Stockholm (2)

Some records and where I bought them.

Pet Sounds

Pet Sounds









Talking Heads ‘Nothing but Flowers’ (Steve Lillywhite mix). A 10” that I had not seen before. Number 6043 in a ‘limited edition’ of 10,000’ – rare! Pet Sounds is the destination of the walk described in my post Stockholm (1). I have bought a Talking Heads album here previously – a live bootleg called ‘Emitting Diodes’.














Bill Bruford’s Earthworks ‘Dig?’. Maybe a mistake this one…Django Bates and Ian Ballamy both feature but this was1989 and I am not convinced. There is a tiny record shop in Fylkingen  (where I drew The New Songs a few nights later). The shop is only open twice a week from 5.30 to 7.30 on Thursday and Friday nights…it is packed with good, obscure stuff…indecision meant that I bought this rather than something I really wanted or something that I didn’t know at all and might have loved.


Fade Records

Fade Records











Dr Feelgood ‘Malpractice’. Fade records is across the street from Pet Sounds and is much smaller. I bought this inspired by ‘Oil City Confidential’ and Wilko Johnson’s recent, very moving radio appearances…here is an interview with him in the GuardianI read that he has had to cancel his last two Canvey Island shows so I guess that he has, sadly, played his last.


Vintage Room

Vintage Room

dolmen music









Meredith Monk ‘Dolmen Music’. When he sold me this record the guy in the Vintage Room said: ‘This is a really great album.’ And he knocked a few Krona off the price. Both of these occurrences are really unusual. I heard the first track of this, ‘Gotham Lullaby’ on the radio in the early 1980s – I taped it and have returned to it many times since. I have never heard the whole album until now.

Stockholm (3)

Stadsgårdsleden, Monday, March 25th, 2013. Around 6 PM.


When I heard the intersecting rhythms of the bells on this crossing I thought of Steve Reich’s Clapping Music. In the recording the sound of road traffic dissipates this effect but listening to the sound in situ the ear filtered out the foreground noise. The crossing did not go anywhere…the road and pedestrian stairway to which it led were both blocked off.

Stockholm (5)

Tuesday 25th March 2013. About 11.45 AM.

stora vartan

This is a short recording made while walking over a frozen section of Stora Värtan on the way back from the island of Bastuholmen to the mainland at Näsbypark in the Stockholm archipelago. From the small park where we stopped to the island was about half a kilometer over the frozen sea. The surface was made up of patches of exposed ice with shallow drifts of snow. Stopping momentarily it was possible to hear the low booming sound of the ice moving. Stora Värtan translates as ‘Big Darkness’.

ice and snow

Stockholm (1)

22nd March, 2013

From Centralstation to Södermalmstorg.

From Centralstation to Södermalmstorg.

From Centralstation. This is one of my favourite urban walks….south from the station over Gamla Stan to Södermalm…it is a walk without the constant background sound of traffic and it encompasses a rich variety of architectural spaces. The over-riding sound is of footsteps and the low background babble of conversation. In fact, today, I start by leaving the station by the wrong exit so I need to cross Vasagatan, a dual carriageway, before walking up the steps into the St Clara churchyard. This connects via a back street to the pedestrian shopping street Drottninggatan which in turn leads to the bridge crossing onto the small island of Helgandsholmen where the parliament building is situated.

The passageway which bisects the parliament connects to another small bridge that crosses a dark, culverted waterway which always flows with an alarming rapidity. Today there is a demonstration in the open area on the other bank and I need to walk round this…there is a chant that sounds like ‘Shame Sweden, Shame Espresso’ – clearly this is only half right. I think later that I should have recorded this.

From here up the long, steep steps lead into the area behind the Royal Palace which is dotted with sentry boxes. The route follows the curved outer face of the barracks and then meets the end of a wide, sloping plaza with statuary and an obelisk looking out across near-distant water. A small street leads into a square (Stortorget) where the Nobel Museum is situated. Off to one side of this square is a beautiful well-head with water (movement and sound) frozen in stone on its four sides. This is a photo that I took on another trip.well-head

The streets from the square slope down and eventually emerge onto the south side of Gamla Stan at Kornhamstorg where the containment of the narrow streets in the old quarter ceases. It is always a confusing negotiation across what seems to be a series of bridges, walkways and roads here and this is the first space since the road outside the station where there is any appreciable traffic noise. The sounds of buses, trains and cars intermingle here. Looking at this area on a map it is clear that it is actually a single, wide bridge with a narrow waterway running through it. Leading out of Södermalmstorg, Götgatan rises up the hill. Walkers only encounter the occasional car on the crossing streets. From the top of the hill there is a vista culminating in the dome of the Ericsson Globe . Over the top and down the hill Götgatan ends in Medmorgersplatan, the square in the centre of Södermalm, and here the traffic noise begins again in earnest as the square runs into a large wide street….

Cafe Oto (once)


otoThis is another Perec-ian exercise. It is not a description of what Café Oto is ‘like’. So no atmosphere or documentation of the music or performances. Just a bare description of the room at a particular moment in time. Maybe it is an exercise to be repeated at some point in the future.


Outside. Left to right: 2 big windows, a doorway, another big window. White awnings over the windows. The windows face south.


Inside. An L-shaped room with the bar in the short leg to the right of the door (east). In the main space, in front and to the left, there are 4 cast iron columns supporting beams running across the short dimension of the room. The floor to ceiling height is about 3 metres. The floor is grey concrete with lots of patches and stains. The walls are mostly white-painted brickwork with a small area where the bricks have been left unpainted.


The long wall to the west (running at right-angles to the windows) is where the ‘stage’ is located. This is more accurately a performance area as there is no step up to an actual stage. This area occupies the middle of the wall extending out from it by about 3 metres. The limit of the stage is notionally marked by two ceiling-mounted speakers and a fairly basic track of lights running parallel with the wall attached to the ceiling. A few years ago the floor-mounted speakers were replaced; this had the effect of marking the stage less precisely while improving sightlines in the space. A canvas cloth backdrop is hung on the wall behind the stage…this is changed when there are projections on the wall behind the performers. To the left of the stage there is sometimes a bench against the wall. This is moved when the piano occupies this space. On the right hand there is now a rack for cases and gear. Until recently this stuff used to be piled up on the floor as tidily as possible. The piano gets tucked into this space when it is not in use for any length of time. (The piano stored in there the last time I was there seemed to be the old one, the new piano was in the opposite corner.)


On the adjacent wall to the right is the door to the ‘gent’s’, a fire escape door, the jukebox (turned off in the evenings) and 2 small windows with retractable grills on the outside. Some time ago there was a record shop in the very narrow passage beyond the fire-door. There are also a number of Vent-Axia ventilation grills in this wall. The wall around the door to the gents is unpainted brickwork. On the wall opposite the stage is the door to the ‘ladies’’ and the mixing desk.


The furniture is a mixture of second-hand stuff. There are usually about 8-10 tables though when the place is at capacity these are stored. When Oto opened most of the furniture was from the Erco range (there are some photos of the space showing this furniture on the Architects site) but over the years most of these have disappeared to be replaced by a jumble of stacking and folding chairs plus a few benches that look like they might have come from a school. Each table has a night-light candle in a glass. The house lights are very dim consisting of 9 low wattage bare bulbs hanging from the ceiling. There is a single standard lamp with a bulbous wicker shade…this has been around for as long as I can remember though it seldom stays in the same place for long. The ticket desk is to the left of the entrance as visitors come in. There are usually two adjacent tables – one next to the wall for fliers and the other at right angles for CDs and LPs. Next to this there is a rack on which posters are displayed for sale. There are some posters on the wall next to the mixing desk and a few on the glass next to the door. There are plants on the window ledges. When the room is full the windows are covered in condensation.


The seating in front of the performance area covers about half of the floor with space for standing at the back.


In the bar area there is a blackboard for the drinks prices situated above a window into the kitchen. Behind the bar are the refrigerators for beers and wine with shelves above them. The shelves hold glasses and bottles and display the records put out by the OTORoku label. The bar counter is always littered with plates of snacks and there is usually another box of LPs and a display of the Wire magazine. There is a T-shirt with a picture of Lol Coxhill hanging up on the wall adjacent to the bar.

sketch plan

sketch plan

My mistake

Sunday morning. 3. iii. 13

I must have been avoiding the Archers Omnibus because I was listening to Radio 3. It was a programme devoted to Opus 1s and when I tuned in Anton Webern’s Passacaglia for Orchestra was about to begin. I half-listened. Then the presenter, Rob Cowan, introduced Beethoven’s Piano Trio, Opus 1 saying that this recording was particularly interesting because it featured a single mistake by the violinist Jascha Heifitz…a note out of place towards the end of the piece. He said this was worthy of note because Heifitz was known for his ‘perfect’ playing and he cited a letter sent by George Bernard Shaw to the violinist as evidence of this. Maybe because I had only half-listened to the Webern piece or because the subject of close-listening has come up a lot recently, I decided I would listen carefully and try to spot the error. And I thought that, as I am not much interested in Beethoven (!) it would be good to pay attention to this music that has dropped off my radar in recent years. Now I realised that knowing that the mistake occurred near the end of the piece was not going to help me as I did not know the music and had no idea when the end might be. In fact, when the piece started I discovered that one of its characteristics is a series of false endings…a structure building towards a climax that is often delayed…the structure constantly reassembling itself into another form.

This idea of the ‘mistake’ intrigued me too and maybe thinking about it stopped me concentrating on the music. I have listened to so much live, improvised music in the last few years that this kind of ‘mistake’ is not really part of my listening experience. The musicians in the gigs I go to can, individually or collectively, miss the point or loose the plot but being able to identify a single note error is unlikely, if not impossible…especially as so much emphasis is placed on ‘taking apart’, open-ness and the upsetting of expectations in this kind if performnance.

So the piece ended and there was much studio banter about how even Heifitz was fallible…mortal even. The presenter read out a tweet from Howard Skempton about a backhanded compliment he had received when someone said his mistakes were always ‘so interesting’. But, of course, I missed the mistake. Maybe the note was not ‘off’ enough or maybe it was the kind of time slip that I no longer identify as being wrong. Or possibly my attention strayed. So now I have to decide whether I will go back to the ‘listen again’ facility online before the week is up. I’m not sure that my (probably partial) ‘close-listening’ did much good in terms of my appreciation of the piece. All the way through I was thinking: ‘was that it?’ The notes followed one another (and there were lots of notes) considered not for their felicity but for their correctness. Somewhere down the line the thought that listening to music ‘like this’ might be pleasurable slipped away all over again.


The recording used on the Radio 3 programme was RCA LSC-2770, tracks 1-4. Jascha Heifitz (violin), Gregor Piatigorsky (cello), Jacob Lateiner (piano).

Also available on Jascha Heifetz (violin): The Complete Album Collection

Sony 88697700502 (103 CDs + DVD).

Phill Niblock at 80. Café Oto. 28. ii. 13

lost time1…well what I thought was interesting about this evening (notwithstanding Geoff Winston’s concerns as expressed on LondonJazz) was the way that it casually occupied a chunk of time…

Immediately after the opening performance by Thomas Ankersmit a film was projected onto the screen without introduction. No title sequence or preliminaries – just straight into the images of men working in a sawmill. Then, at some arbitrary (?) point the music began – washes of electronic and acoustic sound with no apparent starting point. At the same time the bass clarinetist David Ryan took his place to the left of the screen. The audience stopped talking and the film continued but Ryan sat placidly as if awaiting his cue. Projected on the screen was the record of faceless people doing repetitive jobs – mostly by this time de-scaling, gutting and filleting fish with alarming looking knives in torrents of ice and water. This abject spectacle reminded me of the unsettling fish factory in David Cronenberg’s Existenz. After a while Ryan began to improvise over the ‘score’ adding further sensitive levels of wash and drone to the sound. Then he stopped and the recorded music and the film continued. When the music finally came to an end it was without a climax. The audience clapped in a half-hearted way as if not sure that the ‘piece’ was over – but a few seconds later the projector was also turned off marking a definitive end.

Maybe the obvious comparison here is with Godfrey Reggio’s film Koyaanisqatsi with music by Philip Glass – but I have always had problems with the judgemental quality of this work. The staging of the event ‘Phill Niblock at 80’ suggested we were being shown a fragment of work (both in its meaning as labour and in the musical/artistic sense) that was ongoing and even infinite. It was as if these activities (fish-gutting and music-making) had been happening before we all sat down to witness this particular stretch of time and they would continue after we left the building. In this what we experienced was an anti-performance that happened to be directed in that place and at that time by Phill Niblock. And this gave the event what might be called a political edge. There was a point being made about that idea of ‘work’ I think. This was the ordinary-invisible made into something seen and experienced in a way that moved it into the Perecian category of the infra-ordinary. So the music was present but detached…existing alongside the film which itself was documentary without commentary and without interpretation…