Friday, April 24, 2020

Pause and Reconsider: {AN} Eel

While live music is on pause, I've asked some friends of MFS to dig through the archives and put together a playlist of some things I've posted that have registered with them in one way or another — contextualizing blurbs preferred but not required. Expect to see a variety of different takes and approaches as the playlists get posted — and hopefully we'll all be reminded of some cool things that have happened in the past.

The first playlist is from Neal D Retke, who records as {AN} Eel. He is a performer of spontaneous sound explosions — and also an inveterate community builder, bringing the tape art ethos into the digital age while bringing together musicians from across the world to commuicate together.


Well, I had to stop and catch my breath for a moment before writing these words - I had a lot to say about something else, but as the wags in the industry said - I've “ Pulled Focus “ to change subjects quite a bit -

First, some context & background. My name is Neal but I perform & create art & events under the moniker of {AN} Eel, which obviously you are clever enough to grasp the deep & profound meaning of. I've been a fan of experimental music for decades now, but in 2011 I started to perform & play music live, something I'd not done since the 1900s ( Remember them ? ) and in the time that I've been back doing this, I've gotten deeper into organizing live shows & events as both a practical matter and a way of creating or deepening a sense of community - I've been very fortunate in having been in a wide range of areas with very different views & approaches to the whole of live music ( Not just the little experimental cubby-hole that I live in ) - The apogee of this could arguably be said to have been my organizing & performing in the ECLEC-TIC -TOC festival, in July of 2017 - James Bailey was the first performer in this festival, so let's start out with him -

James Bailey - Repent, Harlequin [excerpt]

One of the weird things about arranging live music is the relationship to the audience - This becomes a lot more complicated in terms of experimental music - I feel like the audience must go over halfway in meeting the performer, as the sounds themselves are often of a challenging nature - Sometimes very quiet ( Or total silence ) - Sometimes quite abrasive. This is actually one of the things that draws me most to it - Very little junk food here, no “ Ditties “ or pre-fabricated selling points - Of course, all music has it's weaknesses and its strong points, but I feel like the active nature of listening to this stuff ( Live or recorded ) adds a little extra sauce to the affair, a bit of spice

Knurl - [excerpt]

For me, music is never self contained - It is very rare for me not to have some sort of reaction to music, positive or negative - I feel sorry for the sounds when it does happen. But I think that's because music connects deeply in me, and I feel in many of us - True, in a lot of cases, there's people who just think of music at “ Appropriate “ times, special events ( Dunno - Elevators, Supermarkets - Editorial bias here ) but with few exceptions, I think it's a big neural connector to something that can and often does transcend the mundane, the day to day -

Mkl32 - [excerpt]

Spiritual malarky aside, I also think of what a great social organizing tool it is - How many of us have a lot of our personal identity tied into whatever music / genre / band etc. we hold dear - I think the deeper one gets into this, the more this becomes true - When one crosses the bridge to performing, this becomes even more pronounced, more distinct - It becomes vital and perhaps blown out of context - But that's a very human reaction, and socializing & identity are such human constraints - Think of how many pivotal moments in your life have a song, a soundtrack - It's impact is depend when those sounds come from collaborators, or event friends - It's a profound thing.

Moth Ash - [excerpt]

And here we go. - I was going to write a bit about the changing landscape of performances, but recent current events have blown all of that out of the water. In my view, there has been a eradication of D.I.Y. culture & the type of venues that cater to these sorts of things - There has been economic pressure as well as shifts in political & social attitudes around this - A Number of years ago, the Ghost Ship fire in CA. added to a tone of these places being undesirable, an eyesore or worse public menace. I also feel like we're in an era where curiosity & acceptance have been replaced to a large extent with suspicion & paranoia - There's a lot of changes, to be sure -

Ben Grossman/cheryl o/Barry Prophet - [excerpt]

One thing, however, that I think will never change - We are social animals. We love communicating, interacting with each other - History has shown us that music ( Especially in a context of movement & socializing ) can lead to a deepening of the shared experience, how many of us wouldn't like to have entrance music ? How many of us haven't been stopped in our tracks by a sound or a song triggering a particularly emotional memory ? I'm not a scientist, but from what I've seen and from what I feel, it's hard wired into us - So let me close on this -

No One Receiving Duo - [excerpt]

I've never been in a position to think of this as “ Work “ or any sort of profit - Even the handful of professional musicians I know of ( Some of whom Are by most standards quite successful ) have passion as a primary influence. Sure, the life of a gigging musician can be monotonous & droll, but when it comes to the music, it always starts from a place of passion. Whatever pragmatic or Capital based concerns seem to fall a couple of rungs down the latter in view of such passion - It's the prime mover so to speak - The main motivator -

Valerie Kuehne - Nootropics

I want to tell you a story - To me, it's a funny one - Years ago, I was driving cross country with a friend - I'd received a horrible Xmas gift, it was a small cardinal statue which created an obnoxious 8-bit twittering whenever it moved. At the onset of the trip, we'd joked a bit about how if we were in accident the little bird would be the last left standing and chirping away in our funeral silence - You see where I'm going with this right ? Sure enough, we'd lost to a mid-western winter and ended up sliding on a median & belly up in a ditch - In the immediate aftermaths ( After a quick check list to dissipate the shock & ensure no serious injury ) sure enough the damned bird was warbling away - I can't speak for my friend but I know in my case, it was a comfort - I think I even laughed out loud -

I feel like that's where we are now - Whatever happens, no matter how bad it gets, People will keep making music. People will keep enjoying music - maybe we can't socialize around live shows - maybe we never will again ! If that happens, we'll bond over shared interests, argue about silly and trivial details concerning our music and of course, every once and a while dance like nobody's watching. Because maybe now that will be true - maybe there will be nobody to watch. I believe music has the power to heal, and without going to deep into it, I think a lot of that power comes from our interconnectedness with music - Our shared ear, so to speak.

So Rock Out, Dance on. Shake your Tail-Feather, Tickle those Ivories - We are here, I hear you & we're all in this together.

Be good to each other & stay safe.

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