Category Archives: music

RIP Cecil Taylor (1929 – 2018)

Cecil Taylor was an American pianist and poet. Classically trained, Taylor is generally acknowledged as having been one of the pioneers of free jazz. His music is characterized by an extremely energetic, physical approach, producing complex improvised sounds, frequently involving tone clusters and intricate polyrhythms. His piano technique has been likened to percussion, for example described as “eighty-eight tuned drums” (referring to the number of keys on a standard piano). He has also been described as “like Art Tatum with contemporary-classical leanings”.

His composition Indent (1973) is on Thurston Moore’s Top Ten Free Jazz Underground (1995).

RIP Jacques Higelin (1940 – 2018)

Jacques Higelin was a French pop singer who rose to prominence in the early 1970s. Early in his career, many of Higelin’s songs were effectively blacklisted from French radio because of his controversial left wing political beliefs, and his association with socialist groups.

His song “Pars” (1978) was covered by Grace Jones on her album Warm Leatherette.

Dance of the Peacock by Makhmud Esambayev

Dance of the Peacock by Chechen actor/dancer Makhmud Esambayev is a clip[1] which is currently doing the rounds on Facebook.

It intrigued me because of its kitschiness and I decided to investigate.

It did not take long to figure out that the soundtrack to which Esambayev is dancing, is a cover of the theme of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly by Sergio Leone. It has a drum break which is not in the original.

It took me more than an hour to find the original film the clip was taken from.

First I found a version with a little bit more footage at the beginning (below).

For a while I thought it came from a children’s movie and I scrubbed through two. These were actually quite nice.

Then, by machine translating the Russian Wikipedia page of Esambayev I found out that the clip comes from a film called Dances of the Peoples of the World (above) in which the Chechen dancer performs a huge number of various dances: “Chaban” (Chechen-Ingush, Uzbek), “Warrior” (Bashkir), “Golden God” (Indian), ritual “Dance of Fire” to the music of de Falla, “La Corrida” (Spanish ) and “Dance with knives” (Tajik)”.

RIP Dennis Edwards (1943 – 2018)

Dennis Edwards was an American singer, notably a lead singer in The Temptations.

He scored a solo hit in 1984 with “Don’t Look Any Further” (day-o day-o, mombajee ai-o!), the video of which [above] is in the top ten of worst videos ever. Just watching it fills you with vicarious shame.

For the jaded and tired among us, it’s a good thing to listen to “City Lights” by William Pitt [above], which rips the bassline and chord structure.

The first well-known sample of the song’s distinctive bassline is in Eric B. & Rakim’s 1987 single “Paid in Full” [above].

RIP Mark E. Smith (1957 – 2018)

Mark E. Smith was an English musician, known for his post-punk group the Fall, a renowned and idiosyncratic offshoot from the UK post-punk popular music scene.

His voice is reminiscent of Jonathan Richman and tracks such as “Big New Prinz” [above] are as weird and danceable as Richman’s “Roadrunner” for example.

On a personal note: the covered “Mr. Pharmacist” in 1986, at a time when I was into garage rock.

P.S. The train footage in the clip of “Big New Prinz” is an example of slow television.

RIP Hugh Masekela (1939 – 2018)

Hugh Masekela (1939 – 2018)  was a South African musician, composer and singer.

I celebrated Hugh’s 70th birthday nine years ago [1] and pointed to the two compositions of Masekela that are in my top 1000 (“Grazing in the Grass” and “Don’t Go Lose It Baby“).

Above is “African Secret Society”, a 1974 composition by Masekela, soft, breezy and jazzy (and I love the idea of an African secret society).

Also [above] a recent find I discovered after France Gall’s death, “Umqokozo (Children’s Game Song About A New Red Dress)“, a song French musician Serge Gainsbourg used without credit as “Pauvre Lola” and on which you can hear Masekela playing at 0:55.

RIP Sunny Murray (1936 – 2017)

Sunny Murray was an American musician, one of the pioneers of the free jazz style of drumming.

His album Sonny’s Time Now (1965) is in the Top Ten Free Jazz Underground.

On that record Amiri Baraka reads his controversial 1965 poem “Black Art” (above) which features the line “we want poems that kill”, an instance of the aestheticization of violence.

“One can look at seeing but one can’t hear hearing” –Duchamp

I want to read Sinister Resonance: The Mediumship of the Listener.

”Sinister Resonance: The Mediumship of the Listener” (2010) by David Toop
[Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Back in 2007, I attended[1] a lecture by David Toop. The title was Ways of Hearing.

In 2010, this lecture crystallized as the book Sinister Resonance: The Mediumship of the Listener.

On the cover is a detail of «Soplones», nº 48 of Goya series Los Caprichos.

It is a book about listening, the way sound is portrayed in painting and other “silent arts”, about arts that involve sound, about the resonance of architecture, about auditory artefacts and about self-reflexivity.

Michaelangelo Matos called it “an exploration of sound in novels, poems, and paintings from before the era of sound reproduction.”

Threaded through the book is Marcel Duchamp’s observation “One can look at seeing but one can’t hear hearing” and his concept of the infrathin, those human experiences so fugitive that they exist only in the imaginative absences of perception.

David Toop is always interesting, he introduced me to the eavesdropper paintings by 17th century Dutch painter Nicolaes Maes and the concept of silence in painting.

A certain Guilherme Werneck has made a pinterest board consisting of a “visual guide” to Sinister Resonance.

Toop’s magnum opus is Ocean of Sound.

See also my current research on medium specificity.