Wednesday, 19 August 2009

'Making terms with the establishment'

Fine post on Morley's recent BBC4 programme / experiment, which I have seen the first of. I was hoping to compare with Goldie's similar exercise but sadly missed recording the second of those:

Much interesting stuff on Dan's blog of late, from Little Boots (this year's Hands is a good if not great debut album, very promising indeed - some rare Saint Etienne influence, all making good my call at the start of the year for this to be a year of synth) to Thomas Hardy...

I quite agree with him that there is a tantalising sense about the scene where he works 1:1 with the musician, interpreting his drone-based ideas. The brief, improvised piece that results is compelling, unknowable, capturing an essence of Fripp & Eno uncannily, considering the musician had never heard

Curious that Morley didn't probe the more avant-garde side of classical music; he has talked much before of Stravinsky, Debussy etc, as in the 1999 Art of Noise project / album / live your. Xenakis, Ligeti and the like share many coordinates with the Miles Davis / Eno type terrain he was looking for.

Need classical music necessarily be an elite, in opposition to pop? Pop has encompassed Ligeti (that staggering part of the longer version of 'Dr Mabuse' by Propaganda).

I suppose much depends on one's view of 'professionalism' in music terms. I tend to feel the outsider, the agitator, need not have mastery, but some of it at least enables one to break the rules and make something new with more effect. Collaboration - or collision - between more schooled, intuitive musicianship and the more ideas-driven conceptual use of influences, is something I myself am looking to take part in. I am clearly more the latter, but can get by relatively speaking on a few instruments and have just bought a Roland Juno-D synthesizer (which I carried all the way home from Newcastle to Suderland, insanely - though via aid of our metro service). Whilst not a great listener 'by ear' I certainly get the minor / major distinction, which Morley so surprisingly could not.

It was interesting in pt.1 watching Morley interact with the musicians; he did seem cowed, in awe of them, to a large degree. No longer acting as the agent provocateur he once would. An attempt to broaden his horizons, move beyond his journalism - which has had little of the old passion for some time (indeed his daughter, Maddy, wrote an excellent piece a few years ago that showed enthusiasm and made one want to go and listen to music:

Making a pact in order to 'get on' is a key theme in James Mitchell's superior historical drama, When the Boat Comes In, which I have now completed watching: more on this series anon; it begs for comparisons with the similarly expansive Upstairs, Downstairs - a northern variant, that also seeks to portray lives across the whole of society, across multiple decades.

Jack Ford may often seem like an antithesis to Hardy, Lawrence or Alan Bennett or Dennis Potter, but the series tackles this theme subtly throughout, with Billy Seaton's leftist's progress, and the curious episode in the final series about a local boy 'made good', going to Oxbridge and something of an unfinished business in Jack Ford's increasingly empty existence. The fourth series seems to locate the tenor of Noel Coward's 'Twentieth Century Blues' - so powerfully rendered by Al Bowlly with Ray Noble - locates the ennui of the 1930s, all the more powerfully for locating the hitherto cocksure, swaggering Jack so relentlessly within its conflicts and miseries.

This last series represents a search for meaning, in its occasionally 'travelogue'-like* progress (Cornell, Day, Topping, Guinness Book of Classic British TV, 1993)... Ford seems to find it within his essential defeat. Again he takes sides, again ambivalently, but you realise his essential loyalties have stood firm. An existence of compromise with all sides, but a deeper loyalty to his own: his platoon in WW1 and to decent working people and trade unionists. Whilst he rues his lost fortune - caused by the Wall Street Crash - he comes to accept that there is no way back. He must now take sides, and is able to do so in his usual nuanced manner.

* Hints of Lindsay Anderson's O Lucky Man! of eight years previously?

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