maandag 17 november 2008

Colours and Conditioning







Some 20 years ago I went to a concert by an electric guitar player (think it was Emily Remmler, not sure). The sound of the guitar was terrible to my ears and I couldn't get over that. There might have been great melodic and harmonic ideas, but I couldn't bring myself to try and listen to those. A bit silly perhaps, like not being able to listen to a storyteller just because you don't like his/her voice.


I've always had an obsession for pure sound. Never automatically accepting a device build by others, but experiment and alter things to make it better/more personal and build up a relationship. But the problem with good sounds is also that it is hard to use them in a more narrative way. If a sound is too dominant, too beautifull, it leads away from the storyline. And this can easily become a very weak point...


I was in a museum yesterday, and there was a man demonstrating how they used to make the oilpaint in Rembrandt's time. The table with everything on it (grinded up stones and minerals of various colours put in little pots, smelly linseed oil, a grinding surface to blend the oil with the stone powder, the overall air of alchemy and mystery) was imo the most beautifull and interesting thing in the whole museum.... It's kind of what I have been attempting to do the last few years. To create an similar effect by focussing on pure sound. Listening for days to a new sound, to build up a complex relationship (you know, love-hate etc) with that specific new sound. But sticking to just sound for its intrinsic meaning and overall effect on other elements.






We are more conditioned than we often realize. If we hear something long enough it becomes a standard without us realizing it. Mostly this is a natural thing and just fine, but sometimes not.
It is strange that we don't hear the squeeks anymore when you move your hand from chord to chord  on an acoustic guitar. We just hear the song, the chords and notes. Imagine if a piano had a squeeky sustain pedal. You would notice the squeeks right away and probably find them distracting and annoying. But the amount of squeeks is (for the sake of argument) the same with both instruments! A matter of being conditioned....
For me it gets problematic when I hear 80-ties pop music with a DX7 with just factory presets. They are used so often that we accept them as the standard. Having played the DX7 for many years myself and just using sound I made (or altered) myself I get very annoyed listening to that era of music. Which is not so much a judgement of that music but admitting to a personal problem I have with it.
Same problem I have/had with the use in EAI of electronics with the standard small Behringer mixer. For me there is not enough thought (love if you will) for sound. We tend not to see alternatives anymore. Like going to a paintshop and buying a standard colour, and using it without even thinking of the possibility of mixing your own. The choices we make is what defines us...
Luckily the computer and its programming has now come a long way and musicians have become more aware of sound and projection "an sich".
Of course there are great musicians doing amazing things with crappy tools, because of their narrative quality and strong personality. Putting sound in a context is their forte and focus. Being a bit older helps too and is a perhaps a nessecity?
I find it a very comforting thought that Sun Ra did his greatest stuff when he passed the 60 mark, and he's not the only one.........


2 opmerkingen:

Jon zei

happy to be the first to comment here...

"I find it a very comforting thought that Sun Ra did his greatest stuff when he passed the 60 mark, and he's not the only one........."

hmm, Sun Ra was born in 1914, so you're talking about post-1974 work? what did you have in mind specifically? I'd personally say he did his best work in his fifties, and in his sixties, he was beginning a slow slide down, although there are certainly some winners there too.

but I agree with your general point, Feldman, Rothko, Bill Dixon, our friend Keith, all did or are doing their strongest work (IMO) late in life.

Cornelis zei

Hey Jon

"but I agree with your general point, Feldman, Rothko, Bill Dixon, our friend Keith, all did or are doing their strongest work (IMO) late in life."

Yeah, it was a general point I was making
Maybe I should have chosen a better exampe then Sun Ra. but still, he had something in his playing when he got older that was just like wine..... (IMO)

I once saw a Misha Mengelberg concert when he was in his 60'ties, just playing long chords, that actually triggered my remark.

It must be about faith, wisdom, realism...