For The Young, Sophisticate And Cultivated Reader

OK, just kidding – that was a partial paraphrase of yet another tune by Frank Zappa (semper laudatur).

Let me introduce you to a pair of books that should find space in your collection. I regret having talked about them so late with respect to the release date, but my life allows very little in terms of serious reading time (and, of late, opening promo packages). It took me quite a while, but in the end this is what you need to know.

The first is The Free Musics by Jack Wright. Touching Extremes has often hosted reviews of records by the American saxophonist, and I certainly am not going to repeat now at what level of absolute refusal of the obvious Wright’s playing is. But what he did with this book goes even further: decades of ideas, experiences and intuitions presented to the reader in a flux recalling an earnest and technically advanced improviser giving him/herself completely. I won’t try to explain how the narration unfolds, what the chapters comprise and so forth, because it’s useless and my words would appear somewhat miserable in front of the author’s scope. Here we find a certified knowledge of history running parallel with personal attitude, an expert analysis not filtered by the necessity of belonging to some group of “cultural” orientation or – worse yet – to glorify the power of an intelligentsia dictating what is “in” and what is “out” in the so-called avant scene. As with any difficult record, this is a text whose complexity must be assimilated progressively, in small sections if so required. Not only do we learn something important with each morsel, but among the meanders of Wright’s writing – which is not exactly elementary – we gradually contextualize an existence lived in the name of pure sound. Perusing The Free Musics made me feel at once proud for having managed to write on borderline music for almost 30 years (in spite of the inevitable doses of bullshit, I should add), and desperately ignorant when realizing how many things I still don’t know on the origins and historical developments of several musical currents of my interest. One can only study and absorb useful data from such an effort; the foolishly picky criticisms directed by some sites to this much needed publication define more those who wrote them than the subject. When you receive a gift, an obsessive dissection is the most idiotic thing that can be done; The Free Musics is a great gift for freedom seekers in every sense, an unpretentiously exhaustive piece of literature on contemporary sonic art.

The second book weighs a ton or so, but it is chock full of superb black and white photographs; we could spend whole days just flipping through it and lingering over each single image. The title is Cloud Arrangers, and the photographer in question is Slovenian Žiga Koritnik, who reveals himself to be a veritable camera artist, capturing situations, facial expressions and curious moments of a very wide range of artists, both popular and more “extremist” – say, Cesaria Evora to Anthony Braxton, the cover being graced by Paul Lovens – or halfway through the two sides. Exceptional close-ups permit us to seriously look at the performer’s soul, humor, deep melancholy, fierce intensity. Once again, spending long minutes on these pictures made us realize how much we have listened to and read about people who, thanks to their quest, have frequently changed (for the better) our lives. And yet, especially considering the temporal limitation of the latter, observing the faces and gestures in Cloud Arrangers generates a feeling of nostalgic remoteness from brothers one would want to embrace and talk to during the darkest periods. Fortunately, the music remains to provide shelter and push the bad thoughts away.

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