Sunday, September 8, 2013

Arthur C. Clarke and The Colors Of Infinity

Arthur C. Clarke

Just had my mind blown by Arthur C. Clarke. Yet again. Somewhere, through a chain of Twitter retweets, I came across a link to a 1995 TV program he did called Fractals: The Colors Of Infinity. In just under an hour it seems I had pretty much all my favorite things—Clarke, science/math, technologyall accompanied by a soundtrack from David Gilmour. Not sure how I could ask for anything more in a single TV show.

So this post doesn’t have much to do with synthesizers per se, although the soundtrack is excellent. And I’m certainly no mathematician or scientist either. It’s just that Clarke’s books, 2001 in particular, have been a huge influence on me. The movie came out when I was 8 or 9 years old, in 1968 or ’69, and I remember my sister taking me to see it at the Ziegfield Theater in New York. We sat in the front row so we could lie on the floor under the screen at the appropriate moments. It’s possible that it may not have been when it first came out as the Ziegfield used to bring it back seemingly every year for quite a while, but I was definitely a little kid. Old enough to think it was really weird to lie down in the front of a theater but young enough to still go ahead and do it.

But the point about Clarke is that his books and his vision of the future shaped me. No one else in my family was into technology and science the way I was, and his books pointed me that way at a very young age. And the movie version of 2001 was so mind-blowing, at that age, that I couldn’t help but have it be a major influence. It had space ships and science and psychedelia all woven together, along with a huge dose of mystery as well as an incredible score chock full of classical music. That movie was such an influence on my young personality, and that it came at more or less the same time as the moon landings, helpfully “narrated” by Clarke and Cronkite of course, certainly didn’t hurt. Spaceships floating serenely by as if it were just a regular thing, investigating objects near Jupiter not made by humans, all accompanied by two pieces of the creepiest-to-a-nine-year-old music of all time—Atmosphères and Requiem by György Ligeti. 2001 was such a huge influence on me in many ways, and those two pieces of music are possibly where I first got my love of pure texture. They were terrifying, yet also exhilarating.

And just about at the same time, the Moog synthesizer was unleashed upon an unsuspecting public. My fate was sealed.

So in a way I grew up with Arthur C. Clarke, and with math and science, and also with David Gilmour’s music too I suppose. And they all come together in this fractals program from the ’90s. Well worth an hour if you’re so inclined.

Fractals: The Colors Of Infinity



Photograph: ©Andrew Holbrooke/Corbis

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Hesitation Marks - Nine Inch Nails

Nine Inch Nails - Hesitation Marks

Great album. Not quite what I expected in some ways though. Not at all in a bad way, it’s just that having seen the live streams of various recent performances I was expecting a much rowdier album in a way. I guess I was expecting Nine Inch Nails, and what I got was some kind of cross between the Cure, How To Destroy Angels, Tangerine Dream, and NIN. Which I have to say from my perspective is totally cool.

So first thing I have to say is that when I heard Adrian Belew was part of the new Nine Inch Nails I was totally blown away. Couldn’t have imagined a better combination. Then some months later that was that and it was as if it had never happened. I was a little bummed in fact. So I was pleasantly surprised to see that he’s actually all over the album, and that made me pretty happy. Perhaps not front and center like it was King Crimson, but he’s definitely there. Nice.

Secondly, you can hear a huge bit of How To Destroy Angels. Far less wall of guitars, at least on the recording, and far more wall of synthesizers. Again, from my perspective, totally cool. It’s less hard rock and good bit more interesting. There’s a lot of texture here, a lot of arpeggiator and sequencer, not near as much bit-mangled guitar. In some ways there’s a lot more here, and a lot more room to breathe, more room for the music.

And yet it’s still Nine Inch Nails. Still the same power, the same raw emotion, the same edge. And live, with the same huge crazy energy. So as a huge How To Destroy Angels fan and a huge Nine Inch Nails fan and a huge Trent Reznor soundtrack fan I have to say that Hesitation Marks is a darn good blend of all of those. And hey, it’s even got a little saxophone. Can’t ask for more than that.

I’m seeing them live in a month or so with 20,000 or so of my closest friends at the Barclay Center in Brooklyn, my first time there. Can’t wait.