Thursday, December 29, 2005

Little Canadian Content on Soulseek

Now what does this mean, folks -- are bands like Rough Trade and the Payolas still alive on the radio in Canada ONLY BECAUSE OF CANADIAN CONTENT LAWS? I've been looking for Rough Trade's "All Touch" on Soulseek for an 80's New Year's Mix disc I'm making for a friend's party for about three days; I also wanted to find "Never Said I Loved You," by the Payolas with Carol Pope. I've heard both these songs on the radio in recent weeks, and I basically only ever hear the radio in waiting rooms or in friend's cars. I'm shocked at how hard these songs are to find, though; they seem almost completely forgotten. The only Payolas' tune that turns up regularly is "Eyes of a Stranger" -- occasionally I've bumped into "You're the Only Love" or "Christmas is Coming," the latter being a seasonal accident, but otherwise it seems like no one is trading this stuff on the 'net at all, not even Canadians! I finally did locate the latter tune, but I've yet to find "All Touch." Worse, there isn't a Payolas CD to be found anywhere in Vancouver -- Hammer on a Drum has never been reissued, in fact; the only thing available is an embarrassingly-titled compilation, Between a Rock and a Hyde Place, but even that appears unfindable, from Zulu to HMV (with a stroll through the Granville used shops to boot). I can understand why Doug and the Slugs recorded output is all out of print, much as I miss Doug (and sincerely love Cognac and Bologna; by the way, none of them on Soulseek, either); and as amazing as it was, it's not at all surprising that Slow's Against the Glass has yet to be reissued; but the Payolas, condemned to obscurity? When meatheads like Bryan Adams and Celine Dion are world-famous... there's something very wrong with thus picture. It's the downside of CanCon laws, I guess -- they give people who listen to the radio an exaggerated sense of the survival of music that is almost completely extinct, allowing us to take it for granted...

...anyhow, that's kind of a trivial post, but it's been on my mind...

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Derek Bailey is dead

His bio/obit from Wikipedia.

The Winks play Dec. 29th!

I have not forgotten the Winks, folks. True, my stint as a Winks groupie flagged after about six or seven shows (or maybe eight if you count the Tights), and I have not seen them nor written much about them in a few months, but my fondness for them remains, as well as my desire to see them succeed at the wonderful, rare, and quirky thing they do... They will be performing on December 29th at the Candy Bar. (Explore the site for MP3s and such). They've been described as doing a sort of baroque pop, though that doesn't really do a lot of justice to the Sonic Youth influences on Todd's mandolin playing. I have reacted to them in different ways at different times but they're usually at the very least an engaging and interesting musical (and visual, since they're pretty fascinating to watch) experience; on a great night they approach a transcencent state, where the audience leave aside being entertained and begin to Believe. What exactly the Belief is that Winks performances engender I cannot say, but in these post-Christian times you gotta believe in something...

Friday, December 23, 2005

The Minutemen, D. Boon, a Spooky Synchronicity Involving the Number 23, and Work

Okay, so, dig, the other week I bumped into the good natured, hard-working, and super-competent manager of the school I work at at Starbucks and had a casual chat with her about the music she liked -- mostly classic rock and 80's pop. It struck me as a greatly inspired idea to buy her the Minutemen's DOUBLE NICKLES ON THE DIME -- she ain't hip enough to have heard of it, but she may just be hip enough to appreciate it, and that's the point. A great Christmas gift, right? I handed it to her at work today, in the busy teacher's room, as I was doing my photocopying.

Well here's something spooky: it turns out that today is the 20th anniversary of D. Boon's death, something I never knew about until just a few minutes ago, when I bumped into David "Get Your War On" Rees' appreciation of Boon and the Minutemen, liked off his site. What a day to give this particular gift! I have emailed my manager (with a hopefully helpful bit of background on how the fact this is December 23rd would freak out a certain synchronicity-minded portion of the population, which will, we hope, not necessarily implicate ME in that crowd of people... I haven't dropped acid in years, really!); I am now going to post a comment on Rees' blog.

Meantime, here's to D. Boon (and George and Mike, too, but mostly to Boon). We love you, man. Guess I'll be listenin' to some Minutemen tonight...

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Frogs with Extra Legs, Fish with Extra Mouths

There's a fair bit of fascinating stuff on the internet about the hundreds of deformed frogs found in Minnesota and Quebec (and elsewhere), mostly in ponds on agricultural lands. Frogs, as you may have heard, are considered "sentinel species;" because of their porous bodies -- they usually take water in directly through the skin, without having to drink -- and their complex life cycles, they make a good index of environmental degradation. It seems bizarre, but no-one has been able to prove that these sorts of deformities are caused by pesticides and other agricultural chemicals, though it's ones immediate assumption.

Disturbing to hear, anyhow, that similar things are being found in trout. Even though it's an isolated case, I wouldn't eat a fish like this.

Unusual Comic Books

On a short scan of Ethan Persoff's website, which is very cool indeed, I discovered government-produced comic books about heroin addiction and about the invasion of Grenada (anti-communist propaganda distributed by the CIA at the time in Grenada, which is primarily English-speaking; like the Donald Duck comics distributed in Chile during the CIA-sponsored coup that overthrew Allende -- comics Ariel Dorfman wrote about at length in How to Read Donald Duck -- this was not meant for reading in the US). Also got to virtually flip through a charmingly revealing comic advertising udder-friendly milking technology and another on what was called, in the day, "VD" (did "STD" replace "VD" because people don't know what the word "venereal" means? What was the process of replacement? Where did it begin, for instance -- on the streets? In a health clinic? In a government office? On television?). Mr. Persoff, I salute you!

Thanks to David Ashton in Japan for pointing out the site -- he's got a great eye for finding cool things on the internet.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Still Yet Another Really Hard Free Cell

15804, for those of you who like challenges. Jeez.

Cloning Mammoths

Normally biotechnology scares the hell out of me, but projects like this are kind of exciting, no? It appeals to the kid in me, though it's probably not a very good idea for people to fuck around with this sort of thing.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Segregation-Era Signs Discovered

Thought this was an interesting reminder of history that most people don't realize is so recent -- signs denoting drinking fountains for whites vs. "coloureds" have been uncovered in a store undergoing renovations in the American south.

DVD Review: High Tension

If one cared to demonstrate how little critics, or film audiences in general, care to think about the movies they watch, one need only contemplate reactions to the French meta-slasher film High Tension, particularly in regard to the film’s “surprise ending” (which, I should note, I will spoil slightly in the course of this piece of writing, though actually I doubt intelligent viewers of the movie will find the pleasures of the film lessened much by my doing this; intelligent horror film buffs and attentive viewers alike, in fact, will probably see the “surprise” telegraphed from the gitgo, when Marie says that the person pursuing her in her dream is actually herself, and simply spend the rest of the movie waiting to see how the significance of this line will play out in the narrative). The movie, and its surprise, hinge on one idea, that the good guy and bad guy in horror films, insofar as they both serve as our representatives, are really one, and that in standard horror films, the audiences get to be somewhat hypocritical about this, projecting their transgressive desires onto the one while pretending to utter virtue themselves, by identifying solely with the hero or heroine, even as they delight at seeing blood spill. High Tension plays a little trick on us to jolt us out of the comfort of this denial, and that’s basically its whole point in existing; it wants us to own our Ids, to admit that we exist on both the positive and negative ends of the spectrum, and wouldn’t be watching the film if it were otherwise. While this idea is not particularly new, or complex, or profound, and the presentation of it is not necessarily a valid pretext for having made the film (which some might find a pretty sordid piece of work), it is amazing to see how resilient critics are to at least acknowledging that an idea exists, and that the twist ending, whatever damage it does to the narrative logic of the film – and it does indeed do some -- does actually convey meaning, and in fact exists for that purpose alone. Almost none of the critics who pan the film want to acknowledge this:
Critic Daniel Kimmel complains about an “utterly moronic twist that comes out of left field and makes a hash out of much of what we have already had to endure;” Wesley Morris calls the film a “fraud” that doesn’t make an “iota of sense,” and notes that “what happens in the final minutes is narratively dumb -- and psychosexually ridiculous,” and Roger Ebert, who seldom seems worried enough about revealing the limits of his perceptions, complains about the “physically, logically and dramatically impossible” twist, which one can drive a “truck” through (punning on the fact that the “killer,” who apparently does not really exist save as a creation of the heroine’s fragmented personality, drives a truck that is apparently real). Brian Buzz Juergens gets the prize for the harshest rejection of the film’s central point, though:
I won’t speak in any detail about the final twist, but it stings like a
slap in the face. Take a step back, and it’s puzzling. Take another step
back, and it’s just stupid. Take another, and it’s actually quite offensive.
It’s bad enough to effectively ruin everything that comes before it, so I
feel that I at least have to mention it here, even without any details. If
M. Night Shyamalan’s movies piss you off, you haven’t seen anything – and
his twists actually make sense.

Well, so does the twist in High Tension, Buzz. If you paid attention to the significance of the fact that the heroine is masturbating as the killer approaches the house, say, you might actually have been less surprised by it. Even if the film doesn’t survive on the level of coherent narrative – fares even worse than Fight Club or Identity, which play similar tricks on us – there’s no reason why coherent narrative should be more important than the articulation of an idea. I mean, isn’t the watching of films intimately tied to the pursuit of meaning? Isn’t that what film is supposed to do, to stimulate our emotions and desires, so we can observe and think about them, and perhaps learn something about ourselves? Why are so many of the people who write about film so stupid, then? Why does an idea as obvious and as uncomplicated as the one behind High Tension seem to catch so many viewers unprepared?

Anyhow, while it’s far from essential viewing, the film seems like a reasonably harmless invitation to enjoy a horror film and think about it, too, which is actually quite close to my idea of a good time at the cinema; it’s a passably entertaining way to spend an evening. I’m sure Carol J. Clover would be passably amused by it and could productively include discussion of it in an updated version of Men, Women, and Chainsaws. It belongs on the lowbrow edge of the “genre” that has been ironically dubbed New French Extremity (art films with lots of gore, brutal violence, and/or sex in them – the films of Gaspar Noe being the best known other example of this style of filmmaking). The DVD, somewhat amusingly, has three different versions of the film on it: the first is partially dubbed, but (if I’m getting this right – it’s a little complicated) uncensored; the second is completely dubbed and partially censored; the third is subtitled and uncensored. Pretty ridiculous. I've yet to check to see which of the three is the default -- it'll be a handy litmus test to determine just how dumb (or how smart) the people at Lions Gate think their audience is.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

King Kong

Seeing the first King Kong, for me, was a formative experience in much the same way it was for Peter Jackson; I was about the same age, though he saw it on TV while I watched it in my elementary school gym, where one of my teachers was playing a print of it he actually owned, projecting it onto a screen. The film secured my love of cinema like no other (it helped that I was a big dinosaur fan). I had a delightful experience during the summer stumbling across the Monsters in the Meadow projection of the film in Stanley Park, and since then, I've been much looking forward to seeing Jackson's remake. My first reactions to the movie follow; I've only seen it once thus far, may see it again, though I don't think the film entirely succeeds:

1. To get this out of the way, I liked some of the special effects, but I have mixed feelings about CGI. Filmmakers tend to get overambitious with it; the dinosaurs and Kong move at such speed in certain scenes that it gets dizzying. I guess the point is to really push the audience into a state of high stimulation, and sometimes it works -- the tyrannosaur fights are pretty intense -- but sometimes the speed of the animals' motions serves to underscore their completely virtual nature; any illusion of actual embodiment is erased by their apparent weightlessness as they zip about the screen. I found myself wondering why Jackson couldn't restrict himself to only doing things that really looked good -- it's his ambition that reveals the limitations of the technology (or else the CGI needed more work). Sometimes I actually miss stop-motion; people were always aware of the limitations of the technology, so they seldom exceeded them, while CGI seems to have ushered in an age of unparallelled cinematic excess, at least as far as spectacle films are concerned...

2. I greatly liked the relationship between Kong and Ann Darrow. One understands Kong, and understands why Ann is moved by him; Jackson's elaborations on Kong's personality are marvelous, as are Andy Serkis' facial expressions, "playing" Kong. At times, we feel very fond of the big ape indeed. Kong ultimately is an enormous bullying sulking proud difficult "man"; if you can see through his tough exterior (and thick coat of fur) you realize he's got a pretty good heart, really, and that he'd go to the limit in his defense of Ann. Her admiration of him mirrors our own -- we see him through her eyes and can actually believe the "love story" that unites them. (I'd like to see a feminist reading of the film -- in ways Kong is a symbol for all the most problematic aspects of patriarchal power, which the film has no small bit of nostalgia for; Ann wants a "real man" who she can believe in, and no one can be more of a real man than a giant male gorilla.) All of this productively develops stuff contained in the original, too, though looking at it from a far more modern perspective. Watching their relationship develop and thinking about it's significance is one of the great pleasures of the film -- women with father issues will probably find it fascinating.

3. Though they're parenthetical to the main drive of the film, the Heart of Darkness references resonate disturbingly with the fact that the (black) "savages" are played as brutal and evil-looking to the point of being demons, and it's strange that a black man is given the job of interpreting Conrad as he applies to the film -- a black man whose, um, narrative is resolved in a way that isn't quite satisfying, as if the film isn't sure if he's a character we care about or not, though clearly his blackness is meant to be significant (as apologia for the racism elsewhere?). Though the point of any of this is unclear by the end of the film, there's something weirdly excessive about how savage Jackson wants these savages to be; if their savagery, along with the Heart of Darkness references, are meant to be underscore primal aspects of the human condition (thus perhaps connected to the primal masculinity of Kong), then we're left with something more than a little politically suspect, which will leave audience members with a nodding acquaintance with postcolonial theory (or, say, Chinua Achebe's essay on Heart of Darkness) feeling a little less than comfortable. One wonders what Jackson was thinking. (More can be read on this topic here, or on IMDB, where people are busily discussing the racism of Kong, though with the usual mediocre 'net-level of discussion one finds on really public forums).

4. The film's criticisms of Hollywood are milked quite successfully for much of the movie, but ultimately it is on this front that the film fails badly; though we're allowed at various points to like the Jack Black character, Carl Denham -- a ruthlessly manipulative (but somewhat comical) director/producer who doesn't care much at all about risking the men to get his movie -- there is something very very wrong about the fact that he is allowed to issue the final lines in the film, and that he ultimately has no comeuppance for his role in bringing about Kong's demise. Yes, Jackson is being faithful to the original -- Denham's final lines are pretty much the same -- but in this version of the film, it is so clearly Denham's crass willingness to exploit and use and manipulate, his desire for profit and glory and so forth, that lead to the tragic end, rather than Kong's love for Ann, that you really don't want Denham to be able to get away with milking the events for cheap sentiment, in the classic Hollywood manner. Yet he does; he dodges any accountability whatsoever, and you're left wanting someone to step in and hit him -- for Ann to slap him, say; the film screams for an explicit rejection of the ethos that he represents. Since there is none, we're left implicated ourselves in the pain and exploitation, sharing in Denham's guilt to the extent that we accept his authority to interpret the meaning of the story for us; he ends up a sort of entextualized author, Jackson's stand-in, and this is none too pleasing. The film could have been far more satisfying if Jackson had had the courage to continue his departure from the original to hold Hollywood and Denham to account for the ways they use us; in criticising Denham's ambitions earlier in the film, he awakens desires that he doesn't end up satisfying.

Of course, given the fact that King Kong IS a Hollywood spectacle film, you'd be left with a very contradictory message if he really held Denham to account; the film would be rejecting the very logic that produces it (Jonathan Rosenbaum, always ready to note these sorts of things, talks about the film's "hypocritical exploitation"). This contradiction is something you find in the first two Jurassic Park films, which reject corporate exploitive entertainment while embodying it, but... it still would have worked better narratively, would, for all its logical inconsistency, still have produced a feeling of closure more satisfying than what we're currently left with.

5. One of the reasons that one really wants to see Denham "get his" at the end of the film is that what happens to Kong is ultimately pretty painful to behold. Given how much more we are allowed to care about him, and Ann, and their relationship, it's very, very difficult to watch Kong being slowly picked off by airplanes at the top of the Empire State building. Anyone with a heart in the audience is ROOTING FOR KONG, wanting him to pull planes out of the sky, wanting him to escape somehow. Why make us love the big ape if only to kill him for our entertainment? But we're trapped in a story that can't end any other way, and that leaves you feeling pretty helpless, like Kong or Ann; we have no choice but watch a virtuous, beautiful animal being tortured and killed. (By the way, I'm not the only person who reacts that way; reading negative reviews off Rotten Tomatoes, to see if I'm alone in my perceptions, I note that Globe and Mail critic Liam Lacey phrases it thus -- "the finale is less about tragedy than cruelty, a scene about torturing an animal to death against a spectacular setting.") Maybe Jackson, in leaving this crime unrevenged, wants us to feel complicit in what we consume, I don't know -- he casts himself as one of the fighter pilots shooting at Kong, just as apparently Mel Gibson provided the hands that nail Christ to the cross in his Jesus pic, but... there's nothing guaranteed to leave you feeling crappy than to see a movie where the bad guys win, and King Kong ends up being just that; Kong's demise doesn't feel so much tragic as criminal, and the lack of justice afterwards is a major narrative flaw, which leaves us feeling like Kong's blood is on our hands.

But I guess that's Hollywood. Maybe if Kong had fallen on Denham and crushed him...?

Anyhow, a buncha previews here. It's worth seeing, I suppose, if one is hungry for this sort of entertainment. I wish I could recommend it more enthusiastically, actually. I'd really like to like Peter Jackson's transformation into a major player, given how much I enjoyed his early work... I somehow have doubts I'll ever unreservedly enjoy a film of his again.

Post-script -- Yep, second and third viewings bear it out: the first two acts of the film are beautiful, intense, and engaging, and we truly come to care about Kong and his relationship with Ann. The pain we're left with at the close of the third act, though, makes the film into a bummer, and there's something really unsatisfying about Denham getting the last word (I gather from IMDB's discussion boards that the original plan would have been to have Fay Wray utter this line, but she died before filming began; a lot of people seem displeased with this line, though mostly it's Jack Black's delivery of it that comes under fire). Not many other people seemed bothered by it - the crowd, walking away, seemed more than pleased -- a big spectacle is enough for them -- but I just felt grief that the big ape had to die... It ends on a pretty somber note, for me.

Anyhow, it was cool to discover that Andy Serkis, who "plays" Kong, is also Lumpy (the French-looking, smoking, coarse mate on the ship -- the one with the Kiwi accent). He works for Weta Digital, the company that did the special effects (and the big cricket-things in the pit, by the way, are based on weta, a unique NZ critter that grows up to 8 inches long -- a cricket longer than my penis!). He also "played" Gollum, of course. What I'm wondering, tho', is that if that was really Forrest J. Ackerman in the crowd in NY when Kong busts loose -- if anyone knows, please tell me!

Not that anyone ever comments on my blog...


A new thread has been started on IMDB about whether Denham should have been killed...

Friday, December 09, 2005

Dykes on Bikes

A San Francisco-based lesbian motorcycle group has been allowed to patent the name "Dykes on Bikes," after initially being refused because the court considered the term disparaging. I don't really know why, but I feel good about this and I thought I'd share.

Borneo Cryptid Identified?

Another tidbit off my daily scan of the Fortean Times: an unknown mammal was recently photographed in Borneo, which may be related to a species of Malaysian civet thought to be extinct. It always pleases me to discover there are still mysteries in the animal kingdom. Loren Coleman's site looks pretty cool! If only I were a cryptozoology blogger...

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Terry Riley Interview in the Nerve Magazine

My interview with Terry Riley made it into the (mostly punk-focused) Nerve Magazine, which we hope will get more widely distributed around town than that last Terminal City was -- right now, you can only find it, that I've seen, in that CD store next to the pizza place by Charlie's on Granville. I won't be reprinting the interview here -- it feels kind of like cheating, and there's not much he said that didn't make it into the article. His concert on January 20th at the Chan Centre, with beat poet Michael McClure, promises to be a pretty cool event -- I highly encourage attendance! (Read the Nerve Magazine article for more info -- though the new issue is not online as I write this!). Also note the Chan's upcoming Kronos Quartet event...

Monday, December 05, 2005

Cheers to Joe Dante

...for his hour-long horror show on TV showing American war dead, newly shipped from Iraq, coming back to life, bursting out of their flag-draped coffins, and lurching, as zombies, after neocons, right-wing Christians, and conservative pundits. I have mixed feelings about the recent wave of zombie popularity -- I preferred the erstwhile elite minority status that being a zombie aficionado conferred upon one -- but I'm delighted to hear at least these new populist zombies are being put to good use. Eat a Republican for me, boys! Go to 'em!

Sunday, December 04, 2005

The Ridge Theatre is NOT closing, but St. Paul's might

Just read this in the Straight... The Ridge will continue to be a theatre, is just changing hands.

More importantly: there's a petition to save St. Paul's Hospital from the development-greed that would leave the downtown without this needed and vital resource. Those of you/us who followed the Straight's advice and voted for the somewhat dodgy-seemin' Sam Sullivan based on your/our concern over this issue might want to reinforce your views on the matter by signing the petition located here. (Okay, I admit, I voted for Sullivan, but I've got misgivings... he smiles too well, for one -- slicker even than Jack Layton, who has at least a folksy quality to him. The Straight still seem to be more or less supporting him in the face of an oncoming scandal; those seeking further reading might find this Tyee interview interesting).

Jungo's Basketball Team

I spent three years in Japan and had several hundred students in the English classes I co-taught; the best by far -- the most gifted and ambitious -- was a young fellow named Jungo Higuchi. The school, in Saitama, a suburban district (with a fair number of small farms) just north of Tokyo, was called Okegawa Nishi Koko (Okenishi for short -- you can hear the school song here, if you wait a bit -- and do explore the site; there are pictures hidden around on it, some of which are of students and teachers from my time there...!), and it wasn't by far the best high school you could go to; many of the students were content to sleep through English lessons, or covertly send text messages on their keitai, or read manga hidden in their desks, as I struggled upstream with the crappy Monbusho-approved textbooks, learning more Japanese, in my attempts to explain grammar to the students, than they ever learned English off of me... Jungo, while not the only hard-working student in the school, certainly had the biggest taste for English, and he actually went so far as to pursue his studies outside the classroom, using self-study textbooks in combination with lessons broadcast on the radio. He regularly hung out with me for extra practice -- we sat at my desk in the teacher's room, or caught the occasional movie together. He introduced me to his parents, and his grandmother even knitted me a couple of sweaters (she was a sweet old woman who fussed and played a very nervous host on my one visit to her small home). Anyhow, Jungo, who now is a member of the workforce and thinking fondly back to aspects of his school days, dropped me a line to say hello recently and sent me a photo of his basketball team. I thought posting it would make a nice break from concerts and movies and politics, the usual fare on my blog... Jungo is standing in back, second from the left, with a white t-shirt on and a black strap on his shoulder... Looks like they're in the former Omiya, now incorporated into Saitama-shi. It's not quite Shinjuku but, since it was a fair bit closer, I spent many an afternoon hanging out there, trying to figure out the Japanese alphabetization of CDs at the Nack 5 Town, drinking in the red-light district at a place called Kind House back when it had the cool Easter Island motifs, trying different restaurants, and amusing myself watching the kids who hung out around the station with acoustic guitars, hoping to be discovered... It was all pretty interesting. The Sogo Department store had a mechanical clock that would open up at certain times, displaying dancing figurines and playing "It's a Small World After All..." Odd to have places like this, maybe not even remotely the same, stuck in my brain. I could still probably find my way around... I'd love to go back for a visit. Anyhow, Higuchi-san, shashin ga arigatou gozaimasu!

Friday, December 02, 2005

Ellen Fullman continued, plus more Brett Larner (incl. notes on Haino Keiji!)

Some of the most exciting music I've heard lately was during the String Theory series at the Western Front (certainly my venue of choice for musical events this winter). Ellen Fullman's Long String Instrument was particularly a revelation; it's probably the most accessible and soothing music that could be described as drone -- the long, sustained, but complex and shifting tones have much in common with the more minimal works of La Monte Young and Tony Conrad, but are much more listener-friendly. It's music -- and I mean this as the highest of compliments -- that one could sleep to; in fact, it almost induces a sleeplike, dreamlike state, entering one's consciousness on a very deep level and grafting itself to the most vegetative of our processes (the term "deep media" seems particularly appropriate). Above we see photos of the LSI itself, which stretched the length of the venue, along with the numbers on the floor that serve as a guidepost for the player as she walks up and down between the sets of strings (it's designer and primary performer, Ellen Fullman, describes the experience of playing the LSI on her site as being "like walking in waist-high water, skimming the surface with my fingertips." This is the "travelling kit" version of the LSI, but her current studio version is in fact "slightly smaller.") Next we see Brett Larner playing one of the koto he brought from Japan, where he is based (see my interview with Brett below, for more; note the presence of Linda Hoffman of Vancouver New Music in the audience!); he accompanied Fullman, along with a Japanese friend on prepared koto, not pictured. Finally we see Ms. Fullman at work. She is now based in San Francisco. I e-mailed her with some questions after the gig.

How does it feel to play the LSI?
I sometimes concentrate to such a degree (when playing the LSI) that time
seems to stand still, it is an altered state, when things are working well. I
focus on technique, listening and making minute adjustments.

Does your music have a spiritual component?
I feel that as a performer, I am in the position of "transmitter" -- that is
that I feel my job is to bring out what is present in the sound production
of my instrument -- that what I am doing has some basis in universal
principles with a tradition.

Can she support herself with her music?

There is no comparision with arts funding in Canada and the US. It is a really a
do it yourself affair here I find for the most part. US artists rely on the
financial and moral support from other countries for survival. I have always had
day jobs.

I asked her about other musicians she likes and has collaborated with. She mentions Jim Tenney and Elianne Radique in particular. She will be performing in the Bay Area in 2006 with improvisers "hopefully including" Gino Robair, John Sherurba, Phil Gelb, Brenda Hutchinson, Krys Bobrowski, Pamela Z, Joe Colley, Kanoko Nishi, Tari Nelson Zagar and Jesse Canterberry, Luciano Chessa, Moe!, Sean Meehan, and Monique Buzzarte (of whom I believe I've only heard of Gelb, so don't be demoralized if the names are unfamiliar!). Another exciting series of collaborations which I highly recommend for anyone interested in minimal/drone music is Fullman's work with Pauline Oliveros and the Deep Listening Band, various items of which are listed here, though some seem to be out of stock.

I asked Ms. Fullman about Vancouver, and she commented that she loved playing here. "The audience was so focused, seems like a seriously vibrant scene. Playing at Western Front was like being in a living room, very intimate."

Of particular excitement to me was that Brett mentioned in my earlier interview with him that Ellen and he had played in trio with Haino Keiji (Keiji Haino, if you prefer). I'm a huge Haino Keiji fan and once saw him play a solo show in the tiny venue, Penguin House, in Koenji, Tokyo, which I actually have written about elsewhere. I asked both Ellen and Brett about the show. Ellen commented that Haino-san "was very sensitive -- we really were on the same wavelength," and added that she loves Japan. Brett, who has lived in Japan for much of his career and is currently fighting a cold in Tokyo, said that in "duo with Ellen he used cheap electronics and a million found percussion objects," but in trio he sang, with Brett pushing for greater intensity with "some of (his) hardest playing," which Ellen responded to and Haino greatly enjoyed. Brett adds:
I thought the trio encore at the WF was the other highlight of the show (along
with the song Kanoko and I did), so maybe Ellen and I will do a theme CD of
improvised trio encores with each other plus a Japanese musician. I wonder
how long it would take to get enough material together for that?

He notes that there is a recording of the performances with Haino, but there is no word as of yet as to whether that will be surfacing in any way that folks over here can get their hands on it. I'm currently pestering someone who might be able to help...

My (minimal computer noise improviser) friend Dan Kibke, in attendance at the gig, wondered aloud afterwards whether it gets to be limiting, having your work based primarily around one instrument for over 20 years. I asked Ellen Fullman about this -- did she feel the need to diversify? She responded that she is "still learning:"
In recent years I am delving into traditional instruments and standard notation,
string quartet, retuned Autoharp.

The LSI is such a rich source of sound that I can easily imagine devoting a lifetime to it, though, in the way that Indian classical musicians can devote their life to the sitar. I highly recommend that anyone interested in avant-garde music, minimalism, or drone explore the work of Ellen Fullman on CD (since it will probably be a long time until her next visit here.) Even my buddy Michael liked it, and he's usually not the avant-garde type, once having commented on the music that I listen to by saying it wasn't "musical experimentation" but "mental experimentation..." Mental experimentation of the highest order, I might add.

Thanks to Ellen Fullman and Brett Larner for participating in interviews, and to Norm Stelfox, fellow Western Front attendee, for e-mailing me some of the pictures he took of the performance when the batteries on my digital camera died... I guess I should thank DB Boyko of the Front for curating both this show and the Eugene Chadbourne concert! You made my winter!

At least I still have Terry Riley's show to look forward to...

On Koko the Signing Gorilla's Nipple Fetish

You read it here first, probably.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Eugene Chadbourne and I

What the heck, thought I'd include a photo of Dr. Chad and I together... Note that he's fairly tall, and wearing one cool shirt.