Postcards from Amsterdam

Wednesday 10 September 2008

The Good Old New Musical Resources

Sunday 7 September 2008

He provided a new and visionary basis for musical exploration based in the unalterable facts of acoustics, a basis so broad that it opened up room in the Western tradition not only for musics of the rest of the world, but for compositional systems that have not even been conceived yet. If Cowell failed to fulfill his own potentials, it was because those potentials were too ambitious to be realized except by a succession of future generations. As a prophet he pointed the way to a new world he was not destined to live in….

For nearly 70 years Henry Cowell’s book New Musical Resources has inspired composers to explore new territory in the worlds of harmony and rhythm, and to discover connections between the two. Barely a week after uploading a PDF of Notations, UbuWeb has made a scan of Cowell’s complete book available as a 56 MB PDF download.

For a practical demonstration of Cowell’s musical thinking, American Mavericks is still hosting the Virtual Rhythmicon, which lets you play with the instrument yourself, or hear other people’s compositions. The original rhythmicon was built by Leon Theremin in 1931, following Cowell’s instructions. The electronic instrument was configured to play notes in the same harmonic and rhythmic ratios as the frequencies of the harmonic series.

*Knock, knock!* “Anyone in there?”

Friday 5 September 2008

No mate, the toilet cubicle locked itself. Christ, where do these morons come from?

Please Mister Please

Wednesday 3 September 2008

Brian Ferneyhough, Second String Quartet (1980). Arditti String Quartet.
(9’58”, 8.28 MB, mp3)

It’s been a long week.

Tuesday 2 September 2008


Tuesday 26 August 2008

John Cage and Alison Knowles, eds. Notations (Something Else Press, 1969).

Three used copies available on Amazon. From $298.00.

Now available as a 75-megabyte PDF, downloadable from UbuWeb.

Rejoice! Rejoice!

2000 Guitar Solos

Monday 25 August 2008

I love and hate the guitar. It’s the only instrument I more-or-less know how to play, and I’ve always wanted to write music for it. However, years of playing it left me jaded with its possibilities and feeling constrained by the limitations of my technique.
Attempts to apply other compositional techniques I’ve used on the instrument produced results I found too dull to pursue. Trying out my extended free improvisation chops seemed futile, given the plethora of far more talented and imaginative guitarists out there. For a while I gave up on the instrument, but found that the need to compose for guitar wouldn’t go away.
2000 Guitar Solos is an extensive series of compositions in progress, that aims to map comprehensively one section of the guitar fretboard: a kind of ‘Return To Zero’ before approaching the instrument once again with any creative intention. In writing these pieces I am learning to embrace the guitar’s inherent qualities while at the same time crushing its accumulated rhetoric and mystique.
The pieces’ conscious antecedents are the exhaustive permutational compositions of Tom Johnson, Tom Phillips‘ paintings of paint companies’ colour catalogues, and John Cage‘s act of making a detailed drawing of a tape recorder he was about to work with for the first time.

The series acquired the name 2000 Guitar Solos because it was begun in that portentous year, 2000, but as the compositional process became more systematised I decided to aim for a total of 2,000 pieces. In fact, I have now sketched 2,556 solos, and from time to time return to the series to write out another batch of neat, final versions.
The beginning of the series, some 120 solos, was exhibited at TCB Art Inc. in Melbourne in 2003. Their simple, linear, obsessive nature makes them as suitable for display as ‘visual music’ as they are unprepossessing for public performance.
In addition to the multiple sheets of music, two other elements made the exhibition. On the wall facing the solos was a large poster printed with The Obsolete Guitar manifesto. Also in the exhibition space was a chair and a guitar, ready for use.
To help promote the show I made up hundreds of small, photocopied flyers, which took advantage of some other joker called Ben Harper who happened to be touring through town at about the same time.

Whenever 2000 Guitar Solos, or any part from it, is exhibited there should always be a guitar and a chair present with the sheet music to reassure punters that these pieces can, nay, should be played.
Whenever possible, I would come into the gallery for an hour or so, pull the chair up to a random section of wall and start to play, as an adjunct to and extension of the visual display. These appearences were never announced in advance, so that it was a matter of chance whether or not visiting punters could hear as well as see the work.
Like I said, the music is unprepossessing, and these somewhat furtive performances reflected the internalised nature of the musical results.

Please Mister Please

Sunday 24 August 2008

Talking Heads, “Who Is It?” (1975).
(2’19”, 3.17 MB, mp3)

It resumes. Not normal, but service.

Sunday 24 August 2008

I’ve just joined NetNewMusic, the networking site for “the world of non-pop, contemporary classical/indy/avant-whatever musics”. My profile page is a bit daggy right now but give me a few quiet days at work and I’ll start getting amongst it. At least there’s a few streaming mp3s up there for now.
The slightly-revamped main website now has a page dedicated to writing, including a few of my articles available online.
Name and subject indices have been updated to 12 August 2008. About time too.

The Obsolete Guitar

Thursday 21 August 2008

It is time to question whether a bipedal, breathing musician with binocular vision and a 1400cc brain is an adequate biological form. Musicians’ survival parameters are very slim: they can survive only weeks without food, days without alcohol and minutes without nicotine. Technologies are better life-support systems for our image than for our guitars: IMAGES ARE IMMORTAL, GUITARS ARE EPHEMERAL. The guitar finds it increasingly difficult to match the expectations of its images. In the realm of images, the physical guitar’s impotence is apparent. THE GUITAR NOW PERFORMS BEST AS ITS IMAGE. The guitar becomes situated beyond its lacquer. The guitar is neither a very efficient nor very durable structure. It malfunctions often and fatigues quickly; its performance is determined by its age. It is susceptible to muzak and is doomed to a certain and early death. Musicians mostly operate with Absent Guitars: what it means to become-guitar is no longer the state of being immersed in musical memory but rather in being reconfigured IN THE REALM OF THE IMAGE. The musician’s absence is augmented by the fact that the guitar functions habitually and automatically. AWARENESS IS OFTEN THAT WHICH OCCURS WHEN THE GUITAR MALFUNCTIONS. It is only when the guitar becomes aware of its present position that it can map its post-evolutionary strategies. AS SUPPOSED FREE AGENTS, THE CAPABILITIES OF BEING A GUITAR ARE CONSTRAINED BY HAVING A GUITAR. THE GUITAR IS OBSOLETE.

Please Mister Please

Friday 15 August 2008

And, “Skip 1” (2001?).
(1’49”, 2.69 MB, mp3)

The mummified corpse of Jeremy Bentham reads inter-office emails.

Friday 15 August 2008

Kyrgyzstan has the world's largest natural growth walnut forest.

Now, more than ever

Wednesday 13 August 2008

Great crowds at the Olympic games, but not of people.

Diogenes, 4th Century BC.
Nearly four years old, and the fifth post on this blog. (If you’re reading the comments don’t get too excited. Plans to make Under Siege 3: Plane Danger fell through some time last year.)

The Buddha died a natural death.

Tuesday 12 August 2008

In case you’re worried, he’s saying “Tea Tree Plaza”.

Sunday 10 August 2008

Things are going to be quiet around here for a week or so. In the meantime I’ve opened space for advertising, so please enjoy this infomercial from the blog’s new sponsor.
If you’re in Adelaide I heartily endorse the services of Joseph’s Beauty Centre, although I think they now only have the one branch on North Terrace.