Two nights at Cafe Oto. 26/27. iv. 16

steve b001

Steve Beresford at the piano

Night One.

The first a version of Cage’s ‘Indeterminacy’ with Stewart Lee, Tania Chen and Steve Beresford plus Chen and Jon Leidecker playing other Cage pieces and a piece by Chen herself. All performed with great panache and verve. I have seen the same trio ‘do’ ‘Indeterminacy’ before but this time I began to wonder if Lee’s comic persona and deadpan delivery was becoming, through no fault of his own, something floating free of the work. I know that many of Cage’s stories are intended to be funny and Lee resists the urge to ham up the comic effect, there are, after all, other constraints at work…but the audience will have their own way in these circumstances and in a piece like this the audience becomes part of the performance. Listeners can get it as wrong as musicians. If, as I suspect and as Duchamp kind of said, the viewer {listener} completes the work, then those listeners have a certain responsibility and can listen badly…I guess…

lisa busby

Lisa Busby x 2

Night Two.

The link to the second night was in the aleatory nature of one of the three acts. (The other sets on the night were by Andrew Tuttle and Chris Rainier). Lisa Busby combines various electronic bits and pieces with cassette and vinyl playback and her own, often distorted, voice. (To make another, incidental link…there was quite a lot of voice distortion in Susanna’s performance at the same venue in the previous week). Busby’s pieces are composed – just as Cage’s are – and they walk a thin line over thin ice. The possibility of failure lurks just below the surface and hovers just to the side of that line. Purposeful chance operations like the deck’s stylus positioned half into the record groove or accidental ones, like a malfunctioning Walkman, make for a surprising and unpredictable sound environment. Add to this Busby’s recognition of the need for ‘perfomativity’ and the experience of witnessing this unfolding work becomes particularly interesting. This is hardly thought through but I am beginning to wonder if this visual and experiential element in aleatory and improvised music is something that (some) women are more comfortable with than (some) men. In very different ways I have seen Rie Nakajima and Angharad Davies use space and what might even be theatrical techniques in their work to similar dynamic effect.

Lisa Busby’s website is here.

And this is a link to her latest album, ‘Fingers in the Gloss’.

One more time Prince.

I’ve never been sure which is stupider…the ‘Stupid Club’ that Kurt Cobain’s mother ineffectually warned her son against or the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I know that people who I respect/are entertained by/have integrity (Talking Heads and, presumably, others, see below) have been inducted into this virtual fame bedecked space…I imagine something Valhalla-like – a vast, (yet non-existent) towering chamber, its ceiling lost behind supernatural internal clouds. Like a gothic Houston Astrodome.

After the sad demise of Prince I followed up on two links. One came via Jonny Trunk and is Prince’s appearance on the Muppett Show…a masterclass in the transcendence of cool. I cannot now trace or remember how I linked to the second. This one shows Prince’s performance at his Induction Ceremony at the aforementioned Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004 and is a tribute to George Harrison. It features Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne and Stevie Winwood chugging their way dutifully through Harrison’s ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’. They all look fairly bored by the process, Prince included. Then about 3 and a half minutes in the Artist Formerly Known As gets his guitar solo and the whole scene changes with Petty, Lynne et al looking like a mildly competent backing band and the lead guitarist showing, spectacularly, what lead guitars can do….even to the point of playing while theatrically falling from the stage to be caught by a, presumably forewarned, handler. Here is the video:


If you have not watched that yet this is a spoiler alert. What is, maybe, more extraordinary about Prince’s performance is how he finishes the piece. As the song closes he unstraps his guitar and throws it vertically into the air. This is a kind of reversal of a Townsend/Hendrix act of destruction, especially as here the guitar never reappears. Either there is yet another handler suspended in the lighting rig who has been briefed to catch any instruments that are launched upwards…or what? The film runs on long enough for the guitar to re-enter the frame but it never comes down. I like to think of it circling in that huge void along with George Harrison, David Bowie and now, the man himself. Prince and guitar reunited at last.

At ATP, Prestatyn.


A strange, all-consuming experience at Pontin’s, Prestatyn this weekend. The holiday camp was as much part of the environment as All Tomorrow’s Parties and one of the pleasures of the weekend (the music was another) was sorting out the juxtapositions and overlaps between the two. Obviously, there is a good deal to say about the whole event so I will skip that bit.

Saturday morning there was supposed to be something called ‘Mixtape Swap’. I have been making a series of mix CDs over the last few years that are based on the end-of-an-era discs I find at my local charity shops for 99p each. I thought I should bring along some of this output for trading. Either I missed this event or it didn’t actually happen and despite an announcement from the stage I found myself carrying 12 different mix CDs in their unique covers around with me (I like twelve. A dozen…one for each month of the year. Twelve subdivides into three four times.) While listening to Jonny Trunk talk about library music later that day I decided to give them away…gifts rather than swaps. So here is how I disposed of the 12 CDs:

  1. Given to Jonny Trunk after his talk.
  2. Left on a table next to Stage One on Saturday afternoon.
  3. Given to Tania Chen after her performance with David Toop.
  4. Given to David Toop after his performance with Tania Chen.
  5. Left under a monitor on Stage 3 after the Evan Parker, John Russell and John Edwards performance.
  6. Given to a male stranger outside the chalets on Sunday morning.
  7. Given to a female stranger in the same spot about an hour later.
  8. Left in the ‘win’ slot of the Tuppeny Falls game in the arcade.
  9. Left in a box set by Rhodri Davies on the merchandise stall.
  10. Given to a man called Ben who tapped me on the shoulder and said he remembered me from the announcement on Saturday….he told me something about why he had nothing to swap but I couldn’t really hear him.
  11. After leaving one on a malfunctioning ‘shoot ’em up’ game in the Arcade I noticed it was still there much later so I took it back and gave it to a laughing couple who were wedged into some too small rocking teacup thing.
  12. Concealed in Chalet 508.