November 16, 2011

"Necromancers of the drifting West". A 1996 essay on the Third Ear Band by Luca Ferrari. (part 1)

On 1996, when I decided to write a book on the Third Ear Band, I got the kind collaboration of all the members of the group, except Richard Coff (apparently none knew where he was) and Ursula Smith (I forgot to insist with Glen for having her address).
In a first time the title intended for the book was "Tickling the Third Ear" and the idea was to make an historical cronological reconstruction of the TEB's story to free the band from that aura of mystery surrounding his story. But just at the end of writing, when I completed the essay for the introduction, I decided for "Necromancers of the drifting West": for myself, infact, the Band has advanced the so-called World Music and the multicultural/intercultural dimension of the relation between West and the rest of the world. At the same time, in my opinion, their music was a sort of sign, a monition of musical (and cultural) decline of the old Europe (for that reason the image of 'necromancers'). A group strongly political, I think, because "silence", acoustic (as natural) sounds (no words), minimalism aesthetic, are really 'political' today, in this age of excess of experiences.

I confess I've been very imprudent to write an interpretation of the TEB's music and probably, read today, this essay is quite outdated or at least arguable (also it's a sort of funny paradox in having set up an archive like this - so full of words! - to tell and document a music that didn't need to have words...).
I remember I asked Glen and Paul to excuse me for my hazard. They was so kind and indulgent to excuse me...
Anyway here I am with this old text. So please, excuse me you too...

(Note: the English adaptation was by Piera Testi)


I'm not persuaded that the sound  of a certain historical period - in acertain society - forecast the times and the social models to come (J. Attali).
The immersion of sounds/noises we are submitted in  these years seems to reflect  the times (of triviality, superficiality, esteriority...) we live in, and it seems to describe  them perfectly, evidencing  the socio-cultural deep crisis in which West countries are and the negative impact  of the Record Industry and the technology on the music creation  and use.
The anonymous non-places (M. Augè), where music is  absently used, acting as simple sound upholstery which brings and keeps company  to the consumption, suggest the idea that the re-producing of sounds, and the hidden possibility to listen to music everywhere, have made the listening experience less the  result of an active, conscious process and more the result of a passive unconscious behaviour.The advertising makers have understood this  process with a great advance and as a matter of fact they use music to persuade people "in a pleasant way" to buy, thus showing our (just presumed) needs.
The music, which goes deep into our daily life, has turned in a non-place, deprived of any identity, history and relation with the time and the place of living, is a sort of undefined and virtual phenomenon.

Sweeney live on  September 1970 (courtesy Facebook TEB's fans page)
The music surround us, and the chaos it determines (just try to tune on any 'free' radio station...) that melting pot of articles which remind us of something "already heard", the consumed symbolic appeals it evokes, the image aggression it goes with, reveals the shy hope of a creative, stimulating"transparent society" which is positively going on, which had seduced and deceived us on the threshold of postmodernity (G. Vattimo).
To oppose the silence to the chaos, as we hear from time to time, seems anyway a quick and candid utopia as it proposes  a runaway (or happy island, or pure oasis, or ivory tower) where, on the contrary, some kinds of "creative resistance" (alternative voyages through personal, choerent inner routes) should be equipped (suggestive is a small book, as a renet example, by Chambers and Gilroy on Jimi Hendix, hip-hop and the evolution of thinking, published in Italy in 1995) to escape the risk to be dazed and submerged.

Bridges live on  September 1970 (courtesy Facebook TEB's fans page)

There are solutions, but they are hard to get and they are placed in a prompt reasearch of a recent and perfect past of the popular music and in an analysis of the present, in spite of some difficulties which are inside  any cultural outgoing phenomenon.
They are inside the variables of the popular music, since its origin inside the delicate balance  freedom-conditioning: the relation between Record Industry and creation (product/goods-product/art), as first; the incidence of technology on the creative process: how 'releasing' is effectively the technological innovation, the usage of the more and more sophisticated sound-machines?; the relation between space and time of listening; the presumed authenticity of the produced musics and its consequent effect on the common imagination.
These criteria may favour a detached approach to music we are exposed to and inevitably immersed in every day. We could, at least, accept as a unique rule (not less right than the others, of course) the casual listening, as a simple daily background".

(end of part one - to be continued)

no©2011 Luca Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)

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