R O S S B I N
Tim Hodgkinson - Milo Fine
|Author: Tim Hodgkinson - Milo Fine
|Catalog #: RS028
TWO BLOKES FINDING SOUND IN THE MIDST OF
A Sort of Macrocosm
Insufferable and absurd. But, what else to expect? Because we are (imagine ourselves to be?) sentient, or rather, due to the manner in which western "civilization", an infectious disease which has managed to inculcate almost every indigenous culture on the planet, has manifested this sentience, we are an utterly disingenuous species. Our actions, in one way or another, are, for the most part (exclusively?) unintentional manifestations of what lurks beneath; unacknowledged, suppressed, repressed, willfully unknown. Our behavioral watchwords? Rationalization and justification. Why? Well, fear of course, Knowing we will cease to exist, or, perhaps more accurately, lacking the ability to fathom the eternal (or what we imagine it to be), we turn to so-called power, material wealth, fame and the like as pathetically meagre compensation. Now, there are those who would, in the current lexicon, argue that "it's all good", which is nothing but a rephrasing of essential tenets found in any number of belief systems/philosophies. And while there is no doubt that truly existing in the eternity of every moment, to treat what we generally separate into "good" or "bad"/ "positive" or "negative", as nothing but unified energy of which we are simply a part -- to, in other words, maintain a sense of calm and "being" regardless of life's circumstances -- would likely be ideal, or close to it. But, given the essence of humanity's overall conditioning and wiring, this state is, sadly, more or less impossible to attain, never mind sustain. Not to say that it isn't worth considering and attempting. But, in the meantime, let's drop the pretense; the state of the world -- inner and outer -- makes it clear that it is not all good, and to excuse our behavior is to propagate the missteps that personify humanity.
Certainly A Microcosm
Social gatherings are all, to one degree or another, insufferable and absurd. Fraught with rampant hidden agendas and their manifestations -- positioning (hierarchal maneuvering) and networking (careerism) -- and underscored by insecurity and thinly veiled desperation (a bit thicker for those with truly sociopathic tendencies), how could they be otherwise? And, having such a gathering in the name of "art" only compounds the unbearableness, because the meaningful realization of the creative impulse should have at least something to do with transcendence. Not "transcendence" as a marketing tool or an image mongering label, but transcendence. So, when a local academy hosted yet another insular affair -- in this case, a "festival of electronic music and arts" -- wherein the invitees ranged from graduate students to out-of-town guests (underwritten by their own academies to come and display their wares; that is to say, add yet another line to their curriculum vitaes), the resultant lack of transcendence can hardly come as a surprise. And, indeed, just on the surface, there's abundant evidence as to how brilliantly this event works at cross purposes. First, it's centered around technology, which, these days, as one knows, means lap top gimmickry (and slow downloads). Second, there's a preponderance of hackneyed and merciless expropriation of indigenous musics, a clear sign of wrong-headed political correctness. Third, as part of ever elusive "audience development", there is much pandering to rock/pop influences. Fourth, the programming style is all pastiche -- a little of this, a little of that -- catering to short attention spans. (And, do I need to mention how the curator and others high in the food chain, get to present their work in the better, more prestigious venues? I thought not.) In all, it's fascinating how an event so concerned with creativity is, for the most part, so utterly bereft of same.
Tim and I first met when he came to town with Konk Pack (a trio which also includes Roger Turner and Thomas Lehn) in the fall of 2007. In addition to playing a duo set with Roger that evening, I had served as a middle man of sorts in setting up the gig, which, due to the curator dropping the ball vis a vis communications, almost didn't happen. (And, even when it did, the evening itself was filled with an assortment of additional miscues, which Tim -- the group's de facto "tour manger " -- and I handled well, and, perhaps more importantly, with good humor.) Tim and I didn't talk a lot that evening or at brunch the next day, but, as evidenced by our on-the-spot problem solving and the exchanges we did have, there was an obvious overlapping of sensibilities and interests. Evidently, Tim thought so too. I was, however, surprised and amused when Tim let me know he was returning to participate in this, as we say in the states, "dog and pony" show (i.e., an empty showcase). (That he was a member of an ensemble not playing his music -- a hired hand, so to speak -- mitigated my surprise.) In his e-mail he expressed an interest in finding some time to hang out amongst the rehearsals and performances. I countered by suggesting we get together to play. So, we elected to attempt both, but, naturally, given logistical concerns (schedules and transportation) the path to something simple was replete with small stumbling blocks. Enter filmmaker/videographer Mike Yaeger. Part of my unexpected and last minute middle man duties on Tim's previous visit was to find accommodations for Konk Pack. For several reasons, three people would have been a bit much at my place. Particularly in the light of Roger having opened his home to me for several days in 2003 while I was in England, his staying with me was a foregone conclusion. Fortunately, in an inspired moment, I remembered Mike had a long standing admiration for Tim's work. So, I contacted him about the possibility of Tim and Thomas spending the night at his house. Having met and had quite a long conversation with Tim the preceding year, Mike was delighted. This time around (late winter 2008), Tim had already alerted Mike to his return, but Mike was unaware that I had suggested our getting together to play. This prospect was especially exciting for him, because, in addition to his abiding respect for Tim's music, Mike has expressed a deep appreciation for my work as evidenced by his recurring bursts of support. (That a virodha bhakti -- devotion by defiance -- undercurrent informs our relationship is not surprising, as it is a recurring theme in my interpersonal dynamics.) He was, therefore, very keen on videotaping our session. And, because the audio on his camera is of mediocre quality, he suggested, no, almost insisted that I record it with my DAT equipment (consisting of a recorder, mixer and four microphones). I, on the other hand, just wanted to keep things simple and make some music. But, Mike, in his unbridled enthusiasm, can be extremely persuasive, and so we compromised. I'd record it, but with a basic stereo mike set-up.
Looking at the festival schedule, I noted the first day I was available to hear Tim, and made tentative arrangements to meet and go out with him and Mike. But that, of course, entailed the concerted effort of entering a domain that, despite my efforts to place occurrences in a broader context, nonetheless so irritates my nerve endings. Thus, with as much of an accepting attitude as I could muster, and keeping open the option that there just might, might be something of interest to hear (which, as it turns out there was, but just barely), I entered the venue where Tim would be playing and, once inside the performing space proper, immediately detected the pervasive stench of heightened self-importance and the politics of music as, first and foremost, a career path. A sort of existential nausea washed over me. With a demeanor of subtle defiance, I found a place to sit as some vacant post-modern design-form morphed on the stage's screen. Within moments, I spotted an enthralled Mike, who, for all his perspicacious opinions concerning artistic endeavor, can, in certain circumstances, be quite a, shall we say, forgiving listener; and Viv Corringham, one of my regular collaborators, whom I mercilessly (and, if I may be so bold, justifiably) tease for regularly showing up at these sorts of affairs. (However, as she actually participated in this event the previous year, her presence was de rigueur. Moreover, given that Viv has a genuine arts degree, one readily recognizes the force of habit extending from a good indoctrination, er, education.) During breaks between pieces, and almost trembling with displeasure, I asked Mike when we could get out of there, phrasing it along the lines of, "When the fuck can we get out of here and get something to eat?". He seemed perplexed and annoyed, to the point where, a bit later, and subsequent to Tim and I having warmly reestablished contact, Mike indicated he wouldn't be able to give Tim a ride to the session on Saturday, because he didn't want to miss any of the concerts (and, additionally, would have his young daughter, Alice, in tow). With no other viable options, I said I'd fetch Tim and get him back afterwards. Slight tensions aside, the four of us decided to get together for a meal prior to to Tim's next appearance that evening. The dinner at a small Indian restaurant was lovely; the usual push-pull banter amongst new and old comrades (Viv having known Tim for quite some time). Naturally, a fair portion of the conversation centered around the event at hand. And while Mike would have loved to find an ally in Tim concerning positive aspects of the festival, Tim was having none of it, and even went so far as to regale us with some wonderful and revealing behind-the-scenes stories. As the evening went on, Mike, in particular, was concerned about getting to the next venue in time to get a seat. I was, of course, in no great hurry, never imagining, in the light of the afternoon event's modest audience, that the place would be filled to capacity. Much to my chagrin, however, that was indeed the case, perhaps in part because it was a smaller venue. (Despite his being a performer in the evening's second half, even Tim wasn't allowed entrance.) Thankfully, my companions forgave me for filibustering at the restaurant. And, as we were in good spirits, and the ushers a good audience for our persiflage, we enjoyed our time in the lobby. Expectedly, some people left during the interval, so there were more seats to be had. I stayed to hear Tim, and then beat a hasty retreat.
Saturday. Mike bringing Tim after all. Cart the smaller drum kit upstairs. Set it up. Open the piano. Assemble the clarinet. Set up the recording equipment. And, naturally, wait. Chronicling via cell phone: delayed rehearsals, concerts predictably running late, the convolutions surrounding their finding a place for a quick meal before arriving, and Mike's ongoing "negotiations" with Alice. Having a sense as to when Tim had to be back "on the job", I started thinking we'd have no time to play at all. Another call, they're almost here. Arrival. Mike and Tim set up their equipment, and, given the time constraints, we eschew a sound check. Then, without a word, the music starts. Now, if I may back up a moment. Previous to his hearing me play clarinets with Roger the year before, Tim knew fuck-all about my music. And my exposure to his work was limited; the early progressive/art rock, the raucous, improvised environs of Konk Pack (which didn't involve much woodwind playing), and the frugal bursts characterizing his contributions to the festival. So my expectations (like assumptions, a tricky business) were of a spare, lyrically-tinged aesthetic, perhaps informed by some "noisy" eruptions. But, when Tim put his horn to his mouth, it was all technically sharp, inventive fire. And I was delighted, as much for the music that was there, that moment, and to come, as for the fact that my expectations had been wonderfully circumvented. Improvisation. My lifework.
Mike, thanks very much for all your help, and, particularly for suggesting, er, insisting that I record the session.
(And, thank you to Kevin Cosgrove, whose serendipitous mentioning the word "renunciant" in a conversation just after my having essentially finished these notes, brought the track titles into focus.)
-- © milo fine (july 2008)
Recorded by Milo Fine at his home in Minneapolis, Minnesota on March 1, 2008
Mastered by Tim Hodgkinson
Tim Hodgkinson: B flat clarinet
Milo Fine: piano, drum set jr., B flat clarinet, voice
The Renunciant 24:43
The Remembering 20:59
The Work To Return 4:04
|© ROSSBIN RECORDS