I am slowly making my way through a list of ~12,500 things I’ve previously noted as seeming potentially interesting and worth finding out more about (see the spreadsheet below!). Some of these things are brilliant and become a subject of an article, lesson or some other outcome, and some are not really worth pursuing. I want to publicise both the good and the bad because these evaluations are totally subjective and, because of a lack of time, usually pretty uninformed, and I don’t want to hide any part of this flawed process. If you’d like to help look stuff up, or notice any mistakes, please send me an e-mail. More information here.
English production duo of DJs ex-art teacher Jonathan More and computer programmer Matt Black. Influenced by golden-age hip hop, the two pioneered the ’90s “bigbeat” style of sample-based dance music. They have also worked in pop and house music and done many remixes for various artists. They were signed to the major label Arista but found this too limiting, so they set up their own label, Ninja Tune, through which they released lots of music under different names and in different configurations. They DJd regularly on Kiss FM as Solid Steel, made video games (as Hex), invented VJing and the software to do so (VJamm) and incorporated more and more multimedia elements into their musical releases. They have continued to incorporate new technologies into their practice, recently releasing an app called Ninja Jamm, and collaborate with artists and organisations of all sorts. Being so on top of whatever musical and technological trends are happening at the time means that quite a lot of their output sounds quite dated now, though at the time it must have been far more exciting and innovative, and that datedness is probably a testament to the accuracy of their predictions about the trends of the future. I will include their Global Chaos CDTV, which is probably the best example of their media-spanning practice, released in 1992 on the very-new CD-ROM medium.
Bolivian city known as “the first city of capitalism” for its history as a major supplier of Silver for the Spanish Empire in the 16th century. Founded as an Incan mining town on the world’s largest silver deposit, the Cerro Rico, the Spanish Empire exploited Native American and African slavery to mint “pieces of eight” in the Casa de la Moneda. This was distributed around the world and “changed the economic complexion of the world”. The town exploded into the fourth largest city in the Christian world in a disordered and chaotic boom. By the early 1620s, the silver had been almost exhausted, the sudden influx of currency had caused inflation and devalued silver, and the city shrank back into a shell of “affliction and anguish, weeping and sighing”. Now poor and dilapidated, it has sustained itself as a small mining town since Bolivian independence in 1825, mainly for zinc and tin. This is a fascinating analogue for the process of unfettered capitalism – uncontrolled exploitation preceding environmental destruction – and should be included as such. I will include ‘The Wealth of Nations’ by Adam Smith, which discusses Potosí, and use reference to “potosí” as a figure of speech, as it is used in Spanish, to imply value.
The first true German-language rock band, whose political lyrics gained them a wide fanbase among German and West Berlin left-wing and squatting activists, for whose causes they played many concerts. When they moved away from overtly political to more personal lyrical content, this fanbase rejected them. They moved to a small town in North Germany and lived collectively on a farm, eventually disbanding in 1985. They released all their records through their own record company, David Volksmund-Produktion. They were active in the German gay rights movement and their manager became co-chairwoman o the German Green Party. Their iconic singer Rio Reiser had a solo career before his death in 1996. After his death, the band reunited a few times. Although their earliest output is most historically interesting, the band’s sound and ideas matured over time and I feel that including ‘IV’ which, though a bit hit-and-miss, it best representative of their ideas – a little more exploratory than the sloganeering of earlier releases, composed through imaginative collective methods on their farm in Fresenhagen. I will also look at including Rio Reiser individually.
Boston inventor, lecturer and engineer known for his kinetic sculptures, many of which are presented at the MIT Museum, where he also hosts the Friday After Thanksgiving Chain Reaction, , a community event in which families and students of all ages assemble a giant chain reaction. He has invented children’s toys like the ‘Toobers & Zots’ foam construction set and Cat-a-pult chain reaction toys. There are many kinetic sculptors now but Ganson is set apart for the way he frames his machines, with a balance of fun and philosophy, and filmed as choreography. They are a rare example of an object that balances maths, sculpture, play, humour, a unique aesthetic and philosophy in a way that fascinates people of all different ages, from all sorts of backgrounds. There seems to be something essentially fascinating about these sorts of structures, and Ganson’s particular approach seems to elevate this even further. He explains: “I like to think of the machines as the intersection of my eternal consciousness and a viewer’s eternal consciousness. The physical object is just the in-between point that allows for the infinite in both me and the viewer to meet.” I will include the DVD ‘Arthur Ganson Presents A Few Machines’.
Pioneering “loner-rebel” English folk guitarist. A key influence on the British folk revival of the ’60s, though quite radical in comparison to many of his contemporaries. Davey took influence from musical forms from all over the world and any historical period. His travels in North Africa and oud playing influenced his development of the DADGAD tuning, which is now widely used by acoustic guitarists. He also effectively invented the folk guitar instrumental with his now-standard ‘Angi’. Alongside English folk styles, his playing incorporated Indian ragas, Arabic maqams, Western European classical, Romanian dance tunes, Irish pipe jigs, American blues and jazz conventions. He occasionally collaborated with other musicians but preferred to play solo. His idolisation of jazz musicians like Miles Davis and Charlie Parker led to his “deliberately” becoming addicted to heroin, and this affected his performance. During this time, he taught guitar and worked for mental health charities such as Mind. Despite such enthusiasm from other musicians and many critics, he never achieved much commercial success and faded from public view, performing less and focussing on learning many languages (Gaelic, French, Greek and Turkish) and collecting poems and folk songs. He died in 2008 of lung cancer. Rather than co-opting forms of other cultures, Graham studied them and explored them through his perspective as an English (/Guyanan/Scottish) guitarist, and this reinvigorated the English folk scene, which had become stale through its own purism. Not content with shifting the path of the folk lineage, he continued feeding this global interest through poetry, folk stories and languages, occasionally demonstrating the new influences these had on his playing in free-wheeling live explorations. I will include ‘Folk, Blues and Beyond’ – his first properly unbounded solo exploration on record.
Recently not included:
Bavarian aristocrat, army officer, and member of the German resistance who led the Operation Valkyrie attempted assassination of Hitler from within the Wehrmacht. After this failed, he was executed by firing squad in 1944. Though there is some debate about Stauffenberg’s motivations for instigating the plot, there is general agreement that he was a racist and a Nazi sympathiser.
New York self-publishing songwriter who writes a range of music for children, country musicians and music hall acts. He was included in Irwin Chusid’s outsider music reference, ‘Songs in the Key of Z’. Devore is a self promoter keen to emphasize his own talents – “Much more than your average songwriter, Dixon DeVore II is so versatile, he can come up with the goods whether you are looking for country music, songs for special occasion’s (his 21 track CD, “Songs For A Wedding” is sure to provide a song for that very special occasion) or music and stories to keep the kids entertained (“Mortimer The Very Rich Mouse” succeeded in keeping my 5 year old Granddaughter quiet for ages, so it must be good!!!).” . The songs veer from the formulaic and predictable to absolutely bizarre / sleazy / novelty. I can imagine that being in Chusid’s book would have a been a bummer for him, but I can understand why he’s there… (I couldn’t find his birth date so have just put 1950.)
English grime (or “eski”) crew founded by Wiley out of the UK garage collective Pay As U Go Cartel. Former members include Dizzee Rascal, Tinchy Strider, Skepta and Jammer. They had some crossover success with more pop-oriented efforts in their Number One singles ‘Good Times’ and ‘Green Light’ in 2010. Flowdan confirmed their hiatus in 2014 on Rinse FM. The group seemed torn between streetz grime and mainstream pop and r’n’b, and I feel like they ended up falling between the two in a pretty disorientating way. Despite their high profile, there’s a lot of filler and the lyrics are pretty derivative.
Super-obscure American basement group from the late ’70s. The only information I could find about them comes from a single entry on Volcanic Tongue – “Chris Atwood lives with his wife Rachel in Austin, Texas. I had the great pleasure of staying with these guys a summer ago while the joke that is South-By-Southwest was on. These are demos for an album Chris was recording for his band The Jetcards in 1978-79. Fuckin sounds like Shuggie Otis jamming with Sandy Bull to me!” Sounds cool, and it was a shame to not be able to hear any samples, but it’s not going to be included off the back of that anyway.
Czech inventor and radio operator who sabotaged Nazi broadcasts for his own fascist cause, Strasserism. He was assassinated by a Nazi thug in the hotel room he operated out of in Slapy, near Prague. Fascists killing fascists…