on life, music etc beyond mainstream

2020 22 Dez

Letter from Minneapolis

von: Manafonistas Filed under: Blog | TB | Comments off


Most self-taught musicians analyze the music they love and have loved, trying to understand how the music found its final form.

There is music that I adore and have some understanding of. Hendrix’s “Moon Turn the Tides” is one of the first compositions in the realm of popular music that used the recording studio as an instrument in itself.  It is complex and groundbreaking, but I do comprehend the moving parts; I see Eddie Kramer and Hendrix moving faders on a mixing console, one hand on a tape recorder feeding delay into the console, another hand manipulating an Echoplex, the analog mixer dotted with pieces of tape marking EQ and volume levels.  Musicians like myself have had the thought, “Maybe I can do something like that.”  We’ve tried and failed.

Then there’s music that can be appreciated, but is understood as being outside the musician’s musical capabilities.  “A Love Supreme” is much more than just Coltrane, it’s Coltrane-Garrison-Jones-Tyner as a hydra-headed musical animal with decades of passionate, luminous experience to draw from.  They spent an enormous amount of time with their instruments and each other.  Musicians hear that music and think, “Well, maybe I could do that, if I could only go back in time 50 years and practice 10 hours a day and find the right people to work with.”  Not possible, and even if it were, doomed to failure.

Finally there’s music that seems to come from nowhere.  It’s music created by a fellow creative human, but for many of usit’s difficult to comprehend the mind and the setting of conventional time and space that could give rise to something like “Kommtihr Töchter” from Bach’s St. Matthew Passion.  

Years ago we played a gig in Leipzig and had a day off to wander the town.  I walked past St. Thomas church and wondered how a writer or composer would converse with J. S. Bach’s about his creative process.  The opening chorale to St. Matthew Passion seems opaque to inquiry.  What questions could even be asked?  “Did the music come all at once, was it a struggle, were there lots of revisions, did you just sit in a room with only a pen, ink and staff paper, did you ever despair?”  It seemed slightly incredible that there was a time, several hundred years ago, when this work did not exist, and then a time, several hundred years ago plus several months, when it did.  

“The Suspended Harp of Babel” (Cyrillus Kreek / Vox Clamantis – ECM New Series; added by M.E.) seems to be in this third class of work, or close to it.  This year, 2020, I came back again and again to this music from nowhere, especially the compositions Päeval ei pea päikeneJakobi unenäguAlguslaul and Issand, ma hüüan Su poole.


Steve Tibbetts


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