Hi, I’m Rudiger Meyer and this is my monthly newsletter covering what I’ve been up to and what’s been catching my attention.
I finally finished my Clarence Barlow memorial post. It ended up being difficult to complete for some reason. Wanting to find the right words, but perhaps also to do with the fact that looking through all his work brought with it a lot of internal processing on my side, a kind of review in terms of my own development. Some kind of working through his importance to me as a teacher 23 years ago and an evaluation of the path I’ve travelled since, the place I’ve reached all these years later. At times I’ve had doubts about from such a personal point of view, but chancing across Murakami’s Novelist as a Vocation ‘autobiography’, and finding value in the personal accounts that he provides there, was something that encouraged me to push ahead.
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While collecting links and images in relation to Clarence, I came across the following quote on the footer of the Hat Hut record label’s website:
…does not consist in creating out of void but of chaos:
«The Ecstasy of Influence»
—by Jonathan Lethem.
I’d written a few words reflecting on the (continued) use of the term ‘avant-garde’ in my June newsletter, referring to a blog post that I’d written some 10 years ago, in which I quoted from Jonathan Lethem’s The Ecstasy of Influence.
I went back and reread that essay, finding the hour or so it takes to read it, well spent. It’s from the February 2007 issue of Harper’s Magazine, so coming from a different time and place, but still very much pertinent to today, I find. (‘Use monopoly’ as a way of describing copyright. The current A.I. chapter of the internet.) And pertinent to Clarence too, I found as I was working through his output and writing about him. The aspect of gift culture. Being able to view one’s own output with some detachment as a material alongside that of others. Ideas not necessarily as an expression of one’s own personality, but as something one taps into, receives.
On the other hand Clarence was vehemently against being classified as a post-modernist…
The title The Ecstasy of Influence comes of course as a response to Harold Bloom’s The Anxiety of Influence, the ‘anxiety’ that plagued all true modernists and the depth of which was to guarantee their quality. I read Bloom’s fascinating The Western Canon in my student days (and still have it on my bookshelf) and spent many years thinking about it, and thinking about it again (in relation to Lethem) opens up a very particular can of worms to be looked into (or not!). Perhaps at some other time…
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Speaking of the ‘avant-garde’ Robin Rimbaud (Scanner) posted on Instagram about the Deutsche Grammophon Avantgarde series reissue.
I remember finding some of those recordings in the public library in Johannesburg. The very distinctive covers – Ligeti etc. But if one looks at the track listings there’s a wide range of composers included across the 24 albums – a veritable portrait of that time, with many names that have now passed into obscurity.
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Two years ago I’d gotten quite enthusiastic about the quiet focus of Giuseppe Ielasi’s Five Wooden Frames. (See the April ‘21 issue of my newsletter.) Since then I’ve been wondering if the subtle detail of that kind of stuff was something that specifically belonged to the covid era. Now, in a louder age of war, having moved on to other things. But I recently came across Why Are You Talking So Loud? an album that once again caught my ear in a similar way – with the same kind of intense focus that I’ve once again found very useful to listen while working. It’s by a certain Paolo Ielasi, who turns out to be the younger brother of Giuseppe.
All the best,