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[You get two entries in one here!  So, for the sake of those who want to skip over one or other portion, you get TWO lj-cuts!  Which one will you click...?!  Ack, the suspense...!  I need a cup of tea...! ;-P]

I am relieved to tell you that it doesn’t take much to make me happy.  And today I am in a very happy mood.

Whereas, as per my previous laments on the matter, I still don’t find anything much to charm me in the outpourings of Henry Cow, the other day I finally gave Ruins a listen…

This was a band I was not sure I’d like – it seemed like it would be rather chaotic, and generally my tastes do not run to the ‘sloppy cacophony’ end of the musical spectrum.  A ‘disciplined cacophony’, on the other paw, is exactly my favourite thing!  And that’s exactly what this is.  Yes, it’s loud, noisy and almost insanely hectic, but it has what I always want to hear in any music – let’s call it Good Grammar.  Everything sounds totally abandoned, and yet completely in its right place.  Like a really well-choreographed tantrum.

The drumming can best be characterised as what small boys (and probably girls too) who have recently acquired a junior drumkit imagine and hope they sound like.  Hitting everything in sight, as loud and fast as humanly possible – in the ultimate Precision Freak-Out.

The best thing about it is how cheerful this music is.  It makes you* want to leap up and down whilst grinning inanely.  [*Well, ok then… me.]

And there’s an accomplice to this hilarious lunacy.  Some or other bass guitar henchman (it depends which album you’re listening to) adding anything and everything from squalling noise to the occasional, incongruous light jazz prettiness…

Not only that, there is – well, can I really call it ‘singing’?  There’s growling, squealing, trilling, groaning and a whole other set of unclassifiable ‘mouth noises’, like… avant-garde beatbox.  Ugh, sorry, that sounds awful!!  I’m not making this seem very attractive, probably, but it’s great!  There are occasional ‘words’ which are made up words and are most likely entirely meaningless, the syllables put together that way because they feel satisfying to pronounce, or are just generally, well, percussive.  (This is a drummer’s band, after all…)

I think the trouble with this stuff is that it’s so difficult to describe without failing horribly and ending up describing something else – the terrible din that this music could be.  That impression of purposeless pandemonium definitely put me off listening to it for a while, but actually it’s much more disciplined (at least on the albums I’ve heard) and well-structured and… oddly catchy… than I expected it to be.

Obligatory Magma Reference – for although this music seems to be tagged as anything from Avant Prog to Jazz, it’s also in the bit of the Great Venn Diagram of All Things that is marked ‘Japanese Zeuhl’ (and Yoshida is apparently a bit of a Magma aficionado): the song ‘Zumn-Vigo’ on ‘Vrresto’ has an ending that reminds me very much of ‘Theusz Hamtaahk’ (that marvellous repetitive bit – all ‘devotional minimalism’ – with the repeated blankly-obsessive cry of ‘Tu – Tu – Tu – Tu…’). ;-)

Meanwhile… a little amateur philosophy. o__O

I found myself thinking, as I walked to work this morning (whilst listening to ‘Vrresto’!  And taking photos of Autumn foliage!!  Multi-tasking, RAWR!!! ;-P), about Composition versus Improvisation.  I never tend to be particularly interested in hearing a bunch of musical improvisation.  That sort of noodly-doodly, annoyingly unfocused stuff is just too yawn-inducing for words.  (Obviously not all improvisation is bad, or sounds like that… but the risk is fairly high!!)  At the same time, I’ve always been firmly convinced that there can be no Composition without Improvisation.  You’re always starting with a blank page, or some empty air; it’s up to you to make the first mark on that blankness, to summon up something from the viscous gloop of your imagination, and anything creative that is hauled out spontaneously is ‘improvisation’, yes?

Maybe by the same token, there can be no Improvisation without Composition…  Well, it is perfectly possible to just blurt out utter randomness (many people base entire careers on doing just that…) but at some point, some kind of organisation, some kind of purposeful decision-making, has to be called upon.  You choose to put that note after the one that came before it, and that choice, that little morsel of Free Will – let’s assume, shall we, that Free Will exists for the sake of argument… and also because I really hope it does! – migrates what you are doing away from ‘randomness’, turns that relationship between this note and the one that preceded it into a tiny little compositional atom.  Make a chain out of lots of compositional atoms and you have a little strand of organised meaning, and ‘organising meaning’ is, I suppose, as good a definition as any for… any form of creativity.

And now I’m going to have to conclude, yet again, that it’s all to do with scale.  What seems to us, on the big and clumsy human scale, to be improvisation is actually composition, when you look at it under a mental microscope.  And what seems to be composition always emerges, at its origin, from a state of improvisation.

And now that is quite enough nonsense from me.  Time to sling a few more words at my NaNo (last night, pretty much on the dot of midnight, I passed my personal goal for the day – which was to be two days’ worth ahead.  Currently at 13,365 words!!  And hoping to get past 16,670 today if I can…).

Eavesdrop, snoop, and sigh with yearning...

This journal is not a private diary, it is more like an occasional, imaginary column. Therefore, much of it is on public display. However, if you want to read my occasional attempts at creative writing, my Caution Elf tells me I should only show that stuff to my friends. You know what to do. :-)

NB: If you add me in an unsolicited fashion, please introduce yourself. Otherwise I will probably ignore you.

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