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Archiv: Ralph Towner

Now this will always stick in memory. Once upon a time, in March 1982, the month of its release, ON LAND found its way to my little house in deep Bavaria, on a hillside, a quite desolate no-man’s land for a townie, but fitting well to the haunting atmospheres of the album. It has been a companion of awe and wonder ever since then, and I really installed this ambient speaker system in my living room. Though it was definitely a tiny, ugly and cheap third speaker, I loved that experience. Now we live in different times, and surround systems are no longer that expensive. Thus a quad or 5:1-mix would be easy going, and, for a record like ON LAND, a perfect option. But here we go, with the half-speed vinyl remaster that in fact sounds beautiful, opening up even more depths. At least that’s what I’m feeling, I’m surely not painstakingly comparing it with old pressings. And everybody who has the 2005 cd remaster can happily live forever with that one. Brian had worked on the album quite a while during his New York years, and I was living literally at the end of a world, in Bergeinöden (the name of the village, no pun intended), with great music (Jazz by Post had been my favourite dealer), hot love, drama, Neil Young in concert, weekend travels to Schwabing, my first Go-Betweens record, Cortazar books, my salad days of volleyball,  and no happy endings. But it was worth the trip, at least that‘s what I keep telling myself. Scary Monsters were all around, but somehow I  managed to remain in light. (m.e.)

 

 

 

 

I regard this music as environmental: to be experienced from the inside. Accordingly I considered releasing a quadrophonic version of it, an idea I abandoned upon realising that very few people (myself included) own quadrophonic systems.

However, I have for many years been using a three-way speaker system that is both simple to install and inexpensive, and which seems to work very well on any music with a broad stereo image. The effect is subtle but definite – it opens out the music and seems to enlarge the room acoustically.

In addition to a normal stereo hifi system all that is required is one extra loudspeaker and some speaker cable. The usage of this speaker in the three-way system is such that it will not be required to handle very low frequencies: therefore a small or „mini“ speaker will be adequate.

As shown in the diagram, the two terminals of the new speaker are connected to the two positive (red) speaker connectors on the amplifier. This speaker is located somewhere behind the listener – at the apex of a triangle whose base is formed by the original loudspeaker set-up. One of the unexpected benefits of this system is an increase in the usable listening area – almost any point in the room will yield good (although not necessarily „accurate“) stereo sound.

I arrived at this system by accident, and I don’t really know why it works. What seems to happen is that the third speaker reproduces any sound that is not common to both sides of the stereo – i.e., everything that is not located centrally in the stereo image – and I assume that this is because the common information is put out of phase with itself and cancels out.

More technically, the lower the impedance of the added speaker, the louder it will sound. If it is found to be too loud (although this rarely seems to happen), you can either insert a potentiometer (6-12 ohms, at least 10 watts) into the circuit, or move the speaker further away.

Gestern war ein trüber Tag. Nach meinem Spaziergang „über den Berg“ (ich wohne nicht am Alpenrand oder im Mittelgebirge, also war die Angelegenheit in einer knappen Stunde erledigt) machte ich mir eine grosse Tasse Assamtee, verdunkelte mein Musikzimmer, und hörte in der Folge zwei Platten, die jeweils von einem Künstler allein eingespielt wurden. Eine Kerze vertrieb das Restgrau, das durch Vorhangsspalten huschte. Das eine Album heisst „REFLECTION“, das andere „MY FOOLISH HEART“. Zuerst Ralph Towner, dann Brian Eno. In der Pause bereitete ich mir eine weitere Tasse Tee zu, diesmal grünen. Obwohl Towners Sologitarrenmusik die Aufmerksamkeit des Hörers unmittelbarer einfordert als „Reflection“, kann man sich dabei auch, mit geschärftem Bewusstsein, tief entspannen. Und es gäbe einiges zu sagen zum siebten puren Soloalbum des amerikanischen Musikers. Man merkt gar nicht, wie konzentriert die Kompositionen sind, es erscheint behändiger, schwebender, als das auf enorme Reduktion bedachte Solowerk „Timeline“, das Peter Ruedi einst, und völlig zurecht, zu einer seiner sachlichen Lobeshymnen animierte. Gedanken(splitter) zum „närrischen Herzen“ kamen kurz zu Bewusstsein, tauchten ab – in der stillen Freude unkommentierten Hörens. Später, bei Enos neuer CD, huschten alte Gedanken vorbei, solcher Art, und etwas abgerundeter (achten Sie auf die Abweichungen von Bekanntem, alte Hüte sitzen besser schräg): die Rezeption der Ambient Music von DISCREET MUSIC bis REFLECTION folgt einem Muster; des einen Langeweile ist des andern Erfüllung. Selten wird wahrgenommen, wie weit all diese „doors of perception“ von einander entfernt sind, der Handschrift des Komponisten oder „Algorithmikers“ zum Trotz. Eine Welt liegt zwischen dem lo-fi von DISCREET MUSIC und dem high-end von REFLECTION. Das eine Zufallsentdeckung, das andere Resultat langen Hörens und Verwandelns. Ich habe mich in diesen Räumen noch nie gelangweilt, aber das Wort Erfüllung trifft es auch nicht. Zu edel. Transzendenz kommt näher heran, ist für mich aber nichts Spirituelles, es ist das, was hinter den Türen auftaucht, wenn man Gewohnheiten, Kreisläufe durchbricht. A dark room. The silence of a candle. Stop making sense. „Do you realize?“. Was ist mein Lieblingssong – ever? „Sunny Afternoon“, von den Kinks. Hier könnte es spannend werden, bei den, nicht auf Aphorismen bedachten, Randnotizen. Was da so von ferne alles hereinschneit, beim Hören zweier wundervoller Platten, bis das eine und andere, stets fragmentierte, Sammelsurium, nach kurzem Quer- und Rumtreiben, entgleitet und forttrudelt!

 

Diary, 1973 – ***** // Solo Concert, 1979 – ***** // Blue Sun, 1982 – ***  // Ana, 1992 – ****1/2  // Anthem, 2000 – **** // Time Line, 2005 – **** 1/2  // My Foolish Heart, 2017 Feb 3rd

 

Vorlieben wandeln sich, mitunter auch nicht. Ralph Towner zählt, seit den Siebzigern, neben Steve Tibbetts und Neil Young, zu meinen Lieblingsgitarristen. Es gibt noch andere, aber diese Namen kommen mir zuerst in den Sinn. Das hier ist meine Auflistung seiner reinen Solowerke, bei denen er gelegentlich auch mehrere Instrumente spielt. Und mein downbeat-rating. Alle produziert von Manfred Eicher. 

Einmal, als ich Towner für ein 45-Minuten-Porträt im Deutschlandfunk traf, ging der Blick weit zurück, zu der Gruppe Oregon: es hat nie Platten des Quartetts gegeben, die ich mehr mochte als „Distant Hills“ (Vanguard, 1973)  und „Oregon In Concert“ (Vanguard, 1975) – die Magie der frühen Jahre. Ein Stück auf einem späteren Oregon-Album trug den Namen „Kronach Waltz“, die Geschichte dazu könnte nur Rosato erzählen. Wir kamen natürlich auch zu „Dis“, seiner Zusammenarbeit mit Jan Garbarek (für solche Aufnahmen wurde der Begriff „Sternstunde“ erfunden), und, schliesslich zu „Solstice“ – an seiner Seite Jan Garbarek, Eberhard Weber, Jon Christensen.

Er lächelte, und konnte sich beim besten Willen nur zusammenreimen, wie dieses „opus magnum“ entstanden war, das er, aus der Distanz, fast nur aus der Distanz, obwohl er dabei war, federführend, so gut wie nur noch aus der Distanz wahrnehmen und deuten konnte, es entzog sich ihm selber ein Stück weit. Synergetisches, ein Spielrausch, reine Entfesselung? Seine Soloplatten sind eine Welt für sich, und am dritten Samstag im Februar sind sie Thema meiner Radionacht „Klanghorizonte“. Es ist Winter, und es kann kaum sein, dass Sie nicht die eine oder andere dieser Soloplatten im Regal haben, vielleicht gar auf Vinyl. Gregor könnte heute gut und gerne, ausser der Reihe, seinen Plattenschrank öffnen. 

For Love Can Turn Us Still (FLOTUS) – the wonderful new album of Lambchop is on par with their classics – the subtle electronic innovations intensify their palette instead of reaching for a bigger audience. The album of December. The album for the subversive christmas tree. The album for friends of Frank O’Hara poems. The album for people who love albums they can listen to forever. In one way, and this is no joke, it even supasses SGT. PEPPER. Not one weak track! Or will anybody tell me that „Good Morning Good Morning“ is not rather crappy?!

Going back in time: some of you may have a decent memory about the second Jethro Tull album, the one with the stand-up cover. STAND UP now got THE ELEVATED EDITION, with lots of footage, films and, excellence as usual, Steven Wilson‘ stereo and surround remixes. Even Ian Anderson’s Bach-Bourée can still create a shiver in this new ambience. And the elevated edition is a book, too, full of stunning episodes. 1968, 1969 revisited. Brian Whistler’s tales of the SACD of Weather Report’s TALE SPINNIN‘ would be perfect, too, here (I got it, I heard it, I love it – a rediscovery!), but the comments there have an extra-value, so we leave it in the blog diary for its own good.

And a small change in our third column of monthly appraisals: the term „philosophica“ can from now turn into „psychologica“, „artistica“, „graphica“ etc., dependant on the object of desire. Anybody who has something in mind? Mail your proposal of a review to manafonistas@gmx! The first idea is often the best and will be taken! That is, by the way, the address of the real Manafonista headquarter, 500 miles away from my living place. Otherwise (a quiet bravo for my understatement, please!) my enthusiastic review of the wonderful #42 of MONO.KULTUR incl. the adventurous, spellbinding talk with thrill-seeking SOPHIE CALLE, mastress of Houdini-esque ego-dissolution, will find its place there. (A day later: oh, wonderful, from the backyard of the MHQ, someone went enthusiastic about a book that has a very special, vague, nearly ungraspable topic: MOOD.)

 
 
 

 
 
 

The MANA THRILL PRIZE FACTORY 2016 is offering a fine collection of new thrillers and crime novels beyond mainstream, and Stephen Dobyn’s eccentric, funny, dark, hilarious „IS FAT BOB DEAD YET?“ is such a wonderful book with a beating heart, in spite of all its obliqueness. A thriller that evokes Elmore Leonard and Donald E. Westlake at their best, but adds several layers of absurdity and a narrative voice that suggests metafiction meets a Greek chorus meets Jane Austen …

In our BINGEWATCH TRANCE DECEMBER corner, two series of 2016 take center stage: as different as they are, these legal dramas offer rather dark tales: GOLIATH (season 1), a fresh take on the old John-Grisham school (it’s not written by Grisham though) with fabulous Billy Bob Thornton, and THE NIGHT OF (one season only!), mirroring the neo-realistic grittiness of the „noir“- underworlds of „The Wire“ or „True Detective“, in this case with fabulous John Turturro.

 

P.S. January 2017 will be the month of promising new works by Brian Eno (purely ambient this time, and, nevertheless, another landscape, another thinking space for sure), Tinariwen, The Necks (on Mego now), Ralph Towner (guitar solo, recorded in Lugano,  release date: February (!) 3rd), and „the fearless freaks“ (watch the documentary!) of The Flaming Lips.

 

Producing The Jazz Facts in the Deutschlandfunk was pure fun. A lot of nice coincidencies: two days ago, I realized that not only Ralph Towner’s TRAVEL GUIDE, but Carla Bley’s TRIOS, too, were recorded in that „radio theatre“  in Lugano. And after talking with Austrian guitarist Wolfgang Muthspiel about his first recording with producer Manfred Eicher, I decided to need another voice sheding some light on the special room and the producer’s input. So, I got Bley’s long-time sax player Andy Sheppard on the phone, and what he told me, was the icing on the cake, a great finish for the show. 

Now this was only part of the fun. Some guys do great work, working as musician and tone engineers behind the controls to make radio sound magic. In this case bass player Markus Brown (his trio  is just featured  in a big Scandinavian jazz magazine) was the great man working the details: listen to  the show, and you will see that it was done, let me say it this way, with love and care. In between jazz matador Karsten Mützelfeld entered the studio and offered me 20 Euros, because he couldn’t help but strictly ignore the deadline of 7 minutes and 30 seconds. This guy has great humour 
 
The good vibes continued when we arrived at the headquarter of jazz affairs and small-taked with Harald Rehmann. It was a perfect radio day, and you really shouldn’t miss the show! There will be features on the Punkt Festival and a showcase in Trondheim.  Last, not least, there are great new records by Carla Bley, Ralph Towner, Jan Bang, Nils Petter Molvaer and Arve Henriksen. Arve will perform in Dortmund’s Domicil on October 12th! I’ll be there. And Harald will record Arve at the Unterfahrt in München. 

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