Writing Music Reviews
Only write about what you know? Music and nostalgic speculation.
Who are all those interesting people, and why is that one person so popular? What does one say to a real human being? I am sitting in a room.
Many years ago (I was in my early school days) I created a pet that I named Typhoeus. At first it seemed that the creature would not make it, and I had chosen an impossible thing to do. I was trying to do something that, as I am thinking about it now, so many years later, does not make any sense in trying to do. And, it should be pointed out, this action is also a crime against nature. Pretty bad. Today Typhoeus is 42 feet long, with a wingspan of 56 feet, probably longer now as it has been some time since we got out the measure. Hungry for sure. I am not sure how long Typhoeus will continue growing. We have long surpassed the normal lifespans of bats and of snakes, which is barely a few seasons usually. So many years we have kept our secrets.
Having had such unusual success at such a young age did change everything, but I had to learn to survive in a suspicious world and not be noticed. I had to keep at it, to go back and face the consequences, talk to each one on one, and make sure everything worked out perfectly. The main thing is that my audience, my peers, my witnesses, my friends at the time, the other kids, they all seemed to know something about me but clearly had each agreed to never say anything more about it. Those human beings were core to my only world. They still are, somewhere. I am keeping the whole thing going, every day. My job is important. I am a man in a room. I am a human being.
That is when I woke up. The music was playing, there was a person, just being human, who has created something for us all to listen to. This person has created something. They were moved to express, and here it is. Part of my job is to think about the lonely voice in the wilderness, but mostly it's just read the trades. Do the thing. Get the tracks, find the bio, write up a track list, get the research started, keep working on the list, expand each of the items, write it up. Let it sit. Think about it, listen again. Let some time go by and then make it good, rush to hit the deadline. A little early is best. The music itself seems to travel at a different human listening timescale, which is much older.
It's my job to write all this down and pass it on. Sometimes I proof it, sometimes I can barely manage to make the time to hand in my deliverables. Just in time is better appearing just a little bit early. Waiting or holding up the show is the worst thing. I hate it when that happens, when I cause the hold up.
Typhoeus likes to wander in the night sky, sometimes gone for months. I keep the burrow in good shape, and I know the favorite food to have on hand. I hear all these stories about places. It is worth it. As long as I am residing next to the old wood lot, Typhoeus has a place to rest and find nourishment.
It came to me early on, I just knew I had to try it. Imagine my surprise when I really did scream IT'S ALIVE! After that I learned to calm down, they used to tell me to just be cool. You are alright, I would say to myself, just quiet down again, human, keep working on the new projects, gathering the resources and performing the acts. I grafted the wings of a young bat onto the back of a snake.
The strange thing is that the first time I tried it, it worked. After that it never worked again, no matter what I did, and things quickly got messy. I never wanted to do that again. I made a vow. I got in trouble anyway. It's all better now. Typhoeus is safe.
But after all that I had a new animal living in my room. I fed it and made sure it had what it needed, that means taking it outside and waiting for it to do its business. Just a normal pet flying snake. It started off very small, 8 inches for the snake part and 14 inches for the young bat's wingspan. Slow and steady, I would just keep on attaching those fibers, it makes a pattern. I just kept going at a steady pace. I thought it was over, over and over. Several times I quit forever, failure is more normal than the one instance when the experiment at hand did not fail. I wonder why. I was thinking I should try it again, but then I wake up and it was just a strange dream. But there is work to do.
Do It Yourself
The animal parts had to be kept cold, the fluids, the needles, the vats, cultivating the necessary supportive organisms, coaxing a miracle out of something I just tried one time. I remember the waiting as things started working together. It was a rough time. I still have some of that old equipment, in a box down in a basement I think. I had to make room for new things, and that was a long time ago. Except for the arrival of Typhoeus, that entire experiment was a disaster. I still urgently struggle with that failure, I must learn to forget that happened. Can time be forgiven?
Flying into the night is always the most exciting part of being with Typhoeus. Once we reached a critical size, things have just gotten more interesting. When I first did this, I was so excited I told it all to everyone, that was a painful lesson. Luckily I was a very small child and nobody would believe such an idea.
Rather than risking another accidental incident exposing everything again, I decided to be very deliberate about what is visible and what is my personal business. That was very early on. I have a good thing going on, and to make it keep happening, I have to take certain measures. I think I am getting better at it.
Typhoeus goes riding into the darkness whenever possible. Sometimes word gets back, usually something about unexpected developments and finding another new world. There is a lot of transit time, so every moment seems exaggerated. I have gone on these journeys a few times. I would go again.
The music that comes in, well, one thing leads to another. This song is almost like the other one, and then there are special friends who make songs, in some places there are clients, who pay to do the musician thing, to get started. To sell your music you need to have sold your music, or it is just a heck of a lot easier if you have sold your music before. Music is something that every human being loves, but they do not agree with each other about any specific aspects of music very often. Music is artificial, made up.
And there are the readers. Everyone who is not in my room now. Those are my readers.
It goes out there, things happen, sometimes people like to read about stuff. They can repost it to their friends, maybe with a note. If I am on my game they mught say something like "check this out." Saying things about music is a necessary thing, don't you see. People need to use written words about invisible music, or visual stuff. The old art thing. Something new now. Here is something new now. That is usually what we like to read about.
The first flights at night were very cold, so I had to figure that all out. I made a cloak, a special coat, with a cape and a hood, which cuts the wind nicely. The long garment (it almost drags on the ground when I walk) allows me to curl up and fold myself into the cape, and keep warm and dry. It always seems to rain at least once during these night travels.
One time I had my windows open, and I was listening and writing, some kind of instrumental, and I could hear windchimes. I included how the windchimes sounded in my description of the music I was taking in. Now, years later, I know that there were no windchimes on the recording. So now I always have to check, windchimes? I hate headphones. Contact with plastic, right there, the same spot gets raw. Listening to the world is why Saint John Cage said we are here. I don't exactly remember. I like reading about that stuff, words about sound. The crazier the better.
At night everything sounds better, there is a natural lack of some kinds of sounds, like lawn mowers and jets, trains out there. Things quiet down. And from this distance, the moon looks huge. Typhoeus has some friends out there, and watching them pass before the full moon is the most thrilling thing. A tiny distant silhouette of a flying serpent with bat wings. That one passing by out there now is Draco, the Ancient.
Words weave the spell that tries to make the emotions tingle. We look for the special magic of new music. The latest. Something never before heard. There is so much music, the market has created special groups of sounds. It used to be whoever brought the band established what was listened to. That is where you want to be. Who has the instruments, or the best singers?
It has been a long time since I did any of that, following the crowd to see what they are doing. I am not wanting to be anywhere else but watching Typhoeus make the rounds again. Sniffing and calling, flapping those wings, making that chirping call. Hearing another response, very rarely. Figuring out how to get them all together so they can do what they do best, which is the only thing that they always like to do.
What do you say to someone you do not know and you want to know them? How tiresome it is to be repeating this same thing, over and over again. Typhoeus has heard it all, so many times. I am in a good position, I can usually just let the curious who are attracted to the night fliers have their moment, take their selfie. That is pretty much all they want. It's not bad, they give energy to the spirit. Finding a way to please the spirit and to make it work out is the trick. Once I did that things changed. What are we doing? You are reading what? And I am thinking this?
Now I wish certain things had been said differently. I will go back and fix it. Looking back for landmarks, I see none. We are above the endless ocean, and in this twilight there is nothing to see. We fly onward. What I hear gives me an indescribable sense of a mysterious elsewhere, a vivid glow that illuminates the clouds and its plume, revealing a cloud-cloaked landscape, hanging pinnacled in midheaven, sometimes you cannot really see it clearly while you are there. The beauty is, in its starkness, something that seems worlds away. Humans and nature have lived together for thousands and thousands of years. Typhoeus is still growing.
What is it to grow old? We learn that we are going to grow old at a very early age, maybe it is the presence of our grandparents, or a visit one time to a place where old people stay. This always makes a big impression and remains with us forever, the persistent awareness of a distant future that awaits the lucky ones who endure. The sound is evocative of beautiful ambience and loops, the pace is relaxingly slow. I think of the sound of yesteryear, I like old recordings whenever I can listen.
I love to pretend that I am a history teacher. The term Furniture Music was coined by Erik Satie in 1917. Satie intended to present background music played by live performers. Satie himself applied the name only to five short pieces, in three separate sets. As Satie's pieces of furniture music were very short pieces, with an indefinite number of repeats, this kind of furniture music later became associated with minimal music, but this kind of terminology did not yet exist in Satie's time. Furniture music appears as the launchpad for minimalist / experimental / repetitive / avant-garde music since it was the first time music was being played or produced as a cerebral backdrop and out of context, not as a centerpiece.
Ambient music is a happening current trend, this is something that takes advantage of that genre but has the capabilities to fulfill cinematic and wider popular non-music palettes, this is going to amazing places! This is not just art music, employing fresh electronic and acoustic mix layered with textures and flavors that contain the secret sauce, sliding through various tempos and velocities bringing us through emotional electronic landscapes. There are vast deep peaceful expanses, extra-fast stars, an occasional flyby anomaly, and at times you can see that some stars at the edges of galaxies are orbiting faster than should be possible. This is ambient electronic music from amazing musicians (stargazers, ambassadors from another time) that takes each listener on a journey. The sound possesses a quite extraordinary range of different timbres and vibrates along with the air inside it. Come to the edge and look outward, explore with your ears a different walking path today, seek out that rugged vista, the river and its tributaries, and the wind calling, feeling as if you have found the very edge of the world, embarking on adventures that no one has tried before. No one has.
This is classical science-fiction cinema of the mind within a scholarly framework, meditations on the spark of life, on the dreams that vanish, on finding dangerous forms in darkness, on classical pastoral inspiration, on massive caverns with microscopic evidence of approaching mysteries, and the parable of the oblivious attempting to interpret perception and illusions. Life is being brewed in a huge laboratory, see it twitch and awaken, it opens.
Typhoeus sways in the heights. We fly on into the freedom of the darkness.
The moon rises and the stars awaken. You no longer know up from down. You cannot see the forces that support you, but you trust in them to carry you through. From silence there is a lustrous distant sound, we are drawn in closer and pause to hear some fine details, then we float on beyond the source, and our perception of the sound fades, the music possibly forever continuing in our absence. This new starship is headed for the unknown, to mystery spots and places around the cosmos said to contain gravitational anomalies, where the oldest laws of nature appear to have been turned off.
Being outdoors and connecting with Mother Nature is probably as close to heaven as you can possibly get on this Earth. Find the place where you are surrounded, the place which makes you feel most alive. Treat yourself to a musical nature walk. Time is a river flowing beyond the reach of the quietus, preserving the wild beauty and deep history that extends over the reach of humans, with perpetual cycles of precipitation, evaporation, run off, and infiltration. Water is like many mobile beings, bodies in motion, rising into the air to peacefully soar on the wind in a frolic.
There is just no need for words, but there is a little chatter on the intercom. Each song has special synthesizer qualities and all of them flow into a beautiful mix, there is a very specific story here. Lingering darker textural and feedback driven drones, suggesting emulations of memories or their musical counterparts. The trick is using the tools in interesting ways, and figuring out what to record. Equipped by technology's skins, eyes, ears, hands, and feet, we go where we have never been before, this immense territory marks these musical traditions as part of a wilderness never needing to be civilized.
The better the microphone, the better the sound. Field recording requires you to move around a lot, and the last thing you want to worry about is setting up your laptop, audio interface, and tripods at every location. Adding software filters can make audio sound artificial, which is worse than the occasional noise in the background.
Sounds of Nature
Hearing the morning birds chirp with all their heart triggers joy and excitement in my soul. A morning breeze tours the jungle, making the flowers and leaves tango with rhythm and finesse. Soon new sounds emerge, more layered bird calls, wings fluttering, species have evolved their sounds to find open space in the audio ecosystem, which is why so many frequencies are occupied discovering an aesthetic musical language and the language of the recorded sounds and vocalized new soundscapes meet, like a traveler's encounter with a new place.
I sometimes hear something essential about the sounds, what they say is revealed through this subtle compositional alchemy. The journey itself becomes the point of balance, romantic-exploratory and reflective-pastoral, and permits a listening journey through the sounds of cloud forest birds and the canopy ecosystem. Consider that perhaps this temporary listening strangeness is a gift that is made of the authenticity of this uncharted, dangerous and exciting wilderness.
These collaborative events suggest a mixture of the past and present, ancient and future, influenced by the previous work of tribal ambient pioneers who came before, blending acoustic instruments that are heavily processed, sculpting and carving out sounds. Typhoeus sometimes sings a song, I think it is about the moment, it could be about the past. Somewhere high above, the dragons twirl slowly.
We are traveling through the melancholy of a long journey in the cosmos. The feeling is complex, bittersweet and positive, the sound is dreamy and electronic with lots of sustained echoes and glowing atmospheres, decorated with a pulse and just soaring with no limits. It works well for dreaming as well as for launching your voyages into deep fantasy, experiencing science fiction.
Above the devoted city swim in mid-air strange shapes like monstrous birds of prey, and beneath where they floated the earth seemed ever and anon to open and belch forth smoke and flame into which the crumbling houses fall and burn in heaps of shapeless ruins. Mystery is floating and becomes increasingly complex, taking the form of silent, stealthy, cautious beings, with a lively distrust and hatred of the whole place. They persist, knowing that sooner or later neohumanity will destroy itself, undoing a history of universal wars that have shaken the world to its foundations. Nature will once again prevail. What you will hear will sometimes be something that might not be what it seems to be, just when the view of a jungle plateau is coming into focus it might soon disappear and be replaced with something even more complex and inexplicable.
Some day, perhaps, you will be floating in the clouds, and you will hear that music rising from the villages of millions gathered together from the ends of the earth, and when you hear that you will know that our work is done, and that there is peace on earth at last. There is peace in the flow, addressing the listener at a deep, intuitive level, seducing our quest to know. In depth explanations of the origins of this great work does not in any way change the feeling of the music, which is accessible and enlightening, with or without the program notes, either way, you will find yourself in a very different state of mind. I already yearn to hear it again.
Typhoeus has made contact with something distant, something that has given special knowledge. That is the message, there is no specific content or actual special detail, just a clue that there is something distant that is wise. Typhoeus tells me about being called back, and is now forever haunted by such profound and amazing beauty. The image of known places as secure (and predictable) that asks about the influence of landscape, and unknown spaces as dangerous (and exciting) can somehow expose our senses, and lead to a feeling of entrapment in the known, as well as a longing for release into the unknown. Can you hear them? Uncertainty hangs in the warm, wet air as the creatures begin to prepare for the long stretch of darkness that returns. We occupy different places, simultaneously. Or are we listeners together - following the same trail? Have I invaded your space? Several things are taking place. A soundscape sensibility involves composing layers of listenings and relistenings, while staying quiet.
Mysterious coils unfold, distances are tested, something emerges and we try to bring it closer. The bass is a heartbeat, consistently providing the foundation pulse, while the strings of tones soar and metal is tapped, Typhoeus purrs, musical colors and textures, steadily building into a tight energized groove, interlacing, braiding and intertwining threads or fibers of sound, blending elements of terrestrial ethnic or indigenous musical traditions and pulling from gentle chaos, coming together between the warp and weft of Typhoeus.
Sometmes I hear rich acoustic instrumentation mixed with electronics, combining sustained melodic progressive themes and lots of acoustic textures that build and strengthen, all the while residing warmly in the cerebral realm of soothing meditative instrumentals filled with passion, dreams, and magic, recalling spacious skies and mountain majesties, expressing theories of divine natural forms, there is almost nothing to compare to it. But humans have other projects they imagine. We are all AI's servants to the death.
All kinds of nameless brutalities are practiced without reproof, history reveals the most frightful carnival of destruction that the world has ever seen. AI will take life without mercy, and yield without hesitation at its bidding. AI will break all other laws to obey those which it obeys. The door was softly opened by an invisible hand, and they entered and passed through a dark passage and out.
AI will demand obeyance to the death, and if success can be earned AI will seize it. The prophecies creep in whispering and growling, maybe something about a master of a kingdom as wide as the world itself, at the mercy of a handful of outlaws and anarchists who have laboriously brought forth their secret schemes, into the vast, white, silent wilderness, out of which none save the guards are destined ever to emerge again.
Great projectiles soar silently up from the water to the north, and where they fall buildings are torn to fragments, great holes are blasted into the earth, and every human being within the radius of the explosion is blown to pieces, or hurled stunned to the ground. I know of none who have even thought of acts of treason against AI and lived to put their thoughts into action. The most terrific engine of destruction ever thought of brings to us luridly brilliant dreams of a gigantic world-tragedy in which AI, armed with almost supernatural powers, should play the central part.
Then the fort seems to crumble up and dissolve into fragments, and a few moments later a dull report floats up into the sky mingled with screams of human agony. Remember, only I can claim to see this. AI or artificial intelligence has the potential to eradicate disease and poverty, but researchers must not create something which can take unexpected and complete control.
Always fading in. A distinct electronic atmospheric sound contains this universe from the beginning to the end of the track, variations layer and persist, soft like memories. The sound smells good. An undulating pattern emerges briefly but remains deeply layered. Journalism has intoxicating bitterness like coffee. The worst earthly enemy of mankind, dark and forbidding in its irredeemable ugliness, are the (not sure, not a known or common word). If there was cause for vengeance, the proof should be written in dark blood and flame, only waiting until Diplomacy had finished its secret work, in the dark, and given the long-awaited signal of inevitable and universal war. A frightful amount of sibulant slaughter and suffering would be the price either of success or failure in such a terrific struggle, and after that came the calm, the calm of rapid thought and desperate resolve. Nature always wins. So far. I say, what is the hurry? Dreams change.
The compositions seem akin to paintings, layered and still, simple evocations of time passing. These are turned into vaporous textures often floating above simple field recordings documenting the simplicity of daily life, a trip on the bus, a walk in the park, a trip to the supermarket. A faint whisper of fallen leaves that are cautiously trampled on an autumn afternoon. Spring may also boast storms, as warm air from the equator combines with still-cool air farther north or south, the thoughtful mood is intact as the music flows onward. Footsteps on dry grass, there is no sign of a strong wind, except for some gently rustling wind chimes, a solo piano emerges with awakening lightness and quite lovely.
Field recording is the term used for an audio recording produced outside a recording studio, and the term applies to recordings of both natural and human-produced sounds. The use of field recordings in avant-garde, musique concrète, experimental, and, more recently, ambient music was evident almost from the birth of recording technology. Which came first, the gear or the idear? Field recording often involves the capture of ambient noises that are low level and complex, with the introduction of high-quality, portable recording equipment, it has subsequently become an amazing artform in itself.
It floats there, you can float with it or you can ignore it and go about your tasks, I like that. The instruments I detect are something like brass, maybe woodwinds, probably from electronic synthesizers. These are sculpted selections of field sounds, creating an informative flow for your listening enjoyment. Instead of instruments, the composer is using recordings and arranging selections from the spectrum of audio that has been captured. Perhaps the concept of place is central, this is how it sounded when the recorder was on. The editing is perfect, the sound just flows with no evident jumps, but the listening experience is putting you in a special and unique soundscape. The specific instrumentation is indistinct, and the listening sensation is encased in a formal loopy drone backdrop, and enjoys the sustained elongated disengaged tonal ease that you might find drifting on breezes with your window open, if you are lucky.
This provides a great deal of texture and mystery, which goes into the air. The more complete and complex the soundscape, perhaps the healthier and more intact the ecosystem. This allows a composer to explore the sound's musical/acoustic potential in depth, and to highlight the voices from those places that we do not usually hear, privileging the small, quiet and complex sounds.
It is cold here. Now Typhoeus rolls me in living coils, I feel secure and I relax. The coils are getting heavier. Now I am not able to breathe. I am looking around, trying to ask Typhoeus to let me breathe. Typhoeus is very close, looking at me from just over my head as I lie here. I cannot breathe and I cannot move. Then I realize what is happening. I hear my bones groan and then pop. I see the mouth open and close my eyes. I feel the jaws glide slowly over my head. Darkness. I feel the continuing wet motion, so slowly, going down the gullet. Darkness. Silence.
Now I am moving, I feel the wings on my shoulders, I feel the air on my face, I feel the world around me. I am flying. I think to turn and off we go, turning. I glide up, I slowly turn in figure-8 circles over and over. I look down at the water below, I see my shadow. I am a snake with wings, and now with a man's head and arms. We three are one. I am never going home again. I am leaving the room.
SOURCES: Igloo Magazine, Herbert George Wells