Letter #44

Good morning / afternoon / evening,

It’s the dreaded Friday the 13th! But also, the sun is out and it’s hotting up, so it doesn’t count. I hope you’ve had a brilliant week – I’ve been exploring Amsterdam all week with my partners in crime ❤️. This week’s mixtape is a proper heater – to match the incoming sunshine 🌞 .

The letter this week is a little shorter than usual on account of being away most of this week, but don’t worry, I’m going to make up for it, because while this week has the usual mixtape (big red button below), TLDR section, and a short(er) note, it also has…

*Drum roll please*
The first ever Love Will Save the Day podcast 😊. More on it below in the notes, but have a listen, and let me know what you (honestly) think, I would really appreciate your feedback.
🌪 TL;DR section 🌪
Stuff to do: read this brilliant piece on the UK jazz scene in last weekend’s Guardian; listen to Lauren Martin’s excellent chat with Peter Zummo on Red Bull Radio; celebrate Herbie Hancock’s birthday by listening to a one hour Worldwide.fm special; read these brilliant scans of Langston Hughes’ amazing book The First Book of Jazz, written for children (but great for adults); read this Bandcamp piece on New York’s The Bunker;  buy Rickey Vincent’s book Funk: The Music, The People, and The Rhythm of the Oneand finally, have a look over this year’s RSD release list (it’s not all unnecessary reissues and picture discs, honest).

BIG REQUEST: If you enjoy this letter, I have a favour to beg of you… Would you reply and let me know two things; 1) what do you like, and 2) what would you change? I’m trying to improve the letter, and figure out the structure of the podcasts going forwards. It doesn’t have to be an essay, just a few words would be helpful.

Thank you ❤️

PLAY
📚 The notes 📚

 

This week’s mixtape has been heavily influenced by record shopping in Amsterdam (my first visit to Rush Hour – what an exceptional shop), the sounds of the city itself (lots of jazz and hip-hop), and spending a lot of time thinking about the connections between funk and jazz, how culture works (still), and the links between science and art. It’s been a very mentally stimulating week 😊, although a lot of these thoughts are half-thoughts that I’d like to keep coming back to after more reading and listening.

I finished reading the Mark Radcliffe book this week (after skipping quite a bit of the lads lads lads stuff), and in one of the final chapters there’s a really interesting point when Radcliffe is interviewing Kate Bush. I’ve never been a massive fan (lack of knowledge, rather than dislike), but after reading about Bush’s comments, I’m going to listen to everything she’s ever done. The interview is to promote Aerial, which came after a 12 year break in recording, and Radcliffe notes Bush’s “attitude to the notion of celebrity was bewilderment. She expressed astonishment that we have come to invest so much attention on something so shallow. To her, it was the work that was important, not the notoriety that resulted from it.” It’s all about the work. Show, don’t tell. Focus on what matters. It’s very work-related, but this echoes the thoughts of Adam Morgan in his book Eating The Big Fish, where he talks about the risk of the ‘Mephisto Waltz’, where two black holes are so attracted to each other, that they create a single black hole. Everything merges into one, and nothing new, or of value is created, and all because of a lack of focus on actual output. It’s all about what we create.

While the output should be single-minded, the inputs should be numerous. I’ve talked before about Steven Johnson’s idea the adjacent possiblethe more we expose ourselves to, the stronger our ideas become. This seems to be where emergent cultures properly accelerate – if you’re part of a culture that is full of brilliant and innovative ideas, then that has a knock on effect on the output of that whole culture. Listening to this recording of Antonio Russolo’s 1921 composition is a good example – it was born from the Dada movement, an avant-garde art movement that was (at the time) a weird phenomena, but a culture that has had long lasting effects across modern culture (I’d say there would be no Velvet Underground without Dada). The output was single-minded (as detailed in Tristan Tzara’s manifesto), but the inputs were numerous.

This level of creativity is hard to generate though. We can’t just flick a switch – we have to constantly expose ourselves to new material, and new thoughts. Also, it turns out, we need to move more. Sadly, Cecil Taylor passed away. Taylor was famous for being a brilliant, incredibly creative, and challenging jazz musician. He also wore sportswear on stage to help him move as freely as possible, because he was incredibly active musician. In fact, a lot of jazz players were/are very active on stage. I started reading Rickey Vincent’s Funk: The Music, The People, and The Rhythm of the One this week, and noticed that a recurring behaviour of funk musicians is physicality on stage too. The best jazz and funk players are renowned for their ability to lock into a groove, but then create brilliantly creative flushes of improvisation as if from nowhere. But it would seem that there’s a strong connection between physical activity and creativity…

This link between science and art is something that I’m finding myself increasing drawn towards, whether in Brian Eno’s view that “there is a deep connection between art and science: each is a highly organised form of pretending; of saying “let’s see what would happen if the world was like this.”, or looking at the more pragmatic connections between the two with someone like Daphne Oram, and her brilliant work as part of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Lots to think about.

I’ve also spent a boat-load of time thinking about what ‘the mainstream’ actually means. Does it mean something is globally popular? Has anything since the Beatles been truly globally popular? Or does it mean popular within a broad network of people? Who defines what is and isn’t mainstream? Is it the people who’s ideas have passed from the edges to the mainstream? Or are there mainstream ‘gatekeepers’, who nurse things from the edges to the mainstream? Can an idea go mainstream, or does it need better definition than that? To help me structure some of these (frankly) half-baked thoughts, I’ve got some reading to do. Richard Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene, and the idea of memes.

Finally, I’m guessing that if you’ve read to here, then you’re part of the Love Will Save the Day hardcore, so I can bore you to tears about recording the first podcast. The actual experience itself was much nicer the second time around (and the first botched podcast actually helped a lot, bizarrely). It runs to just under two hours, and I got through 32 songs (including doing a ‘John Peel’ and playing something meant for 45 on 33). I was using Mixlr to record it live, which I prefer as quite a few people listened in which made it feel a bit less weird. However, turns out Mixlr is pretty unstable (or was at least last Saturday evening), and crashed a few times. From now on, I think I’ll record a safety file too. As such, if you’d like to get notifications when each podcast goes live, then follow me here on Mixcloud. I’m going to try and record one every couple of weeks.

I’m going to play around a lot with the format, and hopefully my confidence will grow a bit too I remember writing the first Love Will Save the Day letter and being insanely nervous sending it out. Now when I look back at those early letters I cringe a bit, but I can see how it’s developed. Hopefully the same will come of the podcast too. After asking a few people for their candid feedback, I know I need to; be a little less afraid to give the raw, and sometimes personal anecdotes that show why I care so much about culture; I need to get a bit more organised with thinking about what it is that I want to talk about, and have some notes to prompt me; but most of all, I think I need to remember why I’m doing this all in the first place – to share music, and thoughts on culture, with a bunch of people that I know love it in the same way that I do 🙏🏼 . Oh, and talk louder. Which is a problem I’ve literally never encountered before…

As always, if you’ve read to here, thanks for indulging me ♥️.

See you on the dance floor.
Love Will Save the Day

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