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Posts Tagged ‘Bill Martin’

Bill Martin is not a very good writer

Monday, January 9th, 2006

Amazon finally delivered my copy of Bill Martin’s book Avant Rock: Experimental Music from the Beatles to Björk, which I mentioned buying in an earlier entry. I’m about 50 pages into it and while it’s not exactly compellingly readable, it’s interesting to me thanks to my insatiable interest in the subject. Martin’s writing style is awful, though — the organization of this book is pretty much impossible to follow (if indeed there’s any rhyme or reason to it at all), and he has an annoying habit of name-dropping esoteric Western philosophers at literally every turn. While I am enough of an academic at heart to be interested in how avant-rock relates to Derrida, this is just a little much. I almost get the feeling that Martin just included every single connection between music and philosophy that came to his mind while writing (let’s not even start on his weird chess analogies). This guy needs an editor, bad.

None of this is stopping me from reading, of course. Just… be warned if you’re expecting an easy-to-read overview of avant-rock, because this sure isn’t it. Avant Rock makes Chris Cutler’s File Under Popular look like a children’s book.

Good books on avant-jazz or avant-rock?

Wednesday, November 30th, 2005

Does anyone know of any good books on the modern avant-jazz scene, say, from the mid-1980s on, or even from the 1990s on? I can’t really find any. Hell, it’s hard to even find anything on the free jazz scene from the 1960s on. Ted Gioia’s History of Jazz, as close to a canonical text in terms of recent jazz histories as there is, has a nice section on what he calls “postmodern” jazz, touching respectfully on various folks such as John Zorn, but only in a fairly abbreviated fashion.

I’d love to read a full-fledged text about the “downtown” NYC free-jazz scene, or even better, a broader history that also touches on possibilities for “avant-jazz” in the future, given the proliferation of cross-genre pollination in recent years — ranging from the Blue Series hip-hoppy stuff to more oddball, unclassifiable material on labels like Cryptogramophone or Nine Winds. There’s a rich history here, with plenty of fascinating biographies and musical trends to draw on (just based on the scattered interviews with various prominent figures that I’ve read), and I’m sure there’s plenty of interest. I guess it’s only a matter of time before something shows up on the shelves. It seems like this is too self-conscious a scene for something not to turn up.

On the other hand, a good book on avant-rock seems like a total pipe dream, unless Chris Cutler ever feels like writing another book. I did just order Bill Martin’s Avant Rock, but I don’t have very high hopes for it, and it doesn’t seem like he really talks much about RIO or the contemporary avant-rock scene, instead focusing on the more well-known likes of King Crimson, and um, Yes. Well, I guess that shouldn’t be surprising… we already know he’s a Yes fanboy.

I’d love to write such an avant-rock history myself, but as of now I certainly lack the large-scale perspective and experience to tackle such an effort, to say nothing of the fact that I am musicologically illiterate (perhaps irrelevant, but probably not).

Scattered thoughts

Sunday, December 10th, 2000

Reading Bill Martin’s Listening to the Future after finishing Macan’s Rocking the Classics, I get the feeling that Martin writes uncomfortably like a prog-rock fanboy, whereas Macan seems more levelheaded. Martin just seems far too defensive about the genre as a whole, and adds in a lot of unnecessary parentheticals about how much prog has been persecuted (as well as even less necessary parentheticals about various political issues).

That one-note guitar solo at the end of Low’s “Over the Ocean” never fails to amaze me. It’s utterly perfect, heart-wrenchingly beautiful, and yet it’s just the same fucking note over and over again. How does that work? Even Fripp’s (in)famous “one-note” solo in “Starless” modulates continuously, so it’s not the same pitch over and over again (and besides, it’s the furthest thing from “beautiful”, though it’s undeniably effective). It boggles my mind how this one-note solo can be so perfectly done, evoking such an emotional response every time I hear it.

Jussi Karkkainen told me that the next Höyry-kone album will probably come out next year, though the band has not found a label for it yet (”certainly not APM”, he says - is this because of APM’s very slow rate of releasing music, or because of conflicts with Ulf Danielsson or others at the label?).

Holy shit: I’m listening now to Hundred Sights of Koenji at massive volume (now this is a bombastic album). At some point in “Ozone Fall”, a new male voice joins the chorus of demented singers and screams out of the left channel. I jumped, thinking someone was yelling at me from the commons room, which is to the left of my computer. Sheesh.