This week I tried a setting for taking photos on my phone called Beauty Face. Not sure what I was expecting (beauty?), but every photo is a stone cold minger.
The creases of my face are that little bit more ingrained than I remembered and my hair is going from ‘distinguished’ to laughably grey, like someone putting flour in their hair to play Scrouge in the high school rendition of A Christmas Carol.
But I’m allowed to age, expected to even. Unlike poor Rene Z.
Perhaps it’s the act of aging which makes the curious double life of someone who spends as much time as possible making things whilst ticking the boxes of normative conformity seem a tad subversive.
I’m consistently and predictably rewarded for conformance, a blessing and a curse. And, as much as that can bore the crap out of me, it doubt it would still be the case if I weren’t an aging, white, native English speaker.
Paradoxically, my heteronormative choices of marriage and having children were radical at the point I initially made them; few of my peers had such activities on their radar at the time.
Of course, in retrospect it seems oddly jarring that I thought our funky wedding day (and it was amazing) meant that we were doing something unique as well as enduring.
The details that make such a life event singular are lost with the passage of time, all that remains are the stark facts.
This truth became very apparent to me when I emigrated to Australia. It no longer really mattered what I’d recorded or who I played with in the old country, that was already the past.
Australia forced my creative hand in that regard, something for which I am supremely grateful.
Renewal; the spirit demands it and art facilitates it.
The flesh corrupts inexorably but the panacea of creating keeps a part of you evergreen. Perhaps even those people who know nothing of that part of your life can sense that?
There may be no second acts and making stuff doesn’t entirely free you from worldly concerns (despite persistent and blatantly co-opted romanticism) but there’s only one way to describe having music in your life every day, and that’s lucky.
If you’ve yet to make your own luck in this regard, you may want to start.
Ain’t none of us getting any younger..
This week, I found myself somewhat incensed by the mid-Atlantic and mildly-amused intonation of an ABC announcer extolling the virtues of a documentary of the decade which apparently ‘changed everything’, the 60’s.
Boomer self congratulation knows no bounds and continues to shamelessly parades itself, largely unchallenged.
Let’s run a quick inventory; that business on the moon, Delia Derbyshire and The Beatles; all very cool. There’s a few Blue Note albums I think are rather good too and that Rothko chap was smashing!
Hmm, there’s probably a fair bit of the cultural output of that decade that I’m a fan of on reflection.
But I’m still not okay with ‘changed everything’ at least not in the smug way posited by the ageing stakeholders. Yes, there was some seminal art made and who can deny that social unrest led to some novel and positive change in that decade? Surely though, the same can also be said for any decade since or before.
The sum total of change is something I believe is worth looking at and this was the decade that birthed the cold war, the Vietnam war and established contemporary Middle Eastern Geo-politics.
Let’s see what has changed since by reviewing this year so far; refugees needlessly punished, personal metadata up-for-grabs, police brutality abounds and, my favourite, this week our Prime Minister took a unilateral decision to enter into a war on a ‘death cult’.
No, the 60’s birthed some lovely ideas as some of its inhabitants looked for new ways to live but it also paved the way for the neo-conservative co-opting of language that has allowed us to go to war against nouns (what a rip-roaring success they’ve all been too).
It did this by giving up on its ideas. Lofty ideals exchanged for a reinforced status quo once the initial optimism ran out.
Not that my generation (the one called X) fared any better; I’m not sure we ever had the optimism to begin with. Did any one really believe D:REAM when they warbled ‘thiiiings can only get bettaaaah’ as Blair strutted to the dais?
One of the benefits of entering one’s middle years is the full realisation that we frequently have to endure what we’ll put up with.
It is our tax being spent on sending ‘our boys’ on Abbott’s chest-beating exercise and it is being done in our time and in our name.
Let’s give the Boomers their due, THEY took to the streets to challenge the ideas they found abhorrent.
What do WE want to be remembered for?
Did you happen upon that ‘drummers are actually really clever’ meme that’s been doing the rounds of late? Apparently, playing in time is a form of problem solving, indicating a modicum of intelligence. Am I the only person that feels this is the scientific equivalent of a headline confirmation of earth’s non-flatness?
Excruciating axioms aside, I’ve been reflecting this week on what problem solving means in a time of enormous, cheap computing power.
I know that statement will age faster than Mark Hamill but stay with me, if you can operate in non-real time, cloud resources mean you’re unlikely to run out of cpu cycles or memory addresses any time soon.
Musical composition is an activity where you get to both find and solve problems and it can also happen in non-real time (in the computing sense). Prior to modernism, the virtues of composing ‘away from the piano’ were widely promoted, it’s easy to imagine your favorite composer of yore adding the odd note to the score between coffees to create the meisterwerk.
As I’ve previously claimed on these pages, for music, the methods are not important, the results must speak for themselves.
Still, I’m getting a real kick from trying to solve the following problem: How much music can I create in the moment with a discreet synth, drum and dsp set up? Am not interested in samples or deterministic sequences, so my computer is relegated to elevated tape machine / mixer status.
Apart from upping my fun quotient there are tangible benefits to this approach.
First up, integration. Having to perform the track in its entirety means the process has a definitive beginning, middle and end. There’s no twiddling the virtual buttons to an infinite degree; I have an idea, I play with the idea, then I perform / record the idea. All of this happens in given time frames; if I have 30 minutes to record, that’s what I have, it’ll either get captured or it won’t.
Secondly, having been on a massive Arthur Baker bender this past fortnight, I’ve been reminded of the power of the electronic music of my youth, much of which was made under pretty constrained technological conditions. The temptation to try and copy this music, even (especially?) subconsciously would surface far easier if my ‘tabula rasa’ were a blank sequencer screen rather than some cheap synths and funky old drum set.
I don’t believe that I’m alone in this. The computing omnipotence referred to earlier has given us plenty of rope with which to hang our notions of musical originality.
I’m finding that doing less computer is leading to more me in the music. Whether or not this is, objectively, a ‘good thing’, I shall leave to your discernment..