Thoughts on My Research to Close Out the Year

“If you copy from one author, it’s plagiarism, but if you copy from many, it’s research.” — Wilson Mizner

Friends, I’ve been working on writing a book, and I’d like your insight. For the last several years, I’ve been compiling and constructing a vast library of materials on a range of interrelated subjects. These include but are not limited to the following: 

Privacy Rights, Copyright Reform, Copyleft, Open-Source, Creative Commons, Consumer Culture, Propaganda, Social Engineering, Gift Economics, various forms of Anarchism, Digital Abundance, Kopimism, the Access to Knowledge Movement, Mutual Aid, the Moral Economy, Antimarketism, the Free Culture Movement, Open Culture and Remix Culture, the Open Content Project, Free Music Philosophy, File-Sharing (a consumer gift system), Post-scarcity Economics / Digital Abundance, the Information Society / Knowledge Economy, Digital Rights, Crypto-Anarchism / Cypherpunks, as well as Mass-Surveillance and its Impacts on Journalism. 

I’ve constructed a library of several hundred books, essays, documentary films, articles, periodicals, and other resources, and then organized the content with a network of spreadsheets, folder systems, and a notebook of rich-formatted documents linking directly to all content cited in my archive. My organizational strategies have proven useful to aid me in navigating the material. 

I’ve employed a master spreadsheet to track which content I have in physical or digital formats, which ones I’ve consumed and which I have yet to explore, and I’ve used Google Books to dynamically extract critical content I’ve highlighted from those texts into a series of documents with cited excerpts for future reference. I endeavored to secure digital counterparts for all physical materials where available to facilitate content extraction and to automate progress tracking.

This research is supplemental to the work I perform managing my own media library. During the pandemic I produced a media workbook on the cloud comprising over 200 spreadsheets dynamically organizing over 26,000 of my favorite albums and published a year-end survey of metrics from 13,000 albums representing the top 1% of the artists in my archive. Perhaps I can incorporate some of those infographics and analytics into related areas of my research on the aforementioned topics and themes.

Early on in the project, I found myself disheartened that the majority of the published material on these subjects trailed off after the first decade of the new millennium, with little content examining the critical new era where streaming digital media has become the norm. Perhaps to that end I might be the one to write a book to fill that void. I just fear that my efforts as a cultural custodian are rendered moot in this age of on-demand content and that there will be no one left with any interest in my work. There are also the socio-political aspects of the subject matter which might be unwise to publish and associate with my name, so I’ve considered employing a nom de plume. I’d appreciate the insight and perspectives of my readers regarding these considerations. Is this content still relevant? Is it safe? Is there an audience who might find my work to be of merit?

I’ll continue to curate and refine my notes on these materials in the years ahead. It’ll be an engaging and enlightening journey.

Published in: on December 5, 2021 at 7:51 am  Leave a Comment  

“This Is A Journey Into Sound”

Just dropping in for a quick collection update – My holy trinity of 1987. The two singles were featured prominently on mash-up culture mixes and retrospective surveys of early hip hop / dance music. The full-length LP is the rare debut album by The KLF, (Kings of the Low Frequencies / Kopyright Liberation Front), then performing as The Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu, and would be impossible to release in today’s litigious music market.

They faced similar challenges in August of 1987, when The Mechanical-Copyright Protection Society ordered The JAMs to recall and destroy all unsold copies of the record. The JAMs made a bonfire in the Swedish countryside and burnt the LPs.

Pictured:

  • Eric B. & Rakim ‎– “Paid In Full (Seven Minutes Of Madness – The Coldcut Remix)”
  • The Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu (The KLF) ‎– 1987 What The F***’s Going On?
  • Bomb The Bass ‎– “Beat Dis (Extended Dis)”

Interestingly, both “Beat Dis” and “Seven Minutes” contain samples of “Train Sequence” by Geoffrey Sumner (1958) and “Pump That Bass” by Original Concept (1986). And all three of these releases were first issued in 1987. Furthermore, M | A | R | R | S’ hit, “Pump Up The Volume,” also released in ’87, shares its namesake titular sample with the Coldcut “Seven Minutes” mix, each lifting the spoken-word vocal from Eric B. and Rakim’s “I Know You Got Soul” from their debut Paid In Full LP released earlier that same year. Whosampled dot com cites no fewer than 437 songs that went on to sample the classic hip hop track.

The Coldcut Remix is filed under Hip-Hop, “Beat Dis” is House/Breaks, and 1987 is Leftfield/Plunderphonics. Each is a milestone in the history of DJ culture.

#keepthisfrequencyclear

The Return of gmusicbrowser!

Such an exciting day! I happened to visit omgubuntu.co.uk and a headline caught my eye from December of 2020 which read, “GMusicBrowser is Back From the Dead with New GTK3 Port.”

This was thrilling news, as gmusicbrowser was my favorite large music library manager for Linux back in 2015. Back then I’d published an article after discovering the application and had described it as, “a robust utility with impressive handling for libraries in excess of 100,000 tracks, and best of all – a fully-customizable interface.” Sadly, development of the application halted several years ago and the Ubuntu Software Center retired it in favor of the simpler but powerful Clementine application. If you’re curious, Slant.co published a detailed side-by-side comparison of the two applications here.

Searching the web for more news on the release I found an article from March 1, 2021 on Linux Uprising titled, “gmusicbrowser Music Player Sees First Release In More Than 5 Years.”

While not available from the Software Center, installation is manual but fairly simple for Ubuntu users by downloading the .deb package at http://gmusicbrowser.org/download.html

This however was only half the battle for me, as I had painstakingly crafted a custom application layout for gmusicbrowser to let me browse my library by folder structure and by multiple points of metadata all at once. I dove into my archived documentation and was elated to find that I’d taken detailed notes on how to install the custom layout I loved step by step.

From my notes, I saw that the layout mine was based upon was titled “laiteAraknoid2” – one of several layouts included in a package formerly available from vsido.org. Sadly, the download link from 2015 was long-since broken, but ever-the-archivist, I found that I had downloaded and saved the package to my local file system along with an instruction guide I’d written on how to restore it!

I followed my six-year-old instructions to the letter, and was overjoyed when the next launch of gmusicbrowser instantly restored my custom tweaked version of the layout along with all my folder configuration and user settings! The entire process took fewer than five minutes! All that was left to do was rescan the library for all the content I’d added in subsequent years. Three hours and 45 minutes later I was all synced up and ready to go.

Here is a snapshot of the layout with one of my primary audio folders selected. I have a little tidying up to do with some of the metadata but that’s an advantage of this layout scheme, as I can quickly identify and correct stray tags. This will empower me to explore my library anew! Such a great way to begin the fall season!

A Generous Gift: Exquisite Rarities of Harold Budd and Brian Eno

It’s a very special month at Innerspace Labs thanks to a gift from a very generous reader! My followers will recall my sharing my “Brian Eno Collection Milestone” from August of 2020 wherein I showcased photos and details of my Eno collection to date, as well as my “Rest In Beauty: Compiling an Archive in Memory of Harold Budd” post from December of that year where I featured my vinyl discography of the late Harold Budd. If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you are well aware that the catalogs of these two iconic veterans of ambient music are among my most-cherished musical treasures. 

In September I was contacted by a reader who, himself, is quite the avid collector. He had amassed an impressively substantial library of Eno and Budd artifacts, both physically and digitally, and maintains documentation cataloging and itemizing all facets of his collection. This fellow kindly offered to share his work with me, gifting me a wealth of releases missing from my humble collection. I was honored!

In all, he gifted me 341 folders of rare album releases I was missing from Eno and Budd’s catalogs, bringing my digital totals for these artists to 409 folders for Brian Eno and 82 folders for Harold Budd, respectively.

I was fascinated to learn of incalculably rare works among his library, such as Budd’s “Untitled Piece (Text-Sound composition)” from the 1969 Source Magazine #6. This release is noteworthy as, prior to its discovery, the earliest documented work by Budd was the markedly rare The Oak Of The Golden Dreams issued by Advanced Recordings in 1971 which last surfaced in 2020 and sold on Discogs for $420. The 38-minute “Untitled Piece” predates this recording by two years, and included with the recording were high-resolution PDF scans of the accompanying periodical summarizing Budd’s early composition. 

Other new-to-me Budd rarities were included such as a Various Artist release, the Chicago ‘82: A Dip in the Lake cassette from Belgium which contains two tracks by Budd. Similarly, The Greetings – Piano Live 1991 is another various artist release, issued in Italy by Materiali Sonori in 1993, and an EP of Glyph Remixes by Hector Zazou & Harold Budd issued by SSR in Belgium in 1996.

A library of lone tracks and rarities were also among the collection, featuring Budd retrospectives on several experimental music podcasts. Also included were a set of unofficial live concert recordings – something I never thought I’d see for an artist of Budd’s quiet and reserved nature!

The Eno library was even more exhaustive, as one might expect from such a prolific and active artist. I took incredible care when developing a folder structure to merge our respective collections, electing to create three primary folders for Official Releases, Unofficial Releases, and Non-Album Content (Apps and Themes). These folders dive deep and reward careful exploration, as nested networks of subfolders reveal a tremendous wealth of carefully-curated content. 

The additions did pose quite a challenge, however, as nearly none of the media had accurately or consistently-applied metadata, which is critical to the navigation of my archive. As such, I devoted many nights’ work to the task of reformatting all the metadata uniformly from scratch for values which were erroneous or missing. I utilized batch processing techniques wherever possible for efficiency, but the inconsistency of the tagged information required a nearly track-by-track analysis and correction. 

I brought it all to as close to an archival standard as I was able by performing digital forensics for the missing or conflicting data and employed semicolon delimiters for multi-value tags like those of artist collaborations, etc. I utilized the aforementioned nested folder structure for the primary categories and for multi-disc content with a date of issue prefix to create a chronological hierarchy to facilitate navigation both by folder and by ID3-based browsing. Thereafter, I had to synchronize all the newly-introduced content with all of my various music library databases, spreadsheets, documents, and other content management systems to incorporate critical data from over 4,000 files relating to these two artists.

As I’ve said previously, I understand that there are collectors with far more vast libraries of these gentlemen’s work. I’m grateful to have been able to compile 64-discs worth of Eno’s primary discography on vinyl, all eight of Harold Budd’s original LPs, and his collaborations with John Foxx on wax as well. I am not a wealthy man but I consider myself quite rich with the beautiful library of soundworks I’ve been able to enjoy in both the digital and physical form.

I want to extend another word of heartfelt gratitude to the reader who so generously reached out and shared the fruits of his research with me. It is a gift which I will enjoy repeatedly for years to come.

Published in: on September 24, 2021 at 7:30 pm  Leave a Comment  
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An Exploration of Musical Impressionism: Building a Library of Claude Debussy

I am by no measure well-versed in the realms of classical music. The principal foci of my archive center around minimalism, ambient works, the classical avant-garde, and early milestone compositions of electroacoustic / musique concrète. But with that said, I understand and greatly revere the foundational soundworks which directly inspired much of what came to pass in 20th century music. Paramount among these are the musical impressionism of Claude Debussy, Erik Satie, and Maurice Ravel, (though Debussy, himself staunchly rejected the “impressionist” label). These composers’ use of musical “color,” unique chord combinations, ambiguous tonality, extended harmonies, use of modes and exotic scales, parallel motion, extra-musicality, and evocative titles were together fundamental in inspiring what came to be known as “ambient” music in the West later in the 20th century.

So it seemed only fitting that I obtain for my library the finest and most complete collection of these composers’ works. For the first stage of this endeavor, I selected Debussy as the target of my research. I began by securing collections and compilations and researching the release history of interpretations of Debussy’s work by various performers, and reading up on the mastering and performative quality of each.

 On compact disc I obtained –

  • A multi-volume collection of Alexis Weissenberg’s interpretations of Debussy on Deutsche Grammophon issued in West Germany in 1986
  • The Orpheus Trio’s renditions of Ravel, Faure, Debussy, and Devienne issued by Vanguard Everyman Classics in 1987/1980
  • Four of the five volumes of the 1991/2 EMI Classics France albums comprising unparalleled performances of Debussy by Aldo Ciccolini
  • The London Philharmonic’s performances of La Mer, Prélude à l’aprés-midi d’un Faune, and Jeux conducted by Serge Baudo issued by EMI Eminence in the UK in 1986
  • The Solomon Trio interpreting Ravel, Debussy, and Gabriel Fauré’s Piano Trio issued by Masters Pickwick Group in England from 1992
  • Simon Rattle conducting the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra’s performances of Debussy’s Images, Jeux, and Musiques pour “Le Roi Lear” issued by EMI Digital in 1990
  • Debussy – Images performed by Simon Trpceski issued by EMI Classics in 2008

Then I collected the following digital releases – 

  • Claude Debussy – The Debussy Edition [17CD+18th bonus disc of historical recordings] box set issued by Deutsche Grammophon in 2012
  • Debussy · Ravel – Orchestral Works [8CD] set directed by Jean Martinon featuring Aldo Ciccolini on piano, recorded by Sale Wagram, Paris, 1973 & 1974 issued by EMI Classics in 2002
  • Claude Debussy – The Complete Works For Piano performed by Walter Gieseking [4CD] set issued in 2006

I found some particularly interesting details about the Gieseking 4CD set.

Cristofori on Amazon reviewing Gieseking’s The Complete Works For Piano stated:

There aren’t many historical/mono classical recordings that I can firmly say have not been bettered by more modern renditions but Gieseking’s Debussy are among a handful that have yet to be surpassed. Gieseking’s use of tones and colors is amazing. Listening to his playing puts you in a dreamlike state. There may be more technically perfect pianists out there but I have yet to hear one that gives the same kind of feel and nuance as does Gieseking’s.

These recordings, made in the mid 1950’s near the end of Gieseking’s death, are his final say on the piano music of Debussy. Many aficionados will point to his 1930’s renditions as superior but truth be told I can’t give an opinion as I haven’t listen to those much. I do know that his first Debussy cycle has always been harder to find and sound quality may be hit or miss depending on who is doing the transfers.

The mid 1950’s mono sound on these recordings actually enhances the listening experience rather then take away from it, giving it a ghostly, ethereal quality that cannot be duplicated today. This new 5CD box by Warner is probably the cleanest these have ever sounded but I actually don’t mind the “haze” on some of the older editions as it adds to the dreaminess of Gieseking’s playing.

Curiously, upon researching this release further, I discovered that the original 1990s CD release was later remastered for Super Audio CD and issued as a hybrid 4xSACD set in Europe in 2012.

Additional commenters on Amazon described the noticeable improvements on the Super Audio edition. Leeber Cohen said:

This is an incredibly wonderful box !!! I learned the Suite Bergamasque and Chidren’s Corner Suite decades ago and I forgot how much I enjoyed Gieseking’s performance which was one of my favorite LPs as a child. Gieseking is a perfect pianist for this music. His range of color and dynamics is very close to perfect. I agree with the other reviewers that the quality of the recorded sound in these CDs is a vast improvement. I compared my 1990s copy of the two books of the Preludes to this CD and the haze is pretty much gone. Please obtain these 5 CDs while they remain available. The box is budget priced and is an incredible bargain.

And Thomas said:

I like this remastered version better than the remastered version of 1992. In this newer version, all the notes are clear and resonant. In the older version The notes sound shallow and muddy.

Also, on vinyl, my library already included the following – 

  • The Debussy – Leonard Slatkin, Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra – La Mer • Prélude À L’Après-midi D’Un Faune • Danses Sacrée Et Profane LP issued by Telarc Digital from 1982

  • Tomita – Snowflakes Are Dancing (The Newest Sound Of Debussy), comprising Tomita’s arrangements of Claude Debussy’s “tone paintings” performed on a Moog synthesizer and a Mellotron

Snowflakes was released by RCA Victor in 1974. It was nominated for four Grammy Awards in 1975, including best classical album of the year, and it was NARM’s best-selling classical album of the year.

The release notes for the La Mer Telarc Digital LP state the following about the recording and mastering:

During the recording of the digital masters and the subsequent transfer to disc, the entire audio chain was transformerless. The signal was not passed through any processing device (i.e., compression, limiting, or equalization) at any step during production.

Sampling frequency conversion of Telarc’s Soundstream digital master to the Compact Disc format was accomplished with the Studer SFC-16 sampling frequency converter. The digital information was not subject to any analog intersteps, thus preserving the integrity of the original digital master.

My goal was to acquire as complete a library of Debussy’s work as was available in the vinyl format. I performed a search on the Discogs database for complete box sets of Debussy’s works issued on vinyl and I found the following:

  • Claude Debussy, Werner Haas – Complete Works For Piano Solo • Das Klavierwerk • Œuvres Pour Piano Seul – 5LP (Netherlands) and 6LP (Spain) complete piano solo box set
  • Claude Debussy, Walter Gieseking ‎– L’Œuvre De Piano5LP box set
  • Claude Debussy – Louis De Froment, Orchestra Of Radio Luxembourg – His Works For Orchestra Volume I: La Mer, Prelude A L’Apres-midi D’un Faune, La Plus Que Lente, Le Martyre De Saint Sebastien, Le Triomphe De Bacchus, Le Roi Lear, Marche Ecossaise, La Boit A Joujoux, Excerpts From L’Enfant Prodigue, Berceuse Heroique – 3LP box set of Complete Orchestral Works Vol 1 which is concluded with:
  • Debussy – Orchestra Of Radio Luxembourg, Louis De Froment – His Works For Orchestra (Complete); Vol. II – 3LP box set
  • Debussy*, Peter Frankl – Complete Piano Music Volume 1 & 2 – Volume 1 is 1LP, Vol 2 is 3LPs
  • Claude Debussy – Jörg Demus – Complete Piano Music – 8 single-LP volumes issued by the Musical Heritage Society

My interest was primarily in Debussy’s solo piano works, so my ideal choice of these vinyl editions appeared to be Claude Debussy, Werner Haas – Complete Works For Piano Solo • Das Klavierwerk • Œuvres Pour Piano Seul which was only issued in the Netherlands and in Spain.

When I researched the production history of that particular release further, I discovered that some of those  recordings were issued on two CDs in 2007 by Philips Classics, though reviewers on Amazon make note of the noticeably quiet mastering and subtle hiss present on the CDs.

Listener on Amazon had this to say:

Debussy’s music is not meant to be performed with exaggerations, as many other pianists do in their recordings of his music. Haas offers what is on the page and does it beautifully. The playing is also, from a technical aspect, absolutely perfect. I cant find any “Teutonic” qualities as the other reviewer said. Instead I found much tenderness and subtlety as there should be. There only bad quality I could find is with the recording. Since it is old, from the late sixties, there is a noticeable hiss, especially in the quieter passages. It is, as with the case of all Philips CDs, slightly expensive for the amount of music, but nonetheless still a great purchase. This is a must buy. I only lament that this, along with his equally great recording of Ravel’s works, is all there really is from Mr. Haas. 

This vinyl box set includes an 8-page LP-size booklet with musicological notes in English, German and French. There are a few differences between the Netherlands and Spanish editions, most noticeably the language of the cover text. The Spanish edition also includes a sixth LP, featuring the works for two pianos or piano 4-hands, but I opted for the English packaging to facilitate interpretation of the track listing.

I’ve been performing similar research for the music of Erik Satie and have selected a vinyl box set of his complete piano works but it is an exceedingly rare import so I’ll have to postpone that project for the time being. Still, Haas’ Complete Works For Piano Solo is a wonderful beginning for this journey.

Babble on an’ Ting: Alex Paterson’s New Biography and Orbscure Recordings Label

It’s a red-letter day at Innerspace Labs! Just arrived from England is a wonderful new treasure – an autographed copy of the newly-published biography on Alex Paterson of The Orb, along with an exclusive 12-track album showcasing music he intends to release on the new record label he’s started to feature up-and-coming ambient artists from around the world!

From The Orb’s official announcement:

New Biography – Babble on an’ Ting

Always steered by Alex Paterson, The Orb were the mischief-making pioneers of the late 80s acid house revolution. Inventing “ambient house”, they took it to the top of the charts, before continuing its idiosyncratic flight path through subsequent decades, battling meteor storms en route.

Published 28th May via Omnibus Press, Babble on an’ Ting: Alex Paterson’s Incredible Journey Beyond the Ultraworld with The Orb, is the first full account of his life story. Written by close friend and music journalist Kris Needs, the book reveals Alex’s astonishing journey from traumatic Battersea childhood through punk, Killing Joke and KLF to starting The Orb in 1988, then the five decade roller coaster that followed. Moving, shocking, hilarious and inspiring, at the heart of this story lies a true survivor doggedly following their musical passion.

First-hand interviews include those with Youth, Andrew Weatherall, Primal Scream, Jah Wobble, Jimmy Cauty and a parade of friends, collaborators and starship mechanics.

“I decided to do a book now as I have reached one full human cycle – 60. Also, to tell my side of stories and to set the record straight on planet Orb,” says Alex. “Working with Kris was seriously brilliant fun. We have been friends and allies for decades now. He’s a beautiful man with a deep knowledge of all things secret and actually lived through some of the stories together.”

The book’s title, of course, is a reference to a Victor Lewis Smith prank call sampled by The Orb on their number one album UFOrb

And of the new record label, they announced:

New Label – Orbscure Recordings

Always keen to collaborate, ever prolific, and with his creativity as flowing as ever, Orbscure Recordings is a new vehicle for Paterson’s impressive quantity of output in different groups which runs parallel to his continued music within The Orb. Set up under the Cooking Vinyl umbrella at the suggestion of label head Rob Collins, Orbscure will also be an outlet for new music from artists from around the world.

“The name is a play on the Obscure label Eno set up on Editions EG in the 1970s. Orbs Cure. Clever parrot-Orbscure! Orbscure! Orbs Cure for all ills. Orbs Cure made 2 chill” states Alex.

Having helmed the Orb collective for over 30 years, releasing music on other people’s labels in partnership with various label managers/A&Rs, Alex now finds himself in the driving seat, coordinating an even wider group of talent. Picking up from his past experience as an A&R for the legendary EG Records, there is already a raft of new releases in the pipeline with three albums set for release this year. The label will feature artists from Uganda, Kenya, Argentina, Japan and America with further collaborative projects to follow.

Paterson’s initial new musical project adopts the moniker, Sedibus with a full-length LP titled, The Heavens. From the official announcement:

The first release on Orbscure Recordings is Sedibus ‘The Heavens’, released 28th May an astonishing collaboration between Alex and original Orb member Andy Falconer who engineered/co-wrote the ambient sides of the Ultraworld album back in 1991. 30 years have passed since that seminal release when the two were last in the studio together.

Kris Needs is a British author and music journalist. The author bio from the official press statement for Babble on an’ Ting notes that Needs started his career writing for the seminal monthly magazine, Zigzag in the 70s, becoming editor while writing for NME and Sounds. The 352-page adventure is issued in paperback by Omnibus Press and special signed copies autographed by Paterson, himself were bundled with the 12-track sampler CD of upcoming tracks from Paterson’s new record label.

The tracklist for the Orbscure Recordings Sampler is as follows:

  1. Intro – Roney FM
  2. Unknowable – Sedibus
  3. Wow Picasso! – OSS
  4. Home – Chocolate Hills
  5. Squirrels In Jumpsuits – Roland & Albert
  6. Shika – Mawe
  7. Latchmere Allotments – The Orb
  8. America Is Unavailable – Transit Kings
  9. Turn Right – Cripps Said Mason
  10. The Librarian – DF Tram
  11. Fara – Nick Neutronz
  12. Here For Beer – High Frequency Bandwidth

Curiously, while the TownsendMusic Ltd website’s copies of the autographed book bundle, priced at just $30 plus shipping, dispatched the day before official public release on May 28, 2021, Amazon’s regular unsigned copies of the book without the Orbscure Sampler album are priced at $24.99 and will not ship until September 9th. Though Americans paid $31.50 in postage for DP US Direct Tracked shipping from the UK, the TownsendMusic Ltd offer was still incredibly alluring, especially for an historic release such as this.

I’m honored to have been able to claim a copy of this special bundle. Paterson is an ambient veteran and pioneer of an immeasurably influential genre of music – one of the most treasured artists in my library. It is a joy to see, even at the age of 60, that Alex still has fresh new ideas and is taking an active role in pushing new and emerging ambient electronic artists from around the globe to the fore.

Orbscure Recordings will be a label to watch in the months and years ahead.

Robert Fripp Completes His Year-Long Pledge to Share Music For Quiet Moments

Robert Fripp of King Crimson, photo via IMDb

It’s been quite a year for English musician, songwriter, and record producer, Robert Fripp and today marks a very special day in his musical journey. Fripp and his wife, Toyah Willcox have actively been posting lighthearted and silly rock song cover performances to Toyah’s YouTube channel each week, while simultaneously Fripp has held fast to his pledge from a year ago to post previously-unreleased weekly installments of his own ambient Frippertronic series entitled, Music For Quiet Moments

The project was initiated on May 1st of 2020 following an announcement on Fripp’s own website. Fripp dedicated himself to release a soundscape every Friday for fifty-two weeks on DGMLive, Youtube, Spotify, Apple Music and all the main online music platforms. In the April 29th announcement, Fripp’s producer, David Singleton remarked:

Hopefully something that will nourish us, and help us through these Uncertain Times. I have certainly enjoyed the peace that comes with editing and mastering them.

Turning a seeming disadvantage to our advantage, a year at home without touring offers the chance to listen for the first time in many cases to existing live recordings. And there are treasures to be found!

The announcement was followed by a brief write-up by Fripp outlining the philosophy and concept he had in mind for the series. Fripp wrote:

Music For Quiet Moments…

I

A Quiet Moment is how we experience a moment: the moment which is here, now and available.

Quiet moments are when we put time aside to be quiet;

and also where we find them.

Sometimes quiet moments find us.

Some places have an indwelling spirit, where quiet is a feature of the space:

perhaps natural features in the landscape;

perhaps intentionally created, as in a garden;

perhaps where a spirit of place has come into being over time, as in an English country churchyard.

Quiet may be experienced with sound, and also through sound;

in a place we hold to be sacred, maybe on a crowded subway train hurtling towards Piccadilly or Times Square.

A Quiet Moment is more to do with how we experience time than how we experience sound.

A Quiet Moment prepares the space where Silence may enter.

Silence is timeless.

II

My own quiet moments, over fifty-one years of being a touring player, have been mostly in public places where, increasingly, a layer of noise has intentionally overlaid and saturated the sonic environment.

III

Quiet Moments of my musical life, expressed in Soundscapes, are deeply personal; yet utterly impersonal: they address the concerns we share within our common humanity.   

Paradoxically, they have mostly taken place in public contexts inimical and unsupportive of quiet.

Some of these Soundscapes are inward-looking, reflective.

Some move outwards, with affirmation.

Some go nowhere, simply being where they are.

Robert Fripp

Tuesday 28th. April, 2020;

Bredonborough, Middle England.

Today marks the publication of the fifty-second and final installment of Fripp’s year-long series. Every Friday, the artist has faithfully shared thoughtful and introspective soundscapes which serve as a meditative medicine for melancholy during these difficult times.

Early on in the project, the ambient radio program Hearts of Space’s producer and presenter, Stephen Hill dedicated a full transmission to showcase the first four installments of the series for programme #1251 broadcast June 19th, 2020.

From the Hearts of Space website for that transmission, Hill wrote:

Through his work with Eno, Fripp developed an analog looping system he called Frippertonics. Looping repeats musical phrases with a delay and layers them on top of themselves, turning musical fragments into continuous streams of sound. When combined with Fripp’s sophisticated guitar technique, Frippertonics has produced a series of refined electronic soundscapes.

On this transmission of Hearts of Space, the sublime soundscapes of ROBERT FRIPP, on a program called MUSIC FOR QUIET MOMENTS. We’ll feature the first four releases in a projected series of 50 weekly installments available online at Fripp’s website DGMLIVE.com for exactly 99 cents each.

These Frippertronic soundscapes flow seamlessly from one track to the next. The complete library of fifty-two pieces clocks in at a total of over 8 hours and 47 minutes of contemplative music, and serves as a magnificent soundbed for work, quiet reflection, or sleep. It’s been quite a year, and at last the series is complete. Music For Quiet Moments is highly recommended as some of the finest ambient music of the pandemic period to date. For anyone who enjoyed Fripp’s prior Frippertronic soundworlds, these are definitely worth your time and exploration.

Published in: on April 9, 2021 at 7:41 am  Comments (1)  
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The Future Starts Here – John Higgs’ Latest Cultural Exploration

This is the third and latest of Higgs’ works on cultural criticism to enter my library, following The KLF: Chaos, Magic and the Band who Burned a Million Pounds and Stranger Than We Can Imagine: Making Sense of the Twentieth Century and is surely his most exhaustive to date, dedicating nearly 400 pages to examining the first 18 years of the new millennium. 

I discovered the book by chance while hungrily searching for cultural examinations of post-postmodernism / metamodernism and media culture. Higgs’ previous works are some of the most insightful and contextual writings on contemporary culture I’ve ever had the pleasure to read, so the news of a new book was an absolute thrill.

Acquiring this text was a challenge amid the COVID-19 outbreak as at the time the book was only available from UK distributors in its first hardcover run, but thankfully I was able to secure a copy internationally from The Book Depository.

While his KLF book primarily examined culture through the lens of the band, Stranger Than We Can Imagine provided greater insight into global culture as a whole, so the announcement of this new book inspired immediate action on my part. I’d found my eagerness increasing with each successive chapter of Stranger Than We Can Imagine, while Higgs ushered his readers from one decade to the next. By the time I reached postmodernism (expertly described in the context of Super Mario Bros) and the pivotal transition from the hierarchical absolutist worldview to the communal network culture of the millennials, I was on the edge of my socio-cultural seat. It was a brilliant read, and just as satisfying and informative as his book on The KLF.

Eager for information on his latest book, I found that Greg Wilson published a review of it on his blog and noted that Higgs counters “the dystopian narrative that’s generally thrust upon our thoughts of the future by the various media we encounter, in favour of a much more hopeful and holistic tomorrow that makes better sense of the metamodern world in which we reside.”

The first few pages of the introduction outline how, in the 1930s, all visions of the future, like the World’s Fair, depicted a marvelous utopia where mankind is free from work and want. That dream, Higgs explains, ended in the 1980s. Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure is cited as the last attempt at a utopian vision in mainstream culture. Back to the Future Part 2, The Walking Dead, and Children of Men painted a far more bleak image of what was to come. Higgs notes that films no longer had to preface the audience as to why the world had fallen into disarray, as it became increasingly more believable. Higgs writes:

As the American writer Adam Sternbergh has noted, ‘the biggest problem with imagining dystopia seems to be coming up with some future world that’s worse than what’s happening right now.’

And prophetically, Higgs then states:

If we judge by the stories we’re fed by film and television, then our current civilization can feel like a crime novel with the last page ripped out. We don’t know exactly the identity of the murderer, but we do know that the story is about to come to an end. Perhaps a new antibiotic-resistant disease will erupt into a global pandemic and wipe us from the face of the Earth.

That last sentence was all the more alarming as the book was published just a few months before COVID-19 shook the planet.

Each chapter of The Future Starts Here examines a facet of rapidly-changing culture and technology and frames their impact on psychology and sociology and the human race as a whole. Most of these chapters could stand well on their own as essays on their respective topics, but Higgs is an expert at demonstrating the interconnectedness of seemingly disparate subjects to paint a contextual image of cultural influence.

Much of the text examines the nature of artificial intelligence, but Higgs also dedicates a potent and impactful chapter to a comparative analysis of generational culture. I was fascinated by how he demonstrated the origins of the contrasting value sets of Boomers, Gen Xers, Millennials, and Generation Z. This was what I was most looking forward to from his latest book after enjoying the author’s prior comprehensive critique of twentieth-century culture. Higgs effectively outlines the causes and effects of these generational value sets, perhaps best-demonstrated by depicting Gen Z’s reaction to the John Hughes film, The Breakfast Club.

A later chapter surveys both fictional and factual phenomena of space exploration and the conflicting characteristics of various Star Trek series and films, specifically differentiating those sanctioned by and contested by Gene Roddenberry. This chapter also highlights the technological impact of Elon Musk before emphasizing the importance of the universes yet to be explored right here on Earth.

The subject matter is deeply explorative. A chapter beginning with the technological advances in virtual reality quickly reframes the potential consequences of the technology, both positive and negative, and examines it comparatively to phenomena like Skinner boxes, ‘redpilling,’ Gamergate, Russian troll bots, cultural Marxism, tribalism, and other psychological influencers of social imprinting, while also touching upon its potential for medical benefits and its usefulness as a proponent of social empathy. The chapter goes on to reference VR in contemporary cinema, (e.g. WALL-E and Ready Player One), as well as the Oculus VR company and its acquisition by Facebook. The chapter concludes with an examination of augmented reality, Pokemon Go, and Google Glass, and looks ahead to the potential of virtual pets and personal AI assistants, as well as the moral and ethical implications this technology would bear. As always, Higgs’ writing is richly contextual.

Another chapter, fittingly titled, “Psychic Pollution,” cautions against the dire consequences of our collective addiction to social media and the disinformation it so often spreads. Higgs parallels Facebook algorithms to the history of psychologically predatory advertising and twenty four hour alarmist and sensationalist news networks. He outlines the nature of our biological addiction to dopamine and how these phenomena prey on our need for a neurochemical hit.

But not all of the twenty-first century is so dismal and worrisome. The penultimate chapter, “Fixing Things” poses the potential benefits of the American biologist E. O. Wilson’s Half Earth initiative and of implementing Universal Basic Income. Higgs is certainly not without hope. From James Surwillo’s feature on the book:  

Higgs calls for a new pragmatic optimism because history has shown that there is always a new story in the “circumambient mythos” as he calls it, which is different than the one that those of us who grew up in the prior era are able to interpret. That potential is a very real phenomenon of the world of the 21st century. It is the idea that we have matured to the point that it is possible to become “meta”, or to psychically remove ourselves from a time and place and review a new and pragmatic position. This potential frees up post-millennials to introduce a more mature version of meaning itself.

The closing chapter, “More Than Individual” explores American anarchist author Peter Lamborn Wilson’s Immediatism and Brian Eno’s scenius as examples of the interconnectedness of the twenty-first century culture. Higgs concludes his examination of the early years of this new millennium with hope and optimism. He notes that, for much of the twentieth-century, “the job of advancing what it meant to be human fell to the avant-garde and the counterculture.” Contrastingly however, “since the emergence of the internet in the mid-90s,” “…the work of evolving and improving the human experience falls to everyone.”

The Future Starts Here is an engaging and exploratory venture into the culture and mindset of the new millennium. It’s an inspiring, informative, and contextual perspective I’m grateful to have read.

Rest In Beauty: Compiling an Archive in Memory of Harold Budd

I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of my favorite ambient composer, Harold Budd this month, who we lost to complications due to COVID-19. I’ve always been able to count on his ethereal soundscapes to soothe my nerves and vanquish my anxieties, so the finality of his death was a blow to my musical world.

Budd released an impressive catalog of albums over his 49-year career in music. I maintain a digital archive of 46 of his major album releases including his latest collaboration with his longtime friend, Robin Guthrie titled Another Flower, issued just days before his passing. 

I feel so fortunate to have collected all of Budd’s albums from the 70s and 80s comprising his first eight major releases issued on vinyl before his label switched to the then-popular compact disc format, as well as the three albums he recorded with John Foxx combined into a single deluxe vinyl box set with a signed art print by Foxx.

There is one LP which preceded his first official album, The Pavilion of Dreams – the elusive The Oak Of The Golden Dreams from 1971, copies of which command many hundreds of dollars on the rare occasion that they surface. That recording was realized on the Buchla Electronic Music System at the California Institute of the Arts (then in Burbank) in 1970 and was not an official commercial release.

I’m overjoyed to have collected all of Budd’s early official vinyl releases. There are a few later albums that were issued on vinyl which I would love to own but sadly few if any have resurfaced on the used album market. Collectors purchased them directly from the label and held fast to their treasured copies, all the more so now that Budd has passed away. I watched several listed copies of his first album vanish before my eyes after news of his death spread on social media, so I had to act quickly and decisively, as I don’t expect these albums to get any less expensive and will only become rarer as more time passes. (Pavilion nearly doubled in price the day the news of his death was announced.)

I ordered the LPs I was missing on December 9th. The first hundred dollar package ended up shipping from just a few miles north of my home. Had I known that I would have instead just opted to pick it up myself. Unfortunately, the US Postal Service mis-shipped the package nearly nine hundred miles off course to Alabama, delaying its delivery in the midst of the holiday season. And as insurance was not offered on the purchase, the delay was agonizing, all the more so as a replacement copy would require international shipping and would command a still higher purchase price. After working with my local Consumer Affairs Department, I eventually received the package 19 days later, thankfully intact.

Pictured below are Budd’s first eight LPs, as well as the aforementioned Nighthawks, Translucence And Drift Music autographed box set issued in 2011. These are among the most-treasured LPs in my Archive. They include:

  • The Pavilion of Dreams
  • Ambient 2: Plateaux of Mirror
  • The Serpent (In Quicksilver)
  • Abandoned Cities
  • The Pearl
  • The Moon And The Melodies
  • Lovely Thunder
  • The White Arcades
  • Nighthawks
  • Translucence 
  • and Drift Music

John Diliberto of Echos published a wonderful feature on Budd to celebrate his memory, saying, “Harold Budd Has Left the Planet: Rest in Beauty.”

Published in: on December 28, 2020 at 3:49 pm  Comments (2)  
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25 Years In The Making: A New Archival Release From the Masters of Trip-Hop

I’m very excited about the latest release to arrive at Innerspace Labs. Trip-hop/downtempo gurus, Kruder & Dorfmeister have officially issued an archival double LP originally produced during the prime of their illustrious career. 1995, as it’s called, was recovered from an old DAT, after which the production quality was polished and brought new life for a full-length release on 13 November, 2020.

A gatefold double-LP was issued on the duo’s G-Stone Recordings label exclusively in Austria.

From the duo’s official website: 

The truth was, an album had been finished by the spring of ’95 and all recorded onto DAT and placed in a box. K&D pressed up 10 copies and gave 4 away to some suitably eccentric individuals. Then the room’s doors opened and in a tremendously big cloud of smoke time rushed in, K&D rushed out, and the years went rolling by. The days got filled with remixes, touring and life. The tapes had been forgotten. Then in early 2020 that chance moving of a box at the back of a room exposed the DATs and their time transporting properties. As K&D went through them they ended up comfortable and back in the room and that wonderful haze of 1995. The music was transferred from the DATs and K&D painstakingly rebuilt every molecule that made up the original tapes, So as the rooms bass bins are once again turned out towards the cosmos, K&D are happy and proud to release what they thought were lost moments.

The opening track, “Johnson” samples Robert Johnson to a chilling effect. An official video was produced and is available on YouTube here:

Astonishingly, even now, two weeks after its release there is very little press about the album. This is particularly surprising given all of the other 90s revivalism which is so prevalent in the current age so steeped in nostalgia. There’s not even so much as a blip on boomkat, pitchfork, or any other music news site. While I understand that the downtempo genre is no longer the massive cultural phenomena it once was, news of an archival release such as this born in the halcyon days of the genre from two veterans of the industry should surely deserve more attention than it is receiving.

The only two Google search results for articles on the release are from the trusted and always reliable Ambient Music Guide and a review from Magnetic Mag.

Mike G. of Ambient Music Guide speaks positively of the album, saying:

I’m happy to report that it sounds, well, exactly like a very good Kruder and Dorfmeister album made in 1995. It’s of its time, to be sure, but it’s aged well. Like all the best ambient dance music of that heady era, technology has not wearied it.

1995 is a gift, really, and like all the best gifts it’s a surprise, a substantial piece of 90’s chillout I thought I’d never get to hear.

And David Ireland of Magnetic Mag writes:

1995 is an amalgamation of their most pleasing sounds, vibes, and beats for those that love that jazzy, hip hop instrumental, mid-90s trip-hoppy sound.

The loops, the bass lines, the samples, the breakbeats, the reverb, it’s all here, and it’s lovely to hear it again.

Independent reviews are beginning to appear courtesy of members of RYM, where the release title is bracketed with an “Archival” suffix. There the album holds a respectable 3.57 / 5.0 from 63 ratings.

Overall, the album is a sheer delight and a wonderful surprise to close out an otherwise tumultuous year. So kick back and dig this magnificently cool set, chillin’ like it’s 1995.

Published in: on November 28, 2020 at 9:29 am  Comments (1)  
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