Archive for January, 2000

Prolific prog bands, improv, etc

Monday, January 31st, 2000

Here’s a good question: why is it that the more popular prog bands these days (I’m thinking Flower Kings, Spock’s Beard, etc) are also the prog bands that are the most prolific? If Anekdoten or Solaris cranked ‘em out like Marillion or even Dream Theater, would the quality of the music decline? Does increased popularity result in increased pressure to mass-produce music? Well, the answer to that one might be obvious to some, but “increased popularity”, prog-speaking, isn’t saying much. Still, one wonders.

On a similar track, where the hell has Pink Floyd been? I actually liked The Division Bell quite a bit - solid atmospheric pop kind of stuff - and I got excited about all those rumors a couple years ago about a 1999 album and tour. Those rumors were obviously way off-base. I wonder if they’ll ever do anything more, or is it “out with a whimper” for this great band?

A recent gem by “Neal” on rec.music.classical, on the topic of pop musicians composing classical music:

Richard Schultz wrote in message <86k95o$duk$3@cnn.cc.biu.ac.il>…
>I would say that Paul McCartney has no classical *training* (and it
>shows); but he has had a long-standing interest in classical music

I have no medical training, but I’ve long been interested in doctors. May I
remove your spleen?

And some interesting responses: “I bet there is a lot of good music created by folks without musical training. In fact, in the last hundred years, there hasn’t been much worthwhile music created by the musically educated. I don’t think you can say there are great uneducated spleen removers.” (Jim Curtis) “And do authors require training before authoring? … It’s a shame that some popular musicians fall prey to the fallacy, that to be serious and good and lasting they must write this sort of music.” (Josh Kortbein)

Some thoughts on improvisation, spurred on by a jazz class I had today. Why isn’t there more collective improv in jazz? Does collective improv exist in any significant form outside the avant-garde, psych/jam-rock, and some obscure rock genres (and King Crimson)? Is there an “improvisational music” genre? These aren’t open-ended questions; surely someone has the answers. Also, I’ve always wondered why there isn’t more solo improv in rock music - or maybe there is, I just don’t know it.

Digging back into the old “improv in prog” thread from rec.music.progressive, I found this interesting little debate:

dtohir@aol.com (DTohir) writes:
> >I think (was it David Gilmour?) hit the nail on the head about improv:
> >”You get as many things wrong as you get right.”
>
> This would only describe an exceptionally poor improviser.

Then again, an improviser who only gets things wrong very rarely obviously isn’t trying hard enough.

Bye,
Matt [Barber]

Electric vs. acoustic bass

Sunday, January 30th, 2000

I can’t decide whether I like the electric or the acoustic bass better. The acoustic bass has a cleaner, more attractive sound, but it just doesn’t seem quite as versatile to me. And sometimes I dig the impossibly deep low-range notes than only an amplified electric bass can play. I do, however, love to hear the acoustic bass in a rock context - because it’s a novel concept or because it sounds good? - and I wonder how an electric bass (or section of electric basses!) would sound in a classical context. Either instrument seems to work well in a jazz context. Somehow I don’t see an acoustic bass in a rap or metal context, but hell, that would be interesting too.

On the instrumentation/orchestration track: Why doesn’t anyone play the harpsichord anymore? I’d love to hear a progressive rock band try to integrate a harpsichord into their compositions.

Assuming the three CDs I have coming soon in the mail (Bruford/Levin Upper Extremities, Gorn/Levin/Marotta From the Caves of the Iron Mountain, and Ruins Hyderomastgroningem) don’t arrive tomorrow, I’ll have acquired only six new CDs in the month of January - an abnormally slow rate for me; recently I’ve been somewhere around 15-20 a month. My budget doesn’t support this, so it has to slow down at some point. Now’s a bad time, though - just as my interest in jazz and ?post-rock? is growing. Sigh.

Today’s thoughts

Saturday, January 29th, 2000

Some new acquisitions from Mass Music today.

The Flower Kings purchase was something of a whim. I haven’t heard all that much of them, and what I heard isn’t all that bad, so I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt. Still, Flower Power (what a godawfully trite name) does nothing for me yet. The Tortoise disc is my favorite so far. Here’s a question: what exactly does the label “post-rock” imply? Tortoise and Godspeed You Black Emperor!, two recent discoveries of mine that I’m quite ecstatic about, both seem to fall into this category, but I’m at a loss to figure out what the hell it means. After prog and (recently) some jazz, post-rock would seem to be my next logical target of musical inquiry. More money and time. Sigh.

Does my music listening cause my mood to change, or does a change in my mood cause me to listen to different music? When I’m angry, should I listen to Metallica at high volumes, or chill out to the soothing songs of After Crying? When I’m depressed, should I bog myself down with Godspeed You Black Emperor!, or get up and gyrate to a ska disc?

I am constantly reminded of how many friends I have that listen to my music; namely, none. Last night about fifty people I know were rejoicing ecstatically because Napster, that buggy, badly-programmed, and terribly-designed bastion of music piracy on the Internet, is back online after a disappearance that lasted several days and brought hope to my heart. If Napster had any volume of prog, I hope my stance wouldn’t change. Another thing: I always get these astounded, surprised looks when people learn about how I buy CDs: “you mean you’ve never even heard just one song from that CD you just bought?” The concept of doing research on an album - reading reviews, asking questions on Internet forums - is as foreign to them as it is natural to me.

I love the sound of the bassoon in a rock (or at least semi-rock) context.

Is there a difference between thinking a band sucks and hating a band? Is it a semantic difference or a more fundamental one? I’d have to say the former - dislike is dislike, right? AllGdPple on rec.music.progressive has been babbling about how he doesn’t like all kinds of music, but he respects it all and anyone that doesn’t respect all forms of music is narrow-minded:

“i cannot understand why some can’t stand Thinking Plague, and i can’t understand why some can’t stand Par Lindh; Magma or The Flower Kings; Boud Deun or Tenn Jinn. i can hear the greatness and i can hear the mediocrity…….all six are excellent bands with quality musicians and composers.

i can only surmise that those who do not like them choose not to like them, which is narrow-minded. i don’t understand how anyone could choose to exist that way. maybe that’s a good thing. if i understood it perhaps i’d fall prey to the curse. <shudder>”

That sure sounds ridiculous to me. It wouldn’t be so bad if the guy wasn’t so damn condescending: “you might have an immature pallate that can’t appreciate the value that each style of prog has to offer, so you pick and choose the bands that suit your limited taste. my taste is broad and all-encompassing (at least that is my plan), and will not allow my opinion to be molded by one side or the other……neo, classical, new wave, RIO, etc. it’s all valuable to me.”

Fusion, zeuhl & RIO

Thursday, January 13th, 2000

Free time is quickly becoming a luxury as I start the second semester of the academic year, so I’ve unfortunately not had much time to listen to music. When I have been listening, though, I’ve been listening to a lot of fusion - I got Heavy Weather and The Inner Mounting Flame for Christmas. Also, the master of my college here at Yale just tonight hosted a somewhat cheesy funk/fusion band called Mokijam, whose otherwise uninspired music was spiced up by a guy who played the fretless bass loudly, aggressively, and with some amount of talent. I love the fretless bass, so I stayed through the set and enjoyed myself.

Also on a sort-of fusion track, Magma’s 1001 Degrees Centigrades has been enthralling me. I’m going to have to backtrack and pick up said band’s debut album, as it’s said to be along the same lines. Otherwise, I haven’t been listening to much, though Samla Mammas Manna’s Maltid has also made an overwhelmingly positive impression on me, and in my next order from NSA or Syn-Phonic or wherever, there will definitely be at least one Samla album.

That’s it for now… hopefully once I get back into the swing of things I’ll have more chances to listen to music and write reviews. Also hopefully my reviewers will get off their collective Christmas asses and submit stuff. :)