Friday, January 05, 2007

Randomiser #5: 5 January 2007

Today's song: "Jump Up", The Jimmy Lyons Trio


Now this is from The Wire Tapper 9, a cover CD that came with The Wire, an avant garde music magazine that I pick up from time to time, mainly to snigger at its reviews, which are often astoundingly pretentious. (They once gave a positive review to an album that consisted entirely of feedback from a mixing desk connected to itself.)

This is, er, free jazz. It's the sort of thing that they used to introduce in sketches on The Fast Show. You know the sort of thing - seemingly random trumpet squawks, a drummer doing all sorts of odd things, and a general sense that everyone involved is taking this very, very seriously indeed. Jazz.

And there's still five minutes to go. Do I have to listen to the whole of this? I suppose I do. Oh, somebody's applauding. It must be a live recording.

Here's the thing. I can admire the technical ability involved in this, and I realise that there's a subculture of devotees who absolutely adore this kind of improvisation and perceive all sorts of thrilling subtleties in the interplay between the musicians, the way they react to one another's contributions. That's great and all, but this stuff is also the very definition of inaccessible. You'd have to make a real effort to get into this stuff, and frankly, the musical subculture that produces it never makes that sound like a very enticing prospect. To plagiarise a line from the Rock Snob's Dictionary (where they used it about the Master Musicians of Joujouka), it's "the musical equivalent of oatbran, to be taken in as nourishment rather than as a sensual experience."

I'm sure the free jazz afficionados would strenuously disagree with that, but to be honest, it does nothing for me, and this whole genre almost invariably comes over as desperately serious music for you to concentrate at, rather than... well, anything playful. If I ploughed my way through a load of jazz CDs, I'm sure I'd get it in the end, but it just never seems like it'd be worth the effort.

Oh good, it's finished.

- Went to see Pan's Labyrinth, on the theory that I should catch it before it disappeared. Sold out. That'll teach me to wait until the only cinema in Edinburgh still showing it is the Cameo's broom closet. Still a few days to go, though.

- Meanwhile, Italy is re-examining its film ratings system after Apocalypto somehow got rated as suitable for all ages. I haven't seen the film, but from the way it's been described by critics, you have to wonder what it would take to get the Italian equivalent of a 12. On a related topic, I was interested to hear on Radio 5 that (at least according to rumour) the thoroughly inoccuous Miss Potter - a biopic of Beatrix Potter - apparently has one piece of ultra-mild swearing deliberately included to ensure that it didn't get a U certificate, because nobody goes to see U films. This is an interesting point; I certainly can't remember the last time I saw a U film that wasn't aimed at infants, no matter how inoffensive the subject matter.

For a while, there was a vogue among UK producers of comedy videos for insisting that the performer include some swearing, in order to ensure that they got an 18 certificate (which in theory restricts sales, but in reality apparently boosts them). Such are the perils of film rating systems, which think they're warnings, but end up being adverts.

- Probably of interest to nobody but lawyers, but the long-promised UK Statute Law Database finally went live a few weeks ago. The government has been putting legislation on the web for years, but this is a quantum leap forward, because it includes all the amendments and repeals, past and present - which means it's actually useful. Publishers charge a small fortune for this kind of thing, which really ought to be freely available. And now it is. Good. It's not 100% perfect yet - it's not completely up to date - but it's lightyears ahead of anything that's been freely available in the past.

I care far more about this kind of thing than a thousand space-filling articles about Second Life.

By the way, if you thought "no animals were harmed in the making of this motion picture" was a recent, Hollywood-liberal concept, here's the UK legislation on the subject, which has been on the books since 1937. The UK censors used to dutifully edit westerns under this section, on the grounds that deliberately tripping horses was cruel.