Friday, April 04, 2008

Alone again with the dawn coming up

There's a link here somewhere with yesterday's post; something to do with blurring the boundaries of what constitute sound and music, of what sounds we might use to make music. This all goes back to John Cage, of course, and quite possibly beyond; Berlioz scored for thunder in The Trojans, after all*.


Anyway, after yesterday's orgy of feedback (which some spoilsports want to eliminate - boo!), today I'm in an entirely different place, namely the sun-bleached deserts of middle America - well, that what I'm put in mind of when listening to the KLF's album "Chill Out". Like Bill Drummond, I've never been there, but it certainly sounds like what it ought to feel like there, so much so that I suspect I should never go there in case the reality doesn't live up to the place in my mind.
It's a seamless collage of samples and original music that drifts by like clouds, essentially static, as is Metal Machine Music, but that's partly an illusion - things are happening, and by the end of the album you are somewhere different to where you started, it's just that the movement is glacial. I might make another connection, this time forwards to the mid 90s when I first heard Morton Feldman's music, which similarly uses apparent lack of development to mask a much deeper and more powerful progression.


It's about space, as is the other music I've mentioned; this is something Miles Davis learned from Stockhausen and used to good effect on "On the Corner". It's perhaps the great unrecognised concern of 20th century music that reverberates still: the creation of an almost physical sense of space. You can do it by the placing of your players, in the performance area or mix; you might do it by the careful placement of notes in time; it's difficult to describe adequately, but it sure is powerful when you hear it. And feel it, because it's as much about the physical sensation as the aural.


By the way, I thought this album was long out of print, but apparently you can get it on Amazon. It's getting increasingly hard to find music that's hard to find, isn't it?


*How he thought he was going to get a roll of thunder to order is an interesting question. Of course the practical answer is that you play it on a bass drum, but the fact remains that the score specifies "roule de tonnerre", not drums.

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