Posts Tagged ‘music


John Cage//Nietzsche//Techniques of Listening and Life

John Cage, from Silence

But this fearlessness only follows if, at the parting of the ways, where it is realized that sounds occur whether intended or not, one turns in the direction of those he does not intend. This turning is psychological and seems at Ilrst to be a giving up of everything that belongs to humanity-for a musician, the giving up of music. This psychological turning leads to the world of nature, where, gradually or suddenly, one sees that humanity and nature, not separate, are in this world together; that nothing was lost when everything was given away. In fact, everything is gained. In musical terms, any sounds may occur in any combination and in any continuity.

Is this not a certain technique for achieving what Nietzsche intended in the figure of the overman? It seems uncannily similar, and Cage’s arguable political naivete aside, it presents at least the glimmer of a course of aesthetic action (the positive suppression of positive intention) for the goal that Nietzsche, as I read him, set out.

If nothing else, silencing yourself for a bit makes for a good exercise.


On looking back–popularity, obscurity, and: a proposal for moving forward.

As far as music goes, it is a commonly repeated enough point that we tend to heap attention too enthusiastically, too readily at the feet of those who show any hint of promise. The internet and the blog have, among other things, made bands shockingly available, have busted open the doors on a culture that tended to separate taste into camps: the mainstream and the obscure. So, this is my question: what does it now mean to be mainstream or obscure, when it seems that everyone knows about everything and can download it instantly?

A caveat: I will admit that it is entirely possible that I exist in my own niche and as a result will consistently misjudge other niches, even if those niches happen to be large. I live on the internet, I don’t watch MTV (saying this might prove my lack of knowledge about a “mainstream”), I don’t own a radio. I don’t have a single idea what is at the top of the billboard chart right now. If I am to be faulted in any way, it is to assume that my experiences of popularity and obscurity are in any way indicative of a greater trend. I am open to arguments against my logic. I do not think I am alone in this experience, though. If it is not universal, there are at least a few others.

Before, the mainstream was generally defined by popularity, and, some would say conformity, though not necessarily always as a pair. Radiohead, or the Beatles, for instance, managed to achieve a great deal of mainstream success while remaining artistically curious. Conversely, we have all known a band or two that attempts to achieve popularity by aping more popular acts.

The obscure was the difficult to find, the difficult to appreciate, or the niche work. A talented but difficult band that released a single 7″ single at some point in the not-so-distant past of a show they recorded in their mother’s basement might have been legendary to a select group, popular for 15 people. EG- the first Vashti Bunyan record. If you had it, or knew someone who had it, or even knew about it, you were in the know.

I believe that the mainstream as we knew it is no longer, replaced by competing niches with varying degrees of popularity. There will be no mass-cultural events quite like those my parents experienced: walking down the street and hearing Sgt. Pepper’s blasting from every window. The mass-cultural event as such has been destroyed, or fragmented and sped up by the internet. In their place, we have niche cultural events, which are both more available and more mercurial. The blog band. The band on the last episode of Grey’s Anatomy. That rapper who sampled ______’s song. The micro-event is the event sped up and spread out.

Continue reading ‘On looking back–popularity, obscurity, and: a proposal for moving forward.’


In conversation with Mickaël Mottet of Angil & Hiddntracks : :

A few months ago I stumbled upon this lovely album by “Angil and Hiddntracks” called Oulipo Saliva. The album was put together (one gets the sense it was built instead of recorded) under a great deal of constraint—avoiding the use of the letter “e,” avoiding the musical key of E, a restriction to mostly woodwind instrumentation excepting, for instance, the use of an old untuned piano.

I would certainly recommend it, as it’s a carefully crafted piece at every level. If you are interested in hearing more samples, here is their myspace page.

With experiments like this, results can be either gimmicky or a wonderful surprise. They are, in this case, pretty dazzling. I wrote a small piece about it and Mickaël must have had a google alert set up for his name, because he dropped me a message and then graciously agreed to have an email conversation with me about his music.

Here’s the text: I think you’ll find that Mickaël is an uncommonly sharp, crafty, and friendly musician. I’ve let him know that I will be posting this here, and that you may be commenting on it. So, if you have anything to say, make sure to say it

Continue reading ‘In conversation with Mickaël Mottet of Angil & Hiddntracks : :’


We Want Hits

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So, which one did you search???

Also this pan-swinging grandma:panma

We need 45 hits in the next day to break 1000 for the month.

Do it. Tell your friends/enemies/lovers. Post comments. Make us feel better about ourselves and a little less alone in the world….


A dispatch for our annals on constraint. On A VOIDing “E”.

This is a truly fascinating bit of music: Angil and Hiddntracks, during a post-gig discussion, thought about writing a bunch of songs for almost only woodwinds for want of focusing on that woodwind sound, also stipulating that all songs should avoid a grouping of chords particularly difficult for alto saxophonists to play. Angil runs with this–going two jumps out (changing (for this album only?) to “Angil,” and his supporting band to “Hiddn Tracks”), and shying from (mostly, ignoring his (frankly, sad) slipping on six or so grammatically-hard-to-avoid words) lyrics in violation of his organizing standards. So, this fun, this passing thought, quickly turns into a spry OuLiPo constraint, involving gaming both musical and linguistic. Lastly, as if this wouldn’t satisfy his compulsion to play, Angil bought a piano from a closing clothing shop (a liquidation) and, thinking that tuning it would probably ruin his fun, built all his songs on and around this bizarro-carnival thing (though his piano is commonly (and annoyingly) said to ring out with a “Tim Burton” sound), his band following suit, strictly and assiduously avoiding all violations.

So, in summary: a skillful dodging of constraint violations both musically and lyrically. Additional constraint and difficulty coming with his thrift shop bizarro-piano. A fascinating album, AND, might I add, a joy to own. Dazzling. A charming work of art with a sound of its own. Music for sad birds, an aviary symphony.
Worth looking into, I would say.
Angil and Hiddntracks – Oulipo Saliva

April 2020