Media diet for Q3 2020

Music

Spotify playlist for this quarter is here. Playlists for past quarters and years here.

Okay, music I most enjoyed discovering this quarter:

[Read more…]

Media I’m looking forward to, Q4 2020 edition

Added this quarter:

Books

bold = especially excited

[Read more…]

Funny or interesting Scaruffi Quotes (part 6)

Previously: 1234, 5.

On Amon Tobin:

Amon Tobin well impersonated the classical composer in the hip-hop age. Instead of composing symphonies for orchestras, Tobin glued together sonic snippets using electronic and digital equipment. Adventures in Foam (1996)… and especially his aesthetic manifesto and masterpiece, Bricolage (1997), unified classical, jazz, rock and dance music in a genre and style that was universal. Tobin warped the distinctive timbres of instruments to produce new kinds of instruments, and then wove them into an organic flow of sound. Tobin kept refining his art of producing amazingly sophisticated and seamless puzzles on Permutation (1998), Supermodified (2000) and, best of his second phase, Out From Out Where (2002). Once he had exhausted the possibilities of instruments and samples, Tobin turned to found sounds and field recordings as the sources for The Foley Room (2007), without basically changing style…

Tobin’s studies on timbre should also not be overlooked. The apparently unassuming “Defocus” is actually a new kind of symphony. Tobin warps the distinctive tone of an instrument to produce a new kind of instrument, and then weaves a few of them (a bee-like violin, a distorted bass, UFO-sounding flutes) into an organic flow of sound. It is, in fact, one of the most significant innovations since Beethoven added a choir to a symphony.

Needless to say, jazz fuels and dresses these compositions. However, Tobin does to jazz what Picasso did to impressionism: it uses only discrete fragments of the image to reconstruct the whole. Furthermore, it is never the only or main element. For example, the sax solo of “Wires And Snakes” coexists with industrial metronomic pulses and with soothing ambient waves of electronics.

[Read more…]

Media diet for Q2 2020

Music

Spotify playlist for this quarter is here. Playlists for past quarters and years here.

Okay, music I most enjoyed discovering this quarter:

[Read more…]

Media I’m looking forward to, Q3 2020 edition

Added this quarter:

Books

bold = especially excited

[Read more…]

Media diet for Q1 2020

Music

Spotify playlist for this quarter is here. Playlists for past quarters and years here.

Okay, music I most enjoyed discovering this quarter:

[Read more…]

Media I’m looking forward to, Q2 2020 edition

Added this quarter:

Books

bold = especially excited

[Read more…]

Funny or interesting Scaruffi Quotes (part 5)

Previously: 123, 4.

On Primus:

A stubbornly alternative group, alien to the commercial route, immune to the lure of compromises, heir of the “freak” philosophy and ethics, and representative of the genealogical line of “neo-freaks” inaugurated by the Butthole Surfers – that’s Primus. Created by bassist and vocalist Les Claypool, Primus was a bright spot among the rock groups of the early 90’s. Each track was like a stylistic puzzle; the group had few predecessors as their style resembled progressive-rock (from Frank Zappa to Rush) but had the feel of hard-core. Listeners can hear echoes of Minutemen and Black Flag, but the smooth progression between tones was anything but punk.

On Rake:

Their first album… contains two lengthy improvisations… driven by a jazz guitarist who listened to John McLaughlin till he went nuts and by a keyboardist who fell in love with the Moog. The sound is an aberration of Albert Ayler and Borbetomagus.

…The first CD [of their 2nd album] contains four lengthy suites… The second [CD] contains 75 brief pieces, whose dementia reaches disturbing levels; a wild collage of abstract sonic miniatures that rarely coalesce in songs. The 4th is a masterpiece of punk-rock, the 11th and the 21st are masterpieces of avantgarde guitar, the 55th and following ones are space-rock at its best, the 64th and following ones are gothic/ambient psychedelia, the 73th and following ones are the childish conclusions of the whole big nonsense. A totally pointless genius, as Dada would have loved.

[Read more…]

Initial observations from my 2nd tour of rock history

I’m still listening through Scaruffi’s rock history, building my rock snob playlist as I go. A few observations so far:

  1. Relative to last time I listened through Scaruffi’s rock history (>8 years ago IIRC), my tastes have evolved quite a lot. I notice I’m more quickly bored by most forms of pop, punk, and heavy metal than I used to be. The genre I now seem to most reliably enjoy is the experimental end of prog-rock (e.g. avant-prog, zeuhl). I also enjoy jazz-influenced rock a lot more this time, presumably in part because I listened through Scaruffi’s jazz history (and made this guide) a couple years ago.
  2. I am more convinced than ever that tons of great musical ideas, even just within the “rock” paradigm, have never been explored. I’m constantly noticing things like “Oh, you know what’d be awesome? If somebody mixed the rhythm section of A with the suite structure of B and the production approach of C.” And because my listen through rock history has been so thorough this time (including thousands of artists not included in Scaruffi’s history), I’m more confident than ever that those ideas simply have never been attempted. It’s been a similar experience to studying a wide variety of scientific fields: the more topics and subtopics you study, the more you realize that the “surface area” between current scientific knowledge and what is currently unknown is even larger than you could have seen before.
  3. I still usually dislike “death growl” singing, traditional opera singing, and most rapping. I wish there were more “instrumental only” releases for these genres so I could have a shot at enjoying them.
  4. Spotify’s catalogue is very choppy. E.g. Spotify seems to have most of the albums from chapter 4.12 of Scaruffi’s history, and very few albums from chapter 4.13. (I assume this is also true for iTunes and other streaming providers.)

Media diet for Q4 2019

Music

Spotify playlist for this quarter is here. Playlists for past quarters and years here.

Okay, music I most enjoyed discovering this quarter:

[Read more…]

Media I’m looking forward to, Q1 2020 edition

Added this quarter:

Books

bold = especially excited

[Read more…]

Media diet for Q3 2019

Music

Spotify playlist for this quarter is here. Playlists for past quarters and years here.

Okay, music I most enjoyed discovering this quarter:

[Read more…]

Media I’m looking forward to, Q4 2019 edition

Added this quarter:

Books

bold = especially excited

[Read more…]

Funny or interesting Scaruffi Quotes (part 4)

Previously: 1, 2, 3.

On Zeni Geva (here):

Zeni Geva indulged in dissonant and gloomy orgies, in the tradition of early Swans and Big Black (but with no bass), on albums such as Maximum Money Monster (1990), Desire For Agony (1993), and especially Total Castration (1992). Null’s solo work, notably Absolute Heaven (1994) and Ultimate Material II (1995), continued to straddle the border between extreme noise and very extreme noise.

On Merzbow (here and here):

Merzbow, the brainchild of Masami Akita, one of the most prolific musicians of all times (not a compliment), was a theoretician of surrealism in music but practiced a form of savage violence that was more akin to a suicide bombing on non-musical works such as Rainbow Electronics (1990), Music For Bondage Performance (1991), Venereology (1994) and Tauromachine (1998).

Merzbox (1997) is a box of 50 CDs that “summarizes” his career, when he has just passed the record of the 200th album. It includes 30 reprints of CDs, LPs and cassettes, as well as 20 unreleased albums.

…It is difficult to tell Whether Dharma (2001) is a masterpiece or another Merzbow self-parody … but maybe that’s precisely what Merzbow is all about. One of their most savage noise recordings, it includes the massive (32 minutes), gargantuan, arcane musique concrete of “Frozen Guitars and Sunloop / 7E 802,” that after eight minutes turned into a maelstrom exuding a sense of desperation and after sixteen enters an endless free fall, besides the crescendo of “I’m Coming to the Garden No Sound No Memory,” that achieves a screeching intensity, the nuclear carpet bombing of “Akashiman,” and the eight-minute chamber composition “Space Plan For Marimo Kitty” for random piano notes and alien electronic interference.

By the same token, on Frog (2001), a sequence of variations on frogs, Masami Akita seems to make fun of the fans who take him seriously.

[Read more…]

William Rathbone, effective altruist?

William Rathbone (1819-1902), writing in 1867 about philanthropy:

It is true that there is among the rich much desultory and indolent goodwill towards the poor… which, if properly stimulated by a sense of positive and imperative obligation, and guided to a safe and effectual mode of action, might be made instrumental of much good at present left undone. It is true that a new hospital finds plenty of rich men willing to give money for its establishment and support; that any striking case of distress, calculated to touch the sympathies of the public, which may be recorded in the newspapers, generally attracts a superabundance of charitable donations… Probably, in by far the greater number of instances, the feeling that prompts them is one of genuine compassion. But it would be wrong to ascribe much merit to such emotional liberality; to look upon it as proof that the rich are properly sensible of their duties and responsibilities. The desultory nature of so much of our charity; the stimulus it requires from fancy-balls and bazaars; the greater facility with which a new institution obtains subscriptions for want of which an old one, equally meritorious, languishes; the amount of time and energy which the managers of a charity are so often forced to consume in drumming together the funds required for its support — time and energy which should be devoted to the mere task of efficient management — all these are significant evidence that the manifestations of generosity of which we hear so much proceed not from a strong and clear sense of duty, but from a vague sentiment of compassion; that people give less in obedience to principle than under, a sudden impulse of feeling, less to fulfill an obligation than to relieve themselves of an uneasy though vague sensation of compunction. Few among the rich realize that charity is not a virtue of supererogation, but a divine charge upon their wealth, which they have no right to neglect. They give to this or that family whose story interests them, to this or that institution for the relief of some form of‘ distress which peculiarly touches their sympathies, with no idea that the matter is not one in which they have a right to indulge their caprice; that all the misery within their sphere is an evil with which it is their duty to grapple, to which they are bound to apply the remedial energies and resources at their command, not as suits their taste or fancy, but as may be most efficacious in the relief of suffering… In short, charity is with them a matter of sentiment, not of principle…

…Do the rich give as large a proportion of their incomes, even, as these poorer contributors? They should do much more, for they can afford much more. £50 represents a much larger deduction from the real comforts and enjoyments procurable with an in come of £500, than does £500 taken from an income of £5000. As expenditure increases it is less on necessaries and more on luxuries; even its power of giving proportionate enjoyment to the possessor diminishes. The man who increases his expenditure from £1000 to £2000 may perhaps — though it is doubtful — get a thousand pounds worth of increased enjoyment from the addition. But if so, he certainly does not get an equal increase when he goes on from £2000 to £3000 or from £3000 to £4000. The larger the expenditure, the less the proportion of pleasure derived to money laid out. And therefore, both because the deduction involves a less sacrifice, and because it is just and reasonable to hold that money should be so spent as to produce a reasonable return of enjoyment to some one, it may fairly be urged that the larger the income, the larger should be the proportion spent in charity… Unhappily it is the fact that men of large means generally —for there are exceptions — spend a smaller percentage of those means in charity than do men of limited incomes…

Rhodri Davies (around 22m) adds that Rathbone also grappled with the question of “earning to give” vs. “direct work”, saying:

Margaret Simey’s book… says that Rathbone was torn between… whether he should go into the ministry and help the poor directly or whether he should go into business, and eventually [she writes] “viewing the issue in the light of common sense, [Rathbone] decided that for him, an effective life of public service would depend on his possession of the influence and respect secured by success in business. Accordingly, he set himself doggedly to the task of building up the family fortunes, which had suffered from the devotion of his father and grandfather to public work.” So he took his own self interest out of it — because he probably would have preferred to work directly with the poor — but he thought that actually what [he] should do is go off and maximize the amount of money he could make and [maximize] his political influence and connections, and then use [those things] to do the maximum amount of good.

Media diet for Q2 2019

Music

Spotify playlist for this quarter is here. Playlists for past quarters and years here.

Okay, music I most enjoyed discovering this quarter:

[Read more…]

Media I’m looking forward to, Q3 2019 edition

Added this quarter:

Books

bold = especially excited

[Read more…]

Funny or interesting Scaruffi Quotes (part 3)

Previously: 1, 2.

On Sonic Youth (Google translated):

Sonic Youth have embodied the figure of the musician who intends to transcend the stereotypes of his time and explore new musical forms while remaining faithful to a nihilistic and alienated ethics like that of punks. In this sense the Sonic Youth are both heir to both punk-rock and new-wave, although they have little in common with them either musically or sociologically. Their origins are in avant-garde classical music, their vocations (as the solo works have shown) are the creative jazz and rock music, their personalities belong to the galleries of art and the intellectual circles of New York. Contrary to what might seem at first listening, the Sonic Youth have never repudiated the rock song format. Their formation is the typical guitar quartet of rock music. Their songs are almost always structured around a theme and contained within three or four minutes. Even in their most experimental moments, the Sonic Youth have followed their rock and roll roots.

[Read more…]

Media diet for Q1 2019

Music

Spotify playlist for this quarter is here. Playlists for past quarters and years here.

Okay, music I most enjoyed discovering this quarter:

[Read more…]

Media I’m looking forward to, Q2 2019 edition

Added this quarter:

Books

bold = especially excited

[Read more…]