Filler by Proxy XXVI: Terry Riley Variations

Tuesday 29 November 2005

Opus 8 No.2 by Tom Phillips, 1968. First performed by Phillips and John Tilbury as music to accompany a student film, Wolverhampton 1969. Try performing it for yourself on your next bus journey.
I have been listening to a couple of Riley’s film soundtracks downloaded from UbuWeb, but they don’t seem to be available anymore. Pity: I’m getting to quite enjoy them now, having got past the hippie encrustations of titles like “Sunrise of the Planetary Dream Collector”. There’s an insistent drive and clarity of purpose throughout his music, when everything about his manner of presentation leads you to expect New Age gruel or Dead-like indulgent noodling.
Then I looked at his website. Jesus, what a hippie! My keyboard still stinks of patchouli, even after flushing the browser cache. Honestly, it sounds better than it looks.

Shit, shit, shit.

Monday 28 November 2005

Perhaps I’m going native: I feel like England after the war. Victorious, but exhausted. Just about beaten the flu, but now I need to sleep for a week and still can’t write anything without it descending into crabbed, stilted bile.
Somewhere in one of my crates which are, hopefully, on the sea by now and heading this way, is my rather grubby copy of Wyndham Lewis’ novel Self Condemned, an exemplary diagnosis of the condition of the exile. It is a book I have frequently turned to seeking understanding of three hellish years spent in Brisbane. The personality stripped of all memory and identity becomes reduced to a nervous system exposed to the elements, instinctively responding to each stimulus with anger and fear. It is a condition I have been battling against for the past week. Mostly with drugs. Lovely, lovely drugs.
Speaking of drugs, crabbiness and exile, it’s time to get back to the anglophone Muscovite newspaper The Exile*. I’d previously linked to their beautiful, Jove-like annihilation of the worst book ever written, which popped back into my head when I read something about it now being turned into a movie. This does not surprise me: it is the destiny of all faketion. The book itself is a codicil to the book deal, the film rights. Every one of these bookoid wastes of space has been bought and sold a dozen times over before they hit the shelves. The ones we notice are scattered eructations of a common canker that runs beneath the surface of our attention.
Speaking of The Exile, it’s always invigorating to meet such an accomplished bunch of haters. Anyone who can publish a Shit List that kicks off with The Holy Ghost and Bob Dylan isn’t afraid of setting themselves high standards. There’s much gratuitous shitkicking perculiar to middle-aged adolescents away from home, but it’s worth sifting while pretending to work or write your thesis.
Ever wanted to catch a train across Siberia? Don’t.
Up until that point, the car had a slowly intensified, relatively bearable acidic smell of unwashed bodies. I only noticed it when I’d been outside. Each wagon had a distinct smell and I learned to appreciate our own. I doubt it was better or worse than any of the others, but after so many hours it had grown familiar, almost homey. They say even tanners stop noticing the smell after a while. The important thing was to avoid close quarters with any of the serious offenders, none of whom, thankfully, were bunking with me. Other cars’ musk would burn my nostrils, make me breathe in short gasps for the length of the corridor.

And after you’ve been trapped in this tiny, uncomfortable, constantly rattling room for five days straight, you’re stuck in a godforsaken frozen shit-town, with another five-day journey before reaching anything like civilization again.

You can also find helpful advice from perpetual dissident Edward Limonov (possibly the only one to be expelled by the Soviet Union and charged with sedition by a post-communist Russian government**) on what to do if you’re arrested. I expect this is more useful and to the point than the usual stuff you’ll find in those ‘Know Your Rights’ pamphlets.
In order to not provoke unnecessary violence on you don’t tease them, don’t mock them: speak seriously, with determination, straight-forward. They will see what kind of man you are in a few first hours of interrogation: you should control yourself at least during three days. If by the chance you are not tortured in those three days, very unlikely that you will be physically abused later.

You might want to memorise this as a precaution, what with your local MP and copper getting very keen on detention without charge in this difficult international climate. It’s unlikely, sure, but mistakes happen. Just make sure you rat out one of your neighbours after the kerfuffle’s been sorted out. You know, the one with the noisy fucking monkey bike.

* Not to be confused with Ezra Pound’s short-lived literary mag of the same name; that was back in the 1920s. Probably not online.
** Charges including conspiracy to overthrow the state of Kazakhstan. Seriously.

Masons in Distress!

Wednesday 23 November 2005

Filler Frenzy!

Wednesday 23 November 2005

I’ve spent the last week in a virus-bedecked half-dream room, so nothing coherent or original is getting written these days. It’s also cold at last, frost and fog and subzero temperatures just like the travel brochures promised. I sat indoors cursing that I didn’t have the foresight to pack a coat in my luggage, instead of waiting for my crates of chattels to arrive by sea, until last night when I actually bothered to look in the back of my clothes cupboard and found that I had in fact packed one after all.
You can tell I’m sick because I didn’t bother trying to make that story more interesting (i.e. make up something completely different). On the positive side, it means I do have a coat. On the negative, I now have the flu, which renders me generally unpleasant and uncommunicative.
So tonight I’m going to do something that blogs were originally meant to do: link to other sites for content. Of course, these days this means linking to other people’s blogs.

Peak Melody
“Every society throughout history and throughout the world has made and enjoyed music! But we, now, here, in the west are unique… in our hunger for ever more, new music. Music surrounds us: in our houses, blasting out of radios, CD players, computers. It wakes us up, and it sends us to sleep. Outside we pump music into our ears through up-to-the-minute mobile phones and MP3-players… We hear it in our supermarkets, and we sing it in our churches and in our karaoke bars. Rock anthems in pubs, and recorder-concerts in schools. We chant it at our football matches, hum along to it in our cars, and dance to it in our nightclubs. There is no getting away from music. Our lives are musical lives, and our world is a musical world. Musical. Music.”
So wrote the philosopher Jacob Applebloom in his suicide note.

All genres of music (excluding the extreme avant-garde) are struggling to come to terms with the impending melody-crisis,” writes Larry in his comprehensive and brilliant analysis of the need for radical musical conservation in the early 21st century. Never mind that his blog is called Tampon Teabag. If you want the full blogrolling experience, this was found linked through On an Overgrown Path.

A Concise History of Western Music
Courtesy of The Fredösphere, with one small correction:

Messiaen: If you’re not sure, it probably sucks.

Also, Drew’s First Piece. Agreed. Hats off! Found via The Rest is Noise.

Smart Music
Something I’ve been meaning to link to for ages: An investigation into the cognitive effects of exposure to fine violin music.
An experimental outline was devised using the Spiers – Rotluff test to qualitatively evaluate the `before/after’ responses to musical stimuli. Subjects were exposed to a range of literature… and a variety of promotional material for local concert events. They were questioned about their general music knowledge… It was intended that subjects be divided into a control group of professional practitioners, and an experimental group of interested amateurs as described below.
However, certain difficulties in formulating the control group soon became apparent, and indeed aspects of the study’s design needed attention in order to accommodate the experimental group. Firstly, it was impossible to find a conductor who would consent to take part in the study, most maintaining they `wouldn’t be seen dead’ in the company of the other subjects. We therefore decided to replace the conductor with an old poodle named Von K . On the surface this may seem, to the uninformed reader, a curious step to take. However, we point out that the dog performed well in a simple verbal test in which he consistently identified the music of Bach, although he was less successful with other composers. (In this respect he was ranked equally with the music critic, who professed to being partial to fine music and “…may not know much about Hollywood musicals, but I know what I like.”)
Secondly, despite the best of our efforts it was impossible to find a professional composer to take part in this study. Most of the potential subjects we contacted who professed some understanding of music composition were either university lecturers or employed by a “secret government agency“. The criterion of professionalism could not be met, and it was decided after much deliberation (and certain cost considerations) to replace the composer with a standard laboratory rat.
Another set of difficulties was encountered with the experimental group. Not one opera subscriber would consent to participate unless we included Gilbert and Sullivan selections in the experiment. Likewise, the critic refused to join unless we could promise the music was of the highest calibre, played by a world-class orchestra. Perhaps only our European readers will understand the impossibility of reconciling these two demands. In contrast the arts bureaucrat seemed to have no personal views whatever, and in fact would only respond after being extensively lobbied by the laboratory staff.
Reprinted thanks to The Rosenberg Archive, a treasure trove of one of the most important musical families of the last century.

They’re big and salty and brown

Monday 21 November 2005

Despite living in London for, oh, months now, I am still prepared to be amazed on my trips to the local supermarket. My enthusiasm at finding Sudafed freely available has been slightly tempered by the checkout chicks’ ruthless vigilance in preventing you from buying more than 2 packets of paracetamol at the same time – regardless of how big the packets are. I haven’t found out yet whether paracetamol can supposedly get you wasted, be used to make bombs, or contain dangerous amounts of lead.
Sometimes, I am certain the British are doing this stuff on purpose. By ‘this stuff’ I mean selling products like:

Mr Brain’s pork faggots – two steaming balls for your enjoyment. I had to take them home with me. It was only after eating them (not bad, in a comfort-food kind of way) that I remembered: I’d heard of these things before. Nearly three years ago they had been a minor meme around the world when the company (I’d like to think personally announced by Young Mr Brain himself) crowned an unfortunate household from Wolverhampton Britain’s Faggot Family.

The Doody family

from Wolverhampton has been crowned The Faggot Family in a national competition, and to kick off their reign they will launch National Faggot Week.
The Doody family were chosen to front the campaign after impressing judges at the Savoy Hotel in London in November.
“The great British faggot is full of flavour and a great belly warmer at this time of year.”
Faggot facts:
Faggots were called “savoury ducks” in the Middle Ages
… and they still are in certain nightclubs around Soho. Mr Brain used to have a website but it seems to have disappeared – perhaps it was taken down by outraged but misguided Daily Mail readers. A slightly damaged archived version survives, featuring tasty news items such as “Faggot Family go Public.”
I wonder where they are now?

Older, not wiser

Sunday 20 November 2005

Another six months have passed, so it’s time to update the list of People Or Things I Have Been Mistaken For, Or Allegedly Physically Resemble, In Increasing Order Of Ridiculousness. Two new entries, which have been placed above and below Jim O’Rourke, although it’s a bit of a toss-up which way those three should go.

Filler by Proxy XXV: Who to turn to when you’ve run out of Mitfords

Thursday 17 November 2005

If anything’s better reading than the London Review of Books’ personals column, it’s the Telegraph’s obituaries. Lady Sibell Rowley has died, aged 98. Being England, the death notices tend to get clogged with a lot of ancestral ruins such as these, perhaps out of a sense of heritage more than of aristocratic fealty.
In this case, however, the passing of poor old Lady Rowley is treated as an occasion to trot out gossip about her family. She was a daughter of the 7th Earl Beauchamp, KG, “and thus a member of the family that inspired Evelyn Waugh to write his celebrated Roman Catholic novel Brideshead Revisited.”
It’s good enough that the Telegraph feels obliged to employ the epithet ‘Roman Catholic’ as an advisory to its less stout-hearted subscription base, but things get better still:

…the youngest daughter, Dorothy (Coote), endured an unfortunate late-life marriage to Robert Heber Percy, known as “Mad Boy”, the eccentric squire of Faringdon and former boyfriend of Lord Berners.

Actually, the whole article should be imagined as it would be read by Vivian Stanshall:
The daughters, aware of their father’s nocturnal prowlings, would sometimes advise their boyfriends to lock their bedroom doors. Lord Beauchamp once complained at breakfast: “He’s very nice that friend of yours, but he’s damned uncivil!” Unfortunately, the problems proved more serious, concerning incidents with footmen, and as a result of a campaign instigated by his brother-in-law, Bendor, Duke of Westminster, Lord Beauchamp was forced into exile in Europe. The Duke tried to explain the circumstances to his sister, Lady Beauchamp, who failed to grasp the essentials. “Bendor says that Beauchamp is a bugler,” she announced.

A post about posting about posts you just posted: a rueful autopsy

Thursday 17 November 2005

It’s kind of sad when you notice these kinds of things, but it had struck me that over the last week or so no comments had been added to the blog, while over the same time I had received several emails about it. Worrying about who’s reading or not reading your blog is a sure sign that you’re turning into a dickhead, but the thought popped into my mind: “You know what the next comment will be about? Something really minor that I put up in a few minutes as filler and then forgot about.”
And so today I get four comments posted about my posting about that Kia salesman’s defunct blog. Disturbingly, someone called Cyn complained that there’s not enough violence on this site. More disturbingly, this seems to be proposed as her(?) solution to people not coming to your birthday party. Even more disturbingly, she apparently uses the term “twilight twitterings” as some sort of Clockwork Orange-type dystopian slang for “bloodletting”.
Do I feel mad with power? No. At the moment, even after half a box of pseudoephedrine I can barely summon the will to get out of bed.
At the very least, I can sleep tonight content in the knowledge that there’s one more person besides myself who doesn’t have a copy of the Fluxus Codex.

Death of a Salesman: Blog Draws Blood!

Wednesday 16 November 2005

Nothing of substance fit to post today. Alas! My dad just wrote in to say that reading my blog is the only way he has of keeping tabs on what I’m up to these days. Hi dad! I’m feeling a bit fluey today, so not much writing going on. Oh, and I left Melbourne and moved to London a few months back, so don’t send a card with a $10 note in it to the old address this christmas.
Just last week I posted about the Kia car salesman’s blog, but now the thing’s gone! Either my linking to him drove his traffic through the roof and his service was cut off, or else he won third prize in last month’s sales contest. And had something else cut off.
Like you care. Enjoy the cached version on Google while you can.

Creepy old man update from my dad

Monday 14 November 2005

Hello. I keep meaning to get more regular updating this thing, but then I get caught up writing something and not finishing it, so you have to make do with more hastily-written rubbish about Jeremy Bentham or something.
Today, I found out someone reads my blog. Thanks dad! He was looking at a picture I posted on Flickr:

This was a mural on the corner of Frome and Rundle Streets in Adelaide, circa 1989 – note the ever-so late-80s chic motif of pink stylised galahs. I mentioned that this picture unfortunately omitted the left side of the mural, which featured an old man – eating? proferring? – an ice cream cone. Yes, the legend at the top of the wall began “When I’m…”
Creepy? Yes. I speculated on whether the mural still exists. My dad, who lives in Adelaide, thoughtfully went down there with his camera.

Bizarrely, the thing has been partly repainted into a scene even more incomprehensible. Girl on bike is now some mystic skykid, in a poorly-rendered minimal landcape overseen by aliens (and floodlights, to show off this masterpiece at night). Somehow, creepy old man with icecream has survived intact, along with the mid-80s yellow hessian schoolbags with aboriginal flag patch. So, now you can recreate the Lolita-type scene in your head.
As for the building itself, late 80s pink has been replaced by late 90s teal. It’s now a camping supplies store, but back at the time the mural first appeared it was bong shop, with a second-hand record store out the back. I once scored from there a copy of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Two Virgins LP, which I used to aggravate the other kids in photography class at high school. I can still whistle the opening bit from that album.
We have also learned that homeboys still roam the streets of Adelaide. So, no hurry to go back for a visit.
I just realised the title for this post may be read in the wrong way but then, if it were your dad, you wouldn’t change it either, would you?

Filler by Proxy XXIV: Please help this man sell a cheap Korean car

Monday 7 November 2005

The great thing about the internet is that it can put you in touch with people from all walks of life (except for the three-quarters of the world’s population who don’t have internet access): lives of excitement, adventure and heroism. And if you get tired of that, you can also keep tabs on the day-to-day life of a Kia salesman in London:
Sunday, 9 October 2005
Its the end of a hard Sunday in the showroom, tiring with loads of customers and just the two of us. Still have sold a mid-range Sedona at a good price to a nice Irish couple so all is not lost!
Mood: caffeinated
Monday, 10 October 2005
Monday… the dawn of a new week. Two test drives today. Why are Asian people such good and tough negotiators? Do they go to a special school or something? Involved the boss to try and put a blinding deal together on a Rio (which he did) and managed to get them more money for their PX than they thought and they STILL walked!
Mood: energetic
Friday, 14 October 2005
well looks like I cant keep this a daily thing so will write as often as possible. Got rapped on the knuckles by the boss again today … sigh. Loadsa new kias to sell by end of month…. Any ideas?!
Mood: lucky
Saturday, 15 October 2005
Mitch & Murray sent down some guy for a pep talk today. Something about how we can’t play the man’s game because we can’t close the leads, and how we need brass balls to always be closing or something.
Mood: zesty
Sadly, there’s no obvious information about who this man is or where you can buy a Picanto from him. He signs his first post ‘Malcolm’, but I like to think of him as Wendell Maas*. I’m waiting for him to begin a post with “Today was another defeat.”
In the meantime, checking his site for updates is as much fun as playing The Sims, only with the added advantage of not having to stand over him pushing buttons to make sure he remembers to take his daily half-hour crap. And if he doesn’t, there’s no way I’m test-driving one of his second-hand Sportages.
* Definitely Mucho, not Wayne Hoover.

Title Pending

Sunday 6 November 2005

Blogger’s been down, so no post for you. Presumably the server was accidentally blown up by a stray firework or ten last night. For the past week the bunker has been surrounded by small clumps of locals setting off cheap-arse fireworks with such irritating regularity that I can’t phone aged relatives in Australia without them assuming that I’m calling from Basra or, worse still, France.
Of course, it’s all part of the festivities commemorating the anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot and reenacting the misdeeds of Guy Fawkes, who was apparently a Nigerian who went around attacking pets with bottle rockets.
So much of the weekend was spent hiding down the pub. Here’s a picture of my local and, hey, check who’s street it’s on!

Filler by Proxy XXIII: Lyric Suite

Thursday 3 November 2005

Can’t remember how I was pointed to this, but never mind: What major work of Alban Berg are you?
It may have been via Tears of a Clownsilly, which should at least be mentioned for managing to work Harrison Birtwistle and bukkake into a single paragraph.
I feel a little queasy after typing that last sentence. Fresh content on the weekend: something about Barcelona or Hackney.

Great moments in art criticism: a clarification

Tuesday 1 November 2005

The preceding post may have given the impression that writing about new art is harder than writing about old art. The approach is different, but no less difficult. In a boon for critics, art workers now feel compelled to do the hard work for them, putting a great deal of effort into press releases, curator’s missions and artist’s statements in an effort to justify their existence to the philistines who control the purse strings. Many artists cannot even make their art, let alone exhibit it, without a proposal being approved by commitees appointed to ensure that any art presented with other people’s money is sufficiently worthy, rational, responsible and predictable.
The critic’s task is simply to quote from the press statement and then say whether the work succeeds or fails on these criteria. Again, it is not necessary to look at the artwork. The more expensive exhibition launches can be particularly well catered.

Great moments in art criticism: losing your bottle

Tuesday 1 November 2005

The wonderful thing about writing up an exhibition of well-known artworks is that not only do you not have to look at it (thus saving you from putting your drink down at the opening), you don’t even have to look at reproductions of it in the catalogue. It’s all been written down for you already! So you can just copy down some other critic’s description of the work in question, and thus tweak your opinions on it to best suit your audience. If it’s a particularly famous work you don’t even have to pretend to be original – you try saying something new about The Scream, smartarse!
The only time this method might come unstuck is if the description you pick turns out to be, in fact, completely wrong. Now the exhibition is open, Adrian Searle might want inspect Les Joyeux Farceurs for himself and ask why a milk bottle has a tube down the middle, and why the milk is transparent and fizzing. Alternatively, he can quote other critics who have actually worked out what the painting depcits.
You’d be amazed how much you learn from a painting by looking at it.