Nightmares in demography

Wednesday 9 February 2005

Having gone off on that brief frolic about Sorabji the other day, and while thinking about middle-aged guys fretting in public about who listens to classical music, I remembered a recent review by David Hurwitz at Classics Today about a CD of music by Havergal Brian. Brian was a self-taught composer from a working-class background who was never fully recognised by his peers, let alone an audience, during his lifetime but has since attracted a small but (overly?) enthusiastic following. It was some of these fans Hurwitz encountered when queuing at the cash register fifteen years ago, waiting to buy the first CD release of Brian’s monumental “Gothic” Symphony:
Standing in line before me was the New York chapter of the Havergal Brian Society. There were about 10 of them, average age about 70, men with bald scalps and lanky shoulder-length white hair hanging limply in the latest Benjamin Franklin style. All wore thick glasses, and a few had conditions that I thought had been cured by the turn of the last century: goiters, a harelip or two, and various poxes and skin diseases. None had credit cards, or a majority of their teeth, but most had, to put in kindly, olfactorily obvious personal hygiene issues.

He left the shop and bought it by mail-order. If you’re interested, you can get it for about 18 bucks at JB or “you can order on line and never be seen with it in public.”

Trailer: Who Killed Classical Music Again?

Sunday 6 February 2005

Coming up this week. BLAD dives willy-nilly into the issue exercising minds all over western civilisation: the fate of classical music. A genre which has died almost as many deaths over the last five hundred years as hip-hop has in the last five. There will be tears, recriminations, baseless pontificating, and a sigh of relief.
To tide you over, Kyle Gann plays coroner…
Nobody here had anything to do with classical music getting waxed. It was a suicide… Tried to starve itself to death. A tiny, self-imposed diet of the same German and Russian food over and over. Cholesterol in the high 600s. Didn’t want to grow. Refused to eat anything new. Kept trying to pretend the 20th century never happened. Severe personality disorder. It never established any roots here anyway — still obsessed with the old country, and acted so hoity-toity to cover up its insecurity. Suicide was the only way it could save face.

Fun with Farsi, Pun with Parsi

Sunday 6 February 2005

In my extensive research of that last posting I had to look up ‘Farsi’, to make sure I wasn’t confusing it with ‘Parsi‘. On the way I found the wonderful site farsijoke.com, for all the Farsi jokes your funnybone can handle. WARNING: looking at this site may break your monitor, or your brain.
I only remembered Parsi because it was the religion of Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji (1892-1988)*, the loony British* composer of the notorious Opus Clavicembalisticum – a four-and-half hour long work for piano of ridiculous difficulty – and other works of similar dimension and complexity. Many passages of his keyboard music (for two hands) require the performer to read and play four, five or even, in one case, seven staves at a time.
In the 1930s he withdrew his music from publication, dismayed by musicians’ inability to play it accurately, and guaranteeing his obscurity, albeit with a growing cult following. He resented people making superficial inquiries about himself or his music, regarding them as intrusions on his work. He would also get very cross if you called him Leon Dudley**. On the other hand it is unlikely he would deign to meet you, given that he seldom left his castle in Dorset, with its sign on the gate:

Visitors Unwelcome.
Roman Catholic Nuns in Full Habit May Enter Without An Appointment.

* “TO THOSE WHOM IT MAY CONCERN, IF ANY, AND OTHERS WHO MIND ANYBODY’S BUSINESS BUT THEIR OWN. Dates and places of birth relating to myself given in various works of reference are invariably false.”
** “Certain lexographical canaille, one egregious and notorious specimen particularly, enraged at my complete success in defeating and frustrating their impudent impertinent and presumptuous nosings and pryings into what doesn’t concern them, and actuated, no doubt, by the mean malice of the base-born for their betters, have thought, as they would say, to take it out of me by suggesting that my name isn’t really my name.”

Does this count as Binge or Purge? (Summer Fun Pak*)

Wednesday 2 February 2005

It’s summer, so I haven’t been going anywhere or doing anything. It’s too hot. At least I expect it’s too hot, because since new year I’ve been hiding in the dark under the bed with some 1.5 litre bottles of Kirov and a pallet of Tiny Teddy biscuits, waiting until it’s finally March. But I did find a power point for my laptop, which means I cd fritter away my downtime tinkering with the layout of the site. So in the meantime you can…
1. make your own joke about a clueless rock dude whose name is “Bassman”;
It’s partly because I’ve already mentioned Dimebag Darrell getting shot onstage, and partly because rather than write my own stuff I’d prefer to swipe it from No Rock&Roll Fun, or any website that updates daily. How on earth do they manage it? Do they all have servans? What with all the hours I have to spend staring into the bottom of bottles and testing the patience of phone sex operators I have barely enough time to brush my teeth once or twice a week, let alone write rubbish for this stupid site. Anyway, here’s the quote.
Paul Bassman, manager of Damageplan, is still puzzled about the whole thing. “How this man got onstage without encountering security is the most puzzling question,” Bassman says.
That’s right, I’m sure nobody has ever been at a gig before where people have ever got on the stage, run about, hugged the bass player, sung two lines of a song, kissed the singer, trod on the effects pedal, danced about like a pansy-boy or simply dived off the stage back into the crowd. It just never happens, does it?
2. make your own joke about this kid getting wedgied to death next day at school;
The BBC has reported that a 12 year old boy has discovered five mistakes in the latest edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica.
Lucian, who attends Highgate Junior School, spends several hours a week reading through the encyclopaedia’s 32 volumes.
3. amaze your friends with your ingenious plan to drive McDonalds out of business;
Just eat lots and lots of Happy Meals! Next time you rock up to CERES with a gob full of french fries you can look your feral friends in the eye and tell them you’re sticking it to The Man because Maccas loses money on every one sold. Of course if they do go out of business, where is there left where you can still score a good old brown paper bag?
… if you are on a high street and feel heart palpitations, a shortness of breath and an extreme feeling of anxiety, pop into McDonald’s, tell the waitress you are having a panic attack and a staff member will immediately issue you with a paper bag in which to breathe.
These and eight other reasons to stop worrying and love the Ron at AK13.
4. not bother reading The Age;
It’s only just February and they’ve published their third column for the year about how Melburnians are obsessed with coffee.
5. suck all the fun out of people’s inane prattle about the Oscars.
Tell them the best film award can be determined by a formula. Download the spreadsheet. Hand out printouts of the spreadsheet to your coworkers. Explain the calculations to them. Mark the important parts with a highlighter pen. Show no interest in telling them what’s actually going to win this year.
Now for no reason at all I’m going to post a picture of an angry baby and then I’m done. Enjoy.

* Does not contain actual fun.

Filler by Proxy IX: Something’s Gotten Hold Of My Brain

Monday 17 January 2005

Why didn’t anyone tell me* that Marc Almond was in a coma last year? I know, you’ll just say “Because, Ben.H, we know you don’t give a shit about Soft Cell, let alone Mr Almond’s solo career,” but that doesn’t mean I’d have laughed dismissively at the news of his terrible motorcycle accident. Thankfully, he’s getting better. Anyway, I’m only mentioning it now becuase of his miraculous parrot-assisted recovery, as reported at No Rock & Roll Fun:
The range of benefits of keeping a pet bird have expanded by one, with Marc Almond revealing that he was roused from his coma by someone playing him the CD that he usually played to his parrot. We’re not entirely sure why he made a specific compilation for his parrot, and we don’t know what was on it – Chicks on Speed, we suppose. We’re also not sure who had the idea of playing Marc the parrot’s CD – we like to think it was maybe the parrot – but it worked.
Athough he’s recovering, Almond has got a way to go – in addition to the physical injuries, he’s discovered his childhood stammer has returned, and his hair has, Leland Palmer** style, turned grey overnight.
* Yes, Australian celebrity babe ASCII art.
** Or maybe Leland Palmer.

Filler by Proxy VI: No such thing as coincidence

Wednesday 22 December 2004

Greg Sandow muses on the simultaneous obituaries for poet Jackson Mac Low and ex-Pantera guitarist Dimebag Darrell. After playing Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon for a few paragraphs he describes his admiration for Mac Low’s (and John Cage’s) work in a way I can agree with but have never explained so well:

One feeling I’ve long gotten from work like Cage’s or Mac Low’s is peace. But not just any kind of peace — not, for instance, a warm and fuzzy peace, full of love, hope, and goodwill. It’s more profound than that; the peace that comes from lack of need or striving.

And from there he looks for, and finds, the common thread which made him react to both deaths.
Both, in fact, oppose the mainstream, metal noisily, Mac Low’s more quietly. Metal rages angrily at normal life; the relationship of Mac Low’s kind of art to normal life is less direct. And yet it’s strong…. After World War II… meaning in normal life was hard to find. Hence rebellion, and also modernist art, which didn’t look for normal meaning.
More about Jackson Mac Low, including some of his poems, interviews and sound recordings.

Swings and Roundabouts

Sunday 12 December 2004

On the one hand, Delta Goodrem is leaving Australia to live in the U.S., from where hopefully she can devote less time to perpetually saturating every Australian media outlet* while simultaneously bleating about how the media shd respect her privacy. Having now stiffed in the U.K. and exhausted the goodwill of her compatriots, she thinks she can still evade the Pepsi Curse.
On the other hand, Leo Sayer is still threatening to move to Australia next year to relaunch his music career. For those who haven’t heard this choice quote:

In Australia they still want heroes. They are looking to me to teach their kids knowledge and wisdom.

Still, better him than Delta, I guess. And you have to admit “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing” is pretty catchy.
* Including this one, dammit.

Whack the masonite up on the pool table and get yer tits out

Saturday 4 December 2004

You people can count yourselves lucky. For a while there I had shut down the Rob Roy Hotel without even realising it. Apparently they couldn’t make enough money out of having live bands play there. I attribute this to me not going there even once all year on the pretext of hearing some music but really ending up getting blind on $2 black sambucca shots, trying to rehang the op-shop art on the walls and then groping some poor girl while she’s trying to talk to her boyfriend. So naturally their bottom line suffered when I took my talent for making my own fun elsewhere, and I was saddened but not surprised to hear of the venue’s demise.
Of course it could all be part of the continuing fallout from Lion Nathan’s plan a few years back to pay ridiculously large sums of money for inner city pubs in a vain attempt to get people to drink Tooheys.
Walking past the corner of Brunswick and Gertrude with the pub dark and quiet was like a return to an older Fitzroy that most resisdents pretend to have known and loved. The effect was set off nicely by a large-waisted, short-legged man in track pants across the street who had straddled the fence around Atherton Gardens and was complaining loudly about the effect this posture was having on his balls.
I had high hopes that we might see a return of the ‘exotic dancers’ to the back bar of the Rob Roy, but there’s been a change of heart by the management and the bands are back just as abruptly as they left, so the gentrification process of Gertrude Street has taken a decisive step sideways. In fact, City City City are playing there tonight and I totally intend going to see them, except I’ve just realised they’re probably on right now as I type this. Besides, a friend’s just given me a Target shopping bag full of Wesley Snipes videos so I don’t think I’ll be going anywhere for a while.

Filler by Proxy V: The Ten Greatest Albums of All Time (inspired by Rolling Stone Magazine)

Tuesday 26 October 2004

According to Useful Noise. Yes, I’m trying to build up posting momentum here. The account of the Newcastle adventure is taking a little longer than expected to write up, owing to me repeatedly breaking down and weeping openly over the keyboard, which hinders my progress.
I was going to apologise about not updating this for a while and launching into some fanciful cock-and-bull story about why I’ve been absent, but I figure you’re all mature enough to understand that when dealing with shonky amateur operations like this one you have to take what few cheap giggles you can get and be grateful for a few minutes’ distraction from your job and/or masters thesis. I forsee that this blog will perpetually be caught in a boom-bust cycle of updates.

How I went to Newcastle full of dreams and returned a broken shell of a man with nothing to show for it but some new enemies and my host’s house keys

Sunday 10 October 2004


You may have inferred, correctly, from the previous post that I’m back home. The jaunt to Newcastle was a mixture of good and bad: foremost in the latter category is this case of killer flu I picked up in the filthy weather they had up there for the first few days, and which is now lingering into its second week.
Expect a detailed description over the next day or two, but for now I’d like to thank the Electrofringe people for having me up there, and especially Aaron and his housemates for putting me up in such comfort and style during my stay, and letting me walk off with the key to their front door. God bless you all.

Jumbled in the Yooralla box part 2: The heat-death of the 60s universe edition

Monday 13 September 2004

For those who came in late, read the first installment, which includes the origin myth of the Yooralla Box (as told to Maurie Fields).

The First Great Rock Festivals of the Seventies

Now that CD technology is fast approaching its sunset years, it’s safe to say that humanity will never solve the problem of how to design a workable triple-LP gatefold sleeve. This particular specimen has ‘2XX‘ liberally scrawled over it in texta (how it escaped from Canberra remains a mystery) and is held together with red gaffer tape after having its spines broken by a generation of hairy disc jockeys in need of a bong break folding the thing backwards trying to find the side with “Whippen Post” on it. For a moment I thought they’d stuck parts of the cover back on upside-down, but closer analysis revealed that the various panels were intentionally printed in different orientations, inviting you to pick it up the wrong way round and have one record plummet to the floor.
It’s hard to not be touched by the optimism of this album’s title: apart from Sunbury, what other rock festivals from the 70s can you think of? What we have here is one LP of the Atlanta Pop Festival followed for no particular reason by two LPs of the Isle of Wight Festival. But dig the bands, man! Mountain! Cactus! Poco! The Chambers Brothers! Thinking positively, unadulterated slabs of sometime popular culture like this help remind you that the 60s were no different from subsequent decades inasmuch as they pretty much entirely sucked. And the band list still isn’t as bad as the lineup for Woodstock.
Speaking of which, this does have what turned out to be Jimi Hendrix’s last gig on it, and you can hear it without first having to sit through Kris Kristofferson, David Bromberg and a 20-minute jam by Ten Years After while cowering in a muddy field packed with stinky hippies.
Sleeve quote: “‘I was there,’ said a girl from Montreal. ‘I know I was. And I remember getting into lots of music. But, oh wow. What really happened? That’s what I’m still trying to figure out. What really happened when it was so much of everything.'” Someone thought this was worth printing on the cover. It’s good to know that even the first generation of hippies had a talent for self-parody. The daggy albums with sleeve notes trying to be cool are never as funny as the ones which really were considered cool at the time.
Thurston Potential: 20 to 1. Too much Hendrix on this album to be undervalued in itself, but then maybe it’s time for a Ten Years After revival.
Disc-O-Tech #2
An album that triggers a rollercoaster ride of emotions before you even drop the needle on it, even if you like disco. Hideous generic cover with no visibly black people on it – bad! Wait, it’s on Motown – good! Wait, it was made in 1975 – bad! A mixture of nonentities and 60s singers whose best years are behind them. They all sound like they’re trying very hard, but that is not a good thing when it comes to soul music. Nothing here sounds even half as funky as “Jive Talking”, which is a real worry. One track has the temerity to start with an acoustic guitar, which made me think for one sickening moment I was going to hear Richie Havens going disco.
There’s one exception. The other day when I was watching Rush Hour 2 on telly and Chris Tucker said that Lionel Richie hadn’t been black since the Commodores, I didn’t fully appreciate what he meant until I heard “I Feel Sanctified” on this record. You listen to this and can’t believe it’s the same guy who ten years later is moping through ballads like a suntanned John Oates with a predilection for stalking blind women in music videos.
Sleeve quote: “A Collection of Classic Motown Songs and Sounds for Dancing in the Streets… and Elsewhere.” Lies! None of these songs are classics, except maybe that Commodores track. What’s worse, they sneakily imply that “Dancing in the Street” is on the record. Of course, it is not. But then, they were so ashamed of this deception they printed it in tiny text at the bottom of the cover, in writing smaller than the actual naff track listing above it. On the positive side, you can dance to this album, even in the street; although you may feel a bit foolish doing it if you’ve moved to Caroline Springs. Not sure how ‘sounds’ are distinguished from ‘songs’: I’ve listened closely and can’t hear any classic Motown sounds, like people snorting coke or backing singers blowing Berry Gordy Jr.
Thurston Potential: 6 to 1, but anyone who tells you that mid-70s Motown has the funk is full of shit.
The Bay City Rollers, Rollin’
Next time someone whinges to you about pop groups these days putting all the effort into looking good instead of working on their musicianship, whip this ‘un out on them. They look just as dorky as boybands today but twice as ugly, and the songs sound at least as crap as whatever’s getting played on TV this Saturday morning. Take my word for it, it’s much easier to jerk off to modern-day pop kiddies’ music videos with the sound turned off than to record covers of bands that warmed the prepubescent cockles of Generation X.
Look closely and you’ll notice that most of the songs are written not by the band, but by the two guys who also produced the record. This goes a long way to explaining why last summer the Rollers (or what’s left of them) were in Northcote playing the Croxton Tavern on the $10 parma and pot night. It does not explain why it took two people to write songs which all invariably consist almost entirely of the words “shang-a-lang”.
Sleeve quote: None. The Rollers are for looking, not for reading. The facsimile autographs on the front cover photo are a nice touch, though. This album once belonged to one P. McCulloch, who wrote her name on the record label but restrained herself from drawing any lovehearts around the faces or signatures.
Thurston Potential: 8 to 1. A retro-boyband fad is just aching to come out.

For a while there I forgot I was supposed to be talking about music and stuff

Friday 3 September 2004

For some years now my local has been The Empress, so I have witnessed the slow decline of its clientele. Dowdy boozers bravely denying their encroaching senescence camp furtively in corners once populated by clutches of not-quite-hip arts undergrads sipping pots laced with Stone’s Green Ginger Wine. Actually, that doesn’t sound like much of a decline: it’s neutral at worst, if not an outright improvement. Besides, I’m one of those ageing kidults responsible for reducing North Fitzroy to the sleepy shambles it is today.
Even before gentrifying arrivistes with an entitlement complex moved in next door and bullied the pub into submission, their band lineups hadn’t been much chop: it always seemed to be a stageful of bright young things earnestly reworking some licks off the first Tortoise album. So it had been a while since I had a reason to pay money and actually see a band in addition to overhearing one between pots/bad pickup lines/fistfights in the front bar.
Anyway, this was supposed to be a rave for having a non-alcohol-related reason for going to the Empress again, namely the gig turned on by Anthony Pateras, Sean Baxter and David Brown; but it’s hard for me to write about anything that either isn’t about me, or doesn’t let me hang shit on someone or something. In brief: Anthony got to play with the decrepit piano on stage, which until now I thought was for decoration only, and astonished North Fitzroy with the only known prepared upright piano in captivity. David practiced his usual trick of beguiling the audience into thinking he was just as bemused as they were by the sounds coming out of his guitar. Sean managed to get through the whole set without quite demolishing his drumkit and saying “cunt” only once, but that was in reference to the French so it hardly counts. A nice night’s entertainment, particularly their acoustic cover version of Xenakis’ Bohor. The soaks in the front bar hated it.

Filler by Proxy II: Worse than it Sounds

Thursday 2 September 2004

Kyle Gann gives a crash course on why new music gigs so often seem to exist for the benefit of a self-perpetuating clique.

Coming Attraction, Friday 3/9/04

Wednesday 1 September 2004

Yesterday I was planning to post something positive about the Pateras/Baxter/Brown gig I saw at the Empress, but then I saw the front page of The Age and got all cranky. Once I’ve settled down I might try writing it up again, but for now I’ll just plug their next gig.
They’re going on tour in Europe soon, but the Australia Council didn’t come through with supporting funding. Instead, OzCo preferred to give money to boy bands, the Geoff Harvey Orchestra and the Moonee Ponds Mostly Mozart Mornings, instead of any of that arty crap. So there’s going to be a benefit gig, which is simultaneously a launch for the new Phil Samarzis and Rasmus Lunding record. Won’t you help some locals take their bogan art noise to Europe to show them a thing or two?
when: this friday the 3rd

where: 11 a Hope Street, Brunswick, Melbourne

time: 9 onwards…..

cost: $7/$5 entry

live:

Pateras/Baxter /Brown (electronic set ? ! )

Philip Samartzis (touch parking)

Philip Brophy

qua

Das Butcher (featuring the sublime talents of the state wah guitar winner Justin Fuller!)

+ dj: godcutter

Films, slides, grog etc etc…..

Fumbling Towards Nirvana

Tuesday 24 August 2004

I’ve always been a bit out of touch when it comes to popular culture, so perhaps someone can help me on this one. There’s a share house round the corner that’s had a sign up in the front window since April saying “Kurt We Miss You” in lettering constructed from wads of chewed-up toilet paper pressed against the glass. I can understand that on a certain anthropological level, but last week the sign changed to “Sarah We Miss You”. Did I overlook a news report about Sarah McLachlan eating a bullet? Or are the occupants simply expressing their love of Richard Pleasance’s oeuvre?