by carl wilson

Omnium Gatherum: Vocal Noise, Scream 4 Streams,
Tune-Troubling Authors & Soul Truffles


An enormous pile of jottings of the past few days to share with you. So let's get started:

The most interesting visitor to Toronto of the next week or so is Phil Minton, the British monster vocal improvisor who's performed with everyone from Fred Frith to Peter Brotzmann to Derek Bailey to Tom Cora to Bob Ostertag to John Butcher to Carla Bley to Higo Hiroshi to Mike Westbrook to... well, the whole blinkin' improvised-music world. Minton is mainly here for an Images Festival gig with Toronto's own Michael Snow (and the festival includes some other promising audio-visual performances too), but the most intriguing thing is Sunday's workshop of Phil Minton's Feral Choir, a vocal group improv orgy mostly for non-musicians. (Here's a sound clip.) If that seems a bit familiar, it's not unlike what Toronto's own Misha Glouberman has been up to with his improv workshops the past few years (unaware, he tells me, of the Feral Choir); but Minton of course brings his own supper to that table. The Feral Choir event takes place Sunday afternoon, and you have to pre-register. Minton's other local appearances are in the gig guide (and in the "top shows" sidebar to your left).

Kevin of Aperture Enzyme has posted video of the Wavelength panel discussion on diversity and the Toronto indie-kulcha scene, which took place in February. He's also posting work from his ongoing documentary-in-progress on local participatory culture, beginning with his interview with the folks from Newmindspace, whom I discussed in this recent post, and who were the subject of a (frequently, but of course not always) cogent critical discussion in recent days on Stillepost, as well as this interesting post on a blog new to me (although I object to the overly precious distinction being drawn there between "fun" and "pleasure"). The two new postings on Kevin's site make for an amusing contrast - a discussion of diversity combined with a group that illustrates exactly how not to cultivate diversity (not that diversity's necessarily the highest virtue, but). Personally, I hope that the Newmindspace "issue" stops sucking up all the oxygen for talking about participatory work, art games, public space, etc., and that more compelling (and less-easy-to-snipe-at) practitioners can get some smidgen of the same attention. For which reason, I won't talk any more about Newmindspace on this site. Instead, I direct your attention for instance to the next, season-capping edition of the group-conversational art-talk-show Pick 7 at Hub 14 whose guest on April 17 will be composer-producer John Wilson, ex-of Meat Beat Manifesto. Just for instance. Feel free to wear your fairy wings. And participate.

Speaking of participatory art, renowned relational artist Rirkrit Tiravanija is giving a talk Wednesday to launch his residency at OCAD.

And speaking of web-based, participatory documentaries-in-progress, Montreal filmmaker Brett Gaylor is working on an NFB film called The Basement Tapes which deals with copyright and remix culture issues, and he's putting his footage where his rhetoric is with a website called Open Source Cinema, where you can sign up to do your own mixes of material from the movie, which includes interviews with artists such as Brazil's Bondo do Role and Philadelphia's Girl Talk - an artist who inspired, as I've just learned because somehow I overlooked the entire Internet gabbing about it, a stirring defence of mashups, remixes and mix tapes on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives last month.

Such moments are all too rare in the ongoing artists-versus-corporations-versus-(let's also admit this)-pirates war, despite the lukewarm comfort of today's anti-DRM announcement by iTunes/EMI. For all the ink and hysteria that the defence of music theft can inspire - and although I'm not entirely against illegal downloading - the issues of fair use, sampling and appropriation will always get me going more. Then again, so will pigheaded legislation that threatens to destroy an entire new medium (in this case, streaming web radio, which I will often use several hours a day), and, hey, could even open the door to wrecking the old medium too (as if it weren't already wrecked enough).

Which makes me doubly grateful for the Future of Music Coalition, the artist-driven education-and-lobbying group, who may not be copyright radicals but do have a keener-than-the-average-net-geek sense of which fights count. Their latest campaign, Rock the Net, rallies musicians around the fundamental question of supporting net neutrality (I assume you know what that means, and if not you can learn on their site). The artists involved so far include R.E.M., Ted Leo, Death Cab, OK Go, Bob Mould, Calexico, Kathleen Hanna, The Donnas, Kronos Quartet... and they'll be performing to raise cash & awareness on neutrality in the coming months.

Before entirely leaving behind the Canadian-documentary-film front (if I haven't already, and I suppose I have), I'll also mention that it's worth watching the trailer for I Met the Walrus, a creative animated redeployment of the tapes Toronto teen Jerry Levitan made when John Lennon and Yoko Ono were bedding-in here in 1969.

Last week, one of my favourite mp3 blogs, Moistworks, held its annualish Writer's Week, drawing contributions from Susan Choi, Jenny Offill, Dana Spiotta, Christopher Sorrentino and Rick Moody. They're all worth reading, although collectively they drove me a bit crazy, as the impulse a novelist seems to have when asked to write about music seems to be almost universally to let the melodic madeleines unleash so many memories about what-they-heard-when that practically every one of them tells you half their life's story. The exception is Moody, which stands to reason as he writes about music more frequently. The tale he tells of his friend who makes music with his younger brother Bill, who has Down syndrome, is a compelling case of the "outsider music" problem, challenging our sense of where exploitation does or doesn't arise (reminiscent of Reynols). I suggest you watch Bill's Bigfoot video, peruse some of the consequent comments on YouTube, and mull it over for yourself.

Finally, we find out where Robyn Hitchcock went wrong: He thinks that "inconsequential" is a good artistic goal, while assuring us that his "painless" songs of "indifference" are not "meaningless." With which he gets everything exactly bassackwards and accounts for why ninety percent of his 1990s-and-on non-Soft-Boys music is so wearyingly exasperating.

Though nowhere near as weirdly bedeviling as this misbegotten "cultural celebration", which on the one hand just seems like garden-variety hyper-commodification, and on the other kind of nightmarish and sickening, like building a licorice model of Uncle Tom's Cabin with a gingerbread Eliza skipping across a lake of 7-Up. It's the authentic black experience! Just eat it!

| Posted by zoilus on Monday, April 02 at 7:35 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (3)



It's easier for rock writers to make the transition to novelist.
CF: Nick Tosches (though sometimes he hits the indulgent button a tad too many times), Mick Farren (the first couple of books were good...)
Happy Bunny Day!

Posted by B.F. Mowat on April 5, 2007 12:23 PM



Kevin, no one asked you to shoulder the burden of the diversity issue. If you scroll up to the top of the paragraph in which Carl discusses you and your work with Newmindspace, you will see a link to a panel discussion that we at Wavelength convened two months ago to discuss this very issue. This discussion has led us to some fruitful if early and tentative results in diversifying our programming, and the audiences that attend. (Go back to Carl's post from March 27, "This is the Sea," to find out more.) We are very aware of the amount of work that needs to be done in this area, and how collaborating with like-minded groups is one of the best strategies. As is, not taking criticism personally.

Posted by Dovercourt on April 4, 2007 1:19 PM



Thanks for linking to the Stillepost thread, I have been missing some hilarious commentary from Canada's online sarcasm epicentre! :)

Like you said, I think people are taking us way too seriously, and we, ourselves, are still struggling to understand what Newmindspace is and what it does. We are still trying to find the language that describes us best.

In the meantime, though, I don't know why we have to shoulder the weight of the "diversity" argument: Spacing, Eye, Newmindspace, Wavelength, the indie rock scene generally, the rave scene, these groups of people are all middle-class white people, and in some groups' cases, male. This is a shared problem and I think it's a Toronto problem, because our events in other cities like New York and Montreal are much more diverse than here. It is a problem we should tackle together.

Anyway, thanks for the link.

Posted by kevin bracken on April 3, 2007 1:46 PM




Zoilus by Carl Wilson