Saturday, July 07, 2007
I'm a little baffled by the lack of discussion (so far as I can tell) on MIMEO's "Sight" release. There could be any number of reasons (maybe everyone thinks it's no big deal) but two possibilities loom prominently for me:
One is its nature as a "thought experiment". Rowe has expressed his sense that an idea can be just as important, more so perhaps, than the actualization of that idea. While this resonates very strongly with me, it's a stance that meets with a great deal of opposition from others. "Ivory tower", "disconnected", "elitist", etc. are terms of opprobrium often tossed around. I know for my part that, once I heard the idea behind what became "Sight", it almost didn't matter what the final product sounded like. I do enjoy it (very, very much) but given my affinity with the underlying idea, that's almost a foregone conclusion. In other words, the idea imbues the physical result with value by its nature. It almost didn't even have to be actually created at all except for the nagging sense of incompleteness this would have engendered. Whether that anxiety betrays some fundamental lack is another question. In some ways, "Sight" is an extension from the directional pieces created by the Fluxus members, later elaborated upon by the Scratch Orchestra. I wonder if "confining" it to a recording studio (or eleven studios) is a step forward, back or sideways in this regard? In any case, I get the impression there are still a large percentage of listeners uncomfortable with process works like this, who--when all is said and done--prefer a visceral, corporeal character in their new music, a lineage from, maybe, the jazz and rock backgrounds from which (I imagine) most arose.
The second reason might be the extremely uncomfortable itch created among improvised music fans (and improvisers!) whose notion of communicative playing might be thought to be stood on its head here. I'm not so sure it is, but clearly it would be easy to get that impression just in knowing how the disc was assembled. If the disc sounds indistinguishable from a restrained live improvisation (does it? dunno....) what does that say about the value of live interaction between musicians? For my money, one of the salient features of "Sight" is Rowe's pushing the limits of listening to one's co-musicians, getting into memory and deep knowledge of one's companions that needn't depend on physical proximity; maybe there's a slight analogy to his mentioning, a few years ago while on tour with Toshi Nakamura, that he'd reached a point where he found he could go through an entire performance without physically touching his guitar. That retention of sensitivity while at a remove seems to me to be an extremely fascinating area of study.
Of course, I could be entirely wrong with the above but one of the (many) virtues of Rowe's work is that it sets you thinking about things, an attribute in scant supply elsewhere. There has been similarly little discussion about "The Room", aside from (generally) listeners greatly enjoying it. I really look at them as a pair; nonidentical twins. There's a ton of material, conceptual and physical, in each that I'm confident will provide food for thought for years.
Newly received or bought:
Asher - the depths, the colors, the objects & the silence (Mystery Sea) (beautiful recording)
Electrelane - No Shouts No Calls (Too Pure) (disappointing; I'm afraid I'm giving up on my former favorite all-girl rock band)
Konono No. 1 - Congotronics (Crammed Discs) (fun and fine, though a little samey over the course of the disc)
Kim Suk Chul Ensemble - The Shamans of the Eastern Seaboard (Alula) (pretty awesome)
Tom Hall - Flueve (Nightrider) (up next--recordings of a bridge in Brisbane--looks pretty cool)
The United States of America - s/t (Sundazed) (on deck after 'Flueve')