Quotes of the Week: John Cage, Tom Phillips

The BBC has published online a brief feature, with audioclips, about music experimentation, titled “Sex Drugs and Four Minutes of Silence.” To borrow a now infamous bit of BBC phraseology, the title unnecessarily sexes up a story that stands on its on merits. It’s an interesting collection of brief interviews, including the late John Cage recounting the epiphany he had as a result of entering an anechoic chamber, an entirely soundproof room. It’s an oft-cited anecdote, but rarely does one get to hear it in Cage’s voice, with that mix of whimsy and wisdom he shared with fellow period stand-up philosophers Andy Warhol and Marshall McCluhan:

Going into the anechoic chamber at Harvard University, I expected to hear no sound at all, because it was a room made as silent as possible. But in that room I heard two sounds. And I was so surprised that I went to the engineer in charge … and said, There’s something wrong, there’re two sounds in that room, and he said describe them, and I did, one was high and one was low, and he said, the high one was my nervous system … and the low one was my blood circulating. So I realized that … I was making music unintentionally continuously.”
(Click here to hear the full Cage tape.)

There are also recordings of John Cale and of Tom Phillips, a fine conceptual artist and painter who was Brian Eno‘s art teacher. Says Phillips,

The whole idea of art schools is that they were a sort of a very nice dustbin for anarchic elements of the population, where people without proper qualifications could go and study something and keep off the streets.
Prog-rock fans will know Phillips’ work from his covers to albums by Eno (Another Green World) and King Crimson (Starless and Bible Black); he also did one of the images on the poster that came with the Who‘s Face Dances (also involved in that Who project were David Hockney and R.B. Kitaj). (For the full Phillips anecdote, click here, and for the full BBC article, click here; the program aired on BBC Radio 4 on April 26.)

tangents / Lollapalooza, Sinead, Elvis …

Brief Bits: (1) Rockapaloozer Take 2? For a festival that in the past has been a lightning rod for electronic music, the upcoming Los Angeles-vicinity date for All Tomorrow’s Parties is essentially free of bands that don’t have guitars front and center. (Check out the fest’s site, atpfestival.com, and survey the latest lineup.) Previous ATP curators have included Autechre and Tortoise. The LA event is curated by cartoonist Matt Groening (The Simpsons, Futurama). The situation parallels the recent Lollapalooza tour, which was oddly rock-heavy (see the Disquiet report, May 9) — speaking of which, someone finally got Lollapalooza founder Perry Farrell to talk about the absence of electronic music on this year’s tour. He told the Salt Lake City Weekly (“Lollapalooza Returns,” August 14): “That’s the one thing that was so hard to do right. This year the tour promoters did not have a good feeling about electronic music. [Moby‘s] Area:One and Area:Two [festival tours] didn’t do well. So I just couldn’t get any money from the promoters for those kind of artists.” The LA ATP concert will take place on November 8 and 9 in Long Beach, California. … (2) According to Rolling Stone, Brian Eno produced three songs on Sinead O’Connor‘s forthcoming covers album, She Who Dwells in the Secret Place of the Most High Shall Abide Under the Shadow of the Almighty (that’s really the title; limited soundclips here): “Do Right Woman,” “Love Hurts” and “No Matter How Hard I Try.” Other electronic-minded folk are credited as well, including Adrian Sherwood, Massive Attack and Asian Dub Foundation. … (3) The Miami Herald (and several other papers) recently ran a piece (here) on an “electronic gizmo” that provides realtime explanations of classical music during performances. It’s called the Concert Companion, and it’s apparently under development by two companies (Tribeworks, Kinoma) and Robert Winter, a music professor at UCLA. …. (4) The magazine Xlr8r (xlr8r.com) is celebrating its 10th anniversay. … (5) “Stop, look and listen, baby.” Another Elvis Presley reanimation — that is, remix — is out. Paul Oakenfold has remixed “Rubberneckin’,” following up last year’s hit (“Little Less Conversation,” remixed by Junkie XL). As of August 19, the “Rubberneckin'” video has been streaming on elvis.com. The full album is called Elvis 2nd to None, and it’s due out October 7.

tangents / Score Keeper (Resfest, Martinez, moonlighting …)

The lineup for the annual Resfest video festival has been announced. The touring fest starts on September 18 in San Francisco (res.com) with a party featuring Amon Tobin and RJD2. Res is a series of screenings of adventurous, creative videos, often with an electronic-music component. One screening, titled Cinema Electronica, celebrates the electronic-video intersection with 21 shorts, including efforts by Towa Tei, Kid Koala (the exceptional “Basic Street Blues” cut), Dan the Automator, Ken Ishii, DJ Shadow, Four Tet, Bjork, Cassius, Yoko Ono, Adam Freeland and others. A Michael Gondry retrospective will feature videos he has shot for Bjork, Radiohead, Chemical Brothers, Cibo Matto and others. Another event will focus on pieces by director Spike Jonze (Fatboy Slim, Beastie Boys). The group Daft Punk has collaborated with Leiji Matsumoto for Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem. After the SF dates (September 18 – 21), the festival heads to Washington, D.C., and then to New York, Chicago and elsewhere. … (2) In related news, Gondry and Jonze, along with director Chris Cunningham (Aphex Twin’s “Come to Daddy” and “Windowlicker”), conversed in the New York Times recently (“Music Videos That Show Everything but the Performance,” August 17). … (3) Among the speakers at the Music Video Wire conference on September 25 in Maitland, Florida (musicvideowire.com) is David Slade, who directed Aphex Twin’s “Donkey Rhubard” video and LFO’s “Tied Up.” … (4) Composer Cliff Martinez has scored most of Steven Soderbergh‘s movies and sadly few of anyone else’s. That seems to be changing. Following work on director Joe Canahan‘s Narc (and Soderbergh’s Solaris), he is attached to Wonderland (the story of porn star John Holmes, directed by James Cox) and Obsessed (a remake of the French thriller L’Appartement, to be directed by Paul McGuigan), according to IMDB.com. … (5) Jeff Samuel is another sound designer by day (for video games at Microsoft), electronic musician by night. The Seattle Weekly profiled him in its August 13 issue (“Passive Progression”).

Proto-Downstream / Earl, Tobin-Koala

There was for a short time a section of Disquiet.com called the 4D, which quickly transformed into the site’s long-running Downstream section. These are the 4D entries for August 19, 2003:

(1) The Earl is a SoCal studio DJ who crafts casual instrumental hip-hop with an ear for the space between the scratches. On Loaded Ensemble (Foot Long Development Records, footlongdevelopment.com), he’s pleased to let the beats carry much of the burden; with the exception of one actual song, the eight-cut set’s vocals consist of grunts, hollers and occasional catch phrases.

(2) Amon Tobin and Kid Koala‘s untitled mass of slowly looping strings, way-fuzzy drum beats and dreamy samples opens Tobin’s new Collaborations EP — and the track is streaming for free in the RealAudio format in its entirety, along with the rest of the collection, on the album’s page on the website of Ninja Tune Records, ninjatune.net.

Quote of the Week: Abstract Physics

Insert “art” or “music” for “physics”:

new theoretical physics in any age is just as likely to be stimulated by the technologies of the moment as to be spun out platonically from the abstractions of the past.
That’s William R. Everdell, author of The First Moderns, in his glowing review of a new book of science history, Einstein’s Clocks, Poincare’s Maps: Empires of Time by Peter Galison. The review was published in this past Sunday’s New York Times, August 17, 2003. Everdell goes on to discuss, in brief, not only the influence of science on art (Poincare’s classic text, Science and Hypothesis, was apparently a favorite of Pablo Picasso and Paul Valery) but of the simultaneity of science and art: “As compound interest was equating time with money, Harvard Observatory began to sell time by telegraph and H.G. Wells imagined it as a fourth dimension along which one might travel. Wells’s contemporary Scott Joplin ‘ragged’ time against ‘common’ or march time, and Eadweard Muybridge and Etienne-Jules Marey discovered how to stop time by resolving continuous motion into still images, which they and Edison put back together as ‘movies.'”