Mar

16

 May I recommend the works of the following European/ Nordic Jazz trios…I've been exploring them of late and found them to be highly enjoyable. Very much recommended for late night trading, relaxing, or city gazing. A nice Bordeaux or good whiskey will complete the picture for those so inclined.

Each of these trios perform wonderfully abstract works; plenty of space for each tone and brush stroke to make its presence felt. The improvisational conversations peppered across each album are most enjoyable. I even very much enjoy ECM's cover art/ photography– and I have no art sensibilities whatsoever.

All of the below are on the ECM label, and are on iTunes etc.

- Tord Gustavsen Trio - Rec'd albums: Being There / Changing Places

- Marcin Wasilewski Trio - Rec'd albums: January / Trio.
- Tomasz Stanko Quartet (trumpet the addition here)- Rec'd albums: Lontano

As for the classics…in my opinion it will always be near impossible to beat the sheer, breathtaking optimism of a Beethoven Piano Concerto (1 and 5 esp, Brendel or Argerich at the keys), or the pure intellectual horsepower and delight of the Bach Cello Suites (Rostropovich) or his Well Tempered Clavier (Barenboim). Also tough to beat the depth of gloom and rage in Shostakovich's 10th (BPO w/ HvK conducting), or the magic tone colour of Rattle conducting the BPO's performance of Debussy's La Mer. Any expansions and recommendations on this theme would be much appreciated and enjoyed.

Rocky Humbert adds:

Don't overlook John Cage's 4'33" (1947). This
remarkable composition — although infinitely deep and complex –
requires no musical ability to perform perfectly. Sadly, it never made
the on-air playlist of the now-defunct WQXR radio.

I find the final crescendo and coda especially appealing. I couldn't sleep last night as the theme kept going through my head.

Rocky Humbert, quantitative analyst, speculator and master chef, blogs as OneHonestMan.

Tom Marks comments:

Regarding John Cage's 4'33", the thinking is that the "piece" can never be "played' the same way. The reason being that nothing takes place in a vacuum. That is, there will always be ambient sound about: The periodic shuffling of the audience's feet, the random if predictable clearing of somebody's throat, the fingering of programs, etc. What Cage intended was clearly more an ontological statement than it was a musical composition in the traditional sense, and for that effort it might not be entirely without merit.

The last time I thought about 4'33'' and the notion of relative nothingness was when I had occasion to consider something as seemingly disparate as disk space on a computer and how sometimes 0 = 0, and sometimes 0 ≠ 0.

So in keeping with Cage's thesis, how can nothing (i.e., 0) not necessarily not be nothing?

A little 5 minute experiment for those so inclined.

Go the the Windows Start Button, go to Accessories, and go the no frills text editor, Notepad. Open it up, type the following two lines in the body and save it to the desktop as Test 1:

Mary had a little lamb Its fleece was white as snow

Then do the same thing again, this time putting nothing at all in the body of the Notepad document and save that one as Test 2.

The go to the Start Button again and use Windows Explorer to find the Notepad documents. Where they are listed it will indicate their respective sizes; 1 KB for Test 1 and 0 KB for Test 2.

(1 KB sounds like a lot of space for only two lines saved but storage on computers is done in blocks or clusters, leading to much unused space. 1 KB is the minimum size that Notepad can save something as recorded by Windows Explorer. Don't worry about that part, just the figure.)

Now while still in Explorer right click on Test 1 and scroll down to Properties, click on it and in the middle of the window that pops up will be two more figures, Size: 52 bytes (one byte for each of the characters, spaces between words, and 2 for the line change ) and Size on disk: 4 KB (the parameter of the cluster in which the NTFS will save something to disk. Don't worry about this part either. Again, just the figure.)

This all seems logical so far, as Explorer somehow showed us 3 different size figures for the same file, 1 KB, 4 bytes, and 4 KB, but all for clear and different reasons.

Then do the same for Test 2 — in which nothing at all was entered into the body of the document — and accordingly Explorer indicated that its size is 0. Right click on it, go down to Properties, and review the 2 additional figures: Size 0 bytes; Size on disk: 0 bytes.

After all, why not, there was nothing there so why should "nothing" take up any space. Accordingly, it was just demonstrated that the 3 different space figures for the blank Notepad file, Test 2, each indicated 0.

Now here's where Cage's 4'33'' rears its head.

It would logically follow to most, it certainly did initially to me, that other blank files similar to Notepad's Test 2 — that is, nothing at all in the body — but stored in other applications such as Word, Excel, or PowerPoint would also reflect those three 0,0,0 figures that Explorer showed us for Test 2. Would seem to make eminent sense.

But perhaps as Cage would argue about his silent music, context is sovereign if not everything. As such those three blank files would show the following varying sizes:

Word: Explorer: 24 KB Properties Size: 23.5 KB (24, 064 bytes) Size on disk: 24 KB (24,576 bytes)

Excel: Explorer: 14 KB Properties Size: 13.5 KB (13,824 bytes) Size on disk: 16 KB (16,384 bytes)

PowerPoint: Explorer: 8 KB Properties Size: 8 KB (8,192 bytes) Size on disk: 8 KB (8,192 bytes)

Regarding the seeming "nothingness" of a blank file, Notepad obviously has a different idea of a vacuum than the other three applications do. As those three do of each other.

The answer lies in the respective pedestals of already existing data on which the blank Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files lie. These are far more robust and intelligent programs than Notepad. Regarding their baseline file sizes, there is something almost Cartesian about it: The underlying program can think, therefore its blank file size is. At least is more than 0.

Likewise, perhaps Cage would argue the ontological point that it too would be impossible to separate a "performance" of his 4'33'' from the context of where it took place without leaving some sort of footprint. He just couldn't empirically quantify it.

That said, Cage's aesthetic and oeuvre are clearly not for everybody. Four a half-minutes of silent music make for a pretty thin gruel most would argue, but in fairness he wasn't absent of ideas. But the McLuhan notion of "the medium is the message" is one thing; the medium swamping the messsage, another altogether.


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2 Comments so far

  1. Ron Windisch on March 16, 2010 8:54 pm

    Nothing lifts the weight of the world from my shoulders like Brahms' Second, especially the finale. Most performances work, except Bernstein and Marin Alsop. An unexpected gem: Joseph Keilberth and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra on the Orfeo label.

  2. Salim on March 17, 2010 1:25 am

    Bach’s Goldberg variations all the way. I second the well tempered clavier. Structure and discipline

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