Thursday, August 30, 2012

Music of the Week: James Blood Ulmer - Odyssey (live, parts 1-8)

Live in Warsawa, Poland

James Blood Ulmer - guitar 
Charles Burnham - violin
Warren Benbow - drums 

1983's Odyssey, with drummer Warren Benbow and violinist Charles Burnham, was described as "avant-gutbucket," leading writer Bill Milkowski to describe the music as "conjuring images of Skip James and Albert Ayler jamming on the Mississippi Delta."

Monday, August 20, 2012

Music of the Week: David Bowie Boys Keep Swinging (live)

From a Saturday Night Live performance subjected to censorship (the voice mic goes out for the line "other boys check you out").
The song is from Lodger, one of the so-called Berlin Trilogy albums made with, among others, Brian Eno, Robert Fripp, and Adrian Belew.
And then there is the puppet.... 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Fripp: “My life as a professional musician is a joyless exercise in futility.” Financial Times, August 2012.

An interview with Robert Fripp

The Financial Times has a rare interview with Robert Fripp available on its site.  It is well worth a read.

An excerpt:

 He has stopped making music and doesn’t know when he might resume. “My life as a professional musician,” he tells me, “is a joyless exercise in futility”....

The band’s history is studded with line-up changes and hiatuses: the most recent Crimson fell silent in 2009. With 18 musicians passing through the band as full members, Fripp has been the only constant presence.
“It’s an interesting strategy for keeping the music moving in the direction it goes – that whenever you get close to success, the band splits up,” he says drily. “But it’s a strategy that does work. Though it’s one that you won’t find in ‘How to Succeed in the Music Industry’. And I can guarantee it will piss off people who are looking forward to having a good career.”
Many of his Crimson bandmates have found him hard to work with. “I’d say nearly all of them!” Fripp says. He has a sly sense of humour but he’s also exacting and focused, a stranger (unlike certain former colleagues) to rock’s distractions of drink and drugs. He fetches several large leather-bound volumes filled with carefully notated musical scores: the original notebooks in which he wrote King Crimson’s songs in their 1970s prog pomp.
“Going back to the early King Crimson, the remarkable explosion of the creative impulse in popular music, mainly in rock music, came from these young men who didn’t know what they were doing, yet were able to do it,” he says. “What has changed in 40 years? It’s very simple. Forty years ago there was a market economy. Today there is a market society. Today, everything, including ethics, has a price.”

Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness in Non-Human Animals

Although one might point out that Darwin's Expression of Emotions had already pointed in this direction, it is nice to see it in print.  The participants in the annual Francis Crick Memorial Conference issued the following statement on consciousness in  non-human animals.

The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness [1]

On this day of July 7, 2012, a prominent international group of cognitive neuroscientists, neuropharmacologists, neurophysiologists, neuroanatomists and computational neuroscientists gathered at The University of Cambridge to reassess the neurobiological substrates of conscious experience and related behaviors in human and non-human animals. While comparative research on this topic is naturally hampered by the inability of non-human animals, and often humans, to clearly and readily communicate about their internal states, the following observations can be stated unequivocally:

* The field of Consciousness research is rapidly evolving. Abundant new techniques and strategies for human and non-human animal research have been developed. Consequently, more data is becoming readily available, and this calls for a periodic reevaluation of previously held preconceptions in this field. Studies of non-human animals have shown that homologous brain circuits correlated with conscious experience and perception can be selectively facilitated and disrupted to assess whether they are in fact necessary for those experiences. Moreover, in humans, new non-invasive techniques are readily available to survey the correlates of

* The neural substrates of emotions do not appear to be confined to cortical structures.  In fact, subcortical neural networks aroused during affective states in humans are also critically important for generating emotional behaviors in animals. Artificial arousal of the same brain regions generates corresponding behavior and feeling states in both humans and non-human animals. Wherever in the brain one evokes instinctual emotional behaviors in non-human animals, many of the ensuing behaviors are consistent with experienced feeling states, including those internal states that are rewarding and punishing. Deep brain stimulation of these systems in humans can also generate similar affective states. Systems associated with affect are concentrated in subcortical regions where neural homologies abound. Young human and nonhuman animals without neocortices retain these brain-mind functions. Furthermore, neural circuits supporting behavioral/electrophysiological states of attentiveness, sleep and decision making appear to have arisen in evolution as early as the invertebrate radiation, being evident in insects and cephalopod mollusks (e.g., octopus).

* Birds appear to offer, in their behavior, neurophysiology, and neuroanatomy a striking case of parallel evolution of consciousness. Evidence of near human-like levels of consciousness has been most dramatically observed in African grey parrots. Mammalian and avian emotional networks and cognitive microcircuitries appear to be far more homologous than previously thought. Moreover, certain species of birds have been found to exhibit neural sleep patterns similar to those of mammals, including REM sleep and, as was demonstrated in zebra finches,
neurophysiological patterns, previously thought to require a mammalian neocortex. Magpies in particular have been shown to exhibit striking similarities to humans, great apes, dolphins, and elephants in studies of mirror self-recognition.

* In humans, the effect of certain hallucinogens appears to be associated with a disruption in cortical feedforward and feedback processing. Pharmacological interventions in non-human animals with compounds known to affect conscious behavior in humans can lead to similar perturbations in behavior in non-human animals. In humans, there is evidence to suggest that awareness is correlated with cortical activity, which does not exclude possible contributions by subcortical or early cortical processing, as in visual awareness. Evidence that human and nonhuman animal emotional feelings arise from homologous subcortical brain networks provide compelling evidence for evolutionarily shared primal affective qualia.

We declare the following: “The absence of a neocortex does not appear to preclude an organism from experiencing affective states. Convergent evidence indicates that non-human animals have the neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological substrates of conscious states along with the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviors. Consequently, the weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Nonhuman animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, also possess these neurological substrates.”
[1] The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness was written by Philip Low and edited by Jaak Panksepp, Diana Reiss, David Edelman, Bruno Van Swinderen, Philip Low and Christof Koch. The Declaration was publicly proclaimed in Cambridge, UK, on July 7, 2012, at the Francis Crick Memorial Conference on Consciousness in Human and non-Human Animals, at Churchill College, University of Cambridge, by Low, Edelman and Koch. The Declaration was signed by the conference participants that very evening, in the presence of Stephen Hawking, in the Balfour Room at the Hotel du Vin in Cambridge, UK. The signing ceremony was memorialized by CBS 60 Minutes.

Videos of all of the talks as well as the session issuing the declaration can be viewed at

And it so happened that today: 

 Gorilla brothers Kesho and Alf  'joy' at Longleat reunion
 "What you're seeing is exactly what you think you're seeing," he said. "Two intelligent social mammals, who were separate, are pleased to see each other again and play together. It is gorilla joy, being reunited with someone you used to have good times with and now you can again, so it's gorilla happiness."