‘I have nothing to say and I am saying it.’ John Cage
‘I have nothing to say and I can’t be arsed saying it.’ Mark Ramsden
I’ve always preferred tunes, grooves and interesting harmony – anything from Herbie Hancock through Debussy to the Beatles, (despite Paul McCartney’s recent tireless attempts to put you off him) but as a pretentious teenager I read John Cage. In contrast to his music you didn’t have to pretend to like John Cage’s writings – attractively presented morsels of music theorizing, poetry and Zen. He was funny, more often than not and the words looked good on the page – acrostics, plenty of soothing white space. He seemed a wild and crazy guy, winning four million Lira on a TV quiz answering questions on mushrooms. Performing avant garde music on a mass market game show. What a card!
How different from the bum-numbing boredom of Stockhausen’s public persona. At music college I was fortunate to gig with Dr Graham Hearn, a brilliant jazz and classical pianist who was in a Stockhausen ensemble. He once remarked to the grand panjandrum that the sun had come out upon his appearance. Stockhausen replied, “the sun always comes out when I arrive”. Which was probably light-hearted but he did see himself as the primal force which enabled everything else. You’d better take yourself damn seriously if you want an Arts Festival to put on a piece for a string quartet in four different helicopters. I saw a video of this which consisted mostly of engine noise. Christ knows what the Council Tax payers of Birmingham would have thought but Stockhausen would only have been furious he never got to see his music, as he also intended, performed on four different planets. This is the pompous idiot who thought 9/11 was “the greatest work of art ever”. “What happened there spiritually, this jump out of security, out of the everyday, out of life, that happens sometimes poco a poco in art. Otherwise it is nothing.”
Was I really reading a book of Stockhausen and Jonathan Cott interviews while working with a cabaret band underneath Blackpool Tower? Wearing that white suit, big collared shirt and buttonhole flower combo later used by Prince’s saxophonist? On a gig where – aaaaargh! – David Van Day was also performing in Guys and Dolls with Bruce Forsyth’s daughter? Where the compere opened each day’s proceedings with the seminal Marrow Song. ‘Oh What A beauty I’ve Never seen one as big as that before.’? Check it out, Bruv. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lNTVKANb7p4
Back in the arena of the cerebral, I once heard three pieces of John Cage played simultaneously at an all day festival in Islington. We sat on schoolroom chairs in an open space while a lot of musicians faffed about doing random stuff – which he categorised as ‘aleatoric’, generated by chance, as in I Ching coins – whatevs, dude. Which might as well have been written on the music manuscript: whatevs, dude. I was happy enough at the time, in the chin-stroking years. Before a day out required 24 hours of MDMA, Ketamine, group fetish debauchery, preferably involving the transgendered and/or bisexual, and a soundtrack of hard house or ambient lounge. This eventually became ‘let’s just stay in with the Ketamine’. You can’t have enough near death experiences…
Before all that, when I was still a drunken hippy, it was enough that John Cage turned up at the Almeida, Islington with one of his cracked Zen smiles – there was also a five minute video of him beaming beatifically. Worth a four hour trip across London there and back? Well, if I may paraphrase the Marrow Song, I’d never heard ‘owt as mad as that before. Equally, as Hanif Kureishi said of punk, ‘it was great music but you wouldn’t want to listen to any of it’.
This was supposed to be about why I find it hard to blog, now I’ve nothing to say, playing the sympathy card of fortyfive years of mental illness and addiction. Since I was a teenager I have had some combination of severe depression, high anxiety, paranoia, manic this, dissociative that, and a supporting cast of various syndromes and disorders, just far too sensitive, really. One Skin Too Thin would be my Native American name. I recently got 18 out of 20 on the psychopath test though as I can empathise and I can feel remorse, the two things which mean you’re not a psychopath. Can’t help feeling psychopathy may be over diagnosed because some people make a living out of trying to cure it. Not with much success.
I stopped taking anti-depressants as I’d rather be thinner and more sexual even if it means never being able to focus. The pills helped ADHD and muted the weeps but fuck that let’s see those abs! (Synchronicity alert! Five minutes after writing these very words Kerry Katona has just informed us that she no longer takes medication for her ‘bipolar’. Her ‘My Depression Diary’, was shown at the witching hour, appropriately enough some might say. Strike that, she’s warm and sincere. Her programme will help people. Just don’t put Liz Jones or the Loose Women witches on at midnight.
Did Kerry really just say, in closing, ‘It’s been a long, long journey’?
(a Brit TV cliche for years now).
Yes, and as I still have nothing to say that will just have to do.
I have nothing to say and I have to get Kerry Katona to say it.
Except this: 12 Step never really cured me. Apparently you have to want to get better. Although it has prolonged and improved the quality of my life, certainly for the few people around me. Right now poverty and vanity are keeping me clean and sober. If a little too verbose. Like many clean and sober people I’m oversharing. Sorry. And thank you.
(Tea and biscuits time. The Christian 12 steppers may now wish to get on everyone else’s tits with their preaching. More shares, then hold hands, hug. Unison: ‘Keep Coming Back. It works, it works, it works’.)…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
Stuff I can’t be bothered to Google.
1 Did John Cage’s lawyers sue Mike Batt for having silence on one of his albums. (Someone did.)
2 Why don’t the current crop of conceptualist composers get anywhere? Has all that media space been taken by Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin? Because speculating on conceptual art will get you an ever quicker return than bombs or tobacco? Whereas avant-garde music is money straight down the drain.
PS Stimmung by Stockhausen is perfectly palatable. Vocal harmonics which sound rather lovely. He is still a massive bellend.