The following comes out of a conversation I had with Timothy Morton on his Facebook wall, all in regard to the recent and unexpected passing of the great guitarist Allan Holdsworth. Here, I draw parallels between him, John McLaughlin, and John Coltrane. I’ve edited this for a bit of clarity.
Holdsworth, like McLaughlin, could easily take arpeggios and scales and mix between them. McLaughlin however was more staccato, while Holdsworth was more legato – even when playing 64th notes at some insane tempo. I think this had to do with *how* he played guitar, which brings me to something else that is critical to Holdsworth’s aesthetic, and this links him (on two levels) to Coltrane – and that is his technique and tone. His technique is fascinating. I’ve watched a pile of videos of him playing, and he had a habit of plucking the string closer to the neck. This decreases a certain set of overtones and frequencies, giving him a characteristic TONE. And that is one of the things I admired most about his playing. His tone was flawless. He always had this steady, flowing, warm tone to his guitar – it was readily identifiable. Honestly, that’s one of the reasons I don’t much care for his middle period work playing a Synthaxe. It’s a synthesizer, and it sounds like… a synth. Frankly his synth programming chops were good, but not great. In anycase he gradually went back to electric guitar and his fabulousity continued and grew.
But this is where there is a flow between him and Coltrane. They both had perfect tone and flow. Coltrane had an unmistakable tone and incredible flow, and like Coltrane (which brings me back to a counter point to McLaughlin) Holdsworth would take his incredible tone and timbre and bring it into the flow, and their flows were similar: where melody would work its way through patterns of scales and arpeggios, and have them operate in a very extended way through a variety of different modes. So as you follow the melody, it floats through a chord sequence, which they touch on by pulling in bits of arpeggio based off the chord, and bounce off a scale based in that chord. Both he and Coltrane would then shift through a variety of modes. What makes it stunning is how effortless both he and Coltrane make it sound – the warmth and tone do that – and then do it all at some crazy relativistic velocity. In terms of speed, this can be contrasted with McLaughlin. McLaughlin’s approach in the 70s (and continuing to this day, although although since the 90s, McLaughlin’s been happy to “punch holes” in the sound – his work with Miles Davis finally sank in, perhaps?) was more like an unrelenting machine gun or a firehose. He plucked the strings closer to the bridge – usually between the two pickups, and often closer to the bridge pickup. There, the string is tighter, and thus more “brittle” or “tighter” sounding when plucked. Also, McLaughlin tended to pluck more, which, combined with his hand position relative to the bridge, gave the staccato mandolin type sound and approach that is so awesome and characteristic of McLaughlin’s playing. Holdsworth’s plucking was often over the neck pick up or between the neck pickup and the neck. He was less concerned about plucking each note, and would let his left hand fluidly travel over the neck. Plucking close to the neck gave him that crazy warm tone, and his fluid touch and fretwork gave him that flow. I also got the impression he would rarely use the bridge pick up alone – he usually ran with the neck pick up or, if he needed more treble, both neck and bridge pick ups. This also gave a great deal of warmth to his sound.
Seventy is not that old, especially in this day and age. Holdsworth was brilliant and he shall be missed.
On a personal note, I knew of and listened to Holdsworth – mostly his work with Gong and UK. I even saw UK with Holdsworth playing in 1978 in Morristown NJ. I was way impressed by his playing. Then I lost track of him. I heard one of his records in the 80s on Synthaxe and was not impressed. When I started hanging out with Timothy Morton, he recommended his solo works and gave me some titles to check out. I did and “discovered” his genius all over again. So I have to thank Timothy for that!
Notes toward another post:
Music is only really alive when people play it. Recorded music is a kind of material hauntological experience. We get to hear ghosts. Not all ghosts are scary. Some are warm and friendly…
Last night I posted every single meme I had in my Pictures Folder to Facebook. It ran as a continuous collection of single posts, flooding the streams of my friends. This was on purpose. While doing this a few friends messaged me wondering if my Facebook had been hijacked. I replied this was on purpose.
The purpose was to illustrate and provoke some thought and awareness about a few things regarding Social Media, and Facebook in specific. I was going to write a more extensive reflection on this, but I am not feeling that great today. So this will be shorter.
Facebook has a built in glue: friendship and trust. I have many friends on Facebook, some I’ve known since kindergarten. What my posting flurry did was alarm some friends – friends that were on Facebook at that time and watching their feed flood with memes. To be honest, some of the memes are actually pretty funny and a few are insightful. This gives the posting flurry some value. This also complicated the flurry, as the meme flood became a kind of slide show or film, an event or performance. The downside is that it came unbidden. The upside is that it was chock full of useful memes. One friend reposted one particular part of my flurry which dealt with argument errors. A number of friends emailed me saying they were laughing a lot – it was like a fire hose of humour. I am sure some people were less than amused as their feed is now cluttered with my meme flurry.
As time goes by, the flurry will recede, like a large animal swallowed by a python, it will form a lump that will dissipate with time.
SO, with this flurry, I may have stretched some trust with my friends – if I made you uncomfortable that was a small part of my intention, but not my goal. By doing something annoying in this way on Facebook, I am laying bare the vectors of association around my Facebook account, and allowing people to examine what exactly it is that is in their Feed. For example, a friend’s feed late last night would be dominated by my posts. As one wished to review earlier posts by others, one will have to wallow through the flurry to get to them. As time passes and older posts become less relevant in the next few days, the flurry will simply disappear. What will remain? All the memes will remain in my Timeline Photos for people to see, reference and share.
Posting these became a time-based performance, something for which Facebook is ill-suited. However, it was a way to push Facebook into a place it wasn’t designed for, and experiment with its boundaries and parameters. This is not the first time. Several years ago I worked with Boris Ackerhalt where he would post images and then we would give them captions that were of a specific character, or using specific rules to arrive at captions. There were ideas to make one particular series into a book, but the photographer declined. Boris would post ever more extreme images and his Facebook account was removed more than once. He was pushing boundaries that Facebook didn’t want pushed. Eventually he tired of this and went on to other work, as did I.
This latest action / event / performance had a potential audience of over 1000, however it is likely that only a handful actually experienced it due to the Facebook algorithms of association and notification.
Facebook is a deeply broken system that works extremely well. I expect I will figure out more “things to do with Facebook”. I doubt I will do another Flurry like that.
What this article misses is the unifying language that the fundamental interests of the left are the actual, if unacknowledged or ignored, interests of the people who voted for Trump. Most of the Trump voters aren’t necessarily fascist sexist klansmen, although I am fairly certain that every fascist sexist klansman did vote for Trump. Most of them were just typical white middle Americans – fairly clueless, poorly informed, angry, and deeply frustrated. To quote the “liberal redneck” comedian Trae Crowder from a recent appearance on Real Time with Bill Maher, “racism and sexism were just the icing on the fuck-you cake they voted for.” I agree with the article in that there is no point in giving Trump or his agenda a hair’s breadth of daylight. I also agree that buying into the notion that Clinton’s some kind of progressive was and is foolish, and saying her voting record was 93% in accord with Bernie’s was stupid. As the article notes: Bleach is 93% water, and no one wants to drink it… Where their records diverge were critical. The other thing that he gets into and I also agree with is that Bernie was not a significant leftist. He is a left wing reformer, and like the author, I was fine with that at this election.However, times are different now, and the political atmosphere has darkened and stiffened. This will require more vigorous effort to rectify….
Using software Goldman Sach’s New York headquarters has replaced 600 traders with 200 programmers. This echoes or rhymes with a record from 1970 by The Firesign Theatre, I Think We’re All Bozos On This Bus:
(…JIM…): Mister President – WHERE CAN I GET A JOB?
The President: Many busy executives ask me, “What about the job displacement market program in the city of the future?” Well, count on us to be there, (… JIM…), because, if we’re lucky tomorrow, we won’t have to deal with questions like yours ever again.
That’s from 1970. Stunning.
After spending most of a month in Amsterdam I was deeply impressed by the bicycle culture there and felt bad that I hadn’t been riding my bike as much as I would like or felt I should. A few years ago, I sold my (dead/dying) Honda Civic (f0r scrap) and since then, for the most part, I just don’t drive that much around town at all. Recent events (which I will get into in a future post) have pointed out to me that I need to be in better shape. Like, Much Better Shape. Riding a bike is, for me, an optimal solution. I find going to the gym one of the most boring and grim experiences I can think of. Riding a bike is fun and useful – I can get things done on my bike that I cannot do at a gym – like GO TO WORK.
The problem with riding a bike is my left knee. It’s not what it used to be, shall we say, and is showing signs of arthritis. cycling is tough on knees, and I am fairly certain that poor cycling habits was a key contributor to my present condition. My knee is fine for most efforts, but grinding u pa hill or extended efforts – it tires and hurts. Thus: the electric assist bike.
I’ve been contemplating procuring an electric assist since the early 2000s. Not far from where we lived in San Francisco was a guy who started an ebike company called Stokemonkey. He would take an extended bike frame (the “Big Dummy” built by Surly) and put a 1000w motor and battery pack on it. The results were amazing. I was especially touched by this video:
There she is pedalling her Stokemonkey / Surly Big Dummy with two kids on the back and four bags of groceries. Awesome – a simple, sweet, decent and wonderful scene. She is able to travel quickly and easily. I’m sure those kids are now teenagers. I hope they have happy memories of their mom carting them around town on her Stokemonkey. A friend of mine in San Francisco had one of these and let me ride it. At first, it scared the crap out of me – one simple touch on the throttle and suddenly I was going 25mph, without pedaling. I was impressed.
I knew then that some day I would have an ebike.
I looked at a bunch of different bikes. I was soon smitten by the Tidal Force 750. Here’s a video of some people riding Tidal Force 750s at speeds over 50kmph.
This is what the Tidal Force looks like.
It looks very milspec, because it kind of is. It started with a non-electric folding bike built by Montague for paratroopers. It was then electrified and they tried to get the pentagon to sign on. At the same time they were selling them to the public. Due to massive mismanagement, they went out of business very quickly. It’s an interesting story, and is told in some detail Here.
Tidal Force came and went quickly…
I liked the design of the Tidal Force. I also liked its specifications – it was VERY fast. I was thinking about the Tidal Force 750 a week ago, and then looked into Canadian ebikes. I found a company, Daymak, that makes ebikes and one of them is called The Arsenal. It looks A LOT like the Tidal Force. Like the Tidal Force, it is a folding bike. Unlike the tidal Force, it has a 350w motor, not 1kw. Also, it folds differently – more symmetrically – than the Tidal Force, making it a bit easier to pick up and haul around. Here’s a picture of the Arsenal:
As you can see – it looks A LOT like the Tidal Force, only without the giant motor… It is also speed limited to 35kmph.
I thought about the Arsenal a bit and concluded I don’t really need a folding bike. My office is big enough to accomodate a bike – folding it would gain me little. Also, the plan is to use this vehicle every day, and any locking mechanism would wear out with daily use. However, I was interested in Daymak – they are local to Toronto, so any repairs I might need can get done quickly and easily. I wouldn’t have to worry about the vagaries of dealerships. So I examined other ebikes they make, and felt that the Vermont 48 might be ideal. So I borrowed Beth’s car (GREENISH, the senile Prius) and cruised up to Ebike Universe in North York – the main showroom and dealership for Daymak in Toronto.
There, I met Elena Carbone and we talked for some time about what I am doing with an ebike and what my needs are. She dissuaded me from the Vermont 48 and recommended the Paris 48. Her points were good: the Vermont has a more aggressive “body forward” posture and a top tube in the frame. The Paris is built more like an Amsterdam “Oma” bike – it has a “step through” frame, and a more vertical body position. It has the same motor (500w) and battery (48v Lithium) as the Vermont. Thus, it has the same performance as the Vermont, while being much more comfortable and easy to ride. This is especially true, she pointed out, in city traffic, where one must frequently dismount at stoplights or crowded intersections. The Paris, like the Vermont, is both a pedal assist or throttled motor, at the push of a button. I am certain I will use pedal assist the most. I don’t mind pedaling. My knee doesn’t like hills much and tends to ache after 40 minutes of solid work. The pedal assist will allow me to
– pedal and not feel like I am breaking my knee.
– not have to stew in the T.T.C.
– get me to work in 35 minutes (driving takes 27 minutes, so it’s nearly as fast as driving a car!)
– get out and exercise more, which is the whole point of this, anyway…
Elena also pointed out that the Paris 48 is $100 less expensive than the Vermont 48. Also, because it’s the middle of the winter, they are having a sale where if I put $200 down *now* they would take $200 off the price when I come to pay it off and collect the bike.
Her argument was convincing. And so at the end of February I will collect a brand new black Daymak Paris 48. It’s not a Stokemonkey rolling on a Surly Big Dummy. I don’t have a squad of kids to haul with my groceries – I have a bike trailer for that. It’s not a Tidal Force 750, but then I don’t need a folding bike, or one that can be thrown out of an airplane. And, it’s not a Vermont or some fancy carbon fiber bike – I like the step-through design and the vertical position of the Paris, and I find carbon fiber bikes very brittle to ride and expensive. There are a number of features I wish the Paris 48 had (a charge sensing battery charger would be nice, and a brake activated interrupter on the motor would be nice. But for less than $2000, I can deal with that.
At the end of February, I will have a daily ebike, a vehicle I can ride to work.
We are pleased.