Saturday, August 07, 2010

Space and Time, Harmony and Melody

This is music Saturday, which means that it's really more of an open thread, so you are free to ignore what follows, which is just a purely unpremeditated and improvised free association for the purpose of finding out where it leads.

I've mentioned before that in the course of writing my book, I had to race through so many other books that there are many I hardly remember reading. Actually, I remember reading them. I just don't remember much of what's in them. If they weren't useful for the purpose of mapping out the cosmic adventure, it was necessary to flush them down the forgettery, at risk of hopelessly cluttering my mind. Unlike a proper scholar, I only remember the things I need, and forget the rest.

A case in point is the book before me, Emblems of Mind: The Inner Life of Music and Mathematics. For Music Saturday, no particular topic popped into my melon, so I snatched this book from the shelf in the hope that perhaps it might cough up a worthy thought or two. I notice that the book is in my bibliography, but when you look up the author in the index (Rothstein), the name is there, but there are no page numbers afterwards. However, I used a quote of his on page 45.

All I remember is that the book, for some reason, did not address my immediate needs, which had more to do with the spiritual nature of music, and how the existence of music is sufficient to undermine any form of materialism for those with ears to see.

Hmm. Perhaps this is the problem: "Rothstein, who is both a mathematician and a musician, is currently the chief music critic for the New York Times." That's a pretty tough hurdle to get over.

As for the book's purpose, "In moving back and forth between the worlds of music and mathematics, he has frequently encountered the generally accepted notion that there are many connections between the two. This book attempts to explain why these connections are far from accidental or incidental and why they reveal something profound about the nature of each activity."

However, "for all his clarity, Rothstein does not ever really succeed in drawing them together." D'oh!

Let's see what some of the amazon reviewers say. You never know. Perhaps there's a Raccoon among them. This is helpful: "In all honestly, I have not read this book HOWEVER, let me tell you why I just purchased my copy!"

What kind of person.... never mind.

Here's another: "One way of defining music is that it's a... language for a lot of different things that people do with patterns of sound and silence. And one way of defining mathematics is that it's [a language] for a lot of different things that people do with pattern. By exploring the ways in which music and mathematics handle pattern, one is naturally pointed in other directions (weaving, art, science) that demonstrate how valuable it is to recognize and explore the inter-connectedness of apparently 'different' fields."

I don't like that way of putting it, because it's far too simplistic, even a kind of meaningless horizontal tautology: language = pattern recognition. So what? This pseudo-explanation must ignore the most shocking property of music, which is its ability to convey spiritual content through the medium of vibrating air molecules. In what kind of cosmos is such a thing even possible?

Next.

"It might be poorly written, but what can one expect from a mathematician?" Ouch. Important point, however, for there is no way one can write about the spiritual content of music unless one's prose is also able to directly convey a bit of that musicality and spirituality. In writing about such lofty matters, one's prose must literally "rise to the occasion," or else be "about" something much less than it purports to be.

Let's look at some of the passages I highlighted in the book. Here is a quote from the mathematician Marston Morse: "Mathematics are the result of mysterious powers which no one understands, and in which the unconscious recognition of beauty must play an important part. Out of an infinity of designs a mathematician chooses one pattern for beauty's sake and pulls it down to earth."

One could say the same of jazz improvisation, in which a there is a range of virtually infinite choice before one, and one must choose which path to follow, not just once, but on a moment to moment basis. Thus, it is more like "math in motion."

But to say that the process is "guided by beauty" is to take one well outside any realm reducible to mathematical mapping. Beauty is either spirit or it is illusion, just as the cosmos is either ultimately meaningful or it is absolutely meaningless. For the intellectually honest, there is no in between.

Music conveys things that mathematics never could. No one can use numbers to provoke a subtle spiritual state in another, or even a purely emotional state. There are no "sad mathematics," although I suppose one could argue that my tax returns qualify.

So right away the analogy between math and music is strained, because music uses math for the purpose of communicating things that are not math. No one is interested in purely mathematical music.

The materialized mind can touch the world of spirit, but cannot penetrate its own thick layer of ice. Of Beethoven, Rothstein observes that "in his late years, like a Newton," he was "voyaging in strange seas of thought, alone." Quite true, but what can this mean? What is this "strange sea of thought," and how is it possible for human beings to set sail for uncharted lands on it, to colonize new and unmapped areas which lesser humans can later inhabit?

No, that was not a rhetorical question, for the Raccoon takes it quite literally: the worlds of truth, beauty, and virtue are real worlds. They are discovered, not invented. Or, to be precise, they are simultaneously created and discovered, much in the paradoxical manner that God creates.

Here's a useful passage. In reading music, it is not a "purely linear" exercise; rather, "it involves the vertical dimension along with the horizontal, the first presenting a form of musical space, the second the progression of musical time."

The author doesn't pursue this where it leads, but it is actually quite useful to think of the vertical in terms of harmony and of space, and the horizontal in terms of melody and of time. Our lives necessarily partake of both; that is, our life is the warp and weft of horizontal and vertical influences (which is why one's "area rug of life" comes apart at the seams -- or never pulls things together -- without both).

Note that the vertical is pure harmony, thus, situated outside time. It is "static," like a single chord, but with an infinite number of instruments with different timbres and tones. Time is the drawing out of the implications of the chord in time, again, very similar to jazz improvisation.

It is not at all straining this metaphor to say that this complex horizontal chord consists of the archetypes, angelic powers, transcendentals, and other perennial realities which guide man, and toward which he is drawn. In other words, they are both origin and destiny.

But each person is a unique melody played with this timeless chord (a spacetime harmelody). We revere artists who are most successful at combining the two, say, Shakespeare, who "uniquely" expresses truths that are anything but unique. In other words, like all great artists, he expresses timeless truth, only in a uniquely creative manner.

Out of timelessness.

89 Comments:

Blogger Jack said...

I found that very book, "Emblems of the Mind" at a used book store a few months back. Is *seemed* like THE very book I was looking for. So far my attempts to read it have not met with much success.

In college when I was unable to sleep I would contemplate the harmonic serious and how they relate to the length of strings and working out the fractions of different harmonic relationships.

I think this is when I first started asking myself what kind of universe did we live in that such relationships were NOT "just math" but *music*-- that could affect us so powerfully?

8/07/2010 09:25:00 AM  
Blogger Jack said...

ha! Harmonic serious! Freudian slip--I WAS a would a bit too tight in college.

I meant: harmonic SERIES.

:)

8/07/2010 09:27:00 AM  
Blogger Jack said...

jeez I haven't had enough caffeine yet!

WOUND too tight!!

aw, forget it!

8/07/2010 09:46:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I had the opposite problem. I was wound too loosely in college. My warps were worse than my woof.

8/07/2010 09:56:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Interesting how trolls simultaneously miss the point and illustrate it.

8/07/2010 10:10:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

It occurs to me that Ornette Coleman developed a musical philosophy he calls harmolodics.

8/07/2010 11:13:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

However, I have sometimes wondered if Coleman is psychotic, musical genius notwithstanding.

8/07/2010 11:15:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Anon, that you can sympathize with anyone fueling their transcendence with hate (and that you really think that's what is happening here) explains a great deal about both you and why you keep hanging around.

Cripes, Bob - he's not merely staring at your finger instead of that to which you point, he's actually looking at your shadow's finger and occasionally glancing in the direction it's pointing, instead!

wv says "coarrec" - car wreck, indeed...

8/07/2010 11:28:00 AM  
OpenID Van der Leun said...

Dry the pool, dry concrete, brown edged,
And the pool was filled with water out of sunlight,
And the lotos rose, quietly, quietly,
The surface glittered out of heart of light,
And they were behind us, reflected in the pool.
Then a cloud passed, and the pool was empty.
Go, said the bird, for the leaves were full of children,
Hidden excitedly, containing laughter.
Go, go, go, said the bird: human kind
Cannot bear very much reality.
Time past and time future
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.

8/07/2010 11:45:00 AM  
Blogger Jack said...

Just got Fripp and Eno's "The Equatorial Stars". Time to totally rock some Ambient!

8/07/2010 11:52:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I recently snagged a used copy of the OOP Eno ambient box for a reasonable price....

8/07/2010 12:23:00 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

Have you read "Ocean of Sound". I read it a while back and thought I'd reread it. It has it's moment but sometimes the author is a wee bit too precious for me.

He seems to take ambient as a denial of Western Art and Aesthetics. I suppose that's true. For me, though, good ambient has a transcendent stillness, not unlike what I find in Arvo Part. I realize that's not always, or mostly the case, especially as ambient edges towards new age. But I love what Eno does (or doesn't do) and the coupling with Fripp is highly interesting to me.

8/07/2010 12:32:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I like it because it facilitates entry into the static and timeless. I found a decent website with a history of the genre and lots of reviews.

8/07/2010 12:39:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I should add that for me, a lot of ECM jazz serves the same purpose, e.g., Tord Gustavsen, Ralph Towner, Bobo Stenson, Eberhard Weber, and all the rest. Whereas American jazz has that forward momentum, ECM generally has that "interiorizing" quality of recalling accident back to Substance, or existence to Being.

8/07/2010 12:49:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

It's as if the music streams out of the center instead of pursuing an end, so to speak....

8/07/2010 12:51:00 PM  
Blogger Tigtog said...

To Gagdad re:

"However, I have sometimes wondered if Coleman is psychotic, musical genius notwithstanding."

I have no opinion on Coleman's sanity, but I am positive Sun Ra was completely bonkers.

8/07/2010 12:51:00 PM  
Blogger f/zero said...

My erstwhile studio runs smoothly to an ambient soundtrack. Occasionally it drives a visiting client crazy so I switch to the birdsong channel on i-tunes. Instant cloudbuster.

8/07/2010 12:57:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Tigtog:

I read the excellent biography of Sun Ra, and while I don't think he was fully psychotic, he definitely inhabited some sort of shadowland between eccentricity and madness.

8/07/2010 01:02:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Part of the problem is that it's hard to know when he was just pulling our leg....

8/07/2010 01:04:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

some food/relevant quotes for thought
aqui

8/07/2010 01:07:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

for me by far the bestest Eno is records 1-2-3: Warm Jets...Tiger Mountain...Another Green world....
also his contrib. to ROXY MUSIC 1 & 2
guess
i'm just a pop head thru&thru!

8/07/2010 01:13:00 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

I was thinking about free jazz today and particularly Ornette. At the point Coleman emerged onto the NY scene (1959, I believe) Coltrane was definitely pushing the harmonic envelope with the likes of the harmonic relationships of "Giant Steps". Modal jazz was decoupling functional harmony as the primary driver of musical form (similar to what Debussy, a huge influence on Bill Evans, for example had down in the earlier part of the 20th century) and replacing it with "harmonic color".

After that it almost seems as if the ability to conceptualize the next level of complexity couldn't be done consciously. I think Coltrane saw that and so Free Jazz was an attempt to *intuit* that next level within an improvisatory context.

In the same way that the total serialists in Europe were trying to conceptualize/intellectualize EVERY musical component...perhaps trying to point to that same end.

Personally, I am not convinced that this "next level" of complexity requires totally relinquishing tonality...but perhaps at the time musicians had to find out just how far out they could push things.

Because they did, we have a much wider, even deeper musical palette to work with. Being "atonal" is no longer "avant-garde" but just another possibility in the range of human expression.

In a lot of ways the culture has gone at least some distance in absorbing the more digestible parts of free jazz into the "permissable" human expression.

8/07/2010 01:16:00 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

GB says: "It's as if the music streams out of the center instead of pursuing an end, so to speak...."

I like this. And the greatest of the ECM roster seems somehow to integrate both stillness and movement.

Like my fav: Frisell. Whom I am going to see play tonight!!!

8/07/2010 01:19:00 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

"I think the main thing a musician would like to do overall is to give a picture to the listener of the many wonderful things he knows and senses in the universe. That's what music is to me--it's just another way of saying this is a big, beautiful universe we live, that's been given to us, and here's an example of just how magnificent and encompassing it is. That's what I like to do. I think that's one of the greatest things can do in life, and we all try to do that in some way. The musician's is through his music."

-John Coltrane

8/07/2010 01:40:00 PM  
Blogger Tigtog said...

To Gagdad re: Sun Ra

He was completely nuts. My legs are the same length. The music, if you can call it that, was out there, but the show was to die for. A real berzerker. He is the only artist I know of that wearing aluminum to his concert would be appropriate.

8/07/2010 02:28:00 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

Just saw Frisell. Got to shake his hand! (yes, I am that much of guitar geek). An incredible show. The things he does, his conception of how to put music together is just so finely honed and so deep. I loved it.

It was both exhilarating and totally depressing...more practice for me!

8/07/2010 11:32:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

From the perspective of the non-musician, it seems to me that he's just someone who has his own conception, or voice. Thus, it's not so much a matter of practice -- or virtuosity per se -- as expression and development. Non-musicians, hear the soul first, the technique second. But musicians can be susceptible to hearing the virtuosity first, which can not only be intimidating, but interfere with expression.

I recently listened to an album by David Murray, in which Phaorah Sanders sits in as a guest on three tracks. Murray has much more technique, but Sanders blows him away in terms of soulfulness, expression and tone. Sanders plays long and flowing lines that sound like a human cry coming from the depth of the soul. Probably "technically" easier, but much more impact on the listener.

8/08/2010 07:57:00 AM  
Blogger JP said...

I chose the "academic suicide" option in college.

That's where you get a 3.75 your first semester, realize you aren't going to get a 4.0 and pretty much slowly give up for the remainder of your college career because you aren't going to win.

So, pretty much, in college I found out that using the technique (GPA)---> ø, pretty much on purpose for the express purpose of failing, didn't really accomplish anything.

Well, it did accomplish developing a passionate link between myself and college that was best represented by hate (H).

College was definitely the worst time of my life so far. I slept a whole lot. One time, I accomplished 36 straight hours in bed. Wow, did my body hurt after than one.

8/08/2010 08:17:00 AM  
Blogger Tigtog said...

To JP re:

"So, pretty much, in college I found out that using the technique (GPA)---> ø, pretty much on purpose for the express purpose of failing, didn't really accomplish anything."

My college experience was pretty much focused on

(.)(.)
+ V

with an occasional soiree into the library. I learned a lot.

8/08/2010 08:25:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

College for me was simply a way to prolong my adolescence. Pity the poor fools who don't realize this is true of themselves, which probably amounts to at least 75% of those in college -- most especially the professors.

In turn, the job of the left-wing professoriate is to provide intellectual justification to engage in adolescent rebellion for the remainder of one's life.

8/08/2010 08:35:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Hopefully people will wise up, and college expense will be the next bubble to burst. It's such a scam.

8/08/2010 08:40:00 AM  
Blogger Tigtog said...

To JP re: Correction

( . )( . )
..) o (
(...V...)

Calculus notation was never my forte.

Excellent WV: twopi

8/08/2010 08:41:00 AM  
Blogger JP said...

Tigtog says:

"To JP re: Correction

( . )( . )
..) o (
(...V...)"

I just wish I had lightened up on the entire "sex outside of marriage" thing.

I even chewed out one of my friends at the time for engaging in it. She really didn't enjoy being on the receiving end of my polemic.

I wasn't even a fundamentalist. I was just a moral absolutist (absolutely no sex, drugs, rock and roll) with enforcer tendencies (e.g. bring in the police forces and punish it).

8/08/2010 08:49:00 AM  
Blogger JP said...

The law school bubble is far worse than even the college bubble.

I got out with $120,000 in debt during the dot-com era and was able to pay it back.

Now, you have tons of people running around with $200,000 in debt and no way to really pay it back.

And law schools are proliferating left and right because they are cash cows for universities.

8/08/2010 08:53:00 AM  
Blogger Tigtog said...

To Gagdad re: "It's such a scam."

Having nationalized student loans, have you noticed the new regime attack on "for profit" schools? Somehow I don't think this includes Harvard, Yale, Columbia and Occidental. Funny.

Can't wait until the regime is overturned and the people get to make stipulations for approval of student loans. You know like grades, area of study, national needs and future ability to repay the loans. That and the flat rate of payment for all college courses. This should really shake up the tenured.

8/08/2010 08:55:00 AM  
Blogger JP said...

A good first step would be to allow student loans to be able to be discharged in bankruptcy like you can with gambling debt and McMansion speculation debt.

I also want half the law schools shut down, but that's more aspirational than realistic.

8/08/2010 09:00:00 AM  
Blogger Tigtog said...

To JP re:

"I wasn't even a fundamentalist. I was just a moral absolutist (absolutely no sex, drugs, rock and roll) with enforcer tendencies (e.g. bring in the police forces and punish it)."

I just wished I had not wasted so much time with the "nice girls" and instead focused my exclusive attention on the willing. Today, I can vaguely recall college lectures but I remember every liaison like it was yesterday. Good times.

8/08/2010 09:00:00 AM  
Blogger JP said...

The educational system will beging to be shaken up by the fact as a college degree becomes more of a financial liability than a financial asset.

8/08/2010 09:01:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Once people realize that universities are nothing but left-wing seminaries, perhaps they will generate the kind of income that actual seminaries do.

8/08/2010 09:04:00 AM  
Blogger JP said...

Tigtog says:

"I just wished I had not wasted so much time with the "nice girls" and instead focused my exclusive attention on the willing. Today, I can vaguely recall college lectures but I remember every liaison like it was yesterday. Good times."

I periodically had women pursue me, however, I had little interest in most women. I had an intelligence/attractiveness/personality cutoff. The intelligence being the most important. At the time, I was only intersted in you if you were near the top 1% in intelligence.

In college, I only met one girl I had any significant interest in.

I found that it was hard to be close friends with girls because invariably they would think I was interested in them and they would try to date me. That was always annoying to me and it always ended badly.

I did try dating one of my friends who I had no interest in for a couple of years. That was a mistake.

8/08/2010 09:07:00 AM  
Blogger Jack said...

GB said: "Non-musicians, hear the soul first, the technique second. But musicians can be susceptible to hearing the virtuosity first, which can not only be intimidating, but interfere with expression."

You are absolutely right it is very easy to get caught up in the perpetually "technique trap" as a musician, forgetting that technique is a means to an end and in now way the goal itself. Technique is the means of allowing one to express the deeper realities of being human, in and of themselves not really much more interesting than being a blazing fast touch typist.

I was actually thinking along those lines this morning before I signed on. Watching Frisell do his thing it is astounding and hard not to see the "gaps" in my own abilities. But you are right, the MOST astounding part of Frisell is his musical vision and his very clear musical voice which is distinct from every other guitar player from note one.

8/08/2010 09:10:00 AM  
Blogger ge said...

snotty garage psych at its most obscure! [& treemenjus]

8/08/2010 09:10:00 AM  
Blogger JP said...

GB says:

"Once people realize that universities are nothing but left-wing seminaries, perhaps they will generate the kind of income that actual seminaries do."

I think most people look at college as an economic opportunity.

With law school, people are invariably looking at the massive salary that you can make when you get out of school because all lawyers are wealthy.

I'm not sure whether the funding mechanism or the demand will break first, but something is going to break.

Give it another 10 years.

8/08/2010 09:11:00 AM  
Blogger Jack said...

For me, the challenge is to let myself fully express and embrace my own voice. I have often disqualified myself, as many musicians/human beings do, for not being "enough" of whatever it is I think I need to have.

Better to express what one *does* have a the greatest depth one is capable and keep moving forward.

Frisell was an odd wake up call for me last night. A good thing.

8/08/2010 09:13:00 AM  
Blogger Tigtog said...

To JP re:

"I had an intelligence/attractiveness/personality cutoff. The intelligence being the most important. At the time, I was only intersted in you if you were near the top 1% in intelligence."

Exactly what did you think a woman of exceptionally high intelligence was good for? Competitive debate? I have always found the upper edge of intelligence a real problem for women, and also men. They can't get out of their head to be able to enjoy the moment. I suffer from this myself. I really prefer wise women with a sense of humor.

8/08/2010 09:15:00 AM  
Blogger Tigtog said...

To GE re: Snotty Garage Band

They sound like Gary Lewis and the Playboys. Funny, it seems the early sixties are being mined. I fully expect some new band to pretty much lift the early Kink's sound next.

8/08/2010 09:23:00 AM  
Blogger JP said...

Tigtog says:

"Exactly what did you think a woman of exceptionally high intelligence was good for?"

Being an intellectual and being able to (theoretically) have converations with me about things I wanted to talk about. Competetive debate was a plus, too.

If they graduated valedectorian or high in their class, I figured I was on the right track. I used it as a proxy for I.Q. rather than asking "what is your I.Q."?

Plus, I figured that intelligence was a heritable trait and if I wanted to have children, I wanted children who were as intelligent as me.

I really hated the fact that I was never allowed to skip grades in school or attend college early.

And, in any event, it eventually became moot, since I committed academic suicide out of general frustration and anger with life.

But that was my logic and reasoning in the long ago days.

8/08/2010 09:25:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I don't know if the world could ever produce another Ray Davies.

8/08/2010 09:26:00 AM  
Blogger JP said...

Tigtog says:

" I have always found the upper edge of intelligence a real problem for women, and also men. They can't get out of their head to be able to enjoy the moment."

I'm thinking this may be more of a socialization/development issue rather than an upper edge of intelligence issue.

8/08/2010 09:38:00 AM  
Blogger Tigtog said...

To Jack re: Frisell and Fretboard Envy

I understand where you are coming from. But over time I have noticed that the musicians that love the note are always preferable to those that love the notes. Quality over quantity. I think of Jim Hall as the ultimate in simplistic quality. Simplicity requires enormous concentration and the eschewing of habitual runs. Its harder than it looks.

8/08/2010 09:40:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

JP - so did you ever find the right girl?

8/08/2010 09:48:00 AM  
Blogger Tigtog said...

To JP re:

"I'm thinking this may be more of a socialization/development issue rather than an upper edge of intelligence issue."

You may be right. I just have memories of super high intelligence women with serious issues with intimacy. Maybe this is just anecdotal, but it sticks in my memory.

8/08/2010 09:50:00 AM  
Blogger JP said...

I'm quite married with children these days.

8/08/2010 09:51:00 AM  
Blogger JP said...

Tigtog says:

"I just have memories of super high intelligence women with serious issues with intimacy."

I eventually found out that the girl in college I was interested in was apparently involved in a relationship with her step-father.

Talk about issues.

So, I'm certainly glad that I never got anywhere with that one...

8/08/2010 09:53:00 AM  
Blogger Tigtog said...

To JP re:

"I'm quite married with children these days."

Did you mean to leave out the "happily" part or was that a simple oversight? I believe you opened this blog citing Freudian slips?

8/08/2010 09:55:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Tigtog - I just have memories of super high intelligence women with serious issues with intimacy.

In my experience, that has been more often the case than not.

JP - I'm quite married with children these days.

Glad to hear it :)

8/08/2010 09:56:00 AM  
Blogger Tigtog said...

To JP re:

"I eventually found out that the girl in college I was interested in was apparently involved in a relationship with her step-father."

The ole "who's your daddy moment". That is some serious heavy karma. You are much better off without that in your life. Shoosh.

8/08/2010 10:01:00 AM  
Blogger Jack said...

To Tigtog Re: To Jack re: Frisell and Fretboard Envy

I agree wholeheartedly. I believe that Frisell studied with Jim Hall at Berklee. Last night that came through to me in a somewhat oblique way. Frisell's technique is so understated it's easy to miss how incredible he is. But again, his real mastery is in phrasing, tone, and compositional wholeness.

He did one piece that started out as "Moon River" and then went all sorts of strange places from there and the whole audience just sighed with joy by the time he had ended.

It was hard to tell if he had played that piece for an hour or 5 minutes. It felt like a true, whole, complete, organic musical statement. Brilliance!

8/08/2010 10:22:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

For certain players -- Stevie Ray comes to mind -- the instrument merely becomes an extension of their soul, and a way to articulate it, just as others might use writing to do so.

8/08/2010 10:46:00 AM  
Blogger Jack said...

Agreed. I think SRV was one who played with his whole being...demons and all. It makes all the difference.

8/08/2010 10:55:00 AM  
Blogger Tigtog said...

To Jack re: Frisell - Hall Connection

Did not know Frisell studied with Hall. I will have to give him another try. My first take was he was good but not on point, kind of like Pat Metheny. A little too muted in its feel. I will give him a re-listen.

To simplify things constrain all chords to triads and never play all 3-notes at once. Slow things down until the melody takes over. That works for me occasionally.

8/08/2010 11:12:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I like him more as a sideman than a frontman, at least from what I've heard. Or as seasoning instead of the main dish.

8/08/2010 11:18:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

But I suppose I would say that of most jazz guitarists... Something to do with how they are constrained by that neutral tone... But then if they introduce a lot of effects, it doesn't sound like jazz anymore.

8/08/2010 11:22:00 AM  
Blogger Tigtog said...

To Gagdad re:

"Something to do with how they are constrained by that neutral tone..."

I think what you are responding to is the inability of a guitar player to simultaneously play in two octaves like a piano. We have to play both melody, chords in the same octave. We can drop 2, 3 and 4 to widen the range, but we are limited in our range at any given point due to the reach of a register.

8/08/2010 11:30:00 AM  
Blogger ge said...

Tig & Bob--Yeah Ray D is a rawthuh special eccentric blessed rulebreaking nut-case!---there is however a problem w/ trying to mimic that oily 60s rawness, edgy energy, and indescribable saturated live-to-old- tape feel: to wit, c'est impossible!

8/08/2010 11:34:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Tigtog:

No, I think I mean more the absence of sustain and other effects. It seems that they always play those clean lines -- like the difference between B.B. KIng and SRV. For that reason, I've never liked BB's playing all that much. He's got a jazz tone, so he can't get as dirty as other blues players.

8/08/2010 12:00:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I guess you can't make jazz guitar scream without effects. But you can make a tenor sax scream.

8/08/2010 12:02:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Probably because the sax is so much more like the human voice...

8/08/2010 12:03:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, I think the sax is most like the human voice -- although Little Walter could work wonders with the harmonica in that regard.

8/08/2010 12:08:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

It reminds me of something Herbie Hancock said of Stevie Wonder -- that he was the only musician who was able to make the synthesizer sound like a natural instrument, at least back in his prime. Somehow he was able to make a very unnatural instrument sound human, like an extension of his soul....

8/08/2010 12:12:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Ah ha. This explains why all of our trolls are such Smart People™ wannabes.

8/08/2010 12:23:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

pretty catchy [simple but sonically-induplicable] song you've never heard from the unhinged swingin '60s:
FLOATIN'
It IS strange that w/ all the kings' horses/men/cocaine/vintage equipment/angsty 20 year old crooners etc you couldnt make a song to pass the 'Is it really from the '60s?' blindfold test w/ us fans

wv= mograz, fire it up

8/08/2010 12:37:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

...a recent pretty decent attempt at a '67ish Syd-esque vibe is tried
here

[[Andy Ellison is very great 60s cult figger, in Marc Bolan's garage-psych band Johns Children]]

8/08/2010 12:42:00 PM  
Blogger JP said...

From the "Smart People" blog:

"I have only scratched the surface here because I must admit: I don’t really feel like I have a handle on the whole Smart People phenomenon myself. I don’t understand where it came from, I don’t understand why it persists, and I can’t even really define it."

The "Smart People" are the general bureaucratic "elite" who are currently sustaining their lives through the issuance of soverign debt. If you want to get on the gravy train (the only train left in the economy at the moment), you have to be a "Smart Person". It's a form of social proof and the non-thinking instinct to believe what people around you believe.

The "Tea Party" is the group that is most opposed to the "Smart People".

Ultimatly, this crisis era is going to involve some sort of non-civil-war conflict between the "Smart People" and the "Tea Party".

Or to put it another way, between the "Bureaucratic Elite" and the "Countryside".

The "Smart People" depend on the continued issuance of federal debt to retain their overarching "cultural power".

Unfortunately for the Smart People, they don't realize their credit is actually subprime. Actually, they don't know what credit really IS, but that's besides the point.

8/08/2010 01:09:00 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

I was thinking the other day that if I were to introduce Frisell's playing to a novice I am not sure I could do it. A lot of his solo stuff comes off as fluff and his work with Motian et al might be too abstract.

So then I wondered "why do *I* like him so much?" And I couldn't really say. I do LOVE his tone...which yes is *not* a standard jazz tone. But I am also a fan on Grant Green and his tone had a bit more of a bluesy edge to it. As great as say Joe Pass was, his tone can be downright BORING.

But I geeked out and checked out his effects pedals and it was fairly minimal for a modern guitarist. Compared to some rockers/jam band guitarists I know it was almost laughably small.

The guitar is really something of a percussion instrument and only with amplification and effects can you begin to change that and begin to make it truly sing like a voice.

The use of a volume pedal to remove the attack and various reverbs/delays etc to extend the sound can change that dramatically. But in and of itself the guitar is no cello.

8/08/2010 01:15:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Jack - funny you should mention the cello, I was thinking earlier of that as being like the string version of the sax.

8/08/2010 01:17:00 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

I know why I like his playing. I am just not sure why I like it SO much. I definitely understand those for whom he does little or nothing.

8/08/2010 01:18:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Concur about Joe Pass. Great technique, boring as hell. Reminds me a little of Ella Fitzgerald, who could sing like a bell, but often with no soul. I have the same problem with Oscar Peterson, at least from what I've heard.

8/08/2010 01:36:00 PM  
Blogger Mikal said...

ge:

Here's a favorite obscure-60s track of mine.

8/08/2010 01:58:00 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

Julie-

The cello is the main non-guitar instrument I try to emulate (that and, oddly enough, the Rudra Vina as played in N. Indian Classical. It is an instrument that needs to be heard to be believed!).

My baritone guitar extends into the cello range (actually a half-step lower than a cello) and with big, fat strings I can start moving in cello-istic directions. But even so, it ain't no cello

And I am reliant on technology to help me to do this. Yes, "touch" makes a HUGE difference but honestly it is a fairly extensive setup to even approach that sound. The whole signal path becomes the instrument! And I am not nearly as tech-y as other guitarists. Less is more in my book.

8/08/2010 01:59:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

sure i know that one well mikal!
first heard here
http://faintlyblowing.blogspot.com/2009/01/va-british-psychedelic-trip-vol-3-1966.html

the volume 1 of this series is an alltime essential disc in the history of my taste

8/08/2010 05:37:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

ge:

Ever heard this, by the Nashville Ramblers? You can hear echoes of the Who, Kinks, Byrds, Beatles, and Monkees.

8/08/2010 05:51:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Or how about XTC's imitation of a power pop group, in their secret identity as the Dukes of Stratosphear.

8/08/2010 05:56:00 PM  
Blogger Tigtog said...

To Gagdad re:

"I've never liked BB's playing all that much. He's got a jazz tone, so he can't get as dirty as other blues players."

I would agree. I never thought BB was that great a guitarist. It seems every one of his leads sound like the last one. He has a good voice and a great attitude though.

I did enjoy Al Dimeolo during the early Return To Forever days, but I tired of his endless spanish guitar runs on his enumerable solo albums. I hope he saved his money. As far as Joe Pass goes, I think the inheritor to his style was Earl Klugh, whom I do enjoy. Both Dimeolo and Klugh are Berklee products. You would have thought that the amount of heroine done by Pass would have produced a deeper more soulful sound. I do appreciate his technical ability.

8/08/2010 06:32:00 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

I remember as a teenager (15 maybe?) a fellow music geek (he played bass) who lived next door playing me a live album featuring Paco De Lucia, John Mclaughlin and Al Dimeola.

If one was offered a penny for every 16th note (or better yet every 32nd note!) played on this record, one would walk away a rich, rich man.

I remember being impressed but perplexed. It didn't truly seem like music to me as astounding as it was.

8/08/2010 08:20:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Same here. Never got DiMeola. Seems kind of pompous.

8/08/2010 09:21:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

bob, those 2 [dukes/ramblers] examples get As for effort from me, but lower scowers for achievement [of as-good-as the 60s heyday sound]...ersatz is the word?

i hope you & jack can get yer mitts on that
COUNTS ROCK BAND album i mentioned...to hear Coryell at his fedback/Hendrix-iest....it's 'white guy' elec-acoustic jazz w/ garagey feel if you can imagine~

but this I find a great 1980s song in that 60s pop-psych general mode:
CHURCH

8/09/2010 04:32:00 AM  
Blogger ge said...

sorry re prolix comments :)
now this is great!:
current VOYCES are truly gifted just 60s-ish/just original enough
sound!

song after song like this on their album

8/09/2010 05:00:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"No, that was not a rhetorical question, for the Raccoon takes it quite literally: the worlds of truth, beauty, and virtue are real worlds. They are discovered, not invented. Or, to be precise, they are simultaneously created and discovered, much in the paradoxical manner that God creates...

The author doesn't pursue this where it leads, but it is actually quite useful to think of the vertical in terms of harmony and of space, and the horizontal in terms of melody and of time. Our lives necessarily partake of both; that is, our life is the warp and weft of horizontal and vertical influences (which is why one's "area rug of life" comes apart at the seams -- or never pulls things together -- without both).

Note that the vertical is pure harmony, thus, situated outside time. It is "static," like a single chord, but with an infinite number of instruments with different timbres and tones. Time is the drawing out of the implications of the chord in time, again, very similar to jazz improvisation.

It is not at all straining this metaphor to say that this complex horizontal chord consists of the archetypes, angelic powers, transcendentals, and other perennial realities which guide man, and toward which he is drawn. In other words, they are both origin and destiny."

Sorry, just wanted to see it again... and seeing as though I'm the last one in, I didn't think anyone would mind.

Btw, in considering Harmony and that "Our lives necessarily partake of both; that is, our life is the warp and weft of horizontal and vertical influences", it's useful to consider that he who is behind the bulk of modernity, Rousseau thought that, well... since I've already said it, I'll let me say it again:

"... Rousseau generally opposed complex harmonies being given a significant place in music, for philosophical reasons - and his system sought to exalt melody (because he felt it better expressed emotion) at the expense of harmonies (farrr too reliant upon Reason!)… he disliked string quartets for the same reasons, as Cambridge Mozart Encyclopedia notes


"…In developing a theory of language, Rousseau generally confined music to a role of expressing feelings, something melody could do especially well; this relegated harmony and counterpoint to a place of insignificance since rationality lay beyond the reach of music. "

…this is, mind you, from the same age that was experiencing the genius of Bach, Mozart and Beethoven , who were creating the most complex harmonies and beautiful music ever conceived of in history.
"

That should put the shadowy finger of our trolls into their proper absence of light.

8/09/2010 08:41:00 AM  

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