Monday, November 17, 2008

external vs internal....

Just like the conjunction 'too much' and 'garlic' really doesn't exist, in most people's minds, music cannot be too 'expressive'. Ask any punter why they think a particular piece of music is good, and 9 times out of 10 they will say something about how expressive the singer was, and generally discuss the lyrics. But, in a sense, this tends to emphasize the external manifestations of emotion, just like there are external styles in the martial arts, which seem quite flashy and active, if slightly hysterical. In most martial arts, the ones they began teaching to young fighters are always the external ones, with lots of movement and power. This is opposed to an internal style, which looks mildly boring and it would appear you could run up while giggling and kick them quite hard without much trouble. Likewise, the logical extension of this in a performance would be writhing on the ground while screaming and rending your garments, preferably blaming everything on your unhappy childhood. And of course, as we all had one, so we'd all understand. Sharing catharsis as art? The word is also used to refer to a purging of the bowels.... more on this in a moment.

Anyway, these observations come after the recent round of very successful gigs we did with Riprap, featuring, for the first time, Malcolm Guite's poems. The gig at Anglia Ruskin went extremely well, after a personal pre-gig panic (which did nothing to leave me in good place) about PA and recording problems - the tech-guy had left, and there seemed to be no way of hooking up a mike for the reading because the fact that all the pre-amps for mikes in the studio were down, and allowed only the most obscure of work-arounds to capture any of the gig, and that not in the most satisfactory manner. A very deep and heartfelt ojigi to Roger from Kite Studios for recovering anything at all from the evening. I will post some of the clips on the website later today, once I do a bit of editing.

The group gelled around Malcolm's reading, and put to rest any hesitation I might of had about mixing the two disciplines, and becoming even more obscure and pretentious( later note: and I think I am succeeding). We all came away on a high, looking forward to further collaborations with more poets. The next step is to collectively hunt up a few more gigs, and start the tiresome-but-necessary process of getting some funding to offset the costs of performing at smaller venues.

This mention of external and internal, maybe we can discuss in it more Western terms of Apollonian versus Dionysian (although not really the same thing at all; perhaps objective vs. subjective? ...and that's different again) , was precipitated by the second gig the following week. We were preceded by various younger guys (and that includes just about everyone around me these days) doing personal takes on free - improvs in the Micheal House space in Cambridge. There was a very good, extreme-minimal violinist in a Feldman-esque kind of way, and a flute player exploring timbral variations in a quiet fashion. However, there was one party who decided that they had to "get something going" and inject some of his emotive energy into the proceedings, even though this generally had little to do with the other improvisers' contributions to the textures; and I say this without judgment, we've all been there (say, in my case, around 1976 in extremely obscure peripheries of the Soho loft scene, inspired by people like Braxton and Sam Rivers - avoiding eye contact with angry uptown guys a lot older than me, and trying to make up for in energy what I lacked in technique) . There's always been an on-going debate about this kind of thing in improv circles, with no clear outcome but lots of polarization, like in left-ist politics of the possible. People with no hope in Hell of ever affecting change spend enormous amounts of energy splintering into ever-smaller cliques.

The problem was that Dave had spent about an hour sorting out the piano and doing a bit of repair tuning and minor 'preparations'. That was put paid to by a short sharp sessions with drumsticks inside the new grand piano just prior to us starting. Bent damper felt rods, stuff in the action, and back to (even more) out-of-tune-ness. Ted Gioia, in discussing how jazz might still fall within the immature arts, with it's emphasis on expression as opposed to structure, anticipates this young Free improv player smashing my bourgeois preconceptions . I saw then and there that I had dispose of the usual 'plutocrat' outfit I use for gigs, with shiny top hat, cut-aways and spats, and realized it was time to don some very tight black jeans and "Chuckie T's". Apollo, with his light and symmetry, gives way to frenzy and intoxication.

Back to being sullen, thin and bearded -



Anonymous said...

Apollonian versus Dionysian you mentioned that once in the class...

So are there any musicians using catharsis as art?


kbop said...

Well, perhaps Chris Ofili, if we're talking about a purgative..