Sunday, November 27, 2011



November 19, 2011
Curtains For You
Star Anna and the Laughing Dogs
The Posies
Neptune Theater, Seattle

I am coming to the local rock & roll party late, and I usually feel like the old guy who's just there to give the kids a ride home. Late in The Posies' set they were thanking all the people who helped put on the show (thoughtful!) and finished up by thanking us, their fans, for being with them all through the decades. I'm sure the spotlights weren't aimed just at me, though it felt that way, and I wanted to say "No, you should be thanking those guys in the next row down! I've never heard you before!"

In the old days when kids were asked what they liked about rock & roll the nearly unanimous answer was "It has a beat." But Bach has a beat and Chopin has a beat. It takes a good bit of work to avoid it. I think, though, that the ubiquity of the popular meme is a pointer to a more interesting inquiry. It isn't just that the beat is loud and in your face (sometimes it is and sometimes it isn't), it is that this music, as does jazz, gospel, the blues, and all their kin and progeny, consists not so much of particular relations to harmonies and pitch-patterning clarified by their metrical contexts, but rather of subtle vocabularies of weights, bounces, and viscosities in and among the beats themselves and between them and all their subdivisions. Pitch here is the handmaiden, not the lord of all.

What was interesting to me about these three fine acts is how exactly the players relate, amongst themselves, to the particular flavors of beats they create, how those flavors differ from each other, and how the idea of what a beat is in these musics is both different from and also akin to such ideas in other musics. Curtains For You plays with a quick, effortless, Superball bounce. Star Anna fills long bluesy measures with heavy, blunt, heels-to-the-ground hammer blows. The Posies are all about power and drive. Karen thought they were like a psychedelic-grunge version of Simon & Garfunkle, but I came away with a less clear picture of them than of the other two bands. This is partly because I have become familiar with Curtains and had time to think about them, and because Star Anna inhabits turf made familiar by many another electric blues diva. If and as I become more familiar with them I'm sure I'll have more to say.


November 20, 2011
Maggie Jones (Faye Barnes)
Dallas Blues - Maggie Jones [from Allen Lowe's That Devilin' Tune]

I love the sound of this recording. You can hear the room, its walls and chairs. The center of the beat is wide and soft, but precisely so.

John the Revelator - Blind Willie Johnson [from Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music]

Folk song as catechism.

Save It Pretty Mama - Sidney Bechet [from Allen Lowe's That Devilin' Tune]
Please Be My Boyfriend - The Shirelles [from The Shirelles Anthology, Rhino Records]

Just careful enough. Just articulate enough. 

Get Off Of My Cloud - The Rolling Stones [collected from Dave Marsh's The Heart of Rock & Soul]
Rock and Roll - Heart [from Heart: Greatest Hits]

November 21, 2011
Banned Sectional #1 KEE NWM - Banned Rehearsal

Neal and I made this tape in the spring of 1985. We begin with nearly 40 minutes of tiny sounds in spectacular concentration and wonderful cross-communication. In the last 7 to 10 minutes Neal started playing with feedback sound. I remember at the time I thought this was a big disappointment. We had been sharing something quite fine and subtle for most of the tape, and then the electric walrus comes in and nothing else can be heard. Listening back at it now I hear yet another installment of Banned Rehearsal's ancient argument between the sessions as experimental socialization and the sessions as the making of artifacts of recorded sound. As much as I admire the latter, and admit its often brilliant success, I am convinced it is the former that is a more difficult task, and holds higher possibilities.

November 22, 2011
Banned Rehearsal #225 - Banned Rehearsal

Karen, Aaron, and I made this tape in 1990 while Aaron was house-sitting somewhere. Fallacious Assumptions that are laid out here as on a slab: 1. The What (the notes, the information) of what is being played is crucial, not the How of how it sounds. 2. The Fact that a thing is made up on the spot guarantees its authenticity. 3. Known, identifiable, and scholastically approved compositional procedures have the power to unify and to make chaos coherent.

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