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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Insisting to find gossamery beauties…

Immediate pleasure when you discover some music, it’s awesome. It CLICKS with you, with what you wait, your brain is sparkling : dance, dance!

But I remember this from my young years : the albums I loved the most were not appreciated that much “at first sight”. Nahhh. I had to learn how to love them.

It happened with some avant-garde, or a bit complicated progressive rock LPs, like King Crimson or Robert Wyatt. In this case, I had to find my way with elements I already appreciated (a voice, a song from a previous album, a guitar style), then little by little, in an insisting process, I became like intoxicated by the good poison, and in final I loved the album more.

In classical music, the main problem is the level of dissonance. I struggled with Bartok, then with Webern. It’s true : “until I found my personal wall” – the place where you can not love it, for sure. Every door is closed. You may insist, but without success.

What I discovered later is : there are other walls, which cut you from “immediate pleasure”. The Continent of Complexity aspect (Proust in literature, Mahler in music), where you have to dig into. The infinite sentences of Proust, where you can lose yourself in boredom, are full of intelligence and marvels. The long symphonies of Mahler, where you have to sail many many times before you begin to detect reflects of miracles. In a way, you have to invent your own detectors…

One other wall is more tricky : when you find it’s “too simple“. I always loved the earthy magic of Brahms, but couldn’t find any pleasure (or barely) in Schumann or Schubert‘s musics, which I found boring. But then, one day, my ears became more… accurate, or sensitive, and I was able one day to find gossamery structures and colorful subtleties I never heard before. Awee.

 

Your tool today is a dial : Are we lazy? Is it because of a lack of time, or energy? In what other field could you apply your efforts? Where should you insist, to find beauty? Where is it too hard, too complicated? Where is it too simple? Where do you smile with contempt… and you should not? What are possible keys? Help from another person? Articles and books? Is this vicarious, or merely an island luxury thing?

Oh, sorry for my wobbly, strange English!

Thanks for reading!

You can also read : https://afrenchtoolbox.wordpress.com/2016/10/21/jungle-syndrome-of-mahler-proust-marx/

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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 obviously 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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Feeling the air of Waterloo & other oblique explorations…

Hey, explorer…

Choose a knowledge-field you don’t know at all, and begin to dig to find your gold. This is what you like to do, right?

Japanese cinema, French classical music, British painters of 19th Century, US Civil War – what else?

Voilà : you have your unknown territory ready. Your hungriness will do the rest. Yum!

You need help, right? A compass, a guide, a book, a web site, friends, a lecture… It’s easy to find some. Find a map. Draw your map.

What we often do is to see what’s essential. Kurosawa and Ozu for Japanese cinema. Ravel and Debussy for French musicians, etc. You read the most important books, and that’s OK. An afternoon on the web will help to find the list…

Here I propose some more oblique ways to do that.

  • Find documents against. People who dislike, or say the contrary of what it’s commonly said. I once read about the French Revolution : next to the great books I piled on my table, I put a book written by a Royalist, an historian whose motto was “Revolution : a wrong mess!”. He was a good writer, though, and I learned a lot from him – though it’s pretty rare to find this “music” in our times.
  • Explore little branches of the tree. After decades of exploration, I knew the great composers and their important works : Brahms, Bartok, Prokofiev and more. Then I spent years to explore the same field, but under the stars : Roussel, Martinu, Walton and Sibelius. And thanks to the previous “normal” exploration, I had so much pleasure!
  • Find other ways to explore :
  • Instead of reading history books about an era, try to read books written by witnesses. Instead of trying to find the big picture, choose one person, a detail. One painter’s life. Instead of reading, go to lectures, watch them on YouTube. Find the minor things, what’s considered failures, and study hows and whys…

  • Explore what’s difficult : Mahler instead of Beethoven. Avant-garde photography.
  • Explore what’s hard because documents are rare, or the field very small.
  • Explore what you think you dislike : Consider other doors. Baroque music. Swedish movies. History of Prussia. Try to see if you find surprise-gold.
  • Go on site. This is totally different. Feeling the air of Waterloo. Find Vermeer’s city. Watch the sky…
  • In between two fields. Instead of studying Portugal or the new America, study the boats, the travels, the movements, agreements, trades. Learn what happened between two territories : producers and movie makers, Napoleo and United Kingdom…

 

What territory will you find? Butterflies? African masks? Dante? Religions in India? Story of the city of Philadelphia? Bridges of Budapest?

Do you have other ideas to find doors, bridges, territories and maps?

Then, what vein of gold will you find? What doors, what ways? Will you wake up in the morning with this delicious urge : dig more, know more, learn more?

Thanks for reading!

 

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Instagram : genevievealicegarner

 

 

 

Unusual Stratums & Facets

Yesterday a friend told he liked to watch Boulevard du Palais, a French crime TV series.

Unlike his smart wife, he told me, he never really understands what it’s all about with the complex story, many characters, dead bodies and interlocked investigations – which seemed to be boring to him. He said he loved it because of the detective – the actor, and the way this man was performing.

This idea itself is a perfect seed to think about what is entertainment, an audience, an actor, etc…

As usual, it’s a bunch of questions :

Artists

  • Are you aware of all the facets which could be loved in your work?
  • What if you decided to focus on an unusual one?
  • What if the “main thing” (in a crime novel : the story) was a fancy dress to reach the audience with another stick?
  • You’re, for example, staging a theater play, or rehearsing a symphony. Could you write the most complete list of elements you work on? Then imagine one person in the auditorium focussing on an unusual one? If you do that, what do you learn? What do you lose? So what?

Audience

  • If you dislike a piece of Art (music, movie, poetry, etc), did you look for the right door to enter it? Is it worth it? Any clue?
  • Do you have to find your own casual way to explore something? The bass only in music, the light only in a movie, the style in a crime novel?
  • If you can have pleasure with an element only, why wouldn’t you imagine to “read” impossible things for you, just to find YOUR way, your facet – letting got the “real thing” to gather your own shells?

Extensions

  • In your field, how could you use this idea?
  • What if, to find ideas to blog about, you read completely out of your expertise?
  • What is the eye of an expert? Can he really understand all the stratums, the levels of a work?
  • What is a masterpiece? There are many criterions, but what happens when many levels of reading are amazing?
  • If you work on a mainstream piece of work, where do you hide subtleties?
  • If you’re a photographer, you probably read a cook book or watch a movie differently, you have “your” facet-seeker ready. So… what do you miss? Is your expertise blinding you? 

 

What do we watch in classics ? In A Tramway Named Desire, are we amazed by Kazan’s work as a director? Brando’s performance? The way they used the set? The words of Tennessee Williams? The way the scriptwriter changed it? The complexity of characters’ evolutions?

All of them, more or less. Right?

Thanks for reading!

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Instagram : __bodylanguage__

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!