Glenn Engstrand is, without doubt, the biggest shit-for-brains excuse-for-a-reviewer I've ever encountered. He's an utter disgrace to any standards of scholarliness, intelligence, imagination, & ethics. Thanks to his complete stupidity, I've removed my recommended link to "the improvisor" from my web-site.
005 - A Year & A Day at the Funny Farm Bogus Piano Concerto in 2 Rapid Bowel Movements
- tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE & John Henry Nyenhuis
- $3.00 - (45 minutes)
From: "the improvisor" website - us@
Bogus Piano Concerto - Cassette - tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE (various), John Henry Nyenhuls (DX27S Synthesizer)
This tape is a long series of very recognizable melodic phrases from various musical sources including classical, pop, TV and movie theme songs. It sounds like a MIDI file that was downloaded to the cassette.
The photocopied, cassette sized liner book (printed using technology that is no longer available) is fairly appologetic about the derivative nature of this work. - Glenn Engstrand
tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE responds (unpublished)
Glenn Engstrand definitely wins the STUPIDEST EXCUSE FOR A REVIEWER AWARD OF THE YEAR FOR THE ABOVE (& for his 'review' of 014 - Livid @ the Schmaltzwald)! Even gracing the above with the name "review" is giving him entirely too much credit.
1st, this tape is not "a long series of very recognizable melodic phrases from various musical sources including classical, pop, TV and movie theme songs". That's a description of the 1st 1:08. There're another 44:00 which Engstrand apparently didn't listen to. 2nd, while it may sound to Engstrand "like a MIDI file that was downloaded to the cassette", this was played LIVE WITH NO OVERDUBS by 2 people. The closest it comes to what Engstrand refers to is my use of sequences. However, even these sequences are manipulated live & are only a part of what's happening overall.
Engstrand's 'review' consists of 3 sentences. Of these measley 3, Engstrand found it somehow important to comment on the printing of the booklet! Incorrectly, of course. He notes that it was "photocopied" (at least he got that much right) but was "printed using technology that is no longer available". Let's ignore the basic idiocy of that statement's implying that photocopying is no longer available & get to what he probably meant: the 'master' from which the printing was done was done using a dot-matrix printer. Sorry Glenn, would've I have gotten 4 sentences if I'd used a laser printer?
Finally, this abysmal moron writes that the "liner book [..] is fairly appologetic about the derivative nature of this work." Putting aside the inevitable typos & misspellings that people with 1:08 attention spans manage to squeeze into even a 3 sentence text, I want to call attention to the liner book's certainly not being apologetic about anything! The "Bogus Piano Concerto" is exactly what I wanted it to be & I'm quite proud of it. It certainly isn't derivative because of using quotes any more than a person speaking is 'derivative' for using words. Judging from this shit-for-brain's statement, you'd think that I wrote something like "Don't listen to this - I'm just copying so-&-so - I have no idea what I'm doing." I've reproduced the entire liner book text below so that you can know what the booklet does say.
I assume that what Engstrand is referring to is the somewhat self-deprecating tone of the introductory paragraphs. I write "I find it hard to "justify" it. It represents no substantial innovation & doesn't make any focused point. It's not a clear example of a clear philosophy. I wouldn't call it important. It's far from meeting the criteria of complexity that I usually prefer." Rather than being apologetic, I feel that I was simply being honest. In the world of experimental classical or 'avant-garde' music there's an emphasis on always telling the audience how innovative the composers/players are. Much of the time, such innovations are overly hyped. I could've easily taken that tact myself. Instead, I preferred to downplay the pompousness of such attitudes in favor of questioning. Instead of telling the listener how important I am, I wrote "I enjoy listening to it immensely but consider that to be a dubious "reason" for presenting it to a public. Of course, there's the hope that a public will enjoy it too - thusly making me feel that there's a psychic connection between the audience & myself that "requires" no intellectual rationale. My enjoyment of this "Concerto" may be too easily dismissed (by myself as well as others) as "egomania"." Perhaps I should've followed Dali's strategy & written "I'm the world's greatest d composer - not because I'm so great but because everybody else is so BAD."
Somehow, Engstrand didn't find it noteworthy to mention that the liner notes explain that 10th tones & 16th tones are used. Somehow, Engstrand didn't find it noteworthy to mention why I called the piece "Bogus". Somehow, Engstrand didn't find it noteworthy to mention the terminology of "modular d comprovisation". Of course, Engstrand doesn't even bother to get into the 2nd movement (which contains NO quotes) because he never made it that far. Why bother to pretend to review something if you're not even going to listen to it, you asshole?! Engstrand doesn't even mention ANYTHING other than a little of John Henry's part - MY playing isn't mentioned at all. Imagine reviewing a duet & only barely describing what 1 player plays & not mentioning the other player at all! It would've at least been funny if Engstrand would've reviewed a Beethoven piano concerto in terms of something as ephemeral as how many times the pianist pressed the sustain pedal (getting the number wrong of course) & not mentioning the orchestration at all - but Engstrand's got the sense of humor of the Killing Fields.
Why do worthless cretins like Engstrand exist at all? Ah! Here we get into the utterly vapid world of 'improvisors' today. 1st, if you find 1 who actually improvises rather than imitating the STYLE of what improvising's 'supposed to sound like' you'll be lucky. Engstrand, like all the other improvisor reviewers except for LaDonna Smith, is a horn player. What a yawn that is. You KNOW, rock musicians play guitars & drums - & jazz musicians play saxophones - & improvising is what jazz players do. What an utter cliché all that shit is. Oh gosh, can those guys really blow. Or is it suck?! If I never hear another passionate individualist horn player sounding just like all the other passionate individualist horn players, it certainly won't be my loss.
Since Engstrand didn't bother to listen to the "Bogus Piano Concerto" before reviewing it & didn't bother to read the booklet before paraphrasing it, here's a review of a concert by Engstrand that I've never heard.
Glenn Engstrand Live
Sometimes he played fast & squeaky & sometimes he played slow. Then he muted the bell of his thing with his knee. Nothing new. Either way, he's a lousy guitarist. Oh yeah, there were 6 other people playing with him but I didn't hear what they did because I was outside the venue the whole time.
THAT's a far more honest & accurate review of EVERY concert Engstrand has EVER played than his 'review' of the "Bogus Piano Concerto". At least I managed to eke out 5 whole sentences.
notes re the A Year & A Day at the Funny Farm
Bogus Piano Concerto
in 2 Rapid Bowel Movements:
1: Left Wing Movement, 2: Chicken Wing Movement
This "Bogus Piano Concerto" was created more or less in 1 night during a time of manic intuitive inspiration as an outgrowth of a year's experimentation with & development of, the use of specific sound producing/controlling equipment. I find it hard to "justify" it. It represents no substantial innovation & doesn't make any focused point.
It's not a clear example of a clear philosophy. I wouldn't call it important. It's far from meeting the criteria of complexity that I usually prefer.
My intention isn't even to tritely "rebel against" the piano or the concerto. I enjoy listening to it immensely but consider that to be a dubious "reason" for presenting it to a public. Of course, there's the hope that a public will enjoy it too - thusly making me feel that there's a psychic connection between the audience & myself that "requires" no intellectual rationale. My enjoyment of this "Concerto" may be too easily dismissed (by myself as well as others) as "egomania".
It's a "Bogus Piano Concerto" because it's played with synthesizers, a sampler, a sequencer, a midi-patcher, an effects unit, & mixers. The piano-like sounds are simulations & samples - bogus. It's somewhat a "Bogus Concerto" because it's not based on any aspect of the typical concerto form other than in its use of the contrast between the "solo" instrument & the "orchestration".
Obviously, even this is bogus because the same instruments are producing both sounds. The word "bogus" is not used deprecatingly. I have no interest in creating a concerto. I'm even "embarrassed" to have the words "piano" & "concerto" in the title.
The other elements of the title are obviously just a silly quasi-subversion of the traditionalism of the "Piano Concerto" label.
Its form is fairly simple. The sequencer/sampler & the keyboard are used to midi-control themselves, 2 Kawai K1m synthesizers, & each other. Which controls which when varies. Basically, there are "islands of drama" connected by "bridges of focus". There is not an overall dramatic form in the sense of a sexual build-up, climax, & relaxation. Ideally(?), when it ends, the audience should be left with a feeling that the "concerto" has simply stopped connecting the possible "islands" with possible "bridges" but that the structure continues to exist.
Only three 333 note sequences are used. The 1st 2 are each one minute long & are in the 1st movement. Both were created originally for bass harmonica & harmonica samples. However, other sustainable sounds with moderately rich harmonics, such as that of a tamboura, can also be used. The 3rd sequence, used in the 2nd movement, was created for a K1m sound programmed by myself called "AUTOBEND".
It's otherwise intended to primarily drive any of my stereo "multi" sounds. K1m sounds are divided into 2 categories: "single" & "multi". "Multi"s are combinations of from 2 to 8 "single"s.
Typical factory provided synthesizer sounds have little or no delay between when the key depression triggers the attack of the sound envelopes. Furthermore, these envelopes tend to have no substantial change occur if the sound is sustained for a long time & no substantial change as a result of key release - other than an instant stopping of the sound or a gradual fading out.
The sounds that I program tend to deviate from this pattern. Up to a 32 note phrase from the K1m can be triggered by holding down 1 key. Thus, each key becomes a switch for a miniature sequencer.
This is further complicated by what the range of each of the 8 "single"s is within the "multi". In other words, depressing middle C may trigger all of the "single"s within the "multi" but pressing the lowest C might only activate one.
In most instances, this equipment is limited to 8 note polyphony (meaning that only 8 notes can be played at once). Therefore, how long a sustain on any given key is allowed to continue is partially determined by whether a simultaneously or subsequently played key is triggering a number of notes that causes an exceeding of the 8 note limit - resulting in an arpeggio of a chord or in a superceding of elements of the previous key(s).
Combining the midi-controlling of multiple instruments, each with complex wave forms, can result in even more variables. If one synthesizer is tuned in 10th tones, while another is in 16th tones, either both can be played simultaneously or a rapid switching between the 2 can be accomplished. One synthesizer might play a sequence with substantial pauses between its units while another might play a continuous sound with glissandi.
Given these many variables, the keyboard playing has less to do with than it does with a knowledge of which envelopes will be triggered, what their characteristics are when combined, how they change when sustained, & when the polyphony limitations will clip them, etc..
As such, this "Bogus Piano Concerto" is bogus because its most unique characteristics are those most contrary to piano technique. The use of "piano-like" sounds & the word "Concerto" in the title are somewhat intended to arouse expectations of pianistic virtuosity which can then be gone contrary to in the actual keyboard technique used.
I have very limited traditional keyboard playing skill. This "concerto" was thusly created for myself. In my playing of it, easily played one note repetitions & trills are "thematic" material. These stark elements are the "bridges of focus" that connect the "islands of drama" of the generally sequencer-activated "orchestrations".
The 1st movement's 1st sequence is simply a held 8 note chord in which each introduction of a new note results in the replacement of an older one. When the sound driven by the sequence is the harmonica sound (or something similar) the result is a subtly shifting sonority. When the sound driven is a sound without indefinitely sustainable characteristics (such as the percussive sound of a piano) the result is abrupt & fast. Which instrument is controlling which other instrument can make drastic differences between successive repetitions of the same sequence.
The 1st movement's 1st sequence is repeated an indefinite number of times during roughly 1/2 to 2/3rds of the projected length of the movement. Then the 2nd, very similar, sequence replaces it.
The 2nd sequence has a held 8 note chord thruout with a fast sequence of notes leading to its end. Both sequences are played with pauses between their repetitions. However, the pauses between the repetitions of the 2nd sequence depend on limitations of the sequencer. This sequence is programmed in such a way that when the fast section plays it "overloads" the machine & causes it to break down & play a slightly unpredictable pattern. This necessitates a rebooting of the machine in order for the sequence to be played again.
The 2nd movement's sequence is approximately 6 & 1/2 minutes long when played at its average speed & it's played continuously in a loop. Since it was programmed while triggering an indefinitely sustainable sound, if it triggers sounds with shorter envelopes, once again, the differences will be substantial. Which "island of drama" is the most "dramatic" depends upon which type of wave-form is being triggered. Simply holding one key down for an envelope that needs to be sustained for its full effect may only produce a quick & quiet plunk with another sound.
A fast sequence might be more effective in displaying the unique tuning of the "plunking" sound but might clip the richness of the sound with the longer envelope. Both elements are used in the sequence. It was also designed to fully exploit certain stereo possibilities.
This "concerto" can be said to represent what I call "modular d comprovisation" - meaning analytically composed modular units played & related to improvisationally. Its fixed elements are the sequences & their placements in the movements, the centrality of the piano-like sounds, the linking of "dramatic" moments by non-crescendo oriented playing, the variety of midi-controlling, &, especially, the variety of wave-forms used.
Otherwise, what happens is "open". This means that there are no specific notes to be played in the "piano" part & no specific order that the sounds triggered by the sequencer must follow. It means that sometimes the keyboard playing might be triggering sounds in addition to the "piano-like" ones & sometimes not. With the exception of a few loose somewhat predictable "tendencies" not gone into here, variety & surprise are encouraged.
The 1st playing of this "Bogus Piano Concerto" was by myself. A variation on having this be a one-person playing is to divide the controlling possibilities into 2 parts. One being that of the keyboardist who only plays the keys, the sustain/portamento & volume pedals, & the pitch & modulation wheels. The other being that of the person who controls everything else - such as the midi-patching, the sound-choosing, the mixing, & the effects.
For a presentation at the Music Gallery in Toronto I chose this 2 role division. The keyboard playing role went to John Henry Nyenhuis. John was chosen precisely because he's everything as a pianist that I'm not. He can play more complex figures with either of his hands (he's "left-handed") than I can with both hands together (in a certain way at least).
He's familiar enough with the specific pitches of the typically even-tempered tuning of the piano to play melodies correctly with his eyes closed. He's capable of sustaining a precise rhythmic pattern while intricately deviating from it with great nuance. And, he has a huge repertoire of other people's music & a large variety of genre styles.
John partially supports himself as a lounge pianist & creates piano sound for silent movies - he's even been called upon to play a fire organ. I've heard him referred to as a "human juke-box" because of his extraordinary abilities to fluidly play a variety of popular styles. As such, he's an archetype of exactly the type of pianist that this "bogus concerto" was not created for!
Choosing to play with John was not only an expression of my extreme admiration for his skill, but was also intended to create a mutually subverting conflict between our 2 roles. He wasn't in complete control of what sounds his playing triggered & what sounds the "orchestration" -had, & I wasn't in control of how he exploited the potentials of the sounds.
His instructions were basically to play only quotes & styles in the 1st movement. These are limited to being played just long enough to have enough content to be recognizable to someone familiar with what's being referred to - with a maximum time being approximately 15 seconds per quote/style.
If I gave him a hand signal, he was to have the "liberty" to change keyboard settings - otherwise he was to stay with a particular piano sound only. In the 2nd movement, he was to play no quotes or pop music styles. If he found himself playing either (apparently, he didn't), he was to i mmediately stop playing for at least 10 seconds.
He was further instructed to play furiously at the beginning - demonstrating the virtuosity of his technique & to gradually slow down until he played very minimally by the end of the 1st movement. This process was then to be reversed in the 2nd movement.
In keeping with the "conflict" between his playing & my playing, the density of what the audience witnessing this "live" heard didn't jive with the density of what they saw being played. In other words, in the beginning of the 2nd movement the touching of one key could trigger a sequence - thusly belying the usual key-to-note ratio expected. But, by the end, fast playing of many pitches could be controlled by me to only produce one pitch at a time. This subtle oddity was partially designed to make the "concerto" "concert" (or uncert) more interesting to watch for the more alert members of the audience. I usually find straight-forward concerts to be very dull to watch regardless of how interesting they may be to listen to.
In concerts in which no novel technique is being used for the production of the sounds the personalities of the players & their dexterity are the main visual stimulus. In this case, the "reward" for paying attention to the keyboardist's technique would be to be surprised by the afore-mentioned disparity.
After hearing one of these recordings of the BPC, my step-brother said something about the relationship between the "piano" part & the "orchestration" making "no sense" to him. In an attempt to explain my intention I developed the analogy that the 1st movement is like a tightrope walker's marathon thru a variety of weather conditions.
Regardless of whether there's a thunder-storm or intense sunlight, the keyboardist's challenge is to maintain a focused course.
In the 2nd movement the challenge is more of a maze or an obstacle course. There are basically 5 different sections that involve unusual keyboard-to-sounds-produced relationships. 1st, the keys sound samples of piano phrases - the keyboardist not only produces more than one note by only striking one key but can also trigger combinations of trills & phrases that would be physically impossible under ordinary conditions.
2nd, the striking of one key can produce a sequence with as many as 16 pitches in a complexly varying form - this introduces a melodic logic (or "melogic") difficult for the keyboardist to predict exactly without knowing the programming structure.
3rd, the keyboard triggers a playing of 10th-tones rather than the typical half-tones - with the adjacent note relationship not being directly incremental: more explicitly: within each octave the notes are a half-tone apart, but each octave is only a 10th-tone apart .
Therefore, to play all 60 pitches of the octave in direct order, the keyboardist has to 1st play, e.g., "C" in the lowest octave, then in the next octave, etc.. - returning to "C#" & repeating the process, etc..
4th, the keyboard triggers 16th-tones: 4 notes at one pitch for one percussion sound adjacent to 4 two note chords one 16th-tone apart made by a combination of the 1st percussion sound & the next single note sound (adjacent to the combination), etc.. - playing the full length of the keyboard only covers one half-tone.
5th, at any given time at the end, the keyboard playing might produce either the typical chromatic set of pitches or only one of a set of 8 pitches or a mix between these 2 possibilities. This last can change the focus from "melodic" to rhythmic without the keyboardist's changing their key's-played-sequence at all.
In the process of reworking the structure of this "concerto" with John Henry, the original "islands of drama" connected by "bridges of focus" became somewhat transformed into a "navigation of drama" by "vehicles of focus" or some such - at any rate, I hope that you can still imagine after the "end" "that the structure [still] continues to exist" or, better yet, persist.
- tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE
- these notes were written July 29th, 1995ev & updated February 6th, 1996ev
From: "Gajoob"'s website - us@
tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE & John Henry Nyenhuis
Bogus Piano Concerto
According to the accompnaying booklet this "Bogus Piano Concerto was created more or less in 1 night during a time of manic intuitive inspiration as an outgrowth of a year's experimentation with, & development of, the use of specific sound producing/controlling equipment. I find it hard to "justify" it. It represents no substantial innovation & doesn't make a focused point." What it does give us is a good example of what I consider "process" music, where the result isn't as important as the 'process' used to get it. This procedure also ensures that each performance will be different each time. The composer calls it "modular d comprovisation." Here the composer (tENTATIVELY), who controls the sounds being used and occasionally playing the part of the conductor, provides his musician (Nyenhuls) with a series of instructions: In the 1st movement he can play any short quote of any existing piece if music; in the 2nd movement he is to play no quotes or pop music styles, or stop completely for at least 10 seconds. He was also to play furiously at the beginning of the 1st movement, gradually slowing down; the process was reversed in the 2nd movement. As with most of this type of musical experimentation the quality is in the ears of the beholder. I found the results interesting enough, although I would have liked to hear than one performance to see just how different one could be from the other.
MEDIA: cassette. PRICE: $3.00. TRADE: Yes.
CONTACT: tentatively a convenience, Widemouth Tapes,
3809 Melwood Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA;
EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org; URL: http://www.fyi.net/~anon/WdmUHome.html.
Reviewed by John Gore 5/17/99.
tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE responds (unpublished)
Ok. After the Engstrand fiasco, when I sent a review copy to GAJOOB I requested that the reviewer at least listen to the entire tape & read the liner notes. THANK YOU JOHN GORE. To his credit, he appears to've done both. He even quotes the notes a bit beyond the self-deprecating introduction by mentioning "modular d comprovisation" & 1 aspect of the instructions for John Henry. THANK YOU JOHN GORE. Nonetheless, I disagree with the review.
Gore calls the "Bogus Piano Concerto" "a good example of what [he] consider[s] "process" music." I strongly disagree. In order to establish what process music is I quote from the liner notes of the Angel LP release of Steve Reich's "Four Organs". This was possibly the 1st piece of "process music" that I ever heard & is still 1 of the best examples of the genre that I know of.
"Four Organs is an example of music that is a "gradual process." By that I do not mean the process of composition, but rather pieces of music that are, literally, processes. The distinctive thing about musical processes is that they determine all the note-to-note (sound-to-sound) details and the overall form simultaneously. (Think of a round or an infinite canon.) I am interested in perceptible processes. I want to be able to hear the process happening throughout the sounding music. To facilitate closely detailed listening, a musical process should happen extremely gradually.
Performing and listening to a gradual musical process resembles: pulling back a swing, releasing it, and observing it gradually come to rest...turning over an hour glass and watching the sand slowly run through to the bottom...placing your feet in the sand by the ocean's edge and watching, feeling, and listening to the waves gradually bury them."
The word "process" has many definitions. Perhaps the most basic 1 involves (to quote from 1 of my dictionaries) "a proceeding or moving forward". Given that such a description can apply to ANY time-based activity, ALL music is "process music". However, in Reich's usage, & in the usage that spawned such terminology in music, the process is understood to be structurally observable in some simple way. Hence Reich uses the hour glass simile, etc.. As the simile demonstrates, the idea is that a process is triggered & the results of that process are allowed to follow their course uninterrupted. As such, these processes consist of ONE STEP ONLY. This stripped-down approach, of course, became known as "minimalism" - a name that seems to stick more today than "process music" does.
With this in mind, the music that can be, perhaps, most accurately called either process or minimalist would be the early work of Reich, LaMonte Young, &, perhaps, some Fluxus composers. If the restriction of the ONE STEP ONLY is withdrawn from the definition of process music than what we're left with is basically just "a proceeding or moving forward". In my own "Side 1" (from 1979), eg, 2 broken reel-to-reel tape machines were connected to each other in a delay set-up. The only sounds being generated were the internal machine sounds (hiss & such-like) which were allowed to increase thru the tape-delay process. The piece ended when the tape ran out. THIS, I would call "process u(sic)". Once "process music / minimalism" passed its strict beginnings & became "The New Tonality", the emphasis on 'process' became superceded by rhythmic elements which are partially an outgrowth of discoveries made in the earlier phase & by a return to extremely conventional harmonies to appease larger audiences.
The point of all this is that the "Bogus Piano Concerto" fits into none of the above established definitions of "process" or "minimalist" music that might back up Gore's labelling. The "Concerto" has a complex structure which is deliberately 'non-developmental' in the sense that the 'pianist' has to "navigate" thru an obstacle course of violations of concerto & piano logic. These are closer to JUMP CUTS than they are to logical outcomes of simple process. This is 1 of the main aspects of it that people don't seem to understand.
SO, eg, as I stated in the notes, in the 2nd movement, in the 3rd part "the keyboard triggers a playing of 10th-tones rather than the typical half-tones - with the adjacent note relationship not being directly incremental: more explicitly: within each octave the notes are a half-tone apart, but each octave is only a 10th-tone apart." In other words, if the player plays what would ordinarily be a chromatically ascending scale, what would ordinarily be "middle C" would not be an octave higher than the "C" key closest to the left or an octave lower than the "C" key closest to the right. There would only be a 10th TONE DIFFERENCE. Therefore, to play an incrementally even ascending scale, the player could not simply start with the left-most note & progress key by key to the right-most note. Instead, they would have to play the left-most note (we'll call it "C" in this instance) & then play the "C" that would ordinarily be an octave higher but which would be only a 10th tone higher here - & then play the next 3 "C"s - & then return to the left-most "C#" & start the process all over again. This is extremely disruptive of ordinary piano technique insofar as the player, who has no control over exactly when the keyboard configuration will change, can't always know which note or logic will be triggered by playing which key.
Even though, such ideas should be fairly comprehensible to people with an understanding of, eg, the terminology of tempered tuning, those people are far rarer than I would've hoped. As such, reviewers latch onto what they can understand: self-deprecation & talk of speeding up & slowing down. THE MORE IMPORTANT PARTS OF THE DISRUPTION OF ORDINARY PIANO TECHNIQUE GO UNCOMMENTED ON SIMPLY BECAUSE THEY AREN'T UNDERSTOOD. The "Bogus Piano Concerto"'s importance lies largely in this area.
Gore also writes: "As with most of this type of musical experimentation the quality is in the ears of the beholder." Why?! What makes this "music" any different from any other music in that respect? The implication of Gore's statement is that non-experimental music (most music) has established standards of quality that are somehow objectively concrete & therefore "not in the ears of the beholder". It would be more accurate to say that in non-experimental music, the music itself is of no importance in relation to conformity to a received form that listeners neither understand or question because they're too thoughtless, unconcerned, or lazy. While an enormous amount of such music basically consists of a few chord changes played on a guitar with a simple 4/4 back-beat that coordinates the players, this structure is so basic in its mundaneness that it's taken for granted rather than criticized. When people talk about the "quality" of such music they're more often referring to the lifestyle image of the performers, the extent to which they agree with or otherwise like the lyrics, & the extent to which the performers can replicate the template successfully. Very little thought actually goes into what the music is: ie: what sequence of sounds is taking place. Again, I think it would be more accurate to say that, it's only in "this type of musical experimentation" that any standards of quality having to do with the actual organization of the sounds EVEN EXISTS at any substantial level.
This brings me to the world of "Homemade Music" in general. I've been involved with home-taping for over 20 years. My tape label, WiDÉMOuth Tapes has been around since 1978! It's certainly 1 of the oldest home-taper labels currently in extistence. For me, home-taping is important because it bypasses the impersonal imposing of tastes thru big-business marketing. As such, it ties into my political concerns. It's also an outlet for music that's not commercially viable - this creates the opportunity for a very WIDE BAND of approaches. Unfortunately, this potential for diversity is only paid lip-service to in the home-taper world - which is, ultimately, just as oppressive & unimaginative as the corporate world it's a supposed alternative to - if not even worse!
I appreciate GAJOOB for its dedication, relatively long life, & sincerity. I'm glad to see its editor, Bryan Baker, hanging in there. BUT, alas, I find GAJOOB amply illustrative of the narrow-range of most of the "Homemade Music" world. Recently, Bryan was generous & thoughful enough to send me a complimentary issue of the summer '99 "HOMEMADE MUSIC" magazine that GAJOOB publishes. On the cover, 4 feature articles are listed: "Chris Ballew", "The Shorty Blackwells", "Cowtown", & "The Art of Homemade Music". Chris Ballew is interviewed talking about bands; songs; playing bass, guitar, organ, & singing; & such-like. "The Shorty Blackwells" are shown playing guitars & drums & singing. They're a band who perform songs. "Cowtown" is described as marrying "poetic social commentary with gritty rock & blues jams". Get the idea? What we have here as the primary focus is: bands who play songs with lyrics on guitars & drums. C'mon people!! Can't you think of anything else to do!! I find this pathetic.
In Baltimore, where I'm from, when people are heard discussing being in a band, the usual question is "What instrument do you play?" The answer is almost inevitably either bass, guitar, drums, or "I'm the singer". The 4 role models for the braindead. The overall extreme lack of branching out from these very limited possibilities reminds me of a comparison with the vocabulary of the Inuit. These natives of frozen regions have a multitude of words for snow. The reason for this is obvious. Snow being their main form of weather they're able to differentiate it with articulateness. For them, it makes sense. Home-tapers, on the other hand, are like people who live in temperate climates who have a multitude of words for snow & only 1 word for all other types of weather - despite the snow only constituting a small part of their possible weather. If you read a home-tapers review of songs played by bands with guitars & drums & vocalists you can find a multitude of petty distinctions. However, if you read a review of anything outside of that incredibly narrow-focus you won't find much beyond "weird".
& there you have it. Despite my centrality as a long-lasting home-taper with a label & a web-site, I'm just "weird". Since my over-80 publications JUST OF MY OWN RECORDINGS aren't entirely band/song based & are EXTREMELY VARIED they're all "weird". The snow-blind reviewers find it hard to talk about new plants because they live on what's basically little more than an overcrowded parking lot of almost identical cars.
to V.C. home page - to KNEEHIGHS home page - to S.P.C.S.M.E.F home page - to N.A.A.M.C.P. home page
to A Mere Outline for One Aspect of a Book on Mystery Catalysts, Guerrilla Playfare, booed usic, Mad Scientist Didactions, Acts of As-Beenism, So-Called Whatevers, Psychopathfinding, Uncerts, Air Dressing, Practicing Promotextuality, Imp Activism, etc..
to Widémouth Tapes home page - to Widémouth Tapes Catalog - to Usic Essays home page
The reviews are not necessarily copied verbatim from the original. Usually, small apparent typos are corrected & obsolete addresses are removed. In some cases, I may choose to leave misspellings, misinformation, etc intact to demonstrate how sloppy the reviewer is. Of course, there may be times when the original packaging was confusing (deliberately or otherwise) which may effect the reviewer's comprehension. The more recent the tapes are, the less likely this is to be the case. Most of the recent tapes provide fairly extensive liner notes. In some cases, reviewers whose native language isn't English may be writing in English anyway for the sake of 'internationalizing' their reviews. Obviously, this may lead to what strikes native English speakers as 'bad' English. Hopefully, equally obviously, this should not be interpreted as a lack of intelligence in the writing. Editorial notes may be inserted into the reviews in [brackets]. In many instances, I (tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE) replied to reviews that I disagreed with strongly. These replies are included here. In some cases, I may add additional retrospective comments.