Summertime, Motorhead & Cardew

Summertime as performed live by Shelly Manne & his Men in 1956 and, played immediately afterwards by itunes, In the Black by Motorhead. Although these tracks are very different (fifties west coast bop versus rock-n-roll-heavy-metal), they also are in the same category — for me. Maybe both pieces exemplify ‘the perfect track’? Manne’s precise and subtile drumming propels what is basically just another version of a classic song, it ensures that what could have been dreary, becomes exciting to listen to. Motorhead is straightforward, completely formulaic, yet very exciting because it is thight and every note, every chord, every word comes at, well, the right moment. Is it simplicity? Not quite. Is it restraint plus exuberance? Maybe. Is it the miracle where a song that could’ve been just as easily boring, becomes an exciting piece of music? If that’s it, I want to entangle that ‘magic formula’, I’d like to know how it is ‘programmed’.

During breakfasts I’m reading ‘indeterminacy 1960-1970’ from Michael Nymans Experimental Music, Cage and Beyond, a book I’ve never picked up, because of my dislike for Glass & Nyman-styled minimal music. But this book is very good. (Read it, buy it). It gives an excellent overview of Cardew’s compositional strategies and formulas (excellent for the lay-musician that I am). I love Cardew’s The Great Learning (or what I’ve heard of it, the total piece runs on for several hours), and I’m inclined to say that it is actually one of the masterpieces of all times. It succeeds in totally transforming our idea of art. (And yes, it is possible to look beyond the Maoist ideology it was supposed to get across).

This is Cardew on discipline: “Discipline is not to be seen as the ability to conform to a rigid rule structure, but as the ability to work collectively with other people in a harmonious and fruitful way. Integrity, self-reliance, initiative, to be articulate (say, on an instrument) in a natural, direct way; these are the qualities necessary for improvisation. Self-discipline is the necessary basis for the desired spontaneity, where everything that occurs is heard and responed to without the aid of arbitrarily controlled procedures and intellectual labor.” (Nyman, p. 126)

This makes sense, certainly, in a musical context. (Probably can be ripped apart and de(con)structed totally when interpreted by some liberal/conservative against a Maoist/revolutionary prespective (bring on Pol Pot)).

So I’m wondering what the connection is between Manne’s Summertime, Motorhead and Cardew. (And no, I cannot substitute just whatever other track here, not Lady Fury ‘Too Much Drugs in Ur System’, Earl Browns ‘Octet 1 for 8 Loudspeakers’ or Camille’s ‘Ta Douleur’, to mention a few other tracks that I’ve recently downloaded and like very much). Not that there has to be a connection…

Cornelius Cardew:
Motorhead mp3 see:
Michael Nyman:

en,music,quotations | June 7, 2006 | 12:47 | Comments Off on Summertime, Motorhead & Cardew |


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