Joined: Sep. 2002
||Posted: June 04 2003, 18:26
Humour, as we all know, is not just a more refined form of the comic, but is something completely different. English literature has probably the best examples of humour in Dickens, Swift etc. In Italy we have Pirandello, who wrote a great essay (L'Umorismo, 1908) in which he gave a perfect illustration: if I see an old lady with purple hair and an earing on her nose, I notice that she is the opposite to what an old lady should be, and this is "comic". But if I start reflecting, and I realise that she dolls herself up like that just so as to feel younger and to get noticed by the community because she is lonely, I cannot just laugh: this is "humour".
The original Tubular Bells' caveman was "humour". Mike emitted those growls because he was getting drunk to cope with his unhappy childhood. Music was his only outlet. We cannot just laugh. We naturally incline to share Mike's state of mind, passing from the "notice of the contrary" to the "feeling of the contrary", as Pirandello wrote.
Tubular Bells 2003's caveman, instead, is "comic". Mike is parodying himself. He's become a laid back fellow by now, has a nice house and a nice garden, and can look backwards with that attitude. He can get drunk in his local pub whenever he wants now, the result will not be the same again. I think the new caveman sounds like an alien, in the recording, because he's really, in the real world, become "alien" to Mike: "chill out", "relax", which have lately become Oldfield's buzzwords, obviously clash with that devilish creativity that only a troubled teenage genius could unleash.
"Alien", not only to Mike, but also to the new audiences of the 21st century which Mike is undoubtedly trying to reach: audiences that are much more musically emancipated compared to those in the seventies, having already heard everything there was to hear, living better, and to whom Tubular Bells just doesn't sound any "groundbreaking" or "kewl". Audiences which prefer to "see" the old lady and laugh instead of "reflecting", that is, the shift from Homo Sapiens to Homo Videns, as Giovanni Sartori has written. Mike and WEA know this well, having remixed one of the themes that has been the archetype of modern techno music sequences. A necessary step to appeal to the brainwashed world of the TR-909 bassdrum and the TB-303 bassline.
Even the slightly epic and mystic feel of the original Finale died with Viv Stanshall. Now, with John Cleese, is just "comic". And can only be so, if you ask me. What's epic in triggering midi instruments from your sequencer, with multi track digital hard disk recording, sitting comfortably in your home studio, "chilling out", rather than using a piece of cardboard to cover the erase head on that Bang & Olufsen thing, and then hurrying up with that panoply of instruments at The Manor, and all the other phat stuff? What's mystic in the quantized world of computer music?