All 10 entries tagged Music

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February 02, 2007

Another Day (1979) video by Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel

Writing about web page

I think this is something really special. Discovered recently on YouTube, a special performance by Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel of the song by Roy Harper, with a powerful undercurrent of emotional tension. I was only 8 when this was recorded. I have a vague childhood memory of Kate Bush being quite scary. Which I think was probably true, despite the vegetarianism (cue Hitler reference). She is now, of course, entirely child friendly.

Note the use of a pre-recorded video on the screen behind the kitchen table. Quite an innovation in 1979. It mirrors the live performance, but with subtle differences – they are for example wearing smart clothes in the video. This gives the sense of the domestic reality being doubled somehow. Is that doubling the past? The future? Memory? Fantasy? Reality? Whose reality? Whose fantasy?

And then there’s the line in the song, sung by the male character, about the female character being entombed and inaccessible. Metaphor? It’s such a dark and powerful lyric. Very Kate Bush.

November 21, 2005

Aerial by Kate Bush, a Deleuzian review by k–punk

Follow-up to Music Review: Aerial by Kate Bush from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

Always interesting blogger k-punk has posted a review of Aerial, the new Kate Bush double CD. His message is the same as mine: this is a really fascinating and complex record, coming from a writer with a special perspective on life, creativity and the world.

I like this description:

Deleuzian MOR: a numinous, luminous twitterscape of women-animal becomings, a hymn to light, and lightness.

Of course we don't need to suppose that she actually reads Deleuze (although I wouldn't rule it out). More importantly, she seems to have a deep insight into how artistic creativity works (and sometimes doesn't). Obviously that comes from being a compulsive and quite ambitious composer of soundscapes and words. But Aerial goes further, showing a reflective and very clever mind extending that understanding out from music and narrative to light, colour and the inhuman (animal). It's the relationship between these aesthetic planes that gives A Sky of Honey, which k-punk describes as "her most painterly record", its power and fascination. This is aesthetics as carried out reflectively by an artist. And she knows it – her interviews, including the recent Mark Radcliffe interview, contain indications of this.

And what does this mean for Deleuzians? If you actually listen to what artists have to say about how they work and the material of their work, you will hear Deleuzianisms. That's not because they are necessarily Deleuzian, but rather, as in this case, that Deleuze and Guattari really understood art and aesthetic creativity.

Deleuzian Kate? Perhaps Bushian Deleuze.

k-punk's review is also worth reading for the artworks with which he illustrates it

November 08, 2005

Music Review: Aerial by Kate Bush

Music front cover
Kate Bush
5 out of 5 stars

This is a magnificent work. One reaches the end of the CD, all seven fascinating, complex, rich, colourful songs, and then you remember that it includes a second even more stunning set of nine songs on the second CD.

Like many people, I have spent twenty years listening to Kate's 1985 work Hounds of Love, especially the Ninth Wave suite of songs that make up its second side. And even now I occasionally find new subtleties. That was and still is a real adventure in sound and words. It was the best of Kate's work, perhaps because it takes an arrangement that always works to great effect (Kate, piano, and an ensemble of some of the best classical, folk and jazz musicians), and punctuates it with uncanny unexpected sounds and narratives that are completely new and unheard. Beauty and recognition right alongside and seeping almost indiscernibly into dark humour, horror, terror, loss, madness, and quite often a becoming-animal with which she has happily bewildered an unsuspecting pop world (finally Front Row have acknowledged that this isn't pop). Listen, for example, to the utterly bestial human-donkey braying at the end of Get Out of My House from 1982.

There is, as I think Kate has indicated, a continuity between Aerial and Hounds of Love. This time she gets a bit more time and space to play with (12 years, 2 discs, and a really nice CD case and booklet). All of the above mentioned characteristics are there. Joanni, for example, in which Joan of Arc is reincarnated from myth to real complex sonorous woman. Listen to the strange obstinate vocal towards the end.

I'm not going to give a summary or critique of all of the songs. More importantly, a suggestion of how to listen to this music. For a start, recognize that it's very expansive, much more so than her last two albums, and certainly more so than any other current songwriter. So don't expect to get the whole story in one go, or perhaps even in twenty years. But you will still get instant gratification. There are sounds and ideas in here that will hit you instantly, and stay with you for a very long time. Listen lots, and listen carefully. And do read the lyrics. They are quite obviously the product of a writer, not someone hooking words onto sounds. And then watch out for and consider the surprising ways in which the words and music negotiate with each other: the innovation, the real magic is in the often difficult relationship between narrative and sound, almost (but only ever almost) to the point at which it falls down.

I wrote some time ago about painting and chaos - the haptic physicality of the hand and the brush, the diagram that is the brush stroke marking out a concentration of light, world, body, eye, mind etc. And then also how, as Deleuze argues in Logic of Sensation, music takes off from painting - colour becoming disembodied in sound and penetrating surfaces (and identities), finding a line of flight, going further than light, which is subject to shadows and the phases of day and night, but at the same time (especially in nature, birdsong) dependent on and anticipating light. Sound carries through the darkness, and as in the Ninth Wave, is a defence against and means of reterritorializing darkness: a refrain as D&G would say.

The second CD, A Sky of Honey, does exactly that. It is a passage from day through sunset, a nocturn, and back to morning. From the chaos, colour and chance of a painter. Through colour's dissipation into sunset, and its preservation in the night sky, and then back again with sound (the song of birds) anticipating the return of the morning light (see an earlier entry on the refain and birdsong via Olivier Messiaen).

I said there is deep complexity in this music. But I also said that you will get instant gratification. A Sky of Honey gives exactly that. It is thoroughly gorgeous – like Seville, of which it reminds me (watching painters in the gardens of the Real Alcazar, sitting in mellow cafes, being invaded by wild flamenco buskers). You will be overwhelmed with the beauty of the sounds and the words. I am.

Ask me again in twenty years, i'll still be listening then.

If you are interested in discussing this entry, then please contact me

October 31, 2005

Music Review: Sunset by Kate Bush from Aerial

Follow-up to Aerial fragment, transversal birdsong from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

What an absolutely beautiful sound. At the moment, after just one listen, that's almost all I can say. Simon Mayo just played this track on the Radio 2 album chart show.

Who was it that wrote that song of summer? The blackbird sings at dusk. This is a song of colour.

Overwhelmingly perfect piano and bass combination. Eberhard Weber I think. And the transformations between sounds and rhythms are wonderful. The shift up tempo, as the spanish guitar joins in, is both gentle and racing at the same time.

There's something painterly about it. Turner seascape painterly.

The Aerial double CD will be released on Monday. Kate will be on Front Row (Radio 4) on Friday evening. More of the tracks have been played on the radio today. The Kate Bush News web site has links to streams.

ANNOUNCEMENT: Sunset has now displaced You Want Alchemy as my favourite song.

October 27, 2005

Aerial fragment, transversal birdsong

Follow-up to King of the Mountain – Kate Bush from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

I just recieved an email containing a link to a stream playing a small fragment of the forthcoming Aerial by Kate Bush (out 7th of November). This is going to be quite fascinating.

The stream seems to have been taken from the more "abstract and conceptual" of the two discs, A Sea of Honey (not at all like the current single release). It is accompanied by an animation based on the CD cover, which features a golden sea scape with a waveform stretched across the middle looking almost like a row of mountainous islands reflected in the water.

The clip starts with a repetitive piano riff (think Olivier Messiaen), which is then overlayed by a short sampled birdsong riff (definitely think Olivier Messiaen). The animation makes it clear that the waveform is that of the birdsong. And then a line sweeps across the screen, very much alien and intrustive to the natural image, reminding us that it is a composed image – or perhaps the waveform is sweeping through the line. In any case, the coherence of the waveform is deflected outwards, throwing out fragments that morph into a flock of birds. And at the same time, the sound of the bird song is transposed into a more human, infant sound.

Intrigue: see the clip.

Messiaen was fascinated by birdsong; he considered birds to be the greatest musicians, and considered himself as much an ornithologist as a composer. He notated birdsongs worldwide, and incorporated birdsong transcriptions into a majority of his music. Wikipedia entry

October 06, 2005

King of the Mountain – Kate Bush

Writing about web page

Music front cover
King Of The Mountain
Kate Bush
5 out of 5 stars

Always predictably unexpected and unpredictable. Kate again makes great music. Difficult to classify, by definition. A slice of a drama that overflows the song itself. I'll be listening to this for a very long time.

Superb. Dramatic as expected. Dark, very dark humour. The sound is even more voluptuous than ever, matching the depth and intensity of the words. And the subject: celebrity, identity, Citizen Kane, Elvis: a huge drama, both deeply painfully personal, and in an other world altogether – the world in which Elvis dances on his own grave. Keep listening. I will, and it will keep growing in depth.

October 04, 2004

Klee and the superiority of painting

Follow-up to Klee and the separation of painting and music from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

Deleuze's claim that there is some kind of superiority of music over painting is perhaps a direct challenge to Klee's well known claim:

Polyphonic painting is superior to music in so far as the temporal element has more of a spatial quality. The sense of simultanaeity emerges in an enriched form. With his choice of an over-sized horizontal format, Delaunay endeavoured to accentuate the temporal dimension of the picture in the manner of a fugue. Painting and Music, Hajo Duchting, 1997, p.28

I suspect that Deleuze sees music as a more powerful, more free-ranging deterritorializing force, and hence calls it superior. For the very same reason, painting being more specific, itself closer to catastrophe, Klee sees it as superior.

Klee and Delaunay

From Duchting's Paul Klee:Painting and Music

Nature is imbued with a rhythm that in its multimplicity cannot be constrained. Art should imitate it in this, in order to purify itself to the same height of sublimity, to raise itself to visions of multiple harmonies, a harmony of colours seperating and coming together again in the same action. The synchronic action is the one, true subject of painting. p.24, taken from an essay by Delaunay translated by Klee

October 01, 2004

Klee and the separation of painting and music

Follow-up to Van Gogh and painterly diagrams from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

Note – this is academic work. If you know about Deleuze's aesthetics, Klee, Bacon etc, you are very welcome to comment.

Painting, as with Van Gogh, establishes a rhythmic pattern. Through an additive synthesis, painting intensifies the body, leads it into chaotic relations with the rest of the material world, provides it with a depth of simultaneous connections, nearing chaos.

For some time painters have been concerned with the relationship between the rhythmic essence of painting and that of music. Deleuze, in a consideration of Cezanne and Bacon, attempts to clarify this relation:

Rhythm appears as music when it invests the auditory level, and as painting when it invests the visual level. Francis Bacon:Logic of Sensation, Continuum, 2004, p.44
Certainly music traverses our bodies in profound ways, putting an ear in the stomach, in the lungs, and so on. It knows all about waves and nervousness. But it involves our body, and bodies in general, in another element. It strips bodies of their inertia, of the materiality of their presence: it disembodies bodies. In a sense, music begins where painting ends, and this is what is meant by the superiority of music. It is lodged in lines of flight that pass through bodies, but which find their consistency elsewhere, whereas painting is lodged farther up, where the body escapes from itself. ibid p.54

Music then acts to disembody, make abstract, deterritorialize onto a distinct plane. As if pulling the spirit out of the body . The incessant seriality of music acts to concentrate and overwhelm the body in anticipation of perception.1

Paul Klee was concerned with this distinction. As both an accomplished violinist and a painter it would necessarily be an issue. Duchling seems to claim some connection between Klee and the ideas of Nietzsche and Bergson on rhythm in fine arts. Did Klee read Bergson? Anyhow, in the face of attempts by critics to say that Klee's painting was musical, used the same structure as music, Klee responded strongly by emphasising that both arts are rhythmic, but in entirely different ways. Deleuze also had an interest in Klee (will look into that more).

This is the starting point for Duchling's book on Paul Klee, Painting Music. I've just discovered this, and it seems to be fascinating.

In comparison to the Romantics, Klee sought the actual basis for the analogy in the most inner being of music – rhythm – which in his opinion not only marks the movement of time in music, but also in art. Paul Klee: Painting Music, Hajo Duchting, Pegasus, p.14


1Consider here Klee's rejection of Hausenstein's Kantian analysis of finality and purposiveness in Klee - Paul Klee: Painting Music, Hajo Duchting, Pegasus, p.12.

June 25, 2004

Miro's Chaosmosis, Guattari's Art

Last weekend Emma and I bought a Fundació Miró print of Pintura. This is to go in our bedroom at the new house in Kenilworth. Looking at it reminded me of something that I wrote just after visiting the Fundació, an interesting coincidence of reading a book on Miro and Guattari's Chaosmosis. I've rescued the text from my old MT blog and repeated it below…

Andre Breton on Miro's Constellations: "They belong together and differ from one another like the aromatic or cyclic series of elements in chemistry. If one considers them both in their development and as a whole, each of them assumes necessity and value like a constituent in a mathematical series. And finally, they give the word 'series' that special meaning by their uninterupted and exemplary sequence." Miro by Janis Mink, Taschen 2000.

Felix Guattari on the Production of Subjectivity: "In this conception of analysis, time is not something to be endured; it is activated, oriented, the object of qualitative change…A singualrity, a rupture of sense, a cut, a fragmentation, the detachment of a semiotic content – in a dadaist or surrealist manner – can originate mutant nuclei of subjectivation. Just as chemistry has to purify complex mixtures to extract atomic and homogeneous molecular matter, thus creating an infinite scale of chemical entities that have no prior existence, the same is true in the 'extraction' and 'seperation' of aesthetic subjectivities or partial objects…that make an immense complexification of subjectivity possibile – harmonies, polyphonies, counterpoints, rhythms and existential orchestrations, until know unheard and unknown." Chaosmosis (page 19)

Miro described how he would evolve the elements of his works from partial objects viewed while staring at the ceiling above his bed. He worked these partial objects into existential orchestrations relative to each other, generating a "necessity" (in the Kantian sense) to their being produced. Guattari takes the Bergsonian interpretation of Kant in seeing subjectivity as enduring or being subject to necessities (refrains or exemplary sequences). But like Miro he knows that these necessities are not given, they are produced through knowable mechanisms (time is activated) – and if they can be known, then they can be chosen, so he has the possibility of an ethico–aesthetic paradigm.