Various writings by N.O. Moore, on an ad hoc basis, about music and other interests.
Word assemblage: Rowe vs. Guitar
There are quite a few guitarists whom I admire. However, I tend to triangulate my approach to the instrument via 3 players: Hendrix, Fripp, and Bailey. This is largely due to the contingency of biography – I heard each of these three at ‘the right time’, when I needed to hear them. They have never superseded one another for this listener but, instead, provide inspiration along with a massive text-book of approaches and ideas.
‘3’ is a good stable number. Yet, someone else circulates through these trig points, turning the earth over, re-arranging the furniture, re-drawing the map: Keith Rowe. Keith Rowe was the first post-Duchampian guitarist inasmuch as he had the brilliant idea to treat the instrument as a found object. However, the true stroke of genius was to then initiate a practice wherein he attempted to lose this object again, to un-find it. Since the 1960’s, Rowe has been reducing the materiality of the object ‘electric guitar’, almost down to nothing but, fortunately, without ever quite succeeding. A process of exhaustion (the infinite approach to zero). Through this lifelong attempt to un-find (unfound), an incredible sound world has been opened up.
I have tended to avoid laying the instrument flat or putting objects in its strings. This would take me too close to Rowe. Instead, transposing a creative approach from a different medium, I try to think of the guitar not as an object, but as information. Therefore, the task is to deal with entropy, both as an approach to zero (non-differentiation) and as unpredictability (measures of disorder). The sound and materiality of electric guitar is information to be processed, in light of Bateson’s definition: information is the difference that makes a difference.
‘I don’t know how this sound is made’ is a valid statement.
‘I like this sound because I don’t know how it is made’ is too subjective and contingent a statement to be of any real interest.
Improvised music – why bother? 02
One of the things I like about improvised music is that it does not try to elicit a specific response or feeling. I think most other types of music do have some sort of purpose in terms of producing an emotional tonality or an appropriate context for ritualistic activity. I like them too; but improvisation is the music that best stands apart from its own form and purpose and, in performance, is capable of continuously commenting on these. In this sense, improvisation has the potential to constantly abstract out from itself (but without the resultant music being – when the improvisation is successful – ‘abstract music’). This suggests that whilst improvised music has at its disposal the full gamut of human emotional responses, it does not rely upon these. Or rather, that these responses do not explain improvised music’s existence and practice. For me, what this boils down to is that improvised music is not primarily concerned to manipulate the responses of the listener, nor of the performer. This is one of the things that makes it different from other types of music.
WORD ASSEMBLAGE: Reminiscence
When I was young, we lived on a large council estate. Then – and probably now – the estate had a reputation as being a ‘rough’ one. But when you are a kid, you don’t know about that, and the world is simply a place of wonder and threat. My parents seemed happy enough then. A good thing about those houses was that they had large gardens front and back. As our house was end of terrace, the garden was even bigger, stretching around the side. I remember when I was about 5 or 6, on a sunny but windy day, lying in the garden listening to the wind in the trees. That sound induced a feeling of deep dread and emptiness in me but, as I lay there, the sound became enveloping and comforting. That’s the first time I can remember experiencing the absence inside of what exists … and gladly that sound still reaches me today.
Improvised music – why bother? 01
Something Luciana Parisi wrote in Contagious Architecture (2013) could be adapted to apply to improvised music:
“[Improvised musics] are no longer designed according to exact coordinates – points in space – but are complex curved surfaces, the slight variation of which cannot be controlled in advance. Hence [improvised music] is determined by an unlimited number of variations occurring through time, and is enfolded into an environment of differential relations, speeds, and intensities. From this standpoint, [improvised music] is always more than one and less than many.” (p.46)
The risk of pretension should always be taken so, in my own words: improvised music proves that something always remains unprovable.