Wednesday, 27 April 2011


Those bastards in the taxation department have me by the balls. Depression over this state of affairs is partly to blame for my absence around these parts, albeit a very small part, but at least blogs provide a space for one to vent spleen and invite sympathy. So listen up comrades: the world's a cesspit and doesn't deserve a red cent from us Joe Sixpacks, let alone the extortionate robbery they demand, while those greedy Daddy Warbucks bankers, bond traders and property developers trample us with iron boots. Smash it all up!

Of course nothing is going to happen, we'll all pay our taxes, perform our labour, grit our teeth, so here's a few country tunes celebrating our hopeless predicament:

There's plenty more but I'm too depressed to link them.

Those close to me will know I'm not really depressed, actually jubilant, but depression is far easier and makes for more interesting music. Not always however - what I've been listening to most over the past few weeks is something entitled Children's Music Therapy or somesuch,the nocturnal soundtrack in the cardiac ward at the Royal Children's Hospital. It's a medley of "Twinkle Twinkle" and the like, mixed seamlessly together and played very slowly on flute-y synthesisers, reminscent of Eno's Apollo Soundtracks. Gorgeous. No idea what it is but these are close to it, and tasteful:

Chin up and soldier on...

Tuesday, 12 April 2011


We've had a lot of rain over the past few days, so much in fact that our bedroom flooded. Somehow a rock or piece of rubble lodged itself in the drainpipe, causing the gutters to fill and water to seep in through the roof. It also seems our house may be located on a sinkhole, as the front door has significantly shifted and now can't be opened, same with our bedroom door, and walls are looking crooked.

Rain is the finest time to listen to many types of music, and has inspired some fine songs. Here's a favourite, New Orleans' Soul Queen Irma Thomas' "It's Raining". She's in Melbourne this weekend!

Might be best heard in this context, one of the finest scenes in Jim Jarmusch's career filled with them - Roberto Benigni dancing with his real-life partner in the closing moments of Down by Law:

From a similar time and space, the combination here of childish xylophone "raindrop" plinks, tacky throwaway lyrics and all of Orbison's usual pre-Lynchian psychodrama - operatic wail, chorus of angels, strings, sax - make for a distinctly odd and unsettling song. Not one of his more well known tunes but deserving of being more so:

The Ronettes did as countless future wishy-washy pseudo-ambient bedroom producers and incorporated field recordings of rain and thunder in their "Walking in the Rain":

"It's more than woe begotten grey skies now":

Heck, Tom Waits has loads of songs about rain. Here's a promo for his Rain Dogs album:

... and a far from wishy-washy ambient album featuring rain sounds, "Atta" by Icelandic producer Yagya. From his album Rigning, Icelandic for "raining", I first heard him back in 1999 when he made The Rhythm of Snow for Force Inc. Guess he likes wintry weather:

Approaching Youtube overload, but will do another rain post and look solely at rainy ambient, some other time...

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Bruce Duffy: The World As I Found It

Finished this earlier this week, Bruce Duffy's novelisation of the life of Ludwig Wittgenstein, Bertrand Russell and G.E. Moore, and enjoyed it so much I'm now diving into the real thing, sort of. Or rather, slowly: now on Ray Monk's How to Read Wittgenstein. There's enough quotes of Wittgenstein himself in the Monk, so almost there. Next, as recommended by a friend of mine, I'll try Wittgenstein's Culture and Value, apparently aphoristic nuggets on music, literature and assorted cultural topics. Not sure how that sits with the understanding I have of his philosophy, whereby "What can be said can be said clearly; and wherefore one cannot speak thereof one must be silent", but I'm very much a novice at this stage, led - kindly and with much patience - by Monk's helpful hand.

But first to Duffy's book. Written in 1987, The World As I Found It follows the relationship between the three aforementioned philosophers, from the turn of the century through two world wars and various philosophical upheavals. The focus is mostly on Wittgenstein, whose life was certainly the oddest and most deserving of fiction, although Russell's comes a decent second. With Wittgenstein we learn of his tyrannical father and his multiple suicide brothers, the family's position in Viennese high society, his problematic relationship with his Jewish past. Duffy was particularly good at setting the scene of fin-de-siecle Vienna, surely a fascinating period, of which I'd be interested to learn more - perhaps from Allan S Janik's Wittgenstein's Vienna. Contemporary Cambridge is equally well drawn, particuarly the air of intellectual squabble taking place between Russell and Moore, and Russell and the arrogant fops that hang off Russell's mistress Ottoline.

Wittgenstein's life and career(s) remains the focus of the book however, from his academic beginnings in Cambridge through the trenches of WWI, school teaching in the backwoods of rural Austria, architecture (touched on very briefly here) and his odd later years. All of this is expertly handled by Duffy and I was hooked throughout. I'd like to learn more of the house he built for his sister Gretl in Vienna, now the Bulgarian Embassy.
This clearly corresponds to The Cone in Bernhard's Correction, and readers of that book will see many other connections between Wittgenstein and Roithamer, and I'll be reading Bernhard's Wittgenstein's Nephew too. I was disappointed that Max, Wittgenstein's savant-like friend, was not a real figure, so well is he depicted, but the conclusion gave that fact away. Knowing nothing of Wittgenstein I think was an advantage, as I might have been frustrated with Duffy's use of facts where and when it pleased him, but, as he eloquently states in the book's postscript, he ably demonstrates his decision which, given Wittgenstein's interest in such issues, seems an appropriate approach. Duffy is currently completing a similar "fictional biography" on the life of Rimbaud which I am anxious to read.
I also intend to read more of the How To Read Series. Monk is a brilliant guide, having also written the first biography of Wittgenstein, which incidentally came a year or so after Duffy's biographical novel, amazed it took so long, given his life! Anyway, this seems a better introductory series than the idiots guides and whatnot, so you look less like an idiot, while remaining sufficiently an idiot as to need help accessing the genuine article.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Valentin Silvestrov: Bagatelles and Serenades

Listened twice over the weekend to Valentin Silvestrov's Bagatelles and Serenades and was further enchanted by the idiosyncratic compositional style of this Ukrainian composer. He's clearly fond of a particular kind of chord or interval, as every piece I've heard is distinctly Silvestov. I imagine musicologists could determine precisely what gives his music this particularly feel, it seems as though it's a unique pattern of notes, but what do I know.

I first heard his 'Elegie' and 'Der Bote' on Alexi Lubimov's excellent recital release Der Bote, sat beside similarly enigmatic work by Debussy, Glinka, CPE Bach and Cage. His symphonies get noisy and dissonant, but they too employ these same motifs. There's an aspect of the simplicity of Arvo Part, particularly in the Bagatelles, but combined with the suspended, anti-resolution of Satie, and a greater degree of melancholy than either. This is manifest as a kind of abstract nostalgia, a hauntological reaching back into classical piano music essences, the melodies of The Caretaker transcribed, slowed down, and saddened.

ECM release most of his music, and it seems tailor made for their aesthetic, without succumbing to the 'Nordic-wallpaper' blandness that taints some of their releases.