Monday, April 18, 2005

At Play


To think I wasted half of April before finding a day-by-day way to celebrate. Fantômas' new record, Suspended Animation, is almost more fun to play with than listen to, tangible evidence of ephemeral music's desire to wear visual art's superficial permanence. The cuter-than-cute, spiralbound-calendar features artwork by Yoshitomo Nara (whose show I missed last year at the San Jose Museum of Art, but if you saw it, you've got yourself another reason to run down to Aquarius and buy a copy) and provides just the right sugar-coated antidote to 2003's tummy-turning Delirium Cordia.

This month's WIRE magazine offers an insightful and thorough (if heavy on the name-dropping) interview with Mike Patton to which I have little to add, though its tone of awestruck admiration (pretty much universal in any review of Patton's work) bothers me somewhat. Yes, Mike throws his creative efforts into numerous and varied musical projects, with the whole gamut of "famous" people, but maybe it's more interesting to view and critique him commonly, as one of those stuffy old composers (you know, like the ones whose little busts sit so hideously on the mantle) rather than to mythologize him as a total enigma, a pioneer (almost) without compare.

A test: listen for the track on Suspended Animation that uses some of the same electronic samples and rhythmic elements from the song "Charade" (a very fun cover of Mancini's tune on the Director's Cut album). Ok, here's a hint: cheering, and that sputtering, vocal percussion pattern. That's called: composer recycling. Beethoven, Mozart, Brahms, they all do it! Alvin Curran: master recycler. We like to think we demand "new" material and an "original" voice from our composers, yet I don't think any less of a master composer who reuses themes or motifs from one work to another over many years time; quite the contrary, I'm almost comforted by such echoings. It's how I am reminded that Beethoven's Beethoven. And as soon as I put on Suspended Animation, I smiled and thought, hey, Patton's still Patton. I even hear riffs from the last record (supposedly this one's antithesis). Mike's compositional process, including his idiosyncratic decisions of orchestration, sampling, and part writing, are worth talking about (and a true fan could probably trackback/cross-reference seventy percent of the samples used on the album), yet magazine articles like to talk about who's associated, associating, or going to associate with whom.

[Shrug.] Let them talk. I'm going to go play.

Friday April 29, 9pm
The Fillmore, San Francisco

See you there!


I saw Fantomas Friday and had to wonder how many of those samples are legal. Too many of them strike me as NOT original material, so how does that work in terms of licensing and copyright? W.W. remarked that this album reminds him of Naked City but, (and here he smirked but with a nod of admiration) "Naked City could do it all live, all those samples, mainly because they had a keyboard player." I do not fully understand what that means.

Anne and I love the idea of using samples, but sometimes it does feel sort of dumb. Pushing the play button, how difficult is that? But how to create--in the way I create a tone or chord on the keyboard--this material that we're currently sampling? Yes, some of it could be done with a looping pedal, maybe some creative percussion playing... Getting out of the tape track=freeing; adding more of a hands on to the performance=thrilling and virtuosic and, argh, more for me to do!

I do like observing Mike as a model, not at all in terms of the actual music, or that he's a "star," or any of that, but rather for his colorful and playful use of all kinds of materials--with no apologies! And of course, the on-stage Mike is just so enormous, so--yes--virtuosic. There is a quality there that a squarish performer (classical?) could use more of, and I don't mean by imitating. Making oneself much larger, yet not impeding on, the's all good stuff.

By Blogger Heather, at 8:38 AM  

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