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Sunday, July 31, 2011

A Sunday Song (and a cigar...) - Nurit Tilles' St. Petersburg Waltz

Puffing a Partagas' "Robusto" Tipo D nr. 4 and listening to this solo piano piece - from Meredith Monk's "Volcano Songs" - in loop-mode, can be an addictive habit... and they sure - both - made my day.

The artist will forgive me for the someway down-to-earth comparison, as both the sensorial experiences are soooo rich and various and TRULY strangely interacting to each other... the combination was just... perfect!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Ears and hearing - men or bats?

A very interesting essay about ultra-high frequencies, music and human perception.

HOME - the movie

Thanking Carlo Massarini and his "Cool Tour" (TV program) weekly suggestions, have a look and an eventual legal download to this movie... it's an as-crow-flies passionate look-out at the beauties of Planet Earth.

It's new, third millenium Koyaanisqatsi...

I love it.

"Buy it, period" Dept. - Meredith Monk - "Songs of Ascension"

Last Meredith Monk's effort on... a German-based label;-) is an absolute masterpiece... and I could stop writing!

Risking to be boring to many as to myself, must say there is "something" (in ECM) so right and tailored to my tastes, which I really find difficult to do not talk about it... someone says ECM is selling same music since early '70s... wall-paper music, others say... to me, it's my very own most beloved music, my personal life-soundtrack.

I ordered (and received in three days after ordering!) some disks at ECM's Mail order service... among the goodies I received (Stephan Micus, Koonitz/Motian/Haden/Mehldau, Sofia Gubaidulina, Gurdjieff's, etc.) there was Monks' "Songs of Ascension".

I own ALL Meredith's discs and disks so I'm not new to her music and vision... after the seminal "Book of Days" I was sure the peak was reached... but how wrong I was!

I created a musing post title - i.e. Buy it, period! - as I could write and hype and suggest and hint and swear its a masterpiece and... and... still the music itself trascends all and every description, also more careful and/or poetic.

The music, as written in the liner notes is simple and incredibly complex... M. Monk almost do not use musical notation to communicate with her ensemble... it's pure verbal teaching and ideas swapping and sharing and brainstorming and music seems to come from a 13.000 B.C. pre-Atlantis (...) era and the soundscapes are to par.

Have a listen to ECM's sound-trailer and then, if the case, loose yourself in this immense beauty: it's NOT "difficult" music... I'm usually whistling Monk's music while taking a shower;-)

... so, pals: Buy it, period!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Filling the glass...

Like in a Zen "koan", a glass is a glass when it's "acting like a glass" - i.e. containing some wine... a music room should be filled with music to play as an unicum with gears, speakers and the listener.

My best concert experiences were sure coming from, say, Concertgebouw in Amsterdam or Alice Tully Hall or (old) Carnegie Hall in NYC or Sala dei Giganti in Padua, Italy - by chance all venues where I was like "inside" the music, like swimming in an amniotic fluid... not musicians shouting to a passive, frozen audience, but music as sweetest solid air, something to be "cut with a knife", as Jorge correctly pointed-out.

After carefully reading last Jorge and Roman's essays (see previous post), I found a sentence which made something to (loudly) click in my mind: music filling a room and cohesion among different ways in a multiamped speakers system: three, four or five ways which sounds like a single-speaker, where lows, mids and highs aren't important, anymore... all is so natural and effortless and easy to the ear and to the soul... something I so much appreciated at Klaus' place, last year in Germany... and in my studio, after recent fiddling;-)

When a system is "properly filling" a room, the system is no more a separated entity, assorted gears playing in a room, but the room, itself, is transformed in a brand-new environment... call it a "music-room" or whatever, BUT sure not "only" where the stereo is;-)

The trick is in the "filling" - i.e. music isn't shouting from too small speakers in a too large room, or vice-versa, BUT both speakers and room are pretty interacting as a properly sized/efficient/beefy/natural/tuned/you-name-it whole; it's a bandoneon-like concept;-) - i.e. a solo lute is filling a room in a different way than a jazz quartet or an orchestra... a super-careful volume-setting is - again and again something worthwile to be repeated and underlined - paramount to reach "right" and satisfying results.

Last (rainy) Sunday morning, during an extremely satisfying two hours-long listening at my studio, I was childish singing-along R.E.M.'s "UP!" disk... shamelessly, singing with full voice - I swear - with tears of joy in my eyes, my voice was soooo nicely blending with Michael Stipe's in "Diminished" and in other songs... yes, in my 32 square meters, tiny, but dedicated studio, me and Gotorama, Gotorama and myself and the studio itself, "we" were music and "in" music for loooong, loooong moments of pure bliss.

Nor my voice, neither my system were louder or unnatural vs. the other and vice-versa... no (apparent) distorsion on both parts... the blending of ALL parties was awesome, "perfect", meaning the joy and satisfaction was greatly surpassing any need of speculation, while listening.

It isn't exactly what happens while listening to live music?

Aren't words always needed "after" the music (concert, disc, etc.)?

Electronic, voice, room... only words, empty words... 't-was Music, at its best.

Is it what we're for, isn't it?!?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Audio art

Putting this in written form, as Jorge and Roman did, "is"... the antithesis of audio fairs and magazines' lingo and prose: it's the peak and the core, the goal and the beyond the fence... it's the epiphany of truest meaning of audio as a deep, very personal, almost mystical, satisfying experience.

Any detractor out there? Considering the level of attention given in a good restaurant to a new dish or how much an F1 team (those ugly, crazy tyres warming-up covers... and much, MUCH more) puts on those "cars", I don't find NOTHING excessive in "our" care for audio, period.

Thanks to the unshy searchers around.

R.I.P for Amy Winehouse

Another victim of rock, folks... people live and die, but a fragile human being who reached also a momentary peak with a song or two (Back to Black, Rehab), moves me and makes me to think.

My wife read the new on the newspaper and said "Omen nomen"... you know... Wine-house... too easy... the life of an artist is only apparently a golden one: stress, pressures and depression caused are so common... so drugs, booze, wild, bad sex and abuses of every kind.

She died yesterday, July 23rd, in London, for "unknown causes"... she was 27, like Jimi, Janis, Brian, Jim and Kurt!

R.I.P. to young, unhappy, unperfect, great little Amy...

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Friday, July 22, 2011

Summertime disk - Tord Gustavsen Ensemble on ECM, of course...

Yesterday evening I had a pleasant, couple of hours long listening at my studio and, three weeks after the last turning ON of my system, what more impressed me while listening to some music was that... awesome sense of natural decay in notes, EVERY note was, sort-of, magnified - not exagerated - but superbly owning its own life, - i.e. beginning, full blossoming and death, with an incredibly long decay...

... yes, "guilty" of this revelation wasn't only Gotorama, BUT Tord Gustavsen Ensemble's "Restored, Returned" disk: I bought it several months ago and only listened to it quite lazily, lightly...

Few weeks ago I re-re-listened to it and discovered "how" it really sounds... a true surprise!

In "Way in" - second disk track, ECM's studio mavens recorded the VERY BEST double bass I listened to in eons... also grand-piano and drums are top sounding, BUT Mats Eilertsen's bass is sooooo masterfully recorded I'm mouth-watering for the next time I'll enjoy it, again.

Strings, fingering noises, studio and wood are all here, like musician's breathing and body rubbing the bass.

As I wrote, I only enjoyed my I-Pod & dock and had good time enough... but I wasn't prepared to what I heard... decay... DECAY... D-E-C-A-Y!

A variousness of decays... something not so subtle... most of all, something almost completely lacking in other system I'm aware of... and no talking about my temporary summer/portable music system, now:-)

What a lesser system almost completely lacks is respect, love - I'd dare - for "DECAY"... piano, pedals on and off and drums and bass... it's so easy to the ears... so natural, so... perfect.

I suggest everyone fond of both beautiful music and sound to give a try to this disk.

Noise, noisy music and music

This early morning while walking in the desert, uncrowdy park, peeing the dog, it arrived to my ears a very annoying - awful I'd say - distant noise - i.e. a public bus accelerating with a roaring, so alien sound if compared to peaceful birds singing in the park heavenly sounds.

You'll agree that some definite noises are utterly obnoxious and badly digested by our ears: burglars, aircrafts and the like...

The above brought me to think to loud musical signals reproduced through my music system: when I was younger I remember I was turning volume control quieter when some loud distorted electric guitars or heavy climaxes or extremely low notes were happening, fearful to "offend";-) or "damage" the speakers, amp or even the cartridge, so "baaaaad" was the music!

During the years, the situation changed: when I was - say - listening to some Deep Purple or Ten Years After disc or even to Hans Reichel's;-), instead of lowering volume setting, I began to feel much better as the system was improving in every detail.

I learned that it wasn't me a silly young guy being fearful of distorted signals-through-the-speakers, BUT (once the owner and user of) a lesser system adding distorsion to distorsion, so being unnatural AND unmusical, also in these weird passages.

I'm now able - at present days - to enormously enjoy also the wildest, ugly music (or the loudest/heaviest orchestral or percussive climax) with a sense of easiness and relief, never, EVER feeling the distorsion as painful or disturbing.

All parameters in my music system vastly changed in the years from my teens, first system... what didn't changed is my almost perverse and physical hate for noises... roaring buses, for first;-)

... but at home, also one of the weirdest disk I own, actually a CD-R of Japanese (!!!) crickets in the countryside, masterfully recorded by Shinichi Tanaka-san and used as a system stress-test, "passes" harmoniously in Gotorama... annoying natural noises, correctly rendered, at least.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Geriatric Rock!

... I was thinking, while reading last "Mojo" magazine... Iggy Pop, with his "uniform" of stone-washed jeans, boots and naked torso, showing to the world heavy signs of his age and abuses... and the canyon-like wrinkles of "Keef" Richards or Willie Nelson, as scuffed as his famous Martin nylon strung guitar... and Paul Simon and the salt/pepper, honest hairs of Emmylou Harris and of virtually ALL the great musicians still here decades after they begun stepping and jumping on the stages...

Is music something which must be brought to the VERY extreme - i.e. diying while performing at 96, or, like Compay Secundo and Bona Vista Social Club, touring 'til the last breath...

We'll see a bionic avatar of Mick Jagger performing from HUGE screens in digital form - in 2120 - in (real) Gotham City, the new monster-city spreading from Rhode Island to Florida?

... and Iggy Pop with his flaccid skin BUT never lacking an enormous energy on stage?

A cryo-stabilized version of a 150 years old Iggy will perform, like in Doktor Mabuse's laboratory, as a pure brain-with-cables wired to a computer to create a digitalized, immortal super-rock'n'roll hero, 'til the last sunlight and the VERY end of creation?

Is age and public presence of the above and many others in Rock Hall of Fame going on same par as composing and performing skill and freshness?

Has any "sense" - beside remembrance and nostalgy for the mighty, roaring '70s - attending to a concert of - say - (present) Deep Purple or Eagles?

Isn't much better watching to a DVD or a VHS of some historic performance and enjoying the real thing?

... while Rolling Stones are still touring worldwide with session-men behind the curtains or the like... BUT people still and always wish to see Mick and Keef jumping and grinning.

... I'm - sort-of - preferring more and more the records... they're far more an honest picture of "that" musician playing "that" music at "that" moment... it sounds to me far more sincere than a lazy, tired and tiring version of - say - Jumpin' Jack Flash, where Mick's jumps aren't the same they used to be...

Morrison, Drake, Hendrix, Joplin, Miles will remain always young... while looking to any artist getting older isn't - all considered - so... cool!

Rock is - indeed - a quite strange phenomenon... 'til the end of time?!?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Feet on the Ground...

... and Head in the Clouds...

I love it.

Aleister Crowley: from Thelema & O.T.O. to Beatles' "Sergent Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"

I bought a copy (in Italian, of course) of "Magick" by Aleister Crowley several decades ago... I was attracted by that yellow cover, typical of "Astrolabio Ubaldini" publishing company, the thickness of the book itself and this so "strange" mix of yoga and assorted weirdness - including some B/W pixes of obscure poses and ceremonies - which poured from that book.

It also was one of the most expensive books on the bookstore shelves... I remember I downpaid it in two monthly instalments...

In those pre-Web days, this book - which still remains in my library, now with its cover a pale yellow, about forty years later - worked to a young me as a catalyst and a goldmine, more or less what still happens these, present days, while lazily browsing and surfing the Web... the extremely various topics, from Cabalistic hintings to yoga and its several declinations... I sure didn't paid a lot of attention to what I later discovered - i.e. white magic, sexual ceremonies, and all the other paraphernalia such a complex persona lived on his own skin in an extremely various and - to some extent - exceptional life: mountaineering in Himalayas, playing chess with Fernando Pessoa, travelling (in early XIX Century) China, Japan, Mexico, the USA, Tzarist Russia and whole Europe, meditating in Buddhist monasteries, living in Egypt and much, much more...

My deep, sincere interest - better: need - in meditating and related originated from an apparently "wrong" book written by an eccentric heroin addict (...) who was changing women as we usually change shoes and who was often called a satanist (!)... nonetheless, Crowley was, for me, and for many others around, the right ingredient at the right moment...

Holistically, he sort-of connected the points between different cultures, the exotic, the esoteric, the untold and unknown... from him I read of Taoism and Buddhism, and - don't ask me why - my musical tastes followed new paths - i.e. Popol Vuh in early '70s and the healing, deep meaning of introspectivness and self-consciousness of electronic and Krautrock... and ethnic (mostly Indian music) and classical music, with a definite taste for Stockhausen's which still is well here after decades.

While friends were heavily into dope (smoked, mostly...) I was - like a young monk, building my - very - inner self with the support of the most mysterious stuff around: music.

I guess that the very same happened to more famous people, like Jimmy Page and David Bowie... hey, I'm not into controlling people and events by the means of "magic", but sure the flawed, unpopular, Aleister Crowley had - for a younger me, down to the present days - a weight and a role as - as I already pointed it out - a catalyst.

More than some obscure (or not?!?) sexual ceremonies or cats killing, while in Cefalu' - Sicily (Italy), I'll always be in debt with his writings and linking to "other" worlds and knowledges... maybe the same Beatles felt in their hey days, when they placed Crowley near Mae West (cover upper left side) on their seminal "Sergent Pepper..." cover...

Didn't them?!?!

Sure as iconic as it can be, and a "pop" - yet still an obscure one - character.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Ric's Choice - an extremely nice Blog from UK

First-hand experiences as seen by Colin Richardson from Bristol, of course:-))).

Always grateful to my pal Ric and his good taste for the past, with an eye to present and another to the future.

Duke University, "The Cloak of Silence" - acoustics and metamaterials... uprising new horizons

In Beijin, from all over the world scientists and researchers recently discussed about new sound impermeable materials, actually "metamaterials", new nano-technologies involving materials born in laboratories around the world, like at Duke University in Durham, NC, USA.

This material - actually in the form of a fabric to make, at the moment, a small shielding cloak - is able to make sound-waves unaffecting a material "protected" by the cloak itself... first experiments were made with a small 10 cm per side wooden block... frequencies between 1000 and 4000 hz didn't hit the wooden part, BUT simply didn't "acoustically see" it, at the moment almost vibes free!

Soundwaves weren't affected by the "silence cloak" and after passing the wooden block-under-the-metamaterial-made barrier, they sort-of kept their frequencies and acoustic properties... this happens in laboratories...

In real-life conditions, military and civilian uses are still in the thinking hat... for my humble mind and purpouses, this micro-cells new material represents a dream come true... yes, military could advocate its use as a new Stealth-like super-silent aircraft or an invisible submarine, the pacifist, music and audio lover - yours truly - imagine an anti-reflection material in speakers and audio furniture, inside phono cartridges and turntables platters or the like, all able to preserve, shield against vibes and degradation soundwaves as they were on disc, disk or HD, without the shortcomings ALWAYS here in all and every music room, from recording studios to our homes.

Beside sharing with scientist Steven A. Cummer first name (Stefano, Steven, Steve...) I feel - and actually truly AM - too much ignorant to effectively "imagine" any use for the a.m. new-born material... as a gut-feeling, I wonder if and when it will find a place in our audio rooms.