Stretch Your Ears

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The Independent Culture

Does new music need stars? Promoters, broadcasters and journalists like them because it's easier to base a concert, programme or feature around one charismatic individual. "The general public needs them," said Canadian guitarist and composer Tim Brady during his recent UK visit, "but the musical public doesn't." Brady's tour with Regular Music II last month was a good, if under-hyped, example of this - a high-powered line-up of classical musicians, jazzers and drummer Charles Hayward playing complex, satisfying scores by Jeremy Peyton Jones, the ensemble's leader.

Does new music need stars? Promoters, broadcasters and journalists like them because it's easier to base a concert, programme or feature around one charismatic individual. "The general public needs them," said Canadian guitarist and composer Tim Brady during his recent UK visit, "but the musical public doesn't." Brady's tour with Regular Music II last month was a good, if under-hyped, example of this - a high-powered line-up of classical musicians, jazzers and drummer Charles Hayward playing complex, satisfying scores by Jeremy Peyton Jones, the ensemble's leader.

Brady said: "The thing I really like about Canada is that we have no stars. People who put out new music records are on small independents. The difference between an established composer and some 22-year-old just out of college is minimal. There's no millionaire Canadian composer and never will be."

Brady's comments came to mind as I watched Music for the 21st Century, Gerald Fox's thoughtful Channel 4 documentary about Thomas Adÿs. The programme's original title, Genius for the 21st Century, was changed at the request of both composer and director, though it seems the network would have preferred the over-hyped approach. The more modest title may be the reason for the show's out-of-the-way TV slot on a Wednesday afternoon, stranded somewhere between One Million Years BC and Countdown. If you did see it and want more, Adÿs conducts the London Sinfonietta at the South Bank on 28 January.

Other non-geniuses performing this month include Don Alias (on a CMN tour from 17 Jan, www.cmntours.org.uk), Ryoji Ikeda (also on a CMN tour from 18 Jan), John Zorn (25 Jan at the Barbican) and Ashley Slater's Big Lounge (25 and 26 Jan at the Spitz).

There is no shortage of stars in the movies, yet the film soundtrack is one of the most anonymous audio mediums of our time. Not movie albums, but the actual collage of dialogue, sound effects, silence, atmosphere and music run in synchronisation with moving images. Many directors are great sound sculptors. For example, David Lynch's debut Eraserhead is like a piece of electro-acoustic music with added visuals.

Jean-Luc Godard's five-CD, four-book set of Histoire(s) du Cinema (ECM New Series) is a further example of the director as DJ. It is based on the auteur's French TV documentary and is spliced together with music from David Darling, Dino Saluzzi, Keith Jarrett and Georgian composer Giya Kancheli, whose wild, emotional " Abii ne viderem'' for string orchestra and viola (Kim Kashkashian), is included.

Pearl + Umbra (Bella Union), by Russell Mills, is another example of a visual craftsman's approach to sound assemblage. Mills, is one of several artists preparing work for Sonic Boom, which runs at London's Hayward Gallery from late April to mid-June.

Other albums worth investigating include the re-release of Graham Fitkin's Flak and Billy Jenkins's unpretentious and un-starry Suburbia (Babel).

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