Sunday, March 12, 2006

We interrupt this temporary break in transmission with a temporary interruption to this break in transmission

Too gummed-up with a cold to put many coherent thoughts together, but certain things need to be said. No patience for inserting useful hyperlinks; obituaries for the fallen can be found in the usual places.

Firstly, we must acknowledge the contributions of those no longer with us:

Ali Farka Toure: known to many, and in his case to no detriment, for his groundbreaking album with Ry Cooder. But as, in many ways, the recognisable name of Malian music, Toure has perhaps enabled some of us lucky listeners to dig a little further into the music of that country (in a horrible generalisation, I am going to say, and live to regret, that I find much more to enjoy in the Malians than in the Senegalese). Only this week, I found in a second-hand-CD store a copy of “Djaam Leeli” by Baaba Maal and Mansour Seck, which I previously had only on a well-worn cassette courtesy of our good friend Peter Raisbeck.

Ivor Cutler: for some reason I always thought of Ivor Cutler and Vivian Stanshall as interchangeable. My problem. If you thought that the kind of “full” lives that used to appear in the obituaries pages of the London Telegraph had dried up with the deaths of the last of those wacky Victorians, Cutler provides something of a throwback. There wasn’t much he hadn’t taken on.

Octavia Butler: her name is better known to me than her writings. I remember her mostly from the book-review pages of such 'zines as Chemical Imbalance and Forced Exposure. My own interests, and chance discoveries, let me more in the direction of Haruki Murakami, Lucius Shepard, and William Gibson. Now she's gone; but then, I didn't read any Philip K Dick until after he had passed on.

Harry Seidler: being married, as I am, to an architect, it is hard not to be affected by the news of Seidler’s death, if only because of the hurt that will be being felt right now by many of our friends and acquaintances. Seidler introduced the heathens of this country to modernist architecture, mainly by being a damn fine practitioner of same. He built a house outside of Sydney for his mother which remains, to this day, a benchmark for domestic architecture (giving his mother tangential fame of a kind not seen since Whistler’s painting - "have you been to Harry Seidler's mother's house?" is a question I have been asked more than once). Seidler did fall victim to that well-known Australian phenomenon, the cutting down of tall poppies, but to his credit he was more than capable of meeting his doubters head-on, while never losing sight of the dividing line between criticism of him/his work, and his work itself.

And, having acknowledged the dead, let’s have a word about the living: John Zorn, whom I maintain to be the lasting musical genius of our time (cranky and obstreperous as he may be), has got a bit of a leg into the academy by being named a Presidential Fellow of the Arts at the University of Chicago. As we Australians are fond of saying, “Good on ya, Zorny.”