Friday, June 09, 2017

It seems my crystal ball was not so grubby ...

... resisting the temptation to say "told you so".


Sunday, June 04, 2017

Current ear food ... (my scanner decided to pack up yesterday - otherwise I'd try to supply a series of images from the various Zappa vinyls I've acquired. This will have to wait. In the mean time ...) ... 



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... of the slew of Zappa Family CD releases this looked more than tempting & is of interest

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... this is a 'must' given its status as the last entire album Zappa saw through to the end. 
Synclavier compositions & hard not to hear behind them all sorts of anticipations of The End.

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An absolutely revelatory CD set & very much in sympathy with the Zappa release. Dérive 2 is fascinating & a far cry from the 'dry' & 'cerebral' reputation I've always heard concerning Boulez's music. Probably benefits from a live recording to give it some oomph. 

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In interviews Pina N claims that Schoenberg is so full of emotion. 
I can't say I feel this so far but will persevere ...

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I ummed & ahhed about this one (how many complete sets does one need?) & then accepted that it is one of those that will yield ever more joy & insight over the years. 
Reading the book by the first violinist in tandem only furthers appreciation & astonishment. 

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Because ...

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The closest we'll get to a new Pink Floyd album given the truly dreadful efforts of Dave G & Polly as well as the travesty release of Endless River. While Waters has a distinctly limited repertoire of vocal expression (the husky, home-spun tones we recognise from 'Pigs on the Wing'; the Ginsberg derived litany we know from Dark Side of the Moon & 'Pigs'; the sudden vitriolic scream we've heard on ... well, pick your favourite; &, of course, that trademark fade echo ("echo ... echo ... echo ...")) there is a sense of genuine anger & bitterness & which - finally - seems to have gone beyond his specific preoccupation with the War. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, the many lifts from earlier Floyd albums can be attributed to allusive irony rather than creative exhaustion. Sound effects are more or less justified in terms of the compositions but you wonder what would happen if he really broke free & worked an entire album through sonic collage. Now that would be interesting. B/B+ for effort. (Many millions of dollars through sales & related tours no doubt.)

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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Just watching the footage on Belgian television of a helicopter circling overhead, troops deployed in the streets, festoons of barbed wire, sections of the city taped off ... all to allow a series of swollen black limousines to glide by & disappear unhindered.

Surely this is one of the brazen lies we live by. How those who claim to represent 'us' depend upon so many systems of concealment, protection & isolation.

If you love the people so much, if you are so popular & loved by all ... take a walk in the streets. Smell the unconditioned air.


Monday, May 22, 2017

Interesting ...

... looking back at the April crystal ball predictions there was an NHS crisis - the computer hacking - although admittedly wider in scope than simply the U.K. health service.

This morning a pretty stunning volte face concerning the so-called 'dementia tax' in the Tory manifesto.

Caroline Lucas has just been interviewed on PM & it's clear that moves are underway to establish some kind of cooperation amongst smaller parties not to run candidates against each other.

Trump has been doing his best (the FBI sacking/ Russian business etc.) but we remain confident that he has more up his sleeve.

Not that we believe the polls but ... putting this all together & there is a glimmer of hope.

Might the eighth of June prove to be the last day of May?

Other news ...

... good to see the younger Wisteria sister is finally hitched. Perhaps she will now disappear into well-heeled obscurity. Judging by the media reporting of Saturday's wedding, she's really in touch with Austerity Britain.


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The belgianwaffle election prediction ...

... looking into my rather grubby crystal ball here are some possibilities ....

  • Trump's behaviour becomes even more erratic precipitating a major world crisis &/or a series of bungled decisions affecting international relations, the UK in particular. May's handholding is seen as desperately poor judgment & compromising Britain's reputation. As we all know, once the Tories sniff weakness in their leader they'll go in for the kill. There could also be some score settling after the post-Referendum fall-out. (Watch Gove). 
  • Voter fatigue &/or general disenchantment with May & her cabinet coupled with some as yet unanticipated scandal(s). Boris can still be relied upon to deliver a major embarrassment & this will erode support. The Media frenzy itself could lead to many switching off. 
  • Ukip antics muddy the water to such an extent that what had seemed reliable Tory votes are lost to Farage's bully boys - expect plenty of misinformation & rumour (e.g. that the Tories cannot be relied on to see Brexit through properly ...)
  • A weird pact uniting various No to Brexit groups (Greens, Lib Dems, etc.) which draws a substantial enough following of the disaffected - including some of the unconvinced Tory vote
  • A wild card - some major event which transforms popular opinion. Some options: 1) catastrophic mistake in the NHS; 2) another banking collapse; 3) terrorist or other attack/outrage; 4) constitutional crisis (the Queen etc.); 5) environmental disaster ... which in each case are seen to be related to government incompetence or duplicity. Extraordinarily Labour (with or without Corbyn) seems a better option - at least untainted by the mess.
The outcome? Not the resounding win that May expected but a split vote. No one party in control. A disunited kingdom with running sores of Scotland, Ireland & Wales as well as damaged relations with Europe, the USA, & the rest of the world. May - like Cameron before her - revealed as the chancers they are. 

The crystal ball clouds ... 

Monday, April 10, 2017


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Time for an apology. 

I've been pretty dismissive of Philip Glass over the years, arguing that his music was boring/repetitive/lacked emotion/a one-shot deal/over-hyped/reflective of our attention deficit times/migraine-inducing/etc. etc. 

I've made damning contrasts with composers such as Steve Reich (subtle invention & patterns), John Adams (energy & great textures) as well as finding things of interest in Max Richter (the Vivaldi rewrites in particular). 

I've dutifully gone out & bought Einstein on the Beach & Satyagraha but they've remained more or less unplayed. Admittedly Glassworks has its moments. 

I'd written off Glass as not worth pursuing other than as an influence (directly or indirectly) on other people who seemed to be doing far more interesting things: the early Laurie Anderson, the David Byrne of The Knee Plays, the wonderful Meredith Monk. And let's not even begin to mention him in the same sassy New York avenue breath as - awed tones - Morton Feldman. I mean really ... 

And so I need to redress the balance. For this new disc Piano Works is extraordinarily good. I don't know whether it is the pieces themselves, the individual interpretation by Ólafsson, the tone of the piano, the recording acoustics, my state of mind on this rather dull grey April day but ... honestly, it's a lovely album. I hear strange ghosts one minute of early cinema accompanists, then Liszt, Schubert, Satie perhaps. Track 5 is especially haunting. 

If, like me you've always had an aversion to Glass, this is a CD which might change your mind. 

Saturday, April 08, 2017


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So what have I been doing during the first week of the holidays? 

Reading in & around Francois Jullien's fascinating book on Chinese painting - The Great Image Has No Form or On The Nonobject Through Painting. I'm at Chapter 10 having gulped my way through the slimmer volume - The Book of Beginnings - where he explores the opening 'sentence' of the I Ching via two other sentences (representative of the Bible & Greek philosophy). Inevitably this leads me back to the Tao Te Ching & into the volumes of Chinese poetry I've accumulated over the years. All with a view to developing notes made in Turin during the calligraphy course back in September. (The orange notebook has been looking at me reprovingly from the shelf for some six months & so - finally - I sit down to type up the entries.)

Here's one that might be of interest to my poetry afflicted readers (whoever you may be ...) 

Dream: of being in a huge bookshop (Waterstones, Borders) with several floors & sweeping shelving. I chance upon what is clearly New Poetry & run my eye along the titles. Immediately I notice that pale green of the Frank O’Hara Selected & pull it out as I realise this is a kind of follow up volume. I leaf through & discover it’s not a Volume II more his manuscripts & drafts. Whole pages filled with an expansive handwriting including blotches & cancellations. Sometimes torn pages, ink stained, etc. as well as more professionally reproduced typewritten sheets with much underlining & revision. On the back (very similar to the preceding volume) is a blurb by O’Hara himself – an obvious impossibility – explaining the rationale for this new book. He was concerned about the previous choice of poems as well as widespread misunderstanding that his poems all arrived in one go without any drafts or second thoughts. His voice comes strongly off the page ...

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I had also resolved to do some concentrated listening. As when winter approaches my ears turn to Schubert so, as Spring begins, it has to be Mozart. 

I made a good start with disc 5 of the Mitsuko Uchida/ Tate set of the Piano Concertos, enjoying no. 20 in D minor K466 & then moving on to no. 21 in E flat major, K482. Then, of course, there were interruptions & I strayed off into the Piano & Violin Sonatas (Pires & Dumay), the Clarinet Concerto & Flute & Harp Concerto (both Bohm & the VPO) which are all full of wonderful stuff. Then, last night, I remembered I had bought the Argerich-Abbado DG set while out hunting for the fabulous Stravinsky Rite of Spring duet with Barenboim. At the time I thought I was being fobbed off by the woman in the shop. I was wrong. 

Lovely as the Uchida performance is (of K466) the Argerich takes things to another level. Goodness me ... First, there is Abbado's astonishing work with the Orchestra Mozart (if I understand it correctly, his 'dream team' picked expressly for the purpose). Second, there is - there are - the fingers of Martha Argerich. It's pointless trying to do justice to such playing in words. I know everyone says she is special. I know everyone agrees Mozart is G-R-E-A-T capitalised to the point of bored familiarity. I know I know I know. But ... this really is an outstanding 30 minutes of music. It gives you the shivers. At least it did me. 

Buy it. Listen to it. Live it. 

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Sunday, April 02, 2017


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... and talking about great album covers ...

... it so happened that yesterday afternoon I chanced upon a secondhand copy of Zappa's One Size Fits All - a record I have coveted for the best part of 30 years. Until the CD release it had that Holy Grail status, known only through cassette recordings - at least for me. Imagine then the pleasure of finding it in reasonable nick for a mere 18 euros. Irresistible.



Saturday, April 01, 2017


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I saw this album - as in vinyl album - last Saturday in Fnac. Surely one of the great covers of all time? Utterly beautiful.

"Silence is sexy" ... not the greatest of titles, however, but timely given the month long hiatus in posting. 

There are reasons. As will be explained. Later.

For now, fondle the new 'look'. 

It seems my crystal ball was not so grubby ... ... resisting the temptation to say "told you so".