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')

50 comments:

Jon said...

there was a pretty lengthy discussion on IHM, much more than there's been anywhere of The Room yet. if you're specifically referring to your (very good) Bags review, maybe people have finally realized it's pointless to try to discuss anything EAI-related there.

anyway, I've posted some opinions about this project in the IHM thread, but:

"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."

yeah, I don't buy this. obviously the concept is a crucial part, but the execution is at least as important to me.

"If the disc sounds indistinguishable from a restrained live improvisation (does it? dunno....) "

certainly not to me, but it's of course impossible to say how much my knowledge of how it was created impacts that opinion.

Richard Pinnell said...

There is of course another possible reason Brian, that what interests you and I so much about sight just doesn't interest others so much...!

Regarding The Room... I personally find that disc very hard to write about simply because of the massive depth of personal meaning and emotion there is wrapped up in that fantastic recording. Perhaps it is just due to Keith's openness to discuss his work and its inspirations but I am aware of so much more about The Room, and its imoprtance to Keith than I am usually aware about a simple CD. Trying to piece all of that together into any kind of salient comment is currently beyond me.

As for sight I agree that the CD that resulted from the project is just one small part of the whole. I seriously considered never listening to the finished release at one point simply because it isn't as important to me (or any of the musicians I have discussed it with) as the process that made it, but curiosity got the better of me.

Keith told me recently that he saw sight and The Room as his two big "statements" of the year so far, with potentially a third to come with the A Response to Treatise project possibly out before the end of 2007.

Incidentally, and unimportantly, sight doesn't have a capital letter. I'm not sure why, but Keith asked it to be that way when we were discussing the design. I don't think its an important detail however as he has since used a capital S in emails since!

Brian Olewnick said...

?There is of course another possible reason Brian, that what interests you and I so much about sight just doesn't interest others so much...!"

*sputter* Impossible!!

robert said...

I don't think there has been much discussion of late on any "eai"-ish topics. I think that mainly stems from the fact that the excitement is pretty much over in the genre. Its reached that more mature point where the ground that was so vigorously broken in the past is now retrod, sifted through and mined for material. Not that there won't be tons of great new releases made, in fact I think that some of the best tend to arise from the more mature periods. But it no longer engenders the same amount of excitment and doesn't really need much discussion. That is to say there really aren't many issues that haven't been rehashed that we don't know all the angles on.

To address sight specifically I agree with you about the interest in the process (and also with Jon in that I think it had to been implemented) but I don't really share your concerns with the results and I doubt you will find many who do. Why is this? I think that its because the audience in general is result oriented. Witness the endless round and round between the process oriented crowd and the results oriented crowd at IHM (about the only thing that can engender much beyond lists there). I think most of the fanbase is totally fine as long as it sounds good and only find these details of process to be of academic interest. People who came from, or spent a lot of time with, the 70s pure improv strain I think have a harder time with it.

But even beyond that there are more issues to consider. Cage spent 50 years telling us that everything is music, many people have absorbed huge amount of music with far less intentionality then this. If we can find enjoyment in music that is genuinely random on many levels then really this isn't much of a stretch. Conceptually it isn't a stretch at all. Additionally vast amount of the fanbase are huge field recording fans, thus able and more then willing to make connections between absolutely disconnected sound events. I think that at this stage the average listener of such "out" music is way beyond what sight asks. In my opinion this is great - it can be enjoyed for what it is. I for one like it a lot, both the process and the results and enjoy reading various peoples thoughts especially the (few) who wrestle with the process.

Jon said...

I personally don't actuslly find it such an interesting "process" in and of itself. I think it's a clever temporary solution to some of the issues that have plagued MIMEO for the last few years, and it'll be interesting to see what they do next, if they build on this either directly (almost impossible IMO) or indirectly (this would interest me much more).

I do wish that more of the musicians involved, especially Keith, would join that discussion about this project. in lieu of that, here's a quote from an e-mail he sent Brian and me a few days ago. I don't really agree with this either, but it's interesting to think about anyway:

"Our scene seems to have a problem with being able to enjoy theory as a creative achievement in its own right, Sight being an example of this. Sight: the idea of how it's achieved, what are its implications, were to me always more important than how it sounds, likewise AMM music was a performance of philosophy rather than merely a musical one, although the mode of transmission was sound, and of course "painting is not merely optical". Somehow we have to get over this yearning for a kind of intellectual innocence."

hey, it's almost as if Brian and Richard have been talking to Keith... :)

Richard Pinnell said...

Robert, you are probably correct that much of the excitement of "EAI" has now passed, and that people merely curious before may be moving to other areas of investigation/discussion. I'd agree that much of the good music of a genre (not that I really consider "EAI" a genre as such) comes in its mature stages, and I personally think the standard of music from the key players right now is higher than ever before.

The irony of course is that its just the same four names here chatting. the reason I fought so hard to get the MIMEO disc a whole page review in The Wire with more of a twist than a normal review (this won't be happening unfortunately) was to try and get this music into other people's minds a bit more (and yeah sell a few more copies along the way). I believe that sight has the potential to cross-over to interested parties in other fields of music and more particularly, the visual arts,, but it doesn't appear that it will do this.

Brian Olewnick said...

Yeah, it was Keith's comment (which I've heard before) that spurred the initial post.

Robert hits many of the main points, as far as I'm concerned. Cage (at least for Westerners) pitched the stake: "After this, music as we've been thinking of it is meaningless" (in a good sense!). Of course, few people, myself included, abide by that dictum, but it's out there, not going away and imho it's good to be reminded of it from time to time (as "sight" did for me), creating a certain level of discomfort that implies, "You're not really pushing things, as a listener, as far or as comprehensively as you might." There's way too much self-satisfaction among new music listeners that they get everything, that there's no longer anything for them to have to grapple with. Smug, in a word. One of the (many) virtues of "sight" is to gently assert that this isn't so and it's more to do with the process, the initial idea (which is far beyond "clever", imho) than the result, I think. Of course, one defensive reaction will be to say, "Tosh, I know all that, I'm very hip after all." Can't let on that you might not have everything covered, you know, humility not being the strong suit of most new music aficionados.

When I'm listening to "sight". I'm--as much as possible, certainly not totally--thinking of the eleven brains making decisions, the exceedingly complex range of options they were presented with (assuming they took the project seriously, which I am) when considering the remote, asynchronous input of the other ten players and how their contribution will fit--or not--with their suppositions. For me (maybe few others!) that's going to be fascinating for a long, long time. (Parenthetically, I'd find it almost as interesting, psychologically speaking, if a given member didn't approach it seriously, if s/he said, "Fuck all this Roweian nonsense; here's four minutes of blat and hiss, randomly and aggressively dropped in.") It's all observation of human interaction, generally more interesting than music as such.

Although....captive to my cultural upbringing as anyone else, when push comes to shove, I'll choose "Doris" (or Mingus!) to listen to before most anything else. But something like "sight" causes me to at least question that decision, to examine my premises, which I find immensely valuable.

Brian Olewnick said...

btw, Robert, listening to your "degree absolute" this morning--lovely work.

Richard Pinnell said...

Yes Brian, yes...

sight is and always was for me about that process of eleven musicians trying to work together despite the restrictions of the piece. Their thought processes, the individual struggles, have fascinated me since I first heard about the project a couple of years back.

Before the release came out, when the master was sat on a shelf beside my desk unplayed I spent quite a few worried nights considering what may have existed on that CDR... could any of the musicians have decided to do something that disrupted everyone else? Did everyone take it seriously? Would there be a maverick that dropped a sample of a Tom and Jerry cartoon into the mix?

I found myself trying to understand the possibilities of the music before listening, wondering about background hiss, calculating the mathematics around how much silence might exist etc, etc...

Of course much of this was out of worry about what I was releasing, but it was a fascinating experience to consider the whole process, only amplified by my conversations with one or two of the musicians before the release.

sight wouldn't have worked half as well for me if it was executed by eleven musicians that hadn't played together before. The piece is as much about the history between the group members as anything... the fights, the musical differences, the personalities all put aside in an attempt to make something work as a final piece. The only way it could work would be for each musician to think about the others rather than themselves, make sounds that fitted in rather than stood out...

The fact I like the end result quite a bit isn't really the point. I was prepered to defend the release as an extraordinary process if it had turned out a complete mess, and my feelings stay the same now. The fact that its not possible to approach the disc as a straightforward release without the baggage of how it was put together is both a good or bad thing depending how you look at it.
It would of course be very interesting to hear the opinion of people that didn't know its history (and I think I may get such an opinion quite soon) but I also like the fact that the disc forces listeners to deal with the whole concept of how the music was made rather than being able to just sit and listen to a finished, polished product.
The fragility of the listening experience was huge for me on the first listen... will it fall apart any moment? Did someone spoil it with something crazy two thirds of the way through? Will the hiss and hum get too heavy and detract from the overall experience? I hope listeners feel a little bit of this too.

I like the fact that listeners may approach sight differently to other releases, that they have to think about the process of creation in some way as well as just listen. Lazy listening is a current bugbear of mine and if sight makes people think more and perhaps listen "better" then perhaps its a good thing that people know all about it before they listen.

Jon said...

I hate to be in the role of devil's advocate here. as I said before, I do think this is one of the better releases of 2007 before (which also says something about the generally low level of recent releases, but that's a different discussion). but that being said...

"the initial idea (which is far beyond "clever", imho) "

I thought I was being generous with "clever", honestly. maybe I've spent a lot more time with and around MIMEO over the years than you guys have, but to me it was a generally pretty obvious idea, kind of the only way for MIMEO to proceed that made sense. as I wrote on that IHM thread, back in the 24 hour concert in 2000, the band performed a piece they called "five in five", where each of them was only allowed to make five sounds over the course of five minutes. this was a Durrant-via-Malfatti idea, and I don't think it's much of a jump from that to Sight.

as for Richard's "better" listening, to me this CD doesn't help with that at all. I find that my own response is to listen less closely, because with any overlaps being essentially random anyway (and I must say, I think that Brian and Richard are putting more thought into the specifics of arrangement here than I bet some of the musicians did), what's the point? if anything, this record did help me to realize how much I personally value intentionality in this music, so that's something, but I almost feel like I'm wasting my time actually listening to it past the first few times (as Cor said in the IHM thread also, before he realized he probably shouldn't be saying that).

dunno, again, I'd like to hear more perspectives from more of the musicians...

Brian Olewnick said...

Well, I don't know how "obvious" the idea was, given that (to the best of my knowledge) none of the other ten MIMEO members, credible musical thinkers all, seemed to have come up with it. Surely the geographical realities of the group fed into the rationale for the project but I imagine there have been other bands whose members tend to widely scattered and, again, this is the first time I've encountered a project like this. (Is this so? Has no recording like this occurred before? It wouldn't totally surprise me if something along these lines had been previously realized but I don't know of it). Many things are obvious after they happen.

You've said on many occasions before that you're not a huge fan of randomness. Fine, some of us may have more affinity for it than you. As I said above, I still find something like "Doris" to be more beautiful to me so I'm not all the way there. But I can certainly see and expect to listen to "sight" many more times for years to come not too dissimilarly to the way I expect to look out my window and enjoy the experience of the random happenings going by thousands of more times as well. If you and Cor (and, for all I know, most of the rest of MIMEO) feel otherwise, great, not sure why that should carry weight with anyone else.

Jon said...

Brian, don't be snippy. I'm not saying my opinions should apply to anyone else's listening, I had plenty of personalized disclaimers in there. I'm not telling you how to listen or how to approach this, just giving a different perspective.

"But I can certainly see and expect to listen to "sight" many more times for years to come not too dissimilarly to the way I expect to look out my window and enjoy the experience of the random happenings going by thousands of more times as well. "

this isn't an equivalent experience at all, unless the same "random happenings" constantly occur outside your window in one hour segments. the random version of Rabbit Run would be a better equivalent here, although that still is drawing from a certain amount of material, so it still doesn't follow to me.

"If you and Cor (and, for all I know, most of the rest of MIMEO) feel otherwise, great, not sure why that should carry weight with anyone else."

this seems kind of pointlessly obnoxious to me. why should anyone's opinion carry any weight with anyone else? do you think yours carries more? again, just sharing my different perspective, I believed that that was welcome here. no?

Jon said...

sorry, a bit more...

"Well, I don't know how "obvious" the idea was, given that (to the best of my knowledge) none of the other ten MIMEO members, credible musical thinkers all, seemed to have come up with it. "

someone can correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think the other ten MIMEO members have come up with almost any macro ideas over the course of the group, certainly not too many that have actually panned out. for most of them, the group doesn't seem to be a very high priority, which is understandable, given that they don't actually accomplish much except exchange e-mails.

"Surely the geographical realities of the group fed into the rationale for the project but I imagine there have been other bands whose members tend to widely scattered and, again, this is the first time I've encountered a project like this. (Is this so? Has no recording like this occurred before? It wouldn't totally surprise me if something along these lines had been previously realized but I don't know of it). Many things are obvious after they happen."

I don't think it has as much to do with geographic issues as it does with the band almost always tending to play too much when they get together, resulting in a soupy mess with no space. whenever you have an ensemble like that, especially a large one, an approach like this is the way to go. like I said before, I don't think it's a very big jump from "five in five" to this, especially not for someone who's as gifted a conceptual thinker as our hero Keith.

as for similar projects, the last disc of the Filament box was recorded without Sachiko and Otomo being able to hear each other. to my ears, easily the least compelling disc in the box, FWIW.

Brian Olewnick said...

"don't be snippy"

"this seems kind of pointlessly obnoxious"

:-) You have to admit, my friend, these remarks are pretty amusing considering their source!

It's more the dismissive tone implicit in terms like "obvious" or "wasting my time" that irks. To me, when you're dealing with work from someone we both would agree is an extremely creative, thoughtful individual, it might be more appropriate for something on the order of "It doesn't work for me" or maybe even, "Perhaps I'm just not getting it."

I'm not an enormous fan of "Rabbit Run", for instance (I don't dislike it, it's just well down the list of Rowe-associated work for me--though, I should mention, still one of my favorite covers of his) but I'd never characterize it as a waste of time. I could be missing key aspects of it or maybe simply not sharing an affinity for that approach. But I respect him enough (and Lehn and Schmickler to some degree) that I assume they knew what they were about and found some value in the result. Plus I'd always give it relistens, understanding the possibility (likelihood?) that I'd also come to hear it "better".

"this isn't an equivalent experience at all, unless the same "random happenings" constantly occur outside your window in one hour segments."

Not precisely the same, true, but at least as far as my comprehension is concerned, the events of "sight" remain complex and surprising enough (especially given their lack of overt pattern) that they're still pretty much new to me each time. Certainly, I'm still forming new multi-element patterns within the piece. That's one of its strengths to me as a listener, maybe more so than much (more) intentional improv, that there's a greater range of those patterns for one to organize and more freedom to do so.

iirc, I liked that last disc of the Filament box more than yourself, so there ya go.

Crawjo said...

If I might jump into this, my take is that the concept is interesting...not exactly profound, but interesting. When I first heard about it, I thought it was a big joke, just something to do for the hell of it. And to be honest, I wish that was the way it had been handled. I think I would have liked it more if somebody had gone outside the rules and dropped something ludicrous into the mix. By placing the rules that they did on it, it just seemed like they were taking some of the adventure out of the idea. After learning more about the planning, the idea almost started to sound, well, conservative, as strange as that seems.

The other thing is this project represents, for me, some of the things that are most stale about Western philosophy/art: the division between "process" and "result"; "concept" and "execution"; "mind" and "body" and so forth.

The other thing I would say is that reviewing a piece like this seems to sort of defeat its purpose...Not everybody can get the material as soon as it comes out, and to have someone else "preview" it for them alters how they will approach it.

And finally, yeah, I also agree that in the last year or so EAI seems to be losing steam. Once a genre like EAI becomes "mature," it's dead. The constant insistence on "the new" pushes the music closer and closer to the grave, as inevitably the musicians fail to deliver "new" ideas with each recording. It's like a pitcher trying to get through the batting order for a third time...it gets harder to surprise people when they know what to expect.

Jon said...

"It's more the dismissive tone implicit in terms like "obvious" or "wasting my time" that irks. To me, when you're dealing with work from someone we both would agree is an extremely creative, thoughtful individual, it might be more appropriate for something on the order of "It doesn't work for me" or maybe even, "Perhaps I'm just not getting it.""

Brian, I can only speak for myself. I've spent a helluva lot of time thinking about and interacting with MIMEO over the last 6-7 years, both as a collective and as individuals. to me (and maybe only to me), it's a pretty obvious idea, one that as soon as someone as familiar with the band as Keith gave some serious thought to "how can this project make an interesting CD?" would come up with. just because someone is indeed an "extremely creative, thoughtful individual" (I'd go with a genius and one of the great artists of the last 50 years myself, just to be clear), that doesn't mean that all of his ideas hold equal weight with me, some resonate more than others. FWIW, I wasn't too into that Twombly painting on first impression either. the size is overwhelming, but the content itself didn't touch me at all, at least that first time.

anyway, maybe I'm not explaining myself well. it's not a voluntary response, it's almost a visceral reaction. when I say "I almost feel like I'm wasting my time actually listening to it past the first few times", that's how I feel. maybe I won't always feel that way, but you're looking for discussion on this disc, and that's where I stand with it as of now.

our split here reminds me a bit of the one we had on Bar Sachiko, also an extremely attractive CD by one of my favorite few musicians in the world, but not one I ever plan on playing much. it also reminds me a bit of the AMM/Formanex/John White/Laurent Dailleau set we saw in Musique Action, a set you disliked when you heard it, then liked quite a bit more in retrospect after discussing it with Keith. that's why you're such a good fit as his biographer, your aesthetics overlap even more than mine and his do (and there's not too much room there).

FWIW, I'm also not a big fan of Rabbit Run, Keith and Marcus continue to stand by it. the difference there (for me, obviously) goes back to the intentionality of it, maybe that's something I can connect with at some point. I only brought it up because I thought it was closer to your window example than Sight.

anyway, maybe I'll grow to like Sight more also, but it feels more towards work than pleasure putting it on at this point. I'll give it another shot in the next couple of days. let me ask you, how many times have you actually listened to it so far? I'm around 3 or 4 hard listens.

Jon said...

"And finally, yeah, I also agree that in the last year or so EAI seems to be losing steam. Once a genre like EAI becomes "mature," it's dead. The constant insistence on "the new" pushes the music closer and closer to the grave, as inevitably the musicians fail to deliver "new" ideas with each recording. It's like a pitcher trying to get through the batting order for a third time...it gets harder to surprise people when they know what to expect."

there may be some truth in this, but having seen all of the posters here's top 10 lists in recent years, I wonder how much this would change if I had the money to release discs as frequently as I did a few years back. only 2 CDs and 1 DVD in 2006, looking like 4 CDs in 2007, as opposed to the 8 each year in 2000 and 2001. this isn't due to lack of quality projects, I have 8 more definite and a couple of other likely projects I've committed to, but unless finances pick up, at least a few of those will wait until 2009. 8 new Ersts a year instead of 3 or 4 might help perk up those overall perceptions... :)

Richard Pinnell said...

Jon said- "there may be some truth in this, but having seen all of the posters here's top 10 lists in recent years, I wonder how much this would change if I had the money to release discs as frequently as I did a few years back"

Wow Jon thats one hell of a statement! Don't go all shy on us or anything!

The Erstwhile/Rowe connection is phenomenal, and continues to produce CDs beyond anything else released every year, but unless you can pull 8 CDs a year from Keith I'd stick with just releasing two or three discs if I were you. :)

Brian Olewnick said...

I think I'm at 7 or 8 listens to "sight" (probably 10-12 on "The Room", fwiw). Neither has yet been filed.

Jon said...

well, you can judge for yourselves. the upcoming release list is:

051: Peter Rehberg/Marcus Schmickler
052: Keith Rowe/Will Guthrie
053: Ami Yoshida/Toshimaru Nakamura
054: Kai Fagaschinski/Burkhard Stangl Musik - Ein Portrait in Sehnsucht
055: Bhob Rainey/Jason Lescalleet

ErstSolo
ES002: Sachiko M (contact mike only)

ErstPop
EP001: The Magic I.D. (Margareth Kammerer/Christof Kurzmann/Kai Fagaschinski/Michael Thieke) till my breath gives out
EP002: schnee (Burkhard Stangl/Christof Kurzmann)

and hopefully two other Toshi projects that haven't been locked in yet.

so, yep, I feel comfortable that if I could release 8 of those in the next year as opposed to 4 or 5, and if I could have released a few more discs per year over the last few years, people would generally feel better about the state of the music. maybe I would have even done Sight... :)

Jon said...

one addition to that last post, I wrote:

"yep, I feel comfortable that if I could release 8 of those in the next year as opposed to 4 or 5, and if I could have released a few more discs per year over the last few years, people would generally feel better about the state of the music."

it should end with "people who mostly rely on recorded documents as opposed to live shows would generally feel better about the state of the music."

also, if ErstQuake 4 was actually happening, that would certainly help, unless you don't agree with that either.

Jon said...

so, playing 'sight' again now, around the 27:45 mark, Yuko came running downstairs, excited to hear Pita (the same exact thing as the last time I played it, pretty funny).

after he finishes a few minutes later, she looked at me and said "I like this record!". she's usually ahead of me on these things, so there you go... :)

Crawjo said...

Well, yeah, actually if you released more that would help me out a lot. The other component to this is that I feel IMJ has dropped off as well. I'm much more interested in the Japanese scene than in the European one--or a mixture of the two (in retrospect I think a s o was one of the strongest albums of 2006). But the other thing in the back of my mind was that I wasn't really overwhelmed by Erstquake 3. A couple great performances, a couple good ones, and a bunch that left me cold. I need something that wakes me up.

Jon said...

yeah, IMJ is also in a much worse financial position than they were a few years back.

"But the other thing in the back of my mind was that I wasn't really overwhelmed by Erstquake 3. A couple great performances, a couple good ones, and a bunch that left me cold. I need something that wakes me up."

yeah, the goal for ErstQuake 3 was range over focus, and I think it succeeded in that, but I also found the majority of the sets disappointing to a degree (maybe 4-5 of the 20 I was really happy with/excited by).

partly because of this, the proposed EQ 4 was programmed pretty narrowly in an area this crew would certainly love (myself included), but sadly it wasn't to be. it does look like there's a chance that Keith will stop by here in October (if he's still talking to me after reading this thread, that is), I'll of course keep everyone posted as it develops.

Jesse said...

"(Is this so? Has no recording like this occurred before? It wouldn't totally surprise me if something along these lines had been previously realized but I don't know of it)."-Brian

In 1998, the Gorge Trio and Milo Fine collaborated in, iirc, the following fashion: Milo listened to their stuff, and then recorded a preset length (pretty sure it was 60 minutes) of himself improvising, while reflecting on the Gorge Trio sound. This was later mixed and edited together with the Trio track, and released in 1999 as For Loss Of, on Free Land Records. I am recalling all of this from a conversation with Milo several years ago, and haven't heard the outcome. Nor have I heard sight.
I am a Cy Twombly fan of some 15 years or so.

Brian Olewnick said...

craw makes some good points:

"I think I would have liked it more if somebody had gone outside the rules and dropped something ludicrous into the mix. By placing the rules that they did on it, it just seemed like they were taking some of the adventure out of the idea."

I think I wrote about this somewhere, wondering whether Prisoner's Dilemma issues mattered here but this is the sort of case where those issues apply. By "rules", you're talking (I think) about the standards and practice in the eai genre. Breaking them has a long history. In some of the earliest performances of "Treatise", for instance, John White was already interjecting "rude" sounds into the generally calm, minimalist mix. In Nancy, in the concert Jon referred to, he was specifically asked to do so by Rowe. So in that sense, it would have been entirely appropriate for, say, a four-minute noise barrage from Pita. But that would depend what the musicians goal is and here's where the Prisoner's Dilemma analogy breaks down. If the generally understood (not coerced, but agreed upon) goal is a cohesive, if spare, hour of music, then maybe such an outburst wouldn't further the objective. On the other hand, if everyone's thinking along those lines....you see, it can get complex in a hurry.

"The other thing is this project represents, for me, some of the things that are most stale about Western philosophy/art: the division between "process" and "result"; "concept" and "execution"; "mind" and "body" and so forth."

I think there's a lot to this statement as well and I'll try to get back to it at length sometime soon. One of the broad "problems" I do often have with much of this music is its Western orientation (in the sense of being exclusive to non-Western concerns). I'm not sure there's much to be done about it but it's always something worth keeping in mind. I think it's something that touched Keith during his trip to the Congo a few years ago.

Jon said...

"One of the broad "problems" I do often have with much of this music is its Western orientation (in the sense of being exclusive to non-Western concerns). I'm not sure there's much to be done about it but it's always something worth keeping in mind."

yeah, I'd say that really needs to be rephrased, since the whole area largely stems from the collision of the Tokyo crew (Eastern) with the Europeans (Western) in the late nineties.

obviously there are major areas of the world that don't have much to do with EAI (Africa, as you mentioned), but it's more of a true 'worldwide' music in its developmental stage than probably any area of music has ever been.

Brian Olewnick said...

It's worldwide, to be sure, but the conception behind most of it is, imho, Western, including even most of the Japanese contingent, in the sense of being "art music" as opposed to popular or functional (communal, sacred, etc.). I'm not saying that's "bad" (not at all, being a fan of "art music" and Western art generally), just thinking it's helpful to be seen in a more worldly context where it's one approach out of several. We do get kind of insular here, after all.

Just guessing, but I think craw's recent time in Namibia may have caused him to reflect (more) on the nature of music in society (correct me if I'm off-base, David) and that's always of interest (not dissimilar to the Scratch issues, in some ways!)

Crawjo said...

Yeah, not just the time in Namibia but also some reading I've had to do on dance and music in African societies. I also agree that much of the Japanese scene is (partly) Western in its philosophical orientation. It is true that there is nothing "wrong" with that, but I do feel that it represents another barrier that maybe could be broken down, but it would be tough to do. I think the concerns and orientation of the Scratch orchestra are very relevant here. My issue isn't that eai music should somehow become more "African" or anything like that, but rather that the conceptual orientation of "art music" in the West sometimes bothers me to the point that I need to get away from it for awhile.

Audience participation, for instance. In many parts of the world the idea of sitting quietly in a dark room and listening to sounds with your eyes closed would be literally insane, as weird as many "indigenous" musical practices are to us. Especially with the silent-end of EAI, I am left to wonder what it is exactly that prevents the audience from "interrupting" the non-performing performers. I'm thinking about Mattin's duo with Malfatti last year and how his recording of the room demonstrated how we really weren't as silent as we thought we were being. This makes me wonder why the hell we are trying to be silent anyway? I guess there is some sort of symbiotic relationship between artist and audience that enforces this, but I would like to see us (audience and musicians) attempt to alter the dynamics. What I'm trying to get at here is that at the few live shows I have attended there is almost a concert-hall vibe going on, even though the physical settings are very different. And I thought that was partly what we were trying to get away from?

Crawjo said...

Oh, the other thing I wanted to say is that I do think there is a "sacred" vibe to live eai performances. Look around the room sometime at the expressions on people's faces as they listen to music. It's very similar to what you will find in a Catholic Church during the Eucharist...People really do look like they are praying, and who knows, maybe they are!

SOZ said...

I won't assume anyone is interested in my own reasons for refraining from comment on 'Sight', but in any case it has mostly to do with not having really absorbed it yet. I respect B's choice to focus on the process much more than the result at least as an entry point of discussion for this recording, but I'm afraid in some ways I'm just an old-fashioned results-oriented Occidental . So until I've grasped the 'result' more than I have (one good listen, one half-hearted one so far) I don't feel I can discuss the process with any sense of concreteness.

Having said that, from what I've heard and read so far, the process is to me fascinating (I'm more enthused about it than Jon, but perhaps not as much as Ollie) and the results are quite stunning. Beautiful even.

B, I notice you seem to have two modes of language to describe the process. In certain sections or paragraphs, you describe it as more in Cagean terms where alea takes center stage over any possibility of true improvisation. Almost as if the individual contributions were simply sound sources. In other sections, you seem to focus more on the possibility that these musicians were in fact doing their darndest to collaborate/interact with each other and also concentrating on making sure their contribution to the piece will fit with what they expect others will be doing. Of course, both/neither are right/wrong. This is just my observation of your use of language and I'm not implying you're formulating any sort of incosistent conclusions from it. Nevertheless I admit I'm more drawn - perhaps idealistically so - to the idea that this recording represents a true expression of collaborative and contributive improvisation.

Richard Pinnell said...

The musician's take on it is very much one of attempted collaboration and understanding rather than an exrecise in indeterminacy.

Brian Olewnick said...

Sergio, I think it's both--that's one of the things I like so much. The musicians (I take it, until being informed otherwise) were trying to approach it as a collaboration in terms of expectations, affinities, etc. How closely they achieved this is anyone's guess but certainly, inevitably, indeterminacy entered the picture. So I think you're at some kind of uniquely described nexus between the two, different from what you'd get with other approaches.

Jon said...

"The musician's take on it is very much one of attempted collaboration and understanding rather than an exrecise in indeterminacy."

you honestly should try to get some notes from them or something for your web site. it'd be great to hear some thoughts from someone besides Keith and Cor, as I've said a few times already.

Jon said...

I spent some time talking to Keith about all of this this morning, pretty interesting. he's also going to try to elicit some statements from the other MIMEOs, Richard, not sure if you were already doing that.

I've been thinking about crawjo's last posts here...

"What I'm trying to get at here is that at the few live shows I have attended there is almost a concert-hall vibe going on, even though the physical settings are very different. And I thought that was partly what we were trying to get away from?"

I don't think just because a tradition exists, one necessarily needs to get away from it, you don't need to destroy every part of what's come before in order to create something new. Keith specifically almost always builds on existing traditions via inspiration from major figures, be they Caravaggio, Rothko, or Sachiko.

and I personally like this kind of performer/audience dynamic, I think it's meditative (at its best) as opposed to religious, it's respectful to the deep focus that the musicians need to work at their best, and the idea isn't some kind of blind worship, it's an attempt to better understand abstract music with (ideally) a unique structure being created before you in real time. just because it's (at times, not always) more oblique doesn't make it more artificial to me, and very few works of art fully transcend the specific traditions their creators come from, that's close to impossible if not fully impossible.

Richard Pinnell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Richard Pinnell said...

Erm, care to edit that link for me Brian!? :)

Brian Olewnick said...

Nope, I'm afraid you're stuck with it. Don't see how to edit a response short of trashing it, though if you know how, lemme know.

Richard Pinnell said...

OK, deleted the other post and copy and pasted without the offending link.

"he's also going to try to elicit some statements from the other MIMEOs, Richard, not sure if you were already doing that."



No, I wasn't.



"and I personally like this kind of performer/audience dynamic, I think it's meditative (at its best) as opposed to religious, it's respectful to the deep focus that the musicians need to work at their best"



Yes this I agree with. Whether this level of attentive listening renders the music "Art Music" or not isn't really that important to me. What matters is how much I can get out of the music, and in my case that involves being 'present' with the music as much as I can. Now if this was rhythm driven dance music then maybe that would be best achieved up on my feet dancing, but as it is music that I process in my head then I am better off sat down listening.


Personally I won't allow this situation to create an us/them situation though. As most musicians that know me will be aware I'm highly likely to want to talk to them pretty soon after they finished playing, I just think the best way (for me at least) to be involved with this music is to focus through respectful listening whilst the music is taking place and open discussion when its not.

---


I've also thought more about the "EAI"/Maturity/Perceived Lost Vitality question. I actually think the music is as exciting and vibrant as ever, its just that it has spread and diversified a little, and crucially there is more and more happening away from the usual internet circles.


There is great music happening out there all over the world, its just that you have to look harder / dig deeper to find it. Jon's overwhelming influence on place like IHM, JC, Bagatellen understandably causes people to link the health of Erstwhile to the health of the music in general, and as Jon has been less able to put out as many quality releases over the last couple of years, and as EQ4 fell through it is easy to see how this could be linked to some kind of overall dip in the music.
Crawjo seemed to link IMJ to Erstwhile to his dissatisfaction with EQ3 to mean that the music is in decline... seriously there is so much more going on out there. Its really not fair to judge the health of the music by just one corner. (incidentally my two favourite discs of the year have come from Erstwhile and IMJ anyway...)

The truth is though there have been, and will still be some great festivals taking place this year with "EAI" as an element. In the UK I have seen the music begin to take a large presence in formerly classical festivals such as Huddersfield, take up an entire day in big money bills such as The Music Lovers' Field Companion, Kill Your Timid Notion and Instal, and the LMC Festival bill is now very closely linked to "EAI" associated music.

Next week I head to France to see a few days of a really strong looking festival here: www.festival.NPAI.com. The Berlin Maerz Musik festival contained a sub-programme curated (I think) by Werner Dafeldecker and I am keeping a close eye on the 2:13 festival in Greece this September...


So to me the music is getting more recognition and wider exposure than ever. There are new names to me emerging every week as well, often away from the glare of the very focussed spotlight shone by our corner of the internet.
I guess if you are sat in Obscuresville, USA then all you can go by is CD releases and what is spoken about on the internet, but its important to remember that there is a lot more going on out there as yet uncovered. For instance the Korean, Irish and Lebanese scenes that are all very vibrant at present have some level of "EAI" influence on them, yet emerged quietly for a couple of years before any CDs or major discussion. Where else is this happening? Who knows, but I'm sure there are further pockets out there.

There is also a lot of diversification and cross pollination between genres happening that may fall outside of the usual "EAI" spotlight. I met a musician earlier this year that took part in a very "EAI" orientated set, but came from a very different msuical background. When I discussed the music with that musician they said they couldn't think of any labels that would want to release the music so they were aiming at a self-published CDR release. After further investigation I found out they had never heard of Erstwhile, Cathnor, Grob or Potlatch....

I guess after all this rambling my message is this: I am as excited by new CD releases now as I was ten years ago, and just wish I had the time and resources to make it to half of the concerts I would like to attend. I just think its important to keep your eyes and ear open beyond the obvious places.

Jon said...

I think the perceived problems with the vitality of the genre stem somewhat from the inability of most people to translate their music into great records, be they musicians or label owners. I can only really speak for myself, but CDs that I find fully satisfying are few and far between these days, whether they're on Erst or not (although I've always had major or minor issues with a chunk of the Erst catalog too, my own input is limited by real-world dynamics at times).

we've been through this all on IHM, but I know for one, I expected better things from labels like Cathnor and Formed, although it does give me hope that both of those relatively new labels have just put out their best releases yet IMO ('sight' and the Toshi/Lucio). if the Axel/Toshi record is one of the top two of the first half of 2007 in Richard's eyes, to me that's a major problem, as I find that to be a severely flawed disc which I've just spent quite a bit of time talking to Toshi via e-mail about. I realize I have extremely high standards, but I'd like to see more great discs emerging to be a bit more comfortable with the true "health" of this area in 2007. it doesn't help that a lot of the up and coming newer voices (Will Guthrie, Kai Fagaschinski, Joe Foster/Bonnie Jones, Adam Sussmann, Arek Gulbenkoglu, Lacey/Vogel) have barely released anything so far this year, hopefully that'll change.

uli said...

"Jon's overwhelming influence on place like IHM, JC, Bagatellen understandably causes people to link the health of Erstwhile to the health of the music in general"

At least for JC, one can not underestimate the influence of adventurous Sankt Olewnick himself.

Richard Pinnell said...

"in Richard's eyes, to me that's a major problem, as I find that to be a severely flawed disc which I've just spent quite a bit of time talking to Toshi via e-mail about. I realize I have extremely high standards, but I'd like to see more great discs emerging to be a bit more comfortable with the true "health" of this area in 2007."

In the case of that particular disc Jon I think most of the reasons you find it flawed are the exact reasons I like it so much. My review will be at PTA soon, but yeah I think its a really strong disc.

As for Cathnor well I have only ever had it in mind to meet the standards of one person, myself.
If I'm honest Jon I've never expected to come even close to the standards you set for non-Erst releases, so I've never let that worry me.

Jon said...

one trend I have seen over the past 2 years or so is that most of the strongest statements (releases, of course) have been solo and/or composed (beforehand or in postproduction), as opposed to collaborative improvisations. I'm not fully sure why this is or what this means, but I don't think it's a sign of a creatively flourishing area.

Richard Pinnell said...

"one trend I have seen over the past 2 years or so is that most of the strongest statements (releases, of course) have been solo and/or composed (beforehand or in postproduction)"

Yes this is true. I've often wondered about this and I think crawjo's observations may play a part here, in that "EAI" can be seen to be the point at which improvisation and a Western ideal of "art music" collide. The more traditional arts have generally been the domain of the solo creator, and the kind of installation art that occasionally criss crosses with "EAI" leans that way too.

The traditional. cathartic model for artistic expression was always a solo exercise so it doesn't surprise me that the CDs that really try and make a statement are solo. The simple act of improvising in a group involves some degree of compromise, and whilst the end result is often a great piece of music in itself its usually not so much of a singular "statement".

No idea why you wouldn't see this as a sign of a creatively flourishing area though. Whether people are creating alone or creating in groups they are still creating, and if we get more solid albums from it then thats great if you ask me.

As it happens it looks like the forthcoming Cathnor 3" series is turning itself into a solo artist series. The first two and possibly the third in the series will be short solo statements.

Jon said...

"No idea why you wouldn't see this as a sign of a creatively flourishing area though. Whether people are creating alone or creating in groups they are still creating, and if we get more solid albums from it then thats great if you ask me."

well, I don't think we're getting "more" solid albums, I think we're getting different ones, probably fewer overall, as has been noted. one major thing that excites me about this area of music is the thrill of the unknown, of artists being pushed into unfamiliar (not uncomfortable) territory and forced to cope with the situation on the fly. that's lost in most solo situations, as well as most composed situations, and I often miss it.

but like I said, I'm not fully sure what it means, and I've also started an ErstSolo series in response to this trend. 001 worked out pretty well, we'll see how the followups go... :)

Jon said...

also, I think collaborative projects have more long-range potential than solo ones, as a general rule of thumb. I don't just mean within that project, I mean the effect on each musician on their way of thinking and their body of work, solo and collaborative.

for instance, MIMEO, for all its frustrations over the past decade, has been very influential on Keith (as well as probably all or most of the others, but I'm most familiar with Keith). he's built close and important relationships with Marcus, Christian and Pita, all of whom he would have had much less contact with if MIMEO hadn't existed.

Jon said...

kind of missed this before...

"The traditional, cathartic model for artistic expression was always a solo exercise so it doesn't surprise me that the CDs that really try and make a statement are solo. The simple act of improvising in a group involves some degree of compromise, and whilst the end result is often a great piece of music in itself its usually not so much of a singular "statement"."

yeah, I don't agree with this, I could point you to dozens of examples, but maybe it's just different tastes. I think this is where the link to the jazz/free improv tradition comes in, as opposed to the classical one, and I think it's important to not lose that (a similar argument to the improv purists on IHM and elsewhere, just not as extreme, but I do think it's a crucial point).

Richard Pinnell said...

To clarify, I wasn't dismissing the act of group improvisation in any way. I've spent the last dozen years or more enjoying it. I was trying to point out (perhaps badly) that you are more likely to get a clearly defined single statement from a solo recording than in a group situation.

I am not suggesting one way is better than the other, and if I was I would probably come down on the side of the group improv, which I agree is part of the heart and soul of "EAI" and shouldn't be lost. I was merely pointing out that clearly defined single statements are more common in solo situations where there is no compromise of ideas.

This isn't just solo playing of course, I'd include composed or semi composed pieces also such as sight. In fact one of the key positives to sight in my opinion comes from the control placed on the group following the instructions of one person.

Robert said...

Brian Olewnick said...
btw, Robert, listening to your "degree absolute" this morning--lovely work.


I missed this the first time reading these (now epic) comments. Thanks!

BTW David very graciously put that up in Apple Lossless format (the M4A) so if you haven't already you can grab that one and make a cd of it and it will be identical to my original source.

iveramped said...

wow-AS ALWAYS, basically the same three guys commenting among THEMSELVES on art obviously no one else gives two craps about. oh, by the way i have more than 30 recordings by the prime suspect here-one keith rowe.carry on with the self-indulgent love fest.