News, Quick Links, Good Reads: (1) One of the most formidable figures in 20th-century music has died. Karlheinz Stockkhausen, born August 22, 1928, passed away on December 5, 2007 (washingtonpost.com, washingtonpost.com, therestisnoise.com, nytimes.com, guardian.co.uk, guardian.co.uk). The obituary from the news service bloomberg.com seems particularly unfriendly. It poses the following as a kind of question, though a rhetorically unsympathetic one, judging by the piece as a whole: “Stockhausen’s later works do a disservice to the sage and savior who became seen as a shamster and a simpleton.” A blog post by musician Steve Roden balances the ups and downs of Stockhausen’s career without coming down so firmly on the downs: “well, first it was the death of evel knievel, now karlheinz stockhausen has passed. they say deaths come in threes, but i can’t imagine there’s a third person out there who’s such a combination of genius and trainwreck” (inbetweennoise.blogspot.com).
Since this summer, when I received it as a birthday gift, I’ve been listening often to a recording by Paul Hillier and his Theatre of Voices of Stockhausen’s Stimmung (Harmonia Mundi), an extended, trance-inducing choral work that finds a common ground between Western liturgical tradition and what’s come to be grouped together in my imagination as “Tuvan,” singing that treats the vocal chords like a jaw harp. I was fascinated on a recent trip to and from New York via the Virgin America airline to have found an excerpt of Stimmung on the in-flight entertainment system (disquiet.com). If you’re hankering for something to listen to immediately, the Disquiet Downstream entry of August 16 of this year was a mashup of a Stockhausen’s “Helicopter String Quartet” and a riveting chunk of techno by Plastikman (MP3, disquiet.com). If that sounds in any way disrespectful, then it’s all the more likely that Stockhausen would have approved. As for the image (detail left) selected by the New York Times to accompany the obituary, written by Paul Griffiths, I’m not so sure.
Also recently deceased: (2) Pimp C, born Chad Butler (December 29, 1973 – December 4, 2007), a rapper and producer, was a founder of the deeply soused sound that’s come to define the hip-hop of his native Houston (chron.com, nytimes.com); (3) music historian H. Wiley Hitchcock (September 28, 1923 – December 5, 2007), who is quoted in an obituary on the subject of the antipathy by musicians, especially jazz musicians, for certain genre terminology: “Schoenberg didn’t like the word ‘atonality’ either, and Philip Glass doesn’t like ‘minimalism.’ That’s tough!” (nytimes.com).
(4) Concert-goers in the San Francisco Bay Area were alerted to tough news about the great Oakland performance space, 21 Grand:
We are prevented from having live shows due to permit issues resulting from our unfortunate proximity to another venue being visited by the Alcholic Beverage Action Team of the Oakland Police Department that took notice of us after 7 1/2 years. We have been allowed to present our next two scheduled events, but with a capacity limited to 49 people. Other events will be relocated, and information will be posted on our website. If you want to make reservations (advisable) – please call or email. Please be there at least 10 minutes before the scheduled door time, or your place will be given to someone who is here. There is also to be no alcohol at events at 21 Grand. We are working towards complying with the copious regulations and requirements of the City of Oakland to get a cabaret license and maybe, if we’re lucky, a beer and wine license. We also greatly apologize for the last minute-ness of this information.21 Grand is central to the Bay Area music scene, and in particular it’s a spot where various eminent instructors at nearby Mills College — permanent and visiting, including Pauline Oliveros, Fred Frith, Zeena Parkins, and John Bischoff – frequently play out (21grand.org). … (5) In related (good) news, the Chicago performance space Lampo, under direction of Andrew Fenchel, has successfully relocated (chicagoreader.com, timeout.com, lampo.org).
(6) The website of Powell’s Books has been posting guest blog entries by contributors to Continuum Books’s 33 1/3 series, including Drew Daniel, whose book on Throbbing Gristle‘s Twenty Jazz Funk Greats is due out soon, and who wrote at powells.com about the writing of his book, and at one point quite well summarizes the challenge of writing about music in general: “The result is, hopefully, a compromise between private obsession and public user-friendliness.” In related news, Daniel finished his Ph.D. in English this spring at UC Berkeley (dissertation title: ‘I Know Not Why I Am So Sad’ : Melancholy and Knowledge in Early Modern English Portraiture, Drama, and Prose) and is now on the faculty of the English department at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore (jhu.edu; bio excerpt: “In his spare time, he is also one half of the electronic duo Matmos“).
(7) Galactic drummer Stanton Moore has published a call to assist the great New Orleans drummer Johnny Vidacovich, for whom a perfect storm of Hurricane Katrina and arthritis has caused much hardship: “I want to keep him from having to play every single gig that comes his way so that the arthritis doesn’t get worse.” I lived in New Orleans for four years and saw countless concerts during that time, highlights among them often having at their core the Zen presence of Vidacovich’s lanky percussion work. Info on how to help at jambase.com. … (8) There’s also a benefit for Todd Blair of Survival Rearch Labs (karenmarcelo.org). He is suffering from cancer.
(9) A conversation at newmusicbox.org with the authors of Spaces Speak, Are You Listening?: Experiencing Aural Architecture, Barry Blesser and Linda-Ruth Salter: “Music has become a much more a private experience than a manifestation of social cohesion.” … (10) Also at newmusicbox.org, composer Carl Stone in his ongoing blog: “I’m willing to bet that Tokyo has the most intentionally introduced sounds.” … (11) I missed the recent concert by Chris Watson (of Cabaret Voltaire) and Florian Hecker at RML in San Francisco, but fortunately for those of use who didn’t attend, Erik Davis did: “Towards the end, in one corner of the vast mix, I could swear I heard a deep dark growling voice that sounded neither like a seal or a man but some primeval Grendel-like dweller of the threshold. My spine crackled” (techgnosis.com). … (12) The music critic Simon Reynolds (Blissed Out, Energy Flash) has launched reynoldsretro.blogspot.com, in which he is reprinting his past pieces. … (13) A brief interview (createdigitalmusic.com) with Norman Fairbanks, who made an album with the Tenori-On instrument, the subject of the November 19 Disquiet Downstream (disquiet.com).
(14) Artist Tom Moody contributed on his blog (tommoody.us) the following proposed correlations:
largo: chopped & screwed adagio: downtempo andante, moderato: hiphop allegro: house, garage vivace: hardcore presto: gabber prestissimo: speedcore(This paragraph has been updated; I’d mistakenly misread Moody’s entry the first time, and thought he’d simply located that list on Wikipedia.) … (15) Composer and critic Kyle Gann notes a literal-minded Wikipedia correction of the definition of “downtown music”: “The term ‘downtown music’ can mean something entirely different, depending on the type of downtown a city has” (artsjournal.com/postclassic, wikipedia.org). The apparent misunderstanding on the part of the editor is humorous, but it also helps point out what could be deemed a little presumptuous about the use of a term as generic as “downtown” to refer solely to the downtown of Manhattan. And I say that with full respect for “downtown music,” as someone who once lived “downtown” (in the late 1980s) and who spends far too much time, to this day, listening to albums on John Zorn‘s Tzadik record label.
The best hip-hop blogs have long since morphed from places to snag MP3s for free to intensive research institutions: (16) visit earfuzz.com for an investigation of the myriad samples that went into the Dust Brothers‘s backing track to the Beastie Boys‘s “Shake Your Rump,” listing 10 identifiable sources; and (17) visit 33jones.com to read about how the recent team-up of the late producer J Dilla and still extant rapper Busta Rhymes, on the excellently titled album Dillagence, includes another notable contributor, Raymond Scott (1908-1994), the inventor and cartoon/library/jingle-music genius, who was sampled for a track. (Just to close this out, I previously mentioned Oliver Wang‘s soul-sides.com‘s “Who Flipped It Best?” series, in which he compares various uses in different songs of the same sample — disquiet.com.)
(18) The new-music ensemble Alarm Will Sound, perhaps best known for adopting work by Aphex Twin, has been doing a piece by pop-minded, digital-music noisemeister Mochipet (aka David Wang) in recent concerts (rgable.typepad.com). … (19) Intermorphic is a new generative music system; its development can be tracked at intermorphic.com. … (20) The major classical-music record label Deutesche Grammophon has launched an online digital-music store and it includes a “special website” for its contemporary holdings: deutschegrammophon.com. … (21) Jazz keyboardist and composer Joe Zawinul, who passed away back on September 11, 2007, released this year a new arrangement of “In a Silent Way” (title of the Miles Davis album on which it originally appeared), on an album titled Brown Street (Heads Up); I didn’t know this until I saw that he’s up for a posthumous Grammy for the piece, for “Best Instrumental Arrangement.”