Great idea for keeping your music current from Kevin Kelly: “At my birthday or Christmas, I request as my only present that my kids, nieces and nephews burn me a disc of their favorite music in the last year, or so. It is an easy gift for them to make, and a great learning experience for me. The few tracks I can’t stand, I just delete. The stuff I love I seek out on iTunes to purchase more of. From this I get the fashionable tunes.”
There’s definitely music in the air on L&UL lately. Especially movie music. Kottke recently pointed me to this excellent post on The Morning News by RadioLab’s Jad Abumrad. Abumrad rounds up some of his favorite movie music moments, and I must say my jaw dropped when I saw his list beacuse it was so close to my own. Alexandre Desplat’s lush orchestral score for Jonathan Glaser’s extraordinary film Birth takes the Disney fairytale sound and throws it ever so slightly off-kilter, perfectly matched to the eerie magic of Glaser’s lush fantasyland on the Upper East Side. Huge Soderbergh fan that I am, I agree with Abumrad that the only really redeeming thing about his remake of Solaris was Cliff Martinez’s incredible, minimalist score. With overtones of Steve Reich and Terry Riley, Martinez’s looped percussive phrasing is hypnotic—listen to this music while you’re in motion and your journey will be transformed. Also on Abumrad’s list are Bernard Hermann’s great scores for Hitchcock’s Vertigo and Psycho, the jarring high notes of which both Abumrad and I see shades of in Jonny Greenwood’s superb soundtrack for There Will Be Blood.
Looking back at the last two posts on L&UL (here and here) made me think of this student project of mine from 2000, which seems to bridge those twin interests of concrete poetry and contemporary classical music. The assignment, as best as I can recall, was to turn a musician’s calendar of events into a short commercial using only type and sound. As a big Keith Jarrett fan, he was a natural choice, and I particularly liked the intensity and inventiveness of his improvised solo piano concerts for a project with such spartan constraints. (The music is from Tokyo: Part II of the Sun Bear Concerts from 1976. The concert schedule and venues are fictional.) Though it’s definitely still rough, I like how the keyframe counter’s time, normally invisible, surfaces as a grid that dictates when and where things appear onscreen. I was only able to output the keyframe counter in Monaco, so that became the typeface of choice, though its minimalism and monospatial modularity appeals to me in a piece about visualizing time.
The night before I read my essay “Part Notes” at KGB Bar as part of SVA’s D-Crit Reading Series, I found myself stealing a free few hours to go see Paul Thomas Anderson’s breathtaking new film, There Will Be Blood.
About halfway through the film, there’s a gas explosion at one of Daniel Plainview’s derricks, and his adopted son H.W. is thrown back and hits his head from the blast. I was so emotionally engrossed in their relationship that for several minutes I did not realize that that the music playing beneath the scene was Arvo Pärt’s “Fratres,” the very piece of Pärt’s that’s the subject of “Part Notes.” And it’s not just any version of the piece: it’s the version I first heard, recorded on Tabula Rasa with Gideon Kremer on violin and Keith Jarrett on the prepared piano. My concerns about the datedness of an essay from several years ago faded: here was a bracing, delicate, and original use of Pärt’s thrilling piece. It seemed as relevant to me as ever.
Two great links from Eye magazine editor John Walters’s moving small talk at the AIGA National Conference in Denver a few weeks ago. The first is Walters’s own magazine Unknown Public, a subscription-based music “magazine” of sorts. Walters’s comment on the name—”I felt there was an ‘unknown public’ out there that would respond to these things”—is as good a reason for starting a magazine as any I’ve heard. The box format of UP reminds me a bit of some of the later issues of Neville Brody’s font subscription ‘zine FUSE. Walters’s talk also introduced me to early electronic music pioneer Raymond Scott, who is quite a fascinating character. Contemporary proponents of Scott’s eccentric commercial scores include Gorilliaz, Soul Coughing, Mark Mothersbaugh, and The Kleptones. Scott: “The composer must bear in mind that the radio listener does not hear music directly. He hears it only after the sound has passed through a microphone, amplifiers, transmission lines, radio transmitter, receiving set, and, finally, the loud speaker apparatus itself.”
Kevin pointed me to Hardformat, a great blog about music packaging design. (This Audiolab boxed set is particularly lovely.) One of the things we both like about this is the way the credits are done in almost a museum format. Very helpful in tracking and sourcing the albums and CDs they post. More great blogs (and podcasts) on the Broadcasts page.