Techno and its history
Awesome reading list with special focus on techno as black music.

See also this talk from DeForrest Brown Jr.

Lou Reed David Bowie 1979
Story time

"Don't you EVER say that to me!"

Writing on music worth your time

From the rave to the festival
Overthinking my commute soundtrack: I could listen to LFO. Or I could listen to the new Audion. The excitement of LFO is the palpable feeling of a new world coming into existence. LFO's sounds are both a reference to the new world of rave and the central shared experience - the reality - of that world. The excitement of Audion is the excitement of what's possible now, but also the excitement of stripping away, rather than building up. Dance as escape not from ordinary boring reality, but from an ever-present central shared experience. Escaping from mediated reality to now.

Worse is better
Whatever you now find weird, ugly, uncomfortable and nasty about a new medium will surely become its signature. CD distortion, the jitteriness of digital video, the crap sound of 8-bit - all of these will be cherished and emulated as soon as they can be avoided. It’s the sound of failure: so much modern art is the sound of things going out of control, of a medium pushing to its limits and breaking apart. The distorted guitar sound is the sound of something too loud for the medium supposed to carry it. The blues singer with the cracked voice is the sound of an emotional cry too powerful for the throat that releases it. The excitement of grainy film, of bleached-out black and white, is the excitement of witnessing events too momentous for the medium assigned to record them.
- Brian Eno, A Year With Swollen Appendicies (via)

Mersey Beats
I'm going to try something new in 2015: I'm going to write at least a little about every book that I read. (Ok, I'm going to try. This isn't a job.) I just finished "Tune In", the first volume of a projected three-volume history of the Beatles by Mark Lewisohn. It was really surprisingly fascinating and I want to try to explain why before all the images and impressions the book created fade from my memory.

Why do you care about those old men anyway?
I feel like an apologia for Beatles fandom is kind of required at this point. They're so central to the rockist canon, such a touchstone for the type of reactionaries who would dismiss hip-hop, techno and everything living and vital that I care about in music, that caring about them enough to read a book on them (three books!) seems suspect.

First, a generic defense of the study of history:it's not only not opposed to a progressive outlook, it's an important part of any understanding of the present. I say this as foundation-laying, I doubt any of the three people reading this would disagree.

Second, a more specific understanding of the Beatles - actually grokking their context, their rise, their loves, hates and ambitions - helps in understanding them as a specific group of people operating in a specific context, reacting to the music around them, expressing a particular Liverpool sensibility. All the talk about them as "timeless, central to rock history, giants" just obscures who they actually were and why they did what they did.

Finally, their rise coincided with - helped bring about - the rise of a new kind of music, a new youth culture, a new music industry ... every stage of their story so far involves people doing things no one had ever done before. Even if you think rock would have reached more or less the same place without them, a lot of things changed in the Sixties and the history of the Beatles is a fantastic lens for viewing it.

I'm pretty sure you were going to tell us about a book
It's engagingly written, a tiny bit amateurish in the best sense of the word, astoundingly well researched but wearing that lightly, and packed with memorable quotes and scenes. Lewisohn does well sketching milieu, and this is the foundation of the book.

Say something about the Beatles? anything
They weren't fantastic musicians, Paul maybe excepted. Fantastic singers and songwriters, yeah. But it's funny to think about how many people yearning tiresomely for "musicianship" put the Beatles at the top of their list.

They wanted to make black music. They had other influences, but when Little Richard told them they had that "authentic Negro sound" I can't imagine how happy they must have felt.

They were direct, funny, often assholes. Lewisohn keeps emphasizing how they refused to do anything that felt fake, that they were always true to themselves. He maybe hits that point too hard but you do finish the book feeling that part of their success came from aggressive disregard for what other people wanted or expected. I'm not sure that I would have been friends with John, but I would love to have spent time in his company. Even just reading the book you get inspired by how original his behavior - all of their behavior - was. You start to feel it's possible to live life less by rote.

Finally, when the group starts producing great work (they definitely didn't always) there starts to be a steady stream of little eruptions in the book, the Beatles doing something new and amazing. I'm not sure how much of this is their musical originality. Maybe Lewisohn could have done more to show how novelty comes from recombination - but he already does quite a bit of that. Maybe they had something.

Laurie Anderson on Lou Reed

It was spring in 2008 when I was walking down a road in California feeling sorry for myself and talking on my cell with Lou. "There are so many things I've never done that I wanted to do," I said.

"Like what?"

"You know, I never learned German, I never studied physics, I never got married."

"Why don't we get married?" he asked. "I'll meet you halfway. I'll come to Colorado. How about tomorrow?"

"Um – don't you think tomorrow is too soon?"

"No, I don't."

Back when

"One of my friends brought his daughter round – she’s 14, and she had her iPod on. And I said to her, what are you listening to? And she said, it’s this group called Joy Division. And I had to smile a little bit."
- from an interview with Bernard Sumner

He had been battling kidney cancer for some time, but according to the Manchester Evening News he died after an unrelated heart attack. Because he had a better head for art than money his finances were not in good shape, but his friends (including the Mondays) rallied round to pay for his treatment. (via ilx)

Sorry I can't make this prettier, Tony, I know you'd want all your obituaries to be art.

Ned Raggett: "...had he not helped bring together a variety of kindred souls in various fields, not all musical, then the world would look different, sound different, simply BE different."

Metafilter: "I'm a minor player in my own life story."

"We drain dry the old pleasures and then never think new ones are going to happen again. Rationally, we know that wonderful things are around the corner, and yet we don't believe it."

His coffin had a FAC number

Hip Hop
Hip hop gossip.

top albums of the 1990s according to ilm
Good list even though there are things about it which make Hulk VERY FUCKING ANGRY.

I Love Music rough guide to...
Holy shit. The thermonuclear version of "five cds to introduce you to [60s bubblegum pop, new orleans brass bands, metal, rave, etc]".

"Lethal B's smash hit - Forward Riddim has been banned in all Essex. Apparently this is due to the fact that ravers are just going too mad for it!"

Andrew W. Pollack's "Notes On" series
Insanely detailed mini-essays on Beatles songs.

One Nation, Invisible: The Untold Story of Twin Cities Hip-Hop
For all my peeps in tha 612 - big up Victoria Crossing! Big up Dunn Bros!

update: even better - The TC Old-School Hip-Hop Page, courtesy of the author

aphex will rise again
"You probably don't remember this, but there was a time when RDJ was GOD! I mean RDJ was the most important man in the fucking universe, you thought it, your dad thought it, and every last music journalist made it a point to make sure you did not forget it. I don’t care how big of a Detroit fascist you are (and I was the biggest one this board has ever witnessed!) you knew RDJ was the dope shit, you knew, your dad knew, and every last person who knew anything about electronic music knew it. That is cool and the gang, because if you don't like Aphex you are an idiot. RDJ is definitely one of the top 5 most important producers of the last decade and Blue Calyx [sic] alone is better than your entire record collection."

Karlheinz Stockhausen - Advice for Clever Children

one should not serve any existing demands

Loops are good to dance to...

a really effing good guide to Stockhausen
Stockhausen on Hymnen

"What I am trying to do, as far as I am aware of it, is to produce models that herald the stage after destruction. I'm trying to go beyond collage, hetrogeneity and pluralism, and to find unity; to produce music that brings us to the essential ONE. And that is going to be badly needed during the time of shocks and disasters that is going to come."

It's got to be hard to be that arrogant and yet be essentially ignored by the listening public.

moments in love
bbc chillout documentary (incl link to archived version)

sounds like techno
Web-based documentary featuring Derrick May and Stacey Pullen, among others.

So I'm listening to Planet Rock ... you know, I don't think I've ever heard this song before.

Musique Concrète Smash Hits
by Drew Daniel of The Soft Pink Truth and Matmos

The Beatles meet Bob Dylan because of The Blacklisted Journalist
It's deeply untrustworthy gossip, not journalism, but it's entertaining.

What is truth, said jesting Tony?
Can't wait to see 24 Hour Party People. Will then return here to be set straight.

Date: Thu, 11 Apr 2002 17:42:44 -0400
From: Andrei
Subject: RE: [idm] Dada / Intonarumori

For those who care about this Dada music thread:
I have a friend who specializes in Dada and Surrealist literature and here are some things he had to say about Dada music.


  • -------

What I can recall are things not so much in the name of music as in the name of provocation, but as far as Picabia goes, his first wife (who had a strong influence on his ideas), Gabrielle Buffet, was a trained pianist, as was her sister, Mauguerite, who actually performed at a couple Dada performances in Paris. One piece she performed was Picabia's piece, an example of "Sodomist" music (I think that's what he called it, even though "sadist" would have made more sense), called something like "The Nanny" (or something with nanny in the title), which was essentially minimalism before its time: three notes played over and over and over. It was also her that played Georges Ribemont-Dessaignes' piece "No Curly Chicory!" at another performance, and I actually have a description of that, culled from the Dada Almanac: the piece "had been composed by choosing notes entirely at random and was played with stony-faced expertise by Marguerite Buffet, a professional concert performer. the composer was seated beside her turning the pages of his masterpiece and later recalled being swamped in an indescribable uproar in which music, the shouts, cries and whistles of the audience united into a discordant harmony like the smashing of glass: 'curiously effective,' he thought." That was March 1920. I can't find a reference to the Picabia piece right now.

Satie's "furniture music" could be conceivably fall under the Dada rubric, although it preceded his actual involvement with Picabia, and that would already be after Picabia had broken with the movement. But it is somewhat in the spirit, although its intentions were opposite. Also Varese, but you know more about him than I do: he lived with Picabia in NY for a summer, when Dada was just getting going, and Picabia referenced a piece he never actually wrote more than once: a piece written for the water faucet. There is also that Duchamp cd you probably know about, but in that case, I think it is a whole piece constructed around an idea to be found among his notes, so to describe him as contributing to a Dadaist music would be stretching things.

If you include Schwitters' sound poetry as music, then there is lots of that sort of thing, but I'm not sure I would label it all as music: Tzara experimented a lot with African songs, nonsense words, etc. And Scwitters' sound poetry was inspired by the output of Raoul Hausmann, who actually precedes him. There is another Ribemont-Dessaignes thing that had everybody on stage go "krii krii krii krii" (or something like that) over and (again) over and over again, which annoyed Breton so much that he had to leave the theater for a while. (He hated music, which is why there is no surrealist music).

And there was also an actual Dada-foxtrot, which was written by a Dadaist, and was actually something of a foxtrot, but they were amused by it and welcomed the publicity.

Music and dancing played a part in the early Zurich stuff/Cabaret Voltaire, but it was mostly standard music-hall stuff (although the costumes got wild): that was the background of Hugo Ball and Emmy Hennings (her singing drew a lot of the audience). Varese and Satie seem to come closest to a serious idea of Dada music, and Varese seems to have his foot equally in Futurism, and Satie was never really a Dadaist. There might also be something to look at with the Laban dancing troupe,who joined in with the Cabaret Voltaire sometimes. I don't know what they were doing in terms of accompanying music, or if they were even using any, but the fact that they probably made it subordinate to their movement would be relevant, but I haven't read up on them. The Zurich Dadaists were always trying to get the Laban dancers to go out with them. But on the whole, the Zurich stuff isn't even what people generally associate with Dada (in terms of negativity, confrontation, scandal, etc.).

There could have been more of a development at one point, but things went a different way: Marinetti came to Paris to give a lecture on new sounds and futurist music, etc., which by all accounts should have interested the Dadaists, except that he preceded his arrival with the statement that Dada was a development of Futurism, so all they had on their mind was sabotaging his lecture rather than paying any attention to what he was actually saying.

  • -------

Date: Fri, 12 Apr 2002 01:01:14 -0400
From: Marc Lowenthal
To: Lukas Bergstrom
Subject: your email to Andrei

Andrei forwarded the email you sent to him, and it is of course fine by me if you felt like doing something with the info I sent him. My only qualm is that I had been typing off the top of my head, so, English and typos aside, I also didn't bother to back everything up with actual references, but that is probably obvious from the email itself. Scanning through it quickly, though, I see I had accidentally said that the Dadatrot was written by a Dadaist, when what I had meant to write was that it wasn't. My memory of the story behind that trot, though, is fuzzy. I believe it was a minor hit. There is a series of photographs existing of Gerhard Preiss, who went by the name of "Supermusicdada", doing the "Dadatrot" ^× he was a minor character in the movement, and is all but forgotten except for those pretty amusing photos, but he was a dancer and mime by trade, and did collaborate, and was a co-signatory for something.

I also looked up that Picabia piece: it was entitled "The American Nanny", and was indeed "sodomist" music; I don't have the original French title at hand, though, but memory tells me the word used for nanny was "nounou", which I mention only because one of the various "meanings" (or translations) of "Dada" is nanny (along with hobbyhorse, etc.).

And Marguerite would also accompany some of the readings of the manifestoes on the piano. But I guess that was kind of a standard thing back then (although it doesn't always get mentioned).

All best,


I'm listening to this now. Mr. Smith has apparently swallowed the idea that modern techno is a Serious Art Form hook, line, and sinker. It's painful to listen to Basic Channel fans talk about "the space between the notes"...yeah, man...

First broadcast January 27, 1999
CBC Radio One, 9:05 pm

Novelist Russell Smith (How Insensitive; Noise) devises a sound essay examining Futurism, minimalism, poetic collage, abstract painting, and the most listener-unfriendly music ever recorded, the style called Rotterdam, beloved of art students and disenchanted punk-rockers.
(direct to audio)

I agree with his point about how modern techno is related to earlier movements in art, but it's a pretty obvious one, and he doesn't say much else. (Update: ok, he does say some interesting things, but none of them are about techno, nor anything after about 1950. [Tunnel vision? What's that?])

Great resource on Italian Futurism.
Futurism was an international art movement founded in Italy in 1909. It was (and is) a refreshing contrast to the weepy sentimentalism of Romanticism. The Futurists loved speed, noise, machines, pollution, and cities; they embraced the exciting new world that was then upon them rather than hypocritically enjoying the modern world’s comforts while loudly denouncing the forces that made them possible. Fearing and attacking technology has become almost second nature to many people today; the Futurist manifestos show us an alternative philosophy.

Too bad they were all Fascists.
Links to a bunch of breathless manifestos, including Russolo's Art of Noises.

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