Sir Gibbs, “People Grudgeful” (1968).
(2’20”, 2.1 MB, mp3)
I’m thinking about music made by visual artists. It’s so interesting, and seems to shed so much light on their artistic thought and methods. Jean Dubuffet, Marcel Duchamp, Martin Creed, those fluxus guys.
I’m thinking about visual art made by composers. It’s a struggle to think of anything really interesting, that extends or adds a new dimension to their body of work. Arnold Schoenberg, Carl Ruggles, it’s hard to see any connection with their music. It seems like the paintings would have happened anyway, with or without a head full of musical thinking attached.
Of course I can think of one exception straight away, but otherwise it looks like art has a lot to say to music, but music doesn’t have a whole lot to say to art. Once again I’m repeating Morton Feldman’s question: is music an artform? Or is it all just
Aldo Clementi, “Otto Variazioni” (2002). Geoffrey Morris, guitar.
(4’57”, 7.4 MB, mp3)
I missed the Gerhard Richter show at Tate this winter, but was lucky enough to catch it on my holiday in Berlin. One of his grey monochromes was in the show, something like (or exactly) this one:
Michelle Vaughan declares Richter’s grey monochrome superior to this grey monochrome by Henry Codax, recently discussed by Greg Allen:
For the sake of competition, I’d like to throw in another contender that I spotted on the way back to my hotel after
a long night on the booze taking in the Richter show, on the platform of Hermannplatz U-Bahn station:
The Richter is still a better painting, but I’m not sure how well the Codax would stack up against it when compared in reality.
I like those artists who can focus on just one thing for the rest of their lives, working this one particular angle without ever running out of things to say (Feldman, Morandi).
I like those artists who refuse to be pinned down to one style or subject, letting their curiosity take them into new creative territories (Tenney, Richter).
There’s a bunch of stuff I need to catch up on but first I have to talk about the Charlemagne Palestine and Oren Ambarchi gig at Cafe Oto last week. I really have a problem with this type of “hey let’s take two musicians who have never worked together before and y’know like throw them together and then sit back and like watch the Magic totally happen” gig. It’s too much like there’s a curator in the background hoping to pick up the kudos if it somehow works. Never mind; I fuelled up on Beerlao from the cornershop and went anyway, largely because I had no idea what was going to happen.
Yeah yeah, there were the obligatory stuffed toys and glasses of brandy, but the music had to be different. For starters, the piano at Oto ain’t no Bösendorfer Imperial. The evening began while the punters were filing in, with Palestine playing a steadily-building tidal wave of noise from his laptop. For the concert proper he played with his distinctively animalistic mix of single-mindedness and capriciousness. In between the expected periods of drumming away at sustained harmonic intervals on the piano, there were more laptop collages, occasional extended drones on cognac glasses, and in one or two places some La Monte Young/Terry Riley type singing.
Ambarchi, as he freely admitted afterwards, really had no idea what to expect coming in to this setup. His response to being put in this situation is what made the gig work so well. Both experienced musicians, displaying all the craft they’ve spent years developing, refused to bend too far from what they do best. Ambarchi would build up layers of amplifier hum and electrical crackle under Palestine’s piano, and then seize upon the slightest pause and shift the frequencies and harmonics, forcing Palestine to retreat momentarily, and then start over on a new tonal centre.
Throughout the gig Ambarchi kept provoking Palestine, most entertainingly when the older man at the piano tried to play conductor, barking at Ambarchi “Drums!… Drums!… Drums!” The latter took his sweet time about it, before finally reaching over to gently tap one of his cymbals.