soundscape: clouds and clocks. In front of the harmonics lies an enveloping drone, a bass pedal, and a cut glass exit on a sixpence.

There's nothing pedestrian about 'Ordinary Jack' either, though the segue from metallish slowed-down drum'n'bass to a gothic bit of wah guitar isn't entirely unpredictable by now.

Onion Jack are developing an original, thoughtful, compelling musical voice. They intertwine their influences well: industrial rock, nu-trance, indie acoustic and post-prog. 'Country Mile' has a kind of improv spirit too, though it is rather evidently through composed. And they certainly know how to get the most out of a studio.

A duo to watch, without a doubt.

[Onion Jack play the Black Sheep Bar in Croydon on 27 September 2003.]

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Monday, September 15, 2003


Autumn on the South Bank is a strong programme series of the best contemporary music. The London Sinfonietta, Associate Artists at the Royal Festival Hall, offer a tribute to that 20th century individualist Iannis Xenakis, and a major premiere by Harrison Birtwistle. The Philharmonia's free 'Music of Today' series looks at two contrasting British figures, Steve Martland and Robin Holloway, and there is a chance to hear the colourful music of HK Gruber performed alongside Stravinsky by a starry lineup of chamber musicians. The series starts with Jonathan Powell's Sorabji recital (see below).

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Steven Poole of The Guardian on elusive composer Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji (1892-1988): "Cut off from the world and supported by a private income, he composed dauntingly huge pieces which were regarded as all but unplayable. He forbade the performance of his music lest inferior musicians ruin it. He remained alone, despising the trivial productions of others, in his artistic castle of ideal, Platonic complexity, a lone voice in the wilderness until his death."

This week, at London's South Bank, pianist Jonathan Powell undertakes the Herculean labour of performing what many regard as Sorabji's masterpiece, the four-hour piano work 'Opus Clavicembalisticum' (1930), by some distance the longest piece in the piano repertoire. The concert takes place on Tuesday 16 September at the Purcell Room, 6pm.

"No genius has any right to lock up in one difficult and costly-accessible corner of the world, a work of supreme art, even his own. Great Art is universal. It should not be made the monopoly of a few." - Kaikhosru Sorabji, letter to Philip Heseltine, 1913.

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Thom Yorke: ""We stole a whole lot of Polish composer Penderecki's string ideas. Rock arrangements haven't changed much since the days of The Beatles and 'Eleanour Rigby'. And if bands do want to get weird things with strings, they just put them through FX. We've found all these composers that are still getting new sounds out of violins. On the last chord of our song 'Climbing Up The Walls', there's this block of white noise when 16 violins are playing quarter tones apart from each other. It's the most frightening sound - like insects or something. But it's beautiful. We used to play Messiaen over the sound system before a gig..."

Radiohead Play Manchester on Saturday 22 November 2003, Newcastle (23), Cardiff (24), London Earls Court (26), Nottingham (29). Tickets: 0871 2200 260.

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Sunday, September 14, 2003


I have been reading BBC Music Magazine since the first issue, and I bought it regularly up until the end of 1999. However, due to an overload of books and papers (and an impending house move), I am wanting to find a good home for most of my back issues - minus the discs, I'm afraid. Anyone who can make a small conrtibution and cover postage would be welcome to have them. Please email me: see Comment, below.

The sets I have at the moment are as follows: September 1992 (the first issue) to March 1994, complete; June 1994 to December 1996 (complete except for Feb '95); 1997, January - December; 1998 - 8 months (minus June, September, December); 1999 - January to June (plus September). Miscellaneous 2000-2003.

Please note that this is updated from the post on 21 August 2003. Drop me a line if you are interested, or know someone who might be.

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NFE has just updated and extended its permanent links (below the archive, on the left). The twenty-three new or revised links include:

Avant Music News (from Mike Borella), Greg Sandow (music critic), Postclassic (the one and only Kyle Gann), European Jazz Research Network (as on the can), Women Write Music (C2oth composers, etc.), Cool Noise (indie and beyond), Kyle Gann (composer, critic, raconteur -- his home site), Christine Tobin (amazing jazz vocalist), Stefan Beyst (music critic), Adey Grummet (soprano supreme), Ben Wolfson (critical playlists), Gyorgy Ligeti (composer), Asaf Sirkis (drummer, composer), Electric Walrus (Alex Temple et al), London Musicians Collective (as on the can), Resonance FM (radio in resistance), Verge Music (alternative distributor), Classical CD Review (as on the can), Squidco (independent, unusual), Signal To Noise (improv magazine), Digitonal (electronica revisited), Suzanne Vega (folk hero), Onion Jack (indie indefinable), and The Curates Egg (vocal extravaganza).

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Saturday, September 13, 2003


At long last Grummetworld has been launched on an unsuspecting universe. NFE's (and, let's face it, every sensible person's) favourite Australian soprano, Adey Grummet, now has a site dedicated to her malleable and expansive talents in the realms of opera, contemporary music, writing, education and conducting. She's a pretty nifty poll-dancer too, but don't tell yer mum. The discography is rather bereft of on-links at the moment. But it is pleasing to see a page specifically dedicated to The Curate's Egg, a vocal ensemble often unfeasibly compared to the Medieval Babes, but with that all-important added ingredient sometimes known as talent. Adey's latest musical adventures are charted on the site... as encapsulated in an earlier NFE posting.

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You could almost taste the self-congratulation in the air as the Panasonic Mercury Prize cocktail set lauded 2003 winner Dylan "Dizzee Rascal" Mills' album 'Boy In Da Corner'. The enthusiasm was so great, I'd even bet that as many as 10% of them had actually listened to it once.

The gloves were certainly off this year. An even-less-imaginative-than-usual shortlist included Coldplay (who had the decency to question their inclusion, since 'wer're just a soft rock band'), Terri Walker (who?), Martina Topley-Bird (what?), Floetry (hmmnnn...), The Thrills (yawn), and the unspeakably execrable The Darkness -- all lycra and 'ironic' metalboy posing. At least Coldplay called in from Cancun, though Channel 4 were obviously keen to cut out the politics, too.

It's as if the promoters and judges had finally decided to respond to all the past criticism by saying: "You think it's bad now? You wait 'till you see what we've lined up this year. Even the avuncular Jools Holland will be left wooden and speechless by the bottom of this barrel." And no one can deny they pulled it off with style.

There were redeeming moments, of course. The hugely talented Eliza Carthy, from England's first family of 'Anglicana', performed a marvellous 'Worcester' (originally recorded in 1913) with her band. "Here's some folkin' tokenism," she announced. Never a truer word spoken that night. The audience went to sleep. Everyone knew she didn't stand an earthly. It was all too tasteful.

Radiohead , with many better things to do than be stood up by these monkeys, sent a video. Their 'Hail To The Thief' cut was so far to the left of the rest in terms of musical ideas, it was almost embarrassing.

Alto-sax innovator Soweto Kinch (the token nu-jazz-hip hop album) beamed, but his performance lacked the intricate energy that he would have worked up given a little more time. He knew he was destined to lose from one glance at the fawning drunks in the audience, never mind the 'jury'.

Meanwhile Lemon Jelly's re-make of the gloriously panasonic, psychadelic 'Ramblin' Man' provided a touch of light relief. Sadly, they've just cancelled their UK tour. And Athlete proved the surprise draw: articulate, playfully melodic (or "Supertramp-ironic, and much less rubbish", as somebody tactlessly put it) but nowhere near gauche enough for this lot.

And that was it. Not even a token 'contemporary classical' or mainstream jazz release this year. Simon Frith and co seriously reckon that this lot consitututed the best releases of the year? They really should get out more.

As I observed to the BBC in 2002: "If further proof was needed that the Mercury is a popularity prize rather than a serious award for musical talent it will come with the inevitable failure of either Joanna MacGregor or Guy Barker to win. In any sane universe they'd be so far ahead you wouldn't see the rest of the pack."

Mercury is now wholly off its trolly. But they needed a winner, and they probably chose the right one -- given that, mind-bogglingly, some of them thought The Darkness were 'up there'. Rascal's urban/hip-hop (don't call it Garage) is from 'da underground' (as he reminded us endlessly in his post-show interviews), and it's brimming with raw enthusiasm. But it's also probably nowhere near the best album to come out of that arena in 2003.

As Simon Singleton acutely remarks: "It's impossible to believe that the judging panel own one other garage record (apart from maybe The Streets), in the same way that they didn't own one other drum'n'bass record other than Reprazent when they won. 'Fix Up Look Sharp' aside, 'Boy In Da Corner' is a depressingly dull album, even by UK Garage's extremely low standards, and its Mercury Prize just stinks of middle-aged, middle class people tapping the young MC on the head and patronisingly saying, "Well done talented urban British man". There's been so many better UK urban albums this year and it just proves how well XL's marketing team have done in pushing the Rascal onto the mainstream."

Harsh, maybe. But closer to the truth than all the hype. Rascal has certainly changed the tenor of music discourse. And, as we are endlessly told, the less mainstream artists will experience an increase in sales from the publicity. But that doesn't alter the fact that the Mercury is a charade. Be ashamed, Panasonic. Be deeply ashamed...

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Friday, September 12, 2003


MP3s and other sound files of compositions created in response to September 11th at Kalvos & Damian. Also, courtesy of Joe Roberts on, 'Remember (09-11-2001)' This was written on the evening of 9/11 and posted on the NWC music forum that night.

"It's a short piece of less than three minutes, for string ensemble (Violin I, II, Viola, Violoncello, Contrabass). It wasn't meant to be a definitive musical work about 9/11. It expressed the shock and outrage felt in the immediate aftermath of those atrocities."

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Thursday, September 11, 2003


Several people have written in to flag up the project galvanised by Suzanne Vega and The Greenwich Village Songwriter's Exchange. 'The Vigil' is dedicated to the victims of 9/11, but it doesn't sell short the confusion and ambiguity that has flowed from those awful events. I haven't had a chance to hear it myself, but the review seems to paint an honest picture. The album can be purchased here.

"As it has for seemingly every human calamity since Vietnam and Bangladesh, the music industry rallied itself in the aftermath of 9/11, though with an often remarkable self-restraint (one shudders to think how the solemn dignity of 'America: A Tribute to Heroes' might have been tainted with but a little 'We Are the World' egotism). But while the half-life of the biz's conscience generally parallels its attention span, this human-scaled project--conceived by Suzanne Vega and performed by fellow members of her Greenwich Village Songwriter's Exchange--distinguishes itself by being historically retrospective and personally introspective at the same instant.

"Though time has blunted the raw rage, the perspectives are still powerful: Christine Lavin details the descending gloom of her neighborhood firehouse as it discovered the true toll of the day; Bob Hillman offers a surreal, bravely whimsical take on watching the towers fall over and over again on TV, and, on "Communists," a tongue-in-cheek lament for the idealistic foes of old; Ina May Wool's "Boxcutters and Knives" coolly ticks off the weapons of terror and counter-terror with a delicate delivery that only makes the irony all the more insistent. Vega's "It Hit Home" is a public confession of naked emotion and mixed feelings that's as powerful as it is typically straightforward. It's anthology as prism for intellect and emotion, detachment, and even pretense--a much-needed reminder that this tragedy was, and is, national, yet remains intensely personal. Proceeds will go to the Jeff Hardy Memorial Fund (Hardy was a songwriter--and brother of Songwriter Exchange founder Jack Hardy--who worked as a chef in the WTC and was killed on 9/11)." (c) Jerry McCulley and

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Today is an appropriate occasion to be reminded that composer Stephen McNeff's new work 'Names of the Dead' - which features the names of people killed (from all sides) in the first few weeks of the last Iraq War, set to music - makes its debut on 12 and 13 September 2003, at the Battersea Arts Centre (BAC) , Lavender Hill, London SW11. Shocking and moving, the piece is directed by BAC's Tom Morris and Mark Espiner, with The Duke Quartet and Adey Grummet (sop). A number of McNeff's other works have been developed here, including 'Passions' and 'The Babysitter' (John Hegley Songs).

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Vince Quaresima adds: Rauniot's WTC, "In Memory of the Innocents in USA and Afghanistan" (Synestesia MP3), and his own 'War Requiem For Our Time' with excerpts.

Can there be musical hope as we contemplate another 9/11 anniversary? It seems risky to say ‘yes’, but we have to face the choice. The unsettling confrontation of harmony and dissonance is about reconciling difference, not perpetuating a spiral of deadly conflict. The West Eastern Divan Orchestra is a good example. For the past five years conductor Daniel Barenboim has dedicated himself to the creation of a unique ensemble made up of young Israeli and Arab musicians. Fresh from this year’s workshop sessions in southern Spain, they came to the UK for the first time during the Proms to perform Mozart’s joyful triple concerto and Beethoven’s heroic Third Symphony. And they twinned the music of peace with a lively, hopeful literary and political exchange between Barenboim and Edward Said –- a Jew and a Palestinian seeking common, inhabitable ground and space for indivisible justice in a bitterly ruptured world. May it be so. Thanks to Random Walks.

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Last week two events marked out the special and creative place that the BBC Proms continues to occupy in British musical life. The biggest deal was jazz and soul singer Bobby McFerrin scatting one of the solo parts in his re-arrangement of Vivaldi’s 'Concerto in G Minor for Two Cellos'. He also conducted the normally staid Vienna Philharmonic in a programme including Mozart, Dukas and Prokofiev.

Tim Ashley wrote in The Guardian: "This might be profanity for some, though you can't help admiring McFerrin's voice as he swirls through falsetto coloratura or spins out Vivaldi's extended lines in a velvety bass-baritone.

"He included improvisations, combining wit with staggering technique and a phenomenal range of vocal tone colour. The audience roared for more, so he got everyone to sing Gounod's Ave Maria, while he vocalised the Bach prelude that forms its accompaniment. This brought the house down and even the VPO joined in the applause."

McFerrin tours Switzerland and Germany in September and October with the VPO and the Kirov Orchestra, before returning to the capital's Royal Festival Hall on 15 November 2003 for a headlining solo performance as part of the London Jazz Festival.

Not so brazenly revolutionary, but perhaps of longer term significance, was The Clerks' giving the world premiere of Robert Saxton's 'Five Motets', interwoven with Josquin des Pres' 'Missa Fortuna Desperata' and instrumental music by William Byrd and Christopher Tye.

Tim Ashley again: "Saxton draws on and expands the techniques of Renaissance church polyphony to explore images of Jewish exile, liberation and mysticism. Interspersed with Josquin's Mass, the whole asserts a spiritual universality that transcends creed."

Saxton's next performances are 'Songs, Dances and Ellipses' (paired with Judith Weir's 'String Quartet' at Musikhøst (Music Harvest Festival) on 13 November 2003, and 'Krystallen' at London's Warehouse.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2003


Now a fully fledged four-piece, Digitonal's first mini-album, '23 things fall apart', appeared this year on Toytronic Records. They are working towards a new form of live electronic music, often improvised, always wanting to be dynamic. Further recordings, remixes and live performances will surface throughout 2003. They are: Andy Dobson - production, keyboard and guitar; Sami Bishai - violin.

A H Pook: "An extremely well-composed pulse/gamelan piece quite in the tradition of Steve Reich's 'Music for 18 Musicians' era... Happily, Digitonal avoids straightforward plundering of Reich -- it's updated with some improv DSP squelches across the second half of the first movement and light electronic drumming throughout."

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[186.2] SQUIDS IN

Steve Smith introduces jazz drummer Susie Ibarra's first opera at the Squidco news area. Also check out 'Signal to Noise', the journal of improvised and experimental music. Ibarra's MP3s are here. Thanks to Erg for the tip... He seems to have been away since July. Back soon, I hope.

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One of the features of modern music journalism that Ian McDonald decried was the arrival of short, telegrammatic, industry-led ('puff') reviews, at the expense of real critical dissection and response to the music. The web, while proliferating material and pandering to the industry, has partly -- and surprisingly-- counteracted the '150 word culture' in two major ways. First, by expanding the space available for review activities (thus removing the pressure to describe without analysis); and secondly by permitting us to judge the longer term output of individual reviewers (including the perspectives and listening habits they have cultivated) in order to contextualise their remarks. Basically, it's easier and quicker to check back.

Of course the scope for inconsistency has also quadrupled... but that's the fun of the fair. On weblogs people tend to review stuff they like (or really hate). But you can quickly tell what other things they appreciate, how widely or narrowly they listen, whether particular labels seem to feed their reviewing habits, and whether those inevitable superlatives are matched by questioning and probing.

As in all media, much depends upon the reader's ability to read. I've been following The Wire since its inception, for example, and in going back to early issues I'm amazed to discover how my knowledge has been extended... those editions seem positively 'mainstream', where once they were 'out there'. One of the magazine's undeniable strengths has been its capacity to keep ahead of the game, to expand our listening and literacy. Interestingly, the current print issue is almost twice the length of the first, about half the type-size, and cram-packed with weird independent labels, new composers and ever-more angular artists. Its ability to infuriate remains in top gear, too. Check their archive, links and web excusive area (all displayed in non-grab javascript).

An altogether different and more traditional, 'old school' approach is that of on-line Classical CD Review. Their index and archives give an idea of the scope. They rely on a handful of writers who bring clear perspectives to the material. The overall emphasis is on "historic performances [with a] .. primary focus [on] orchestral, operatic and solo instrumental music."

Latest additions include: Two CDs of music of Varese, one with Boulez and the Chicago Symphony, the other with the Polish RSO conducted by Christopher Lyndon-Gee (DG & Naxos). Music of Japanese composer Yashiro - Piano Concerto and Symphony - played by Hirmoi Okada with the Ulster Orchestra conducted by Takuo Yoasa (Naxos). Charles Ives' Symphony No. 2, 'Washington's Birthday', and other works performed by the Northern Sinfonia conducted by James Sinclair (Naxos).

Some of the more contemporary voices are reflected in collections rather than dedicated CDs. The choice of Yashiro is interesting, as the peerless M&V Daily comments elsewhere: "Japanese composer Akio Yashiro (1929-1976) was rather a conservative figure on the twentieth century music scene, once denouncing John Cage's work at a public concert when Cage visited Tokyo, with the words 'this is no music'. (A fellow pupil of Qunihico Hashimoto in Tokyo was Toshiro Mayuzumi, destined for the front rank of the Japanese avant garde.)"

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Tuesday, September 09, 2003

[185.1] IAN MacDONALD, 1948-2003

Apparently it happened on 20 August, when no-one was looking. Like many, I was aware of his struggle with bouts of depression. But it still came as a profound shock to hear the other day that music critic Ian MacDonald had taken his own life at his home in Wotton-under-Edge. Puts all the media hype about David Blaine's braveheart 'above the below' into perspective, eh?

I never met Ian, but when you read his work you felt you knew him -- large heart, big brain, warts and all. He is (in that horrible phrase) 'best known' for his epoch making book on the Beatles, of course. 'Revolution In The Head' received rave reviews from fellow-critics who suddenly realised that it was possible to offer a serious musicological analysis and appreciation of a bunch of lads from Liverpool who tore chunks out of vernacular traditions and offered them back, Miles Davis-like, as a prolegomena to an entirely re-written script.

It is one of the ironies of Ian, and of the perspective he spawned at the New Musical Express, that he resented much of what followed in the wake of the Fab Four. He thought King Crimson were OK. He hated Yes. He was puzzled by Can and Faust, I think. He rightly smelled the empty bombast at the core of ELP.

But he loved the pastoral-tragedy that was the young and lost Nick Drake. Perhaps disturbingly and prophetically so, given their parallel endings (Drake's suicide was in 1974). For Ian was, in surprising ways, pretty conservative. And a pessimist, underneath all the fire and the energy.

It makes perfect sense, therefore, that he spent many hours labouring with his other great love - the music of Shostakovich. His project ('The New Shostakovitch', Fourth Estate, 1990; Northeastern University Press, 1990; Oxford University Press, 1991) was to defend the great Russian composer from the calumnies of the KGB, and from the withering attentions of critics who subsequently accused him of toadying to the Stalinist aesthetic in spite of reams of new evidence to the contrary.

I agree with MacDonald 100%. Whatever ambiguities were involved in Shostakovich's relationship to the State (and there were obviously many, given the historical contingencies that he lived with), his music speaks for itself. Painful, tragic, angry, sarcastic, joyous, melancholic and triumphal -- often all at the same time -- it was the most singular protest against the constraints of tyranny that the twentieth century could imagine. Even the famous Symphony that labelled itself as a response to 'rightful criticism'. Don't look at what it says on the can, said MacDonald, listen to the substance.

That principle marks 'Revolution In The Head' too. These aren't just 'pop songs', he avers, they are small masterpieces. Their originators heard more than even they knew in the heady musical ferment of the '60s.

I've never quite 'got' the Beatles in this way. Perhaps my devotion to the art of song has not been sufficient. But the attention was clearly worthy. And it trained a generation of people to ignore labels and to look for real worth in art and music. Dylan and Keats may not be comparable, but it is thanks to Ian more than C.P. Snow that we can consider them in the same breath.

Ian's latest book was a collection, The People's Music. Probably his last interview was with Beppe Colli, 5 August 2003, on the estimable Clouds and Clocks website (with homage to Ligeti).

So, farewell Mr MacDonald. We'll regard your words well. And above all the unfathomably wonderful sounds they point us to.


See alt.obituaries for a longer piece by Martin Anderson, focussing on Shostakovich. And Jim at (with fine on-links). Also Fred Mazelis et al on the Shostakovich debate. MacDonald edited, co-founded and contributed to Music Under Soviet Rule (especially a fine essay on the Georgian composer Kancheli.) See also alleged influences on Lennon's Revolution 9. It's all out there, waiting to be re-visited.

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Monday, September 08, 2003


The most comprehensive selection on the web can be found at Seen and Heard. Excellent writers, too. Part of the superlative MusicWeb site. The coverage of the BBC Proms season is especially worthwhile. Talking of which: if you are reading this before 15:50 GMT, you can still catch conductor Leonard Slatkin (on BBC Radio 4) trying to defend the now-indefensible, as he reviews the famous 'Last Night' - an institution which repels and attracts in equal numbers, I would have thought. It brings in the 'traditional' TV and radio audience, but conveys the impression to those outside the current bubble that classical music is the preserve of hooray henrys. A thorough overhaul is needed. There are many ways of speading the word which don't resort to flag-waving jingoism. (Incidentally, 'reform the Last Night of the Proms' doesn't feature in Google.)

Further to Ligeti's Violin Concerto at the Proms [original piece here]. A friend of Steve Cranfield's saw the performance from a choir seat behind the orchestra/soloist and had the following to say: "Yes, Tamsin Little was great and she did have a computer screen which changed as she played - it probably has a microphone and can tell when she's played the notes. Amazing! ... This was the best piece of the concert. I didn't stay for the Stravinsky: shocking some middle Englanders next to me. 'You're not staying for the 'Rite of Spring'?' 'No', I said, 'I want to carry the Ligeti around for a while.' " Courtesy of

"Verge is a distributor of alternative music culture. We have been in business since 1994. We carry a wide variety of contemporary and experimental music including jazz, free improvisation, industrial, ambient, experimental, audio art, twentieth century composition, avant-garde, electro-acoustic, as well as ethnomusiclogical recordings and world music. We will be posting monthly updates at this site with descriptions, around the beginning of each month."

The Odeon Cinema in Brighton is one of only five link-ups throughout the world slated to satellite link a live David Bowie concert (on 8 September 2003). Bowie remains a curiosity in modern music. A rock icon from the '70s who has stayed fashionable in po-mo circles today, he has continued his association with the artistic avant garde (the ICA, European expressionism, American minimalism) without ever being particularly radical himself. Some of his work (the 'Berlin period', the re-working of his Brian Eno collaboration, 'Low' by Philip Glass) retains an interest. But my abiding memory, unfortunately, is of the 'Glass Spider Tour' ('Let's Dance') in the mid-1980s -- one of the ultimate triumphs of empty spectacle over musical content, worsened by the logjam in the Wembley Arena parking lot. But perhaps I am being too harsh. Then again the Bowie site confirms one's worst expectations. Shop 'til you drop the chord...

Jeff Payton adds: "In the end 68 cinemas in 22 different locations took part. Maybe the Brighton media was late to catch up with this! You're right about Bowie artistically, though."

Sunday, September 07, 2003


Henry Potts maintains a site with selections of avant garde and progressive rock gigs in the London area. What drew it to my attention again was the reference to the London Musicians' Collective festival this weekend. A bit late now, but it is worth checking the outlandish LMC at any time of day or night, I find... They have links to sound samples. And of course there's Resonance FM, the highly necessary anti-dote to FM radio reductionism.


I’m old enough to remember the major precursors of agit-rock, Red Wedge (dear old Billy Bragg and pals) and Rock Against Racism. Fine campaigns, though much of the music passed me by… Musicians Against Nuclear Arms (an essentially classical outfit) was more my cup of ginseng.

These days political commitment in music isn’t so fashionable, unless it’s Macca cosying up to the neocons by helping to legitimate the bombing of Afghanistan after the tragedy of 9/11. But that’s not protest. It’s establishment toadying that wouldn’t recognise genuine concern if it bit it on the bank balance.

Anyway, I was mightily cheered up yesterday AM to nip down to the newsagents for my weekend fix of The Guardian and then to find myself listening to a free CD called 'The Big Noise'. Its purpose – summed up on the last cut by Bishop Desmond Tutu grooving down with Ladysmith Black Mambazo – is to support Oxfam’s, part of the estimable Trade Justice Movement.

The focus is on Africa, of course. The concession to populism is that LBM are really only there to give us the message at the end of the gig, and The Sakala Brothers (‘Masulani Nichito Zamolonda’) and Mali Music (‘Niger’, featuring Damon Albarn and the fabulous Afel Bocoum) are the last two tracks. So Afrika plays second fiddle again, even when it’s the main point of the thing.

Even so, the rest is fine fayre – quite contradicting the idea that politics and music always mix at the expense of the latter.

First off we have Coldplay’s ‘Politik’, I presume from the latest ‘A Rush Of Blood To The Head’ CD (2002), but I haven’t checked, so correct away. If it wasn’t for the slightly melancholic indie-boy vocals and twist-of-lemon guitar, the orchestral and electronica backdrops and post-5 min time check would have this dissed as prog. But thankfully (I guess) it has enough of the right ingredients to keep the Style Police at bay.

Coldplay are overrated by people whose ears just don’t get out enough. But, hell, if an album’s got to sell millions of copies and influence a blip of a generation, far better this than friggin’ Pop Idol.

Then there’s a live REM track, ‘The Lifting’, taken from The Museum of Television and Radio from May 2001 by Pat Carthy. It gathers momentum, this one. A bit of a cross between their ‘Losing My Religion’ and ‘What’s The Frequency Kenneth?’ phases, I’d say. Though later, evidently. But I’m no expert.

Radiohead, meanwhile, offer us a (rare) demo of ‘Where I End And You Begin’ which would make most people’s finished product sound like it had just come off the Barbie ‘cos the rain’s begun.

My admiration for Thom Yorke and co has not discovered its boundaries yet, and if this is a flavour of post-Amnesiac RH (I haven’t heard the new album), I can’t agree that it’s a reductive thing, or an unhelpful sell-out to rawkism, as has been suggested in some quarters.

Inter-alia, the alluring Chemical Brothers offer us ‘Otter Rock’ from 1996. Not much to say here… but it’s an intriguing prelude to Lemon Jelly’s typically joyous and cinematic symph-space-pop. This one’s ‘Ramblin' Man’ from their deservedly acclaimed new album.

This is what Polyphonic Spree could sound like if they weren’t up themselves in a self-deceiving sort of way. An unfair and tendentious observation, I concede. But I haven’t had my morning coffee yet.

Anyway, if you had time, I hope you got down to the paper shop straight away. This CD was definitely worth it. Support Make Trade Fair… and apologies to Onion Jack, whose review will be here in a couple of days. Honest.

Saturday, September 06, 2003


As we enter the final straits of the current Proms season, I'm reminded of a famous story from the past: Harrison Birtwistle's 'Panic' provoked more complaints after it was shown on BBC 1 (in the first half of the Last Night, 1995) than any other event in British television history.

" ' Panic' is quite a fun piece. It's got a drummer. It's got an upfront saxophone virtuoso. It's soundworld is not that extraordinary. Its simply when it's put in that context; you hear things like it at the cinema all the time. What would have happened if it had been a piece by Xenakis? The fuss was about something else. It wasn't a criticism of the piece.

"For me there is no more chance of setting out to please an audience than there is of setting out to shock it... I don't think that creativity is negotiable. It's for those who appreciate it. I can't be responsible for the audience. I'm not running a restaurant."

Friday, September 05, 2003

[179.1] QUOTA

"What I love in Coltrane's playing is the fluency, and the ideas. It's all so organic and primal - and that's what's lacking from the hi-tech, fast food music made now." -- Raoul Bjorkenheim (musician)

"If Lee Perry wants his mixing desk to take him over, is that so different from a Zen artist who becomes his brush so that a picture can paint itself?" -- Robin Newton (writer)

"Music does something beautiful that can't be expressed in words, which is why we do it... When I was younger I detested classical music, but now I've realised there's quite a lot going on there. If only that Mozart had had a good drummer." -- Keith Richards (yes, the Stoned one)

""This is my brand new song: lightning and thunder, hailstone, brimstone and fire, music, hurricane and tidal wave judgement. Mixed by earthquake, produced by flood." -- Lee 'Scratch' Perry (turntablist)

Thursday, September 04, 2003


Eigenradio plays only the most important frequencies, only the beats with the highest entropy. If you took a bunch of music and asked it, "Music, what are you, really?" you'd hear Eigenradio singing back at you. When you're tuned in to Eigenradio, you always know that you're hearing the latest, rawest, most statistically separable thing you can possibly put in your ear. Tune in and hear the future of music.

Andrew Clements in The Guardian on Heiner Goebbels' premiere, 'Aus einem Tagebuch', at the BBC Proms:

"The absence of cushioning strings gives the soundworld a penetrating edge. The wiry tangles of sounds are underpinned by the contributions from the keyboard: one of these is based upon the sound of an ashtray scraping on a steel guitar from Goebbels's theatre piece 'Max Black', while others are abstracted from his magical, Beach Boys-inspired 'Hashirigaki' or the percussive ricochets of 'Black on White'.

"There are the familiar excursions into brassy, jazzy territory, with sinuous oboe solos over what sounds like a sampled recording of a lion's roar (the percussion instrument, not the real thing). The conclusion is a brooding brass processional that finally gutters out in a flute solo. 'Aus einem Tagebuch' is as allusive and elusive as Goebbels's music always is, though it needs to be heard again in a concert hall where details don't disappear into the void."

Good news from fine and eclectic British jazz guitarist Deirdre Cartwright. I'd asked whether there were any plans to re-release the superb Guest Stars albums from the 1980s, which are currently only available on vinyl for dedicated record hunters.

Deirdre replies: "Weird coincidence, we had just got together and decided that we’ll be releasing a compilation CD next year and we hope to do a short UK tour to support this (probably May 2004). 20 years since the release of the first Guest Stars album! Not sure of release details /gig dates yet but we’re working on it."

She adds: "Incidentally, I’ll be in the studio in November recording new CD with 3/4 vocal numbers. Reflecting some of the material we previewed on the Looks like Jazz tour. Hope to do some live dates later on next year."

NFE reviews of Cartwright's three solo albums are also on Amazon. Watch this space for further information - and check out Deirdre's page and the other information on Blow the Fuse.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003


Asaf Sirkis & the Inner Noise play live at the Chester Jazz Festival, Alexander's Jazz Theatre, Chester CH1 2JG on 11th September 2003, starting at 9.30pm. Door £8. Box Office: 01244 340005. The innovative Eastern flavoured fusion band feature Steve Lodder on keyboards, Mike Outram on guitar, and leader Asaf Sirkis on drums. Their latest album, reviewed earlier on NFE, can be purchased from JazzCDs.

Tuesday, September 02, 2003


Last week I was fortunate enough to spend some time in St Ives, Cornwall, visiting the home and studio of sculptor Barbara Hepworth, and looking around the superb centenary exhibition at the Tate. Hepworth, who tragically died in a fire in 1975, drew much of her inspiration from the worlds of music and drama.

In particular, she designed the London set for Sophocles' Electra in 1951, and she executed both the costumes and the stage design for Michael Tippett's ground-breaking first opera, The Midsummer Marriage, which premiered at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, on 27 January 1955. Meirion Bowen has written about this particular collaboration.

As an aside, both Tippett and Hepworth were influences on the musical development of composer Priaulx Rainier, some of whose chamber works are available on Redcliffe Recordings.


Steve Cranfield on

"Tasmin Little played Ligeti's Violin Concerto at yesterday's Prom concert given by Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmoniker (31 August 2003). The fifth movement calls for a cadenza and she played her own, rather than the one that Sascha Gawriloff wrote for the premiere of the revised five-movement version, recycling material from an abandoned earlier first movement. Hers seemed to use material from all five.

"I [gather] the concert piece was recorded for future TV transmission on BBC 2, but whether it will include the Ligeti, I don't know. It would be iinteresting to see, as I gather she played the piece not from the score but from a computer screen."

Monday, September 01, 2003


Soprano Adey Grummet writes:

" 'Names of the Dead' is a Battersea Arts Centre Production (previous NFE details here) on 12 & 13 September, 20.00hrs. Composer Stephen McNeff writing for the Duke Quartet and me, directed by Mark Espiner and Tom Morris, a list of all the dead in the Iraq war. Beautiful, distressing and unadorned. Box Office 020 7223 2223. (Bring four friends and get your 5th ticket free! Quote " Names Email offer" at the time of booking. )

"Then there's 'The Silver Swan' with the Clod Ensemble, 20 & 21 September 2003, 19.45hrs, at the Royal Opera House Linbury Theatre. The madrigal we all know and love is blown open in a rather haunting and weird way. All Tickets: £5. Visit or call the ROH Box Office: 020 7304 4000

"The Shout's 'Deepl Blue' is the latest treasure chest from the most fantastic vocal ensemble I've ever banged on about. We're touring as follows:

Newcastle Oct 30
Southampton Nov 11
Brighton Nov 12
Cambridge Nov 17
London,The Spitz Nov 18
Bath Nov 19
London, NPG Nov 28

In December The Shout are back at the Drill Hall with another bash at the 'Lessons and Carols'. December 13, 14, 20 & 21. Full details here."

Effortlessly combining jazz, gospel, blues, contemporary, operatic, Indian and classical voices - The Shout do things choirs normally don’t do while pushing the boundaries of what a choir might be.

The Shout sound takes you from Bombay to Broadway, Africa to the American South, from classical to jazz and back again. It’s a signature sound that transcends the individual components.

The 16 strong a'capella choir - atheists, Christians (lapsed and committed), agnostics, Hindus & Jews - perform a series of songs for Christmas, carols and bizarre lessons.