Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Pierre Boulez Conducts Schoenberg / Broken Record Art / Tod Dockstader: From the Archives

I don't think Arnold Schoenberg would have approved of the democratic voice the internet has given us commoners. 'Everyone is supposed to have their say,' he wrote in 1928. 'For the new bliss consists of the right to speak: free speech! Oh God!' Sounding more than a little fascistic, eh? But ironically I know what he means, especially if I allow my eyes to drift down to the Comments on any given YouTube clip. I'm sure you do too. It would be ironic for me to criticise this age of The People's Voice, being a blogger. Schoenberg was probably less enamoured with The People speaking because they would have more than likely not done so favourably if commenting on his music.

So here's a recent buy, Pierre Boulez Conducts Schoenberg, Eloy, Pousseur. Schoenberg's Transfigured Night was written in 1899, on the cusp of two centuries which would see him transform Classical music in the new one, or at least, create new possibilities. For as far as I can tell, with my limited knowledge, like so many pioneers in music he may have opened a door but few walked through in quite the same manner as him. Transfigured Night has one foot in the Romantic past and another, to these ears, is dipping a toe in the more challenging waters of the future. In adhering to the structure and story of Richard Dehmel's poem, Schoenberg had the opportunity to create unsettling sequences in keeping with the tale of a woman who committed an 'effrontery' when becoming pregnant by a stranger. Unlike her child, however, what Schoenberg would give birth to in the 20th century was not always warmly welcomed. In response to criticism, he mocked 'communally oriented artists' who 'addressed their idiocies only to each other.


Here's something I made late last year. It's not entirely successful, perhaps because I didn't finish it to my own satisfaction...


Emerging late last year, although I've only just got a copy otherwise it would have been in my Best Of list, Tod Dockstader: From the Archives on Starkland. What a phenomenal release, 15 tracks chosen from 50 which, in turn, came from thousands of files discovered on Dockstader’s computer after his death in 2015. My only regret is that more could not be heard; perhaps they will be in the future. That said, I believe in protecting the legacy of the deceased. At least Dockstader is in good hands, rather than the grubby ones belonging to profiteers who plunder the sonic coffins of Famous Dead Pop Stars.  

There's no chance of Tod becoming famous unless the listeners' world is turned upside down, thus placing quality electronic music on top (of the Pops). In this age of 'popular' politics which seemingly turns 'reason' and 'logic' upside down, music such as this becomes even more precious. Well, I don't know about you, but 
such sounds have always been private ammunition against Common Culture. Do I sound snobbish? A little like Schoenberg, perhaps! No matter, now I bask in these archival sounds, especially tracks such as Chinese Morf (2007) which, despite it's relative (to many electroacoustic pieces) brevity, encapsulates the spirit of acousmatic adventures in sound quite brilliantly.

Whilst it's possible to date (roughly) this music (yes it sounds 'modern') it stems from the tradition of 'unknown' sound sources. Is that a typewriter key striking on Todt 1? What is being 'played', or recorded, hardly matters. There is a temptation to hear these tracks, in hindsight, as largely melancholic mood pieces, yet there's also a magisterial power brooding amongst the more ambient moods. On Todt 1, Dockstader employs some mighty low end 'oomph' intermittently. Mystery Creak (a joke referring to Pierre Henry's famous creaking door?) is pure sonic delight, the 'creak' barely registering amid flurries of head-spinning sound. The whole 'creak/creek' sequence is magnificent. Big Jig (2005) closes the collection in storming fashion, Dockstader layering mechanoid metal-on-metal as well as any of the young Heavy Techno breed, succeeding in restraint rather than overload. Essential. 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for much for your enthusiastic review of our new Dockstader CD.


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