Readings in Modern Music

Anyone who follows this blog with any frequency knows how much of a stretch it is for me to dig a contemporary recording, let alone a modern track by a “band” instead of a composer.  Even scarcer still are the selections I enjoy which contain lyrics and any sort of verse structure akin to rock.

The above is particularly applicable at present as I’ve spent the past week delving deep into the masterworks of musique concrete and electroacoustic composition – recordings which not only abandon contemporary pop structures like lyricism and melody, but forgo the entire tonal system itself, instead favoring abstract and atonal plunderphonics!

So it is with immense surprise and satisfaction that I state the following – A user contacted me on last.fm this week and shared  an unsigned band’s recent video… and I absolutely loved it!

They call themselves Museum – four gents from Berlin who self-released their album, Traces Of on their own label – beat is murder.

museum band
Traces Of followed the release of two EPs – Exit Wounds and Old Firehand but the 2012 single “The Law” is the fan-recommended track which introduced me to their work.  (They actually do the whole lowercase-sentence-fragment thing but I’ve capitalized their releases here for the sake of readability.  Sorry lads.)

Their official site is inactive, simply stating that the album’s release is scheduled for Jul 6, 2012, however the band appears to be active with a performance scheduled at FiestaCity 2014 on Aug 29th – Place du Martyr, Verviers, Belgium.

This recording came onto my radar at quite an opportune time.  The first thing I noticed from the first 20 seconds of the tune’s music video was that the band had incorporated elements of tape music and musique concrete as the very foundation of the track.

The lyrics did not detract from the layering of minimal, looped sounds, as they too were cut up in a fragmented presentation which would have made Burroughs proud.  And while the kaleidoscopic video effect is nothing new, it works well with the track.

Check it out for yourself – “The Law” from Museum.

I began the week with the discovery of a historic jazz release in the Netherlands which should arrive in the post in the next 10 days (Stay tuned for a special feature with high-res photos once it arrives!)

I had been compiling data on the milestones of free jazz and was very happy to find one of them re-issued by Impulse! Records in 2011 – the same label which released the original recording in 1968.

Archie Shepp - Magic of Ju-Ju

The psychedelic cover art commanded my attention when I found it in a local record shop, and while I had never listened to Archie Shepp before I knew I had to check out this record.

I previewed it for a mere 30 seconds – whetting my sonic appetite with Shepp’s free jazz psychedelic tenor frenzy accompanied by five (count ’em – FIVE) talking drum percussionists.  30 seconds was all I needed.

I instantly purchased the record and added it to my jazz collection, delighted by my discovery but slightly irked that there was no mention of this album by any of the free jazz essentials lists I had compiled.  That’s just further evidence that you’ve really got to get out there and dig.

But on to today’s theme – Music Lit.  I knew it was going to be an intellectually stimulating week when I found Julian Cope’s legendary music crit, Krautrocksampler offered up on the Web in PDF format.  As you’re probably aware, this title is long out of print and the author has sworn never to reissue it.  Copies surface on various marketplaces for hundreds of dollars.   Thankfully, a dedicated fan painstakingly scanned every page of the book, and while it is hardly archival quality, it is the only way most of us will ever see the book.

Krautrocksampler

This will be a pleasure to peruse over the coming weeks, even in its crudely-photocopied form.

I picked up another jazz book from a local used bookshop as it was only a few dollars and I was curious to see what a writer would have to say about jazz in the middle of the era. The bulk of the text was written in 1962, with the “jazz-rock” chapter at the end likely added for the 1975 and 1979 printings.

What Jazz is About
Erlich’s perspective of jazz is hardly academic, and clearly it is not intended to be. The book’s approach is that of a simple love of the genre and acts as a guided tour through the history of its greatest influences, from African drum music to field hollers all the way up to the Third Stream and jazz-rock era.

From a historical context the book successfully builds a fundamental framework of jazz’s legacy. The language is elementary and makes for an effortless read, with a circular structure of artist introductions, childhoods, development, and lasting impacts.

However there are many titles available which better-examine what will soon be a century of jazz culture. There are very few references to What Jazz Is All About anywhere on the Web, and even fewer reviews. I’ve since moved on to better-known resources for further exploration of the genre.

History of Jazz

The History of Jazz by Ted Gioia is Amazons’ best-selling jazz text.  I’m enjoying it thus far, and was happy to see that it included a Recommended Listening index at the end of the book.

I also ordered two highly-acclaimed guides to 20th Century avant-garde music – The Rest is Noise: Listening to the 20th Century and Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music.

The Rest is Noise and Audio Culture

The Rest is Noise was a Pulitzer Prize Finalist and cracked the New York Times’ Top 10 Books of the Year.  Audio Culture is a compiled volume of manifestos and writings from every music theorist from the first discussions of noise by Jacques Attali and Luigi Russolo to a piece about post-digital tendencies in contemporary computer music by microtonal composer Kim Cascone.

Best of all, Audio Culture includes a hefty index with a chronology of noteworthy recordings, a glossary and a Select Discography.

I also enjoyed watching a documentary film this week titled, In the Ocean – A Film About the Classical Avant Garde which sparked my further exploration of musique concrete.

One of the interesting things I took from the film was the discovery that Cage was really interested in Finnegans Wake (his 1979 mesostic composition, Roaratorio is entirely based upon the novel both in structure and in content.)  And by delightful coincidence – what very title arrived in my mailbox just one day earlier?

Finnegans Wake

The Law of Very Large Numbers is a beautiful thing in practice.

All these new music books inspired me to print up some appropriate bookmarks, so I made these… (extra points if you can name the jazz record which featured the Jackson Pollock print.)

Bookmarks 06-14-14 sm

So pick up the music books I’ve featured, check out Magic of Ju-Ju and I’ll be back next week with a fantastic new box set!

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