The Lost Esthetics of Richard Pinhas

Richard Pinhas is a French musician, “electronic music pioneer and leader member of the legendary Heldon“. He is a sort of musician-philosopher, considerably influenced by Gilles Deleuze. I won’t really present his work here – there are web pages for that – but I’d like to talk about his style.

http://www.progarchives.com/artist.asp?id=1993

  • A specific lava sound of guitar (close to Robert Fripp’s)
  • Minimalism and icy synthesizers
  • Cyclical electronics à la Philip Glass
  • Strong machinic KingCrimsonian monsters (Heldon)

 

A perpetuum modulating electronic crescendo

 

Synthfloating over ice with machines, then landing within panting beasts

 

A growing standstill monster

 

Infernal and methodical crimsonian rush – listen to it loud

 

I hope I showed you something you’ve never heard. It’s not that easy to explorer, I admit it. I regret this seems to be a lost branch in music. Imagine what rappers could have done with the last one! Imagine what you could imagine with these weirdeities listened in the dark?

Thanks for reading!

 

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Hi-Fi meant “High Fidelity” – What about the sound quality, now?

In the seventies, music became really, really HUGE. We went from mono to stereo, and we heard constantly about Hi-Fi, High Fidelity. Pink Floyd! Dark Side of the Moon were used by stereo demonstrators…

In the eighties, the Compact Disc appeared. Music became cleaner : no more need to clean your vinyl records or your turntable : a better, clearer sound. Digital recordings were the best of the best! People were chasing “DDD” recordings, digitally recorded, mastered, and played… Great sound!

(Ambient musics lovers were in paradise : no more clicks and pops in quiet spaces!

The development of Internet in the nineties and music piracy pushed the mp3. Music was “compressed” (with loss), and weirdly, nobody seemed to care.

If you really listen to music, if you compare, if you have headphones, you notice something though : compressed music is a mess, it’s a DISASTER. You lose sound, textures, dynamics. Help!

Today, people listen to music on Bluetooth devices, in streaming, on mp3, on YouTube. It’s all compressed, crushed, squashed, and if it’s very convenient, it’s… just bad. If you have time, find your best David Bowie track and listen to it in MP3, then 320 MP3, then FLAC, on headphones, and be in a awe. Yep.

If your ears are just a little bit… educated, there are many ways to get good quality. New CDs with better “rates”, like SACD or DVD Audio. Compressed “lossless” music, like APE or FLAC. Vinyl is back for its “warm” sound, too. It’s more complicated, today, consequently, but I think it’s worth thinking about it.

Let’s finish on this paradox :

One day I downloaded a HUGE Flac archive of “Abba 24Bit Vinyl Pack” (each album weighed almost a gigabyte – a CD is mastered in 16 Bits, normally). So I began to listen on my expensive Sennheiser headphones a luxurious lossless compression of Vinyl music, digitalized at an splendid rate…. with a slight wow and flutter, some clicks and pops too, and Oh. My. God. It was fantastic!

But when I was 14 years old, I was in love, I had the LP, and I listened it in loop, every day. So, isn’t the “warmth” of the LP just linked with the memory of the poor sound of this era? I, really, don’t know.

Today I miss the big sleeves, but not much. I don’t miss MP3’s sound. Do you?

Have a nice day!

 

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Rubscrubbing Smart Neoclassical : Hindemith, Ives, Stravinsky

I’m fond of Classical Music. It’s a perpetual exploration. Comparing the performances. Reading books. Educating my ears.

Today I chose three examples of “Neoclassicism”, three composers of the XXth Century playing with forms from the past. What can we find in this?

 

Hindemith : Mathis der Maler (Matthias the Painter), composed in 1934, evokes a painter from the 16th Century.

 

Ives, Symphony No 1 was composed in 1898-1902.

 

Stravinsky, Apollon Musagète (Apollo) was composed in 1927-28.

 

All pieces are labelled “Neoclassical”. Hindemith evokes a Painter from the 16th Century. Ives synthesizes ideas from “Late Romanticism” (Dvorak or Schubert). Stravinsky composes a ballet music about… Mythology.

What I love here is… where it rubs, where it scrubs.

  1. Melodies come obvious from past forms, but sometimes there are twists and weird torques, delicate or sudden. Simplicity goes into smokes. Then it restructures itself…
  2. Harmonies are the same. From extreme comfort and predictability to sudden changes or toxicologic strange colors invasions. Then, sit back.
  3. Forms, shapes, frames are from the past, but XXth Century prowls. Again, you feel in a normal world, but you are surprised by unusual and unreliable twists, breaks, complete changes of mood, or rhythm. All this, most of the time, with a well-well-well-sorry-I-couldn’t-refrain-myself way. Then it reframes…

 

Yes, dear reader. Have fun, if you like music. Read the wikis. Try to find the common patterns in these three pieces work. Explore other pieces from the composers, you’ll be surprised.

Light a candle. Appreciate the keen baroque style of Stravinsky, the splendid colored veils of Hindemith, the luxurious sunny racing car Americanity of Ives.

But also, find the pattern, our today’s tool. What is Neoclassical? Can you do it in photography, poetry, in pop-rock?

How will you make it? Study the past? How? How will your modernity invade it? Sudden twists and winks, or slow/imprecise secretions? What can it bring to your work? Ideas or real creativity? What does the audience feel? Are you aware of it?

 

Thanks for reading! Keep cool! Bonne journée !

 

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Robert Wyatt : Sea Song

Let’s quit our comfort zone

Robert Wyatt was the drummer of Soft Machine. He one evening fell from a window and therefore became paralyzed; he uses a wheelchair since. Pink Floyd performed two benefit concerts, and their drummer, Nick Mason, produced the album Wyatt wrote in his hospital bed “in a trance” : Rock Bottom.

This album will make you uncomfortable. English prog-rock with avant-garde or modern-jazz seeds : It’s an enigma, a nightmare, a diamond. For some critics, it’s the best album of all times.

 

 

Sea Song is one of the most beautiful love song (the other one, for me, is Beach Boys’ God only knows). Imagine a wobbling harrowing Elton John piano slow track invaded with strange stars, bottomed with silver sounds in snakes and gorgeous harmonies. The lyrics are weirdly adorable. The piano break is risky, broken and drunk. The end is an almost ridiculous but touching incantations with sirens…

 

You look different every time you come
From the foam-crested brine
Your skin shining softly in the moonlight
Partly fish, partly porpoise, partly baby sperm whale
Am I yours? Are you mine to play with?
Joking apart – when you’re drunk you’re terrific when you’re drunk
I like you mostly late at night you’re quite alright

But I can’t understand the different you in the morning
When it’s time to play at being human for a while please smile!

You’ll be different in the spring, I know
You’re a seasonal beast like the starfish that drift in with the tide with the tide
So until your blood runs to meet the next full moon
Your madness fits in nicely with my own with my own
Your lunacy fits neatly with my own, my very own

We’re not alone

 

This always lets me brokenhearted, who knows why? It’s been written by a man in love, broken in his soul (hemiplegic drummer, you imagine??) : “I was just relieved that I could do something from a wheelchair”. I’ve rarely seen someone so… opened, in a song. It’s constantly two faced : beautiful but ridiculous, easy slow but with a frightening piano break, incantatory but childish, wobbling, a bit crazy, and strong. Brokenhearted, for sure.

It’s interesting to peel. Listen to the “normal form” of the slow in the beginning – the piano, the modulation (on “But I can’t understand”). The bass is interesting. The drum has been evacuated, the pulse coming from a tiny, fragile, minuscule repeated “POC” – as if this man was saying us : “See, I’m not a drummer anymore, but I can POC”. Awweee!

Symptom : this kind of song can be absolutely destroyed or badly sung live, or by other people. The essence of it will not and can not be touched.

 

 

“My funeral song”

“Possibly one of the most amazing albums ever recorded, and a psychedelic gem beyond time.”

“One of the top albums of all time. A true art expression.”

“what makes this legendary is the overall feeling it gives you. The “breathing” present throughout the tracks, the weird time-warped feeling you get at the middle of Red Riding Hood, Wyatt’s singing on the Sea Song, they all contribute to creating one of the best atmospheres. Along with some pretty neat tracks, make up for one of the greatest masterpieces to come from modern music.”

(26 pages of that here : http://rateyourmusic.com/release/album/robert_wyatt/rock_bottom/ )

 

Then try this (it’s the 3rd track or Rock Bottom), LOUD :

 

 

 

 

Gleanpickupping seeds & tools in a Gidon Kremer interview

In a French grey morning of August, I’ve had my coffee with two good slices of brioche, frame window staring, in front of an ominous sky, at the cut out moving trees in the wind, shhhh.

Mind wandering…

According to your job, your availability, your passions, you have different way of “entering contact with reality” :

  • A photographer type will watch around him with the “Can I take a picture here, when, from where?”.
  • A musician type will analyze some new song he hears, decorticating it like an alarm-clock.
  • A poet type will find a good word in a book then might begin to weave a poem in his head.
  • The climber type will watch these city walls… etc…

You… just have to put your “mode on” (and YES, you can have many “modes on” ready in your head, haeccity oblige).

 

I read an interesting interview of Gidon Kremer, violonist, in a classical music magazine. I read this interview with two modes on.

  1. First was : “Find maybe some music to listen to” (I found Schumann, Weinberg, Arvo Pärt, and a Prokofiev melody)…
  2. The other one was my blogger mode : “What little structure, what tool, what tropism can I find in his interview?”.

 

So, well, I learned things about Gidon Kremer himself, his friends, career, evolutions, wonders, etc. He’s an interesting person, the typical clever artist (for me he’s a cousin of Bill Bruford, the drummer).

Eventually, my second “mode on” found quotes, wonders, seeds to plant (here or there) and to meditate on :

  • We live a physical house, but also in some spiritual homes, other “places” we belong to.
  • Playing very few notes is more difficult than pure virtuosity.
  • When you find difficult to play or understand something, you maybe need to find parallel structures in other artists or situations : comparison enrichment.
  • You can explore a field (movies, music) with artists, eras, but also labels or studios, producers, etc. Let’s write something about ECM.
  • Should an artist listen or study what he did in his past? (Kremer never listens what he recorded in previous years).
  • When an artist collaborates, there’s a need of “mutual listening”.
  • Sometimes we miss something. Friends around us indicate things or persons but we don’t listen – when we maybe should.
  • Then and therefore : what is to catch up? How do we? What is “to redeem”, how?
  • “Seeking perfection is the enemy of beauty”

 

Etc etc. I found a few more. Whatever. Each line is a door to a new room, which is full of questions. How to drive “mutual listening”? What becomes virtuosity with very little notes to play? Where the frontier to find between catching up and letting go? Etc…

I found this too : when you have one or many “modes of exploration”, it becomes difficult sometimes to be in direct contact. You ALWAYS have a filter on, and that can be exhausting!

We have to find back a way to quit our introvert-analyzer inner computer to… touch things. I suppose it’s what great artists can do, having the great ability to move it like a lever, a slider, from 0 to 100%, from “I know this without any words” to “Analyze and peel it off to understand it”. Where is yours?

 

Thanks for reading!

 

To write this article, I needed music. I chose Weinberg by Kremer – of course. The YouTube link is under the sleeve, downstairs :

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iPod’s Wheel Speed Dating & the Continuous Musical Invention

ONE

For a while, in order to discover musics, I was doing this : downloading archives like “100 Best Indie Tracks – June 2015”, stuffing these into my small iPod, and then, as I was walking along in the city, I was playing with the iPod wheel, wandering in random mode.

It’s awful for all these groups, I KNOW, but it is what it is : I listen to the intro, a few seconds. If I’m pleased, I go on. Then the song begins. If I’m pleased, I go on. Then the singer, then the chorus, etc.

It’s really like “music speed dating”. It’s wrong, I know.

I’m old enough and skilled enough to sort tracks like that, very quickly. Then I used the 1-5 stars system of the iPod like :

  • 1 star – trash
  • 2 stars – should relisten
  • 3 stars – not bad/I keep it
  • 4 stars – good/interesting
  • 5 stars – I love it!/masterpiece

TWO

If you think about pop-rock music, if you begin to analyze,  you can hopscotch with your brain and the “idea of pleasure”. What do you love in this track?

Energy? Lyrics? Sound? The guitar solo? Singer’s voice? Production? These are musician’s choices elements and how they are mixed together.

Makes you think about someone? A period of your life? Makes you feel you’re part of a community? These are other elements, right?…

One of the pleasures of pop music is the game with time. Listening to a music piece is “following it along its continuity”.

Intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, break or solo, verse, chorus, outro…

When you know the music already, there’s a pleasure in… knowing what’s going after : you can sing along, right? You wait for the pleasure which will come (ahhh this chorus is so good, move your shoulders, transform your hands in butterflies…).

THREE

I’m back with my iPod. The music begins. If I don’t like the beginning (sometimes I need 5 seconds to know it, but sometimes it’s more like a minute), I turn the wheel. I go from 0’15” to 1’20” – just to see how it will evolve, as you can guess…

Most of the time, my instinct was right : if the first verse is bad (music, singer, harmony, sound, whatever), it STAYS bad, and I see almost no difference between 0’15, 1’20” and 2’45”. This is how pop music is made, 98% of the time.

There’s pleasure in repetition, in “it comes back”.

The chorus idea is like the proof of it. A good chorus (or a great gimmick), and people sing, and you got a hit, Johnny!

FOUR

What I like the most, with my little wheel, is when I hear the beginning or a track, then I go to 1’10” and I hear something else, then I go to 2’20” and I hear again something else. Woah! Invention!

Most groups of the Progressive Music era worked like that : Genesis, Yes, Pink Floyd, King Crimson. They liked to invent structures similar to Classical Music

And well, yes, Classical Music has this “pleasure in repetition of themes”, but it’s much more complex, of course. A theme coming back is more like an event in a ocean of… :

Continuous Invention

In Pop-Rock, it’s VERY rare. Some groups are crazy enough to build a 5 minutes tracks like Pink Floyd did with 30 minutes.

  • Instead of : Intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, break or solo, verse, chorus, outro
  • They do : Intro, verse, break, surprise, chorus, another music, double break, altered chorus, intro to triple variation, piano reprise, Irish drum arrival, guitar, false outro, reweaving of some previous with other instruments, choir silliness, new chorus, samples, etc etc…

Continuous Invention : you invent all along, continuously, surprising the audience with pleasant unexpectations.

Names I have in mind (for some tracks, not all of them) : Röyksopp. MGMT. St Vincent.

FIVE

In what discipline you could apply this tool of “Continuous Invention” instead of “Pleasant Structural Pattern Repetition”? Poetry? Mmmmhhh… Marketing?

What about the contrary? If most movies are based on “stories” – continuous invention – some of them are based on variations around a small story : Rashomon, or Run Lola Run. There’s a pleasure here, in viewing three or more times the same stories, viewed with another point of view…

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Run_Lola_Run
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rashomon

 

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

Art of Noise games – Reverb, part 2

At the beginning of Instruments of Darkness, Art of Noise plays with the reverb (big reverb/no reverb) on the snare drum, as if they were moving the drummer from a small room to a cathedral and vice-versa.

 

I remember their “Moments in Love“, a masterpiece in this “no genre” (where is this music today?).

So : 3 notes, in an infinite loop. This is no music at all, only weaving sounds and reverb. The Fairlight (the whhoo-whhoo sound) in the reverb, the bass very flat, like an anchor.

And they play again with the reverb/no reverb with the “Kling” anvil perc (they begin at 5:14). Just after this, the appearing Beatbox Bass Drum is dry like hell, stuck to your ears. At 6:52, a strange break is flat too, slowly like tempted by reverberations. I love these production games as a thinker. You have to love to analyze and dissect music to do that. But you are, if you’re reading this, right? If you have headphones, you’ll be amazed by the way it’s all “placed” in the sound scene…

There are many levers to activate when you produce music. I really like to do it “visually”, as if there was a music stage in front of you.

 

Thanks for reading !