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Gorillas and bears - click opera — LiveJournal
February 2010
 
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Tue, Oct. 19th, 2004 11:46 am
Gorillas and bears



Last week BBC Radio 4 transmitted a documentary about the great french singer-songwriter Georges Brassens (1921-1981), the man with the walrus moustache who shot to fame in France in 1953 with a rude song about a hanging judge and a randy gorilla. The 30 minute documentary is archived on the BBC's site in RealPlayer format:

The Man With The Famous Moustache

It's a good basic introduction to Brassens for English speakers. I talk about why Brassens has been important to me in a couple of essays:

The Electroacoustics of Humanism

Le Grand Jake (Jake Thackray obituary)

Prompted by an entry about Broadcast on Toog's blog, I've also been listening to broadcasts by Broadcast, perhaps in a spirit of nostalgia for that school of 90s 'cold wave' represented by Stereolab, Komeda, and The Sound Gallery as well as people like Portishead and Goldfrapp: that place where the Easy Listening revival was less about capturing the warmth of the Beach Boys (High Llamas etc) and more about evoking the Cold War vibe of 1960s spy thrillers scored by John Barry and Ennio Morricone, or BBC Radiophonics, or weird children's TV shows like The Singing, Ringing Tree, a spooky production from communist East Germany (Potsdam, actually, right outside Berlin) which seems to have supplied the inspiration for the Mark Wallinger exhibition 'Sleeper' currently running at the Neue Nationalgalerie at the Potsdamer Strasse here in Berlin.



Wallinger dresses up each night as a bear, which is the symbol of Berlin, and wanders around the glass cube of the Mies-designed Neue Nationalgalerie. He did the same in London for the opening of the Frieze Art Fair, which just finished yesterday.

Mark Wallinger dressed as a bear Quicktime stream (available from 22.00 into the small hours each night until October 22nd).

Going back to 90s Cold Wave (and of course Wallinger also came up in the 90s), what interests me is that a lot of the people making that music (and I was very marginally involved) have transitioned, since then, into making 'sinister folk music'. You can hear the transition happening in Broadcast's broadcasts; they're playing Stereolab-like 60s French and Italian electronic formalist pop by Roger Roger and others, but also folk tracks by Vashti Bunyan and Comus. Of course, St Etienne's Bob Stanley also made this switch from lounge to folk, and so did I, although it's odd that people like Stereolab didn't. These cultural shifts are fascinating, and even the people who make them can't quite explain why they do. It's just 'something in the air'.

36CommentReply

nickink
Nick Ink
Tue, Oct. 19th, 2004 02:52 am (UTC)

Indeed, though in some cases you have to wonder what else was in the air...

http://www.rossetta.com/patboone.htm


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mcgazz
mcgazz
McGazz
Tue, Oct. 19th, 2004 03:19 am (UTC)

Stereolab went jazz. Any movement always loses a few to jazz ;-)


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(Anonymous)
Tue, Oct. 19th, 2004 03:29 am (UTC)

Stereolab got into the Brazilian tropicalista movement, which is totally apt for their socialist retro-modernism. For Broadcast, the move to acid folk was appropriate because of their abiding interest in psychedelia.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Tue, Oct. 19th, 2004 04:09 am (UTC)

These explanations are square duvets -- they keep you warm, but never quite cover your feet. 'Socialist retro-modernism' decribes my 'Oskar Tennis Champion' album quite well -- there are songs about communists and slapstick odes to Walter Gropius. But that led me to electronic folk, not tropicalia


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(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand

(Anonymous)
Tue, Oct. 19th, 2004 04:12 am (UTC)

Totally off topic, but I was wondering what your thoughts were on children and the begetting of them. Not that I want to have your babies or anything, just curious - as a man in your mid-forties you must have given it some thought. Please feel free to ignore my question if it's too personal.

Keiko


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Tue, Oct. 19th, 2004 04:30 am (UTC)

I can't afford children myself. My sister's pregnant again, though, and she's already got two, so she's making up for my indigence / recalcitrance. I'm enjoying being an uncle. As for being a father, I'm open to offers from very rich and beautiful women, preferably Japanese. I do think the sum total of beauty in the world should be increased whenever possible, and in some cases having children is a means to that end. I also like the idea of having 'late children'. No, not dead children, you sick Edward Gorey fans, I said late children.


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(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand



mtl
mtl
MTL
Tue, Oct. 19th, 2004 05:06 am (UTC)

Thank you for this posting, I have not thought of Brassens recently.

I do not comment often, but I must tell you I enjoy reading your LJ. Thank you!


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jozefpronek
jozefpronek
jozefpronek
Tue, Oct. 19th, 2004 06:07 am (UTC)
Brassens

Yes, Brassens is perhaps one of the strongest (and strangest) singers/authors in the last 50 years. There is one song, though, that I cannot listen to: Corne d'Auroch - it is just horrible. But all the rest is so fantastic!

Thanks for your posts, and for the essays!


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xyzedd
xyzedd
xyzedd
Tue, Oct. 19th, 2004 06:38 am (UTC)
Pioneers of fake folk

This is incidental, and going down only one of many possible paths, but... I've long had this fantasy of being on a hippy caravan in 1968, on the road to the Ganges, the Haight, or the Inner Hebrides. We're led by Donovan in a caftan with an ostrich-feather print, carrying a psychedically painted acoustic guitar, but there's Mary Hopkin before she was tainted by Paul McCartney, with her long blonde hair in St. Lucia braids, and over there Steve Peregrine Took and members of Pentangle or Steeleye Span, herding the patchouli-scented goats and chasing the naked children--and now I realize Vashti Bunyan must have been there, too, daisy tiara, barefoot,tootling on a recorder. Thanks for making the introductions, Momus, and now I know I have yet more music to consume. For a wannabe knowitall like myself, it's good to be reminded I know nexttonothing and "Open Road" and "Earth Song/Ocean Song" are at the end of the trip, not the beginning.

Oh, yes, and there's nothing like the tonic of Edward Gorey.


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fortglacial
fortglacial
winter now
Tue, Oct. 19th, 2004 08:20 am (UTC)

That exhibition looks wonderful, i hope he takes it to more locations.

Devendra Banhart, who I think has been making some sinister folk himself, has Vashti singing with him on his last album.


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mononad
mononad
nessi gun & petra parsnip
Tue, Oct. 19th, 2004 09:42 am (UTC)
folk

I loved and listened to these bands in the 90s and since, but this year I have listened almost exclusively to folk and traditional song. Martin Carthy, Shirley Collins, John Renborn, old British field recordings etc etc.
I've also started going to a folk club in Euston (London) where ordinary people in their 50s and 60s get up and sing beautiful unaccompanied songs. I've been blown away by this music and all the storys that go with it.
A folky now forever.
Frances

http://www.transistorsix.co.uk


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(Anonymous)
Tue, Oct. 19th, 2004 11:13 am (UTC)

"switch from lounge to folk, and so did I, although it's odd that people like Stereolab didn't."

For the duration of the last track on SoundDust they almost went folk...too much of that medieval fair music sound ala Brigitte Fontaine "Vous Et Nous" being implied...damn it if they would have only had pipes, zithers, and skindrums tweaked from their Moogs it would have been the ultimate transition into folk. lost lost lost. margarine is fake butter.


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scottbateman
scottbateman
Scott Bateman
Tue, Oct. 19th, 2004 11:19 am (UTC)

OK, I'm totally fascinated by that "Sleeper" poster! Is this something that's available on DVD...?


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Tue, Oct. 19th, 2004 01:06 pm (UTC)

Singing Ringing Tree DVD (I'm pretty sure the Sleeper poster is a still from it).


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Tue, Oct. 19th, 2004 04:40 pm (UTC)
Re: sincerely

My dear sir, I see the drugs in 2006 are much more powerful than anything we have today. I have therefore renounced all my claims upon posterity. Have a nice trip!


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ankhorite
ankhorite
ankhorite
Sat, Dec. 2nd, 2006 10:04 pm (UTC)
Wallinger as Bear

Darn, the quicktime stream link is dead. Do you know if this has been -- or would you be willing to post -- on YouTube?

I'm enjoying your commentary; got here through the Japanese woman imitating the hamster, obviously.

Well, perhaps not so obviously, but trust me. :)


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Sat, Dec. 2nd, 2006 10:24 pm (UTC)
Re: Wallinger as Bear

I think the stream only lasted as long as the performance. I've checked YouTube and there's no record of Wallinger's bear days, alas.


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