“Ambient Music has arrived at middle age. 2018 marks 40 years since the release of Brian Eno’s Music For Airports, which effectively introduced the term. As a musical form it has endured, even though its sense of self as a genre has become arguably obfuscated at best and ineffectual at worst. Genres, like human beings, can undergo periods where direction and clarity are lacking. When such periods take hold in the middle years, a mid-life crisis can often occur. With that in mind, I am reconsidering ambient music and its place looking into the 21st century. What might ambient music’s next decade (let alone 40 years) be concerned with?”
“Tributes to artists often end up being more about the person writing them, but MES provided me with an alternative education, looping me into Camus, and Arthur Machen, and William Blake, and Can, and dub and old garage punk and rock’n’roll. I saw the Fall 52 times and without MES my life would have been utterly different and nowhere near as much fun. What on earth are we all going to do with ourselves now?”
— Stewart Lee, The Guardian
“American Utopia comes as part of Byrne’s ongoing ‘Reasons to Be Cheerful’ series in which he curates hopeful writings, photos, music, and lectures. ‘These songs don’t describe an imaginary or possibly impossible place but rather attempt to depict the world we live in now,’ he said in a statement. ‘Many of us, I suspect, are not satisfied with that world—the world we have made for ourselves. We look around and we ask ourselves—well, does it have to be like this? Is there another way? These songs are about that looking and that asking.'”
What led you to write A Listener’s Guide to Free Improvisation?
I’ve been involved with improvised music from several different standpoints over the last 35 years, as a listener, as a critic, as a teacher, as a presenter, and as a producer. In the process of moving around in the music’s netherworlds, I noticed that many potential listeners were curious about it but just had no way to enter, no accessible points of reference. It’s sometimes seen as “difficult” or “complex,” and it can be both, but approaching free music is very different from listening to music composed using mathematical algorithms or with elaborate preconceived harmonic inventions. To listen to it you basically need to be attentive. That’s it. But that’s also not easy. Having some historical framework can help, and the more experience you have as a listener the better. But it’s really open to new listeners, and I wanted to find a way, in as down to earth a way as possible, to suggest that openness. To invite new listeners from other walks of music and to give a few tips on listening, things that might help get over the initial hump. (more…)
ince I’m unable to visit the True Faith exhibition running at Manchester Art Gallery, I am doing everything I can to experience it vicariously through the accounts of luckier folk. I discovered the music of Joy Division when I was sixteen, and found that it wasn’t just the songs that appealed to me, but the sparse beauty of Peter Saville‘s record sleeves. According to reports, the multimedia exhibition delivers a number of thrills, while offering a testament to the groups’ ongoing cultural legacy. (more…)