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

Thursday 10 January 2008

Brr my NUTS!!  ciao

I have a feeling we’re not in Crouch End any more.

Wednesday 9 January 2008

Soon after arriving home from Australia I caught a few minutes of a TV show on one of the more obscure digital TV channels available in London. An American couple were walking lost around some empty streets in – a town. (I’m tempted to say an inner suburb, but even that statement is too revealing.)
According to the story, the couple had just been married in America and had come over to London to spend their honeymoon in Crouch End – you know, the same way tourists flock to New York to go sightseeing in Queens. Even though this was one of those cheap TV programs which always frames the actors’ heads as tightly as possible, and even though I’ve only been to Crouch End once, and then at nighttime, I instantly recognised where these two were; and it wasn’t Crouch End.
They were in Melbourne. North Carlton, to be precise. My girlfriend’s from south of the river and so thinks it was Middle Park, but I’m feeling cocky and reckon it was around Station, Fenwick, and Canning Streets. Something about the houses, the light, the width of the streets, immediately made the place unmistakable, even when partially glimpsed in the background.
I wonder if anyone in Britain would have been fooled by the substitution? No Londoner would have, even if they had never been near Crouch End. It’s possible, however, that they might assume it was filmed somewhere else in England. An American wouldn’t have a chance in picking this deception.
In time you come to know a city the way you come to know a face. It’s not just in the skylines, or the streetscapes, but in the way the people inhabit their space. On another TV show years ago, an Australian documentary, a friend and I watching immediately called out “Melbourne” when the film cut to a brief shot of a group of people walking down a street. The narration later proved us right: it was something about the way they were casually drifting off the pavement onto the street itself that couldn’t happen in any other large Australian city (except Adelaide, but that city always gives itself away.)
With the increase of Hollywood-funded filmmaking in Australia, these places have been turning up more and more often, the streets and buildings as actors, playing a fictional role. Sometimes they play disguised under heavy make-up – I once watched a corner of the University of Adelaide transformed into a Parisian street for a TV commercial – but often they appear as they are, expecting the viewer to mentally substitute the fictional location for the real (or is it the other way around?)
For the non-Australian majority, these urban locations act effectively as generic Western cities, shot without any readily identifiable landmarks in sight. Their acting function is less as a supporting role, and more as an extra, faceless and interchangeable. If Peter Jackson made New Zealand a stand-in for the otherworldly, then Australian cities have been made a stand-in for the real world.

(Crossposted at Sarsaparilla.)

Vaucanson’s Duck

Sunday 6 January 2008

Back to Melbourne again for a moment: while I was there I got to see the opening night of Vaucanson’s Duck, a sound installation and music series at Bus gallery. Three of the four rooms in the gallery were filled with a diverse array of automatic instruments built by Ernie Althoff, Robbie Avenaim, and Dale Gorfinkel. The instruments were built out of deconstructed musical instruments and found objects, powered by repurposed record players, cassette recorders, and other electric motors.
The opening night of the exhibition became a three-hour performance, with the musicians switching instruments on and off, making small adjustments, transforming the exhibition into something between an enormous sound sculpture and a spatialised orchestra of automata. Over the course of the exhibition, each day ended with an evening performance in which a guest musician was invited to duet with the installation – sometimes acoustic, sometimes electronic, sometimes beyond category.

This is what I miss about Melbourne’s music scene. While it can be incestuous and isolated (it’s a financial and logistical hassle to get in a visitor from another state, let alone another country,) it consciously maintains a vitality that often seems lacking in London. At times London feels too complacent, a victim of its size and its history.
What’s notable about Vaucanson’s Duck isn’t just the intensity and commitment demanded by the program (a different gig each night for two straight weeks!), it’s the attempt to present a season of new music with no easily identifiable genre. While London new music events so often evince a need to identify with a tradition in folk, free jazz, or classical music, the musicians in the Melbourne program typically work in ways that transcend typical stylistic boundaries – as shown in the web discussion. I’m familiar with most of the musicians in the series, and yet I could not predict what kind of performance some of them would give on the night.
This is by no means the only time such a series of events has been staged in Melbourne in recent years; nor are these events typically attached to any large, public institutions. I’ve made a sort of new year’s resolution to seek out more obscure gigs in London to find out whether this city truly lacks such an eclectic new music culture, or that it has simply managed to elude me for so long.

Magic happens.

Saturday 5 January 2008

Another year, another Magic 1278 Listener Advisory Board Survey. Visit their home page and click on the Advisory Board link in the bottom right corner to join in the fun.
The golden rule still applies: one dud song amongst a sea of gems, including Lobo’s “Don’t Expect Me To Be Your Friend”, which is just about the most Magic-esque song in the world. This month seems to have a sub-theme of semi-forgotten cover versions.

Gypsy Woman – Brian Hyland*
To Whom It Concerns – Chris Andrews*
Clap Your Hands – Beau-Marks*
Blueberry Hill – Fats Domino
Theme From “A Summer Place” – Percy Faith*
But I Do – Clarence “Frogman” Henry
Young Love – Tab Hunter*
Guantanamera – Sandpipers*
Nowhere Man – The Beatles
Yesterday When I Was Young – Roy Clarke*
What The World Needs Now Is Love – Jackie DeShannon
It Takes Two – Marvin Gaye & Kim Weston
Happy Birthday Baby – Tony Christie*
(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher & Higher – Rita Coolidge*
Room Full Of Roses – Mickey Gilley*
Don’t Expect Me To Be Your Friend – Lobo**
Clancy Of The Overflow – Wallis & Matilda*
Here You Come Again – Dolly Parton
Emotion – Samantha Sang
Route 66 – Natalie Cole
Saving All My Love For You – Whitney Houston
Ebony Eyes – Everly Brothers*
Forever Autumn – Justin Hayward
Lay Back In The Arms Of Someone – Smokie*
Montego Bay – Bobby Bloom

Please Mister Please

Friday 4 January 2008

The Go-Betweens, “People Say” (1978).
(2’40”, 2.63 MB, mp3)

Winter Music

Wednesday 2 January 2008

It’s not that I like summer; it’s just that I still can’t fully commit to the idea of winter happening at this time of year. Give it another year or two and the seasons will change back the way they always were, my brain keeps saying.
In an attempt to get into the mood, I’ve offered up a piece to Daniel Wolf at Renewable Music, for his Winter Album, a collection of short compositions for piano. Also featured are pieces by Dennis Báthory-Kitsz, Jon Brenner, Steed Cowart, Elaine Fine, Hauke Harder, Jeff Harrington, Aaron Hynds, Lloyd Rodgers, Jonathan Segel, and Charles Shere – most of whom have probably got a better handle on this whole “winter” concept than I have. I wonder if I still lived in Australia, whether I would, or should have contributed at all!
My piece, Redundens 6i, is the latest in an ongoing series of works I return to every now and then. This new instalment seemed brief, static, and cold enough to fit the Winter bill. I’ve started a short page about this piece, and the series in general, which might get expanded over the next few months.
They’re saying it might snow tomorrow.
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