by carl wilson

Beginning to See the Itty-Bitty Book Light


It looks like the 33 1/3 series is becoming the Velvet Underground of publishing projects: Very few people buy the books, but everybody who reads them starts their own 33 1/3 book. They got 449 proposals in the latest round! Apparently the death of the album is occasioning a very crowded wake. I'm totally baffled by the people who propose writing books about albums that were released about 20 minutes ago (and that few people actually bought). What kind of perspective could anybody really bring at this point to Destroyer's Rubies? Beck's Guero? Ys? The fucking Decemberists? Fucking Illinois? Entire books? So cuckoo it's kind of cute. A couple of people proposed Randy Newman's Good Old Boys, and one person Pere Ubu's The Modern Dance, which were high on my list of alternates back when I was pitching my book. I think the book about Burzum's Hvis Lyset Tar Oss might be pretty awesome, and so might the Monkees, Herb Alpert, Mekons, Donna Summer, John Cale, Richard Hell, Hole, Husker Du, PiL, Slayer, Carole King, Scott Walker, Queen, Young Marble Giants and Meatloaf books. The Devo, Kraftwerk, Public Enemy, NWA and Wu-Tang books feel pretty much mandatory. The jazz pitches are great but don't feel like they belong. (Well, a case could be made for Bitches Brew.) I have a strong feeling I would not want to read anybody's Metal Machine Music book, even though I like the album (it was pitched by three separate people). Likewise, I hope they don't actually do a Sex Pistols book - there are three or four great ones already. Most impressively weird proposal: John Denver and the Muppets, A Christmas Together. For selfish reasons, I don't want them to pick that one - because it would so trump mine as the funniest album on the list.

Whatchoo doin' tonight? I am at work, which means I am not going to Brampton to see Marc Ribot. Oh, no problem. He's only one of my favourite fucking guitarists ever. (There's a lot of swearing in this entry.) Please, somebody report back on how it was. (Ideally, say he had an off night.)

| Posted by zoilus on Thursday, February 15 at 5:20 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (12)



Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, and Ives were all champion improvisers; Mrs. Lowe, a music professor and the organist at my church growing up, was an excellent improviser in 18th and 19th century sacred styles. (It's interesting that church music is the one place where classical improvising has survived.)

Classical improvisation throws into relief the idiomatic nature of all improvisation: Improvisers, with rare exceptions, improvise in the styles of the larger pieces.

I agree that the word "indulgent" doesn't get at the problems of free-improv music. But a lot of it is monochromatic (a fancier word for "boring," I suppose) as well as emotionally opaque. I have two pieces of free improv on my not-yet-released solo album; I'll be curious to find out whether people like it.

Sometimes in latter-day hard bop, I spontaneously start hearing the soloists as accompanying the walking bass. When I hear things that way, everything sounds upside down, and it usually doesn't work for me. The disproportionate energies of soloist and rhythm section can sometimes be acute in post-bop.

Solo improv is a meditative mode. The quality of consciousness it evinces is paramount.

Posted by john on February 17, 2007 2:41 PM



A book on Bran Van 3000, anyone? It was on the list of proposals. . .

Posted by David on February 17, 2007 12:26 PM



I get what you're saying, Jody, but I think one listens differently and for different things when listening to improvisation, and that expecting the same sensation out of Ribot's solo performances as out of his rock-band work might be constricting him - and yourself - too much. I'm pretty much always wary of the charge of "self-indulgence" as an unhelpful restriction (just as I think "self-expression" is an unhelpful model, at the opposite pole) and I think in improvisational live music you're listening to a process, witnessing choices, etc., and that these have different payoffs than compositional music and vernacular music both do. Which is not to say that it can't be inadequate, insufficient and boring - just that I think those terms have more value when applied relatively within a particular practice than when you try to cross-apply them. (Those cross-applications tend to lead to the same kind of misunderstanding that causes people to call dance music stupid or country music corny.) You're totally free to like one better than another, but it's a hard thing to generalize about on principle.

Posted by zoilus on February 16, 2007 8:25 PM



PS: Ribot lives in my neighborhood. I see him and his very cute daughter in the cafe lots of mornings. He's also a longtime hero -- definitely my favorite guitarist ever, including Django and Hendrix and whoever else. I've interviewed him for work a couple of times, and I always try to play it cool when I see him but I'm sure he's caught me gaping like a fanboy.

Anyway, I've seen him at least twenty times over the years, and my strong feeling is that he's a much better, more focused player when he's with the Postizos or backing Tom Waits or with any small ensemble than when he plays solo. (Was the Toronto show a solo date?) This may be because of my personal taste which as Carl knows skews pop, but depsite the occasional revelatory moment, I've found solo Ribot a touch indulgent and boring. Which is the last thing you'd expect, since he's Mr. Economy when he plays with a group.

On the other hand, one of my favorite shows ever was his solo performance of a score he composed for the Russian constructivist silent film "Aelita, Queen of Mars" which I saw him do at the South Bank Centre in London a decade or so ago. But that was scored, not improvised.

Posted by Jody on February 16, 2007 3:54 PM



You would have loved it! Between mind-bendingly miasmic inside-out playing within what sounded like some Spanish and or Latn American
chestnuts, some good good ol' fashion chromatic improvising, maybe something from Book of Heads?, he played, corrupted, liberated that guitar in what seemed every way possible. And there is no guitarist on the planet that plays jazz standards (last night was Everything Happens to Me and a flooring version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow) with the romance and irreverance of Ribot. How open love can be.

Posted by Eric on February 16, 2007 12:08 PM



Out of the 449 proposals, I count a grand total of 33 for albums by black artists. Houston, we have a problem.

Posted by Jody on February 16, 2007 11:54 AM



My beloved spouse loves John Denver, and I love the Muppets, and we both love Christmas music (in season), but I hadn't known about this one -- I'll have to look for it -- thanks!

Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem ROOL.

"Ghosts" on classical guitar sounds excitingly intriguing.

Posted by john on February 16, 2007 11:15 AM



Yes, but do these projects actually PAY the writer up-front?
If so: I'm up for "Cyborgs Revisted": track-by-track of the '89 original vinyl.

"Objectivity is the hob-goblin of little minds"


Posted by Bruce Mowat on February 16, 2007 10:41 AM



Marc Ribot played a heart-wrought version of "Everything Happens to Me" that took full advantage the classical guitar's resources. Very beautiful. Given his airline woes, his choice to play the original hard-luck-guy song was cheekily apropos. Also, hearing him play Albert Ayler's "Ghosts" on classical guitar has reordered my thinking about both song and instrument. If I recall, the modern repertory piece was Suite for Guitar by Ernst Krenek.

Posted by Scott Thomson on February 16, 2007 10:19 AM



well, you're mildly in luck. i wouldn't say ribot had an off night, per se, but he was certainly distracted by the fact that his air travel got entirely SNAFU'd, he arrived at the venue at about 9pm, and worst of all, the airline lost his guitar. he played friendly rich's classical guitar instead, and you could tell it threw him off a bit.

there were plenty of fine moments, of course, though the composed piece (i forget the composer) he read from sheet music (complete with awkward mid-song fumbling) wasn't really one of them.

i also think that in general i would prefer him with a band; perhaps i was just surprised to see a solo acoustic set, which wasn't what i was expecting from one of my favourite electric guitarists.

Posted by barclay on February 16, 2007 8:54 AM




Posted by pemulis on February 15, 2007 10:59 PM



I thought you'd have been behind and Destroyer's Rubies book.

Posted by pemulis on February 15, 2007 10:58 PM




Zoilus by Carl Wilson