Pardon me for getting anal from the off, but there’s no way round the matter when analytics is the word of the day. These days, anyone wanting to get ahead must get a handle on everything they can get to know about you, by crunching all the data gleaned from your internet use. Then they can make you an offer the statistics tell them you can’t refuse. And in the unlikely event that you do, they’ve also acquired enough on you from their research to strongarm you into saying yes.
The systematic practice of analytics has yet to fully colonise The Wire’s subconscious but the monthly habit of processing the thousands of words shoring up each issue makes it difficult to avoid seeing patterns forming across its pages. This month two patterns emerge from the data crunch. One is the matter of musicianly virtuosity, and whether or not it’s a good thing; the other is the emergence of some fascinating new musical forces with Middle East roots.
Let’s take the Middle East strand first, as it draws together pieces at the beginning and the end of the issue. “Like a pungent cloud of dust particles floating across Europe, there’s a whiff of musical excitement these days from the Middle East,” declares Clive Bell, in his Bite on Khyam Allami. The Iraqi born oud player arrived in London at the age of nine and participated in the city’s underground cultures, playing drums in DIY punk and rock groups. But in 2003 he underwent some kind of epiphany and began learning to play the oud. He eventually acquired sufficient skills on the instrument to be able to communicate on an equal footing with Middle East audiences, rather than as an emigre musician. For him, musical ability is simply a matter of possessing the means to do the job properly.
Meanwhile, in the Epiphanies column, the Montreal based musician and producer Radwan Ghazi Moumneh aka Jerusalem In My Heart contributes a very different kind of epiphany. Radwan starts his piece describing his own existential struggle to be eternally remembered by setting his music in stone, so to speak, through the act of recording it. He began to hear things differently, however, after witnessing a
Beirut concert by a legendary Lebanese singer who’d gone through life with no desire whatsoever to record his voice for posterity. Despite their affiliations with Western alternative cultures deeply rooted in opposition to the higher cultural ideals embodied by the classical music establishment (as Jerusalem In My Heart, Radwan has strong connections with the Constellation label in Montreal), you get the impression from both Radwan and Khyam Allami that neither is embarrassed to possess the skills necessary to play music reflecting their Middle Eastern heritage.
By contrast the very idea of musical virtuosity is spat out like it’s a curse by David Keenan. In his review of Paul Metzger’s new LP 1300, David proposes a totally different kind of virtuosity on behalf of the US banjo and customised guitar player. “Truly, virtuosity resides in the full sounding of [the instrument’s] possibilities,” writes David. To learn how that differs from instrumental prowess you’ll have to read his review in full. For Ben Watson, writing about the Melbourne based improvising duo Music With My Insane Friend, musical virtuosity is a class issue reflected in the prog rock snobbery that’s redolent of the private schools some of it came out of and where it acquired its most ardent advocates.
Though his voice still has traces of received pronunciation picked up during the first 11 years of his life growing up in UK colonies in Africa and elsewhere, writes Daniel Spicer, Blurt founder Ted Milton has spent the 60 plus years since purging himself of most forms of learning, musical or otherwise, like any knowledge passed down through the state education system was an agent of control. Through Blurt’s absurdist punk, slapstick poetry and performances, Ted proposes laughter as but one form of release from it.
To close on a happy-sad note, this month we say a fond farewell to Online Editor Jennifer Lucy Allan, who is leaving The Wire to begin full time research for her PhD about foghorns, a subject she has addressed with much enthusiasm and knowledge in print and online. Chris Bohn
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Issue 379 September 2015 £4.50 ISSN 0952-0686
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Words Steve Barker, Mike Barnes, Dan Barrow, Robert Barry, Clive Bell, Emily Bick, Abi Bliss, Marcus Boon, Britt Brown, Nick Cain, Philip Clark, Byron Coley, Julian Cowley, Alan Cummings, Sam Davies, Phil England, Kodwo Eshun, Mark Fisher, Phil Freeman, Rory Gibb, Francis Gooding, Kurt Gottschalk, Louise Gray, Andy Hamilton, Adam Harper, Jim Haynes, Ken Hollings, Hua Hsu, William Hutson, Matthew Ingram, Maya Kalev, David Keenan, Biba Kopf, Matt Krefting, Jack Law, Tim Lawrence, Alan Licht, Dave Mandl, Howard Mandel, Wayne Marshall, Marc Masters, Bill Meyer, Keith Moliné, Will Montgomery, Brian Morton, Joe Muggs, Alex Neilson, Andrew Nosnitsky, Louis Pattison, Ian Penman, Richard Pinnell, Edwin Pouncey, Nina Power, Agata Pyzik, Chal Ravens, Simon Reynolds, Nick Richardson, Bruce Russell, Sukhdev Sandhu, Peter Shapiro, Stewart Smith, Nick Southgate, Daniel Spicer, Richard Stacey, David Stubbs, Greg Tate, Dave Tompkins, David Toop, Rob Turner, Zakia Uddin, Val Wilmer, Matt Wuethrich
Images Ying Ang, Matthew Avignone, Chris Buck, Leon Chew, Dusdin Condren, Tara Darby, Ronald Dick, Mikael Gregorsky, Ayla Hibri, Todd Hido, Mayumi Hosokura, Jennilee Marigomen, Stefanie Moshammer, Christopher Nunn, Mark Peckmezian, Savage Pencil, Dany Peschl, Gérard Rouy, Michael Schmelling, Nigel Shafran, Clare Shilland, Eva Vermandel, Kai von Rabenau, Jake Walters, Dan Wilton, José Wolff