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Topic: One of Mike's Most Artistic Albums< Next Oldest | Next Newest >
nightspore Offline




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Posted: May 17 2008, 22:04

In my opinion, "Light and Shade" is second only to "Tubular Bells 2" in being Mike's most "artistic" (in the sense of material being organized according to intellectual criteria) record. I'm not referring simply to the fact that there are "light" pieces and "shade" pieces. Everything about the shade pieces conjures up shadows, non-presence: the words are mostly whispered; they're not the voices of real human beings anyway; the lyrics (eg in "Surfing") are dreamlike, not making perfect sense; and trance/dance rhythms, which one would normally expect to be exuberant and energetic, instead process descending melodies, melodies that evoke sadness.

As for "Light", the light is that of a cold sunny day in late autumn.

I like this record more every time I hear it. It must have been very disappointing to its creator that it was not a commercial success.
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Sir Mustapha Offline




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Posted: May 17 2008, 22:37

That's certainly a very optimistic view of the album. Actually, I don't know if "optimistic" is the word I'm aiming for here... Whatever. My view on this album is, in a way, opposite: this is the one Mike Oldfield album that sounds very disjointed, like he was going for anything and everything at once, not caring whether the final results would form a whole; and when he had the body of songs, he picked a "concept" that is vague enough to be flexible (so you can interpret it in infinite ways) but specific enough to be evocative. Electronic artists often go towards the very vague (Autechre) or towards the very specific (Venetian Snares); many stay somewhere in between, but Mike stood at both of them at the same time.

I don't think there's anything wrong with making music first and then creating an artificial concept to embody them. Is it artistic? Quite possibly.


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Alan D Offline




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Posted: May 18 2008, 03:05

Quote (Sir Mustapha @ May 18 2008, 03:37)
My view on this album is, in a way, opposite: this is the one Mike Oldfield album that sounds very disjointed, like he was going for anything and everything at once, not caring whether the final results would form a whole; and when he had the body of songs, he picked a "concept" that is vague enough to be flexible (so you can interpret it in infinite ways) but specific enough to be evocative.

For pity's sake, Sir M - if you're going to keep on saying so many things I agree with, we'll never have any more fun! Has the universe changed in some fundamental way, do you think?

It's a curious album. I can enjoy it a lot more now than I could when it first appeared, but I haven't been able to see it as a coherent whole in any substantial way. It strikes me as a kind of hotchpotch of odds and ends from Tr3s Lunas and Maestro, mixed in with some other stuff Mike had produced, and then divided into two as an afterthought - much along the lines that Sir M suggests. I don't think that makes it a bad album - and there are parts of it that I particularly love - but I haven't been able to get any overarching sense of a big picture, of a coherent interlocking of parts, myself.

Next time I listen to it, though, I'll pay more attention to the kind of things you're saying here, Daniel, about the whispered dreamlike presences, and general sense of sadness in the Shade section.
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Posted: May 18 2008, 06:49

I think the good Mike Oldfield owes us an apology for making such a crappy album..
:/
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Sir Mustapha Offline




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Posted: May 18 2008, 10:38

Quote (prisoner.of.the.dark.sky @ May 18 2008, 06:49)
I think the good Mike Oldfield owes us an apology for making such a crappy album..

Does Music of the Spheres work as an apology?

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Dirk Star Offline




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Posted: May 18 2008, 12:07

Well I make no apologies for liking both Light & Shade and Music Of The Spheres.As for the albums from Mike I`m not especially fond of I`m sure there`s plenty of people who do like them anyway.
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Sweetpea Offline




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Posted: May 19 2008, 05:01

nightspore, you've obviously put a lot of thought into the Light + Shade experience. I haven't studied its artistic merits all that much - I just know I love it. I think many of Mike's albums are "artistic" and putting L+S at number two is very high praise.

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nightspore Offline




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Posted: May 19 2008, 05:12

Sweetpea, yes, although Light and Shade isn't my second favourite Mike Oldfield album. In fact, I actually "enjoy" only "Tears of an Angel" from the Shade disk! But one doesn't need to enjoy something to appreciate that something has artistic integrity. To take another example, I actually dislike Picasso's painting intensely, although I know exactly what he was trying to do and can appreciate that he succeeds. Those beastly "Songs of Innocence" are yet another example.

A number of people have come to Light and Shade having already been familiar with the pieces that Mike shaped to make it, and this has prevented them from seeing that the Light music is really very different from the Shade; the whole thing, in my opinion, wasn't simply cobbled together. Perhaps the trance format is too restrictive for anyone to do much with it; Mike has certainly made a valiant effort, especially with Lakme (yes, I know it's only a bonus track, but it clearly belongs to Shade rather than Light).
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The Caveman Offline




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Posted: May 19 2008, 07:04

Never really been able to get into this cd but i need to give it some more time.
 The reason i'm posting though is your reference to not needing to enjoy something to be able to recognise the artistic integrity if the artist.Made me think of,of all things Abba.
I had a discussion about this sort of thing with a friend of mine and made the point that,although I really really dislike Abba (my sister palyed Abba endlessly in the 70's when we were very young)i can admire Benni and Bjorn's songwriting skills.The songs they wrote are meticulously crafted and the attention to detail is staggering (remind you of anyone?).No wonder Mike covered Arrival.The diifference is i like Mike's version.Sorry to go off topic but i felt it was a point worth making.


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Tayniee Offline




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Posted: May 19 2008, 07:11

Quote (nightspore @ May 19 2008, 05:12)

I'm not quite sure where you're coming from nightspore with the 'artistic integrity' and reference to Literature and paintings. I would like to hear a bit more about your meaning, specifically about L+S and how it impacts 'artistically'.

I know nothing about Songs of Innocence, by the way, I notice you refer to these a lot, as does Alan D.

You talked in the MB thread about how MO hits the emotional jugular as opposed the intellect, that I can relate to.  I  FEEL the subtle light/shade differences in L+S, the album FEELS satisfying, all the tracks are different, but that doesn't FEEL a hotch potch. I have my favourite tracks.

Too much intellectuallising can lose me but still I'd like to try and understand where you're coming from.


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nightspore Offline




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Posted: May 19 2008, 08:23

Tayniee, while I haven't departed from my view that Mike in his music goes for the emotional jugular, I think he's occasionally more conceptual than emotional in his creative process. As I said before, in the 'Shade' record "everything about the shade pieces conjures up shadows, non-presence: the words are mostly whispered; they're not the voices of real human beings anyway; the lyrics (eg in "Surfing") are dreamlike, not making perfect sense; and trance/dance rhythms, which one would normally expect to be exuberant and energetic, instead process descending melodies, melodies that evoke sadness."

To take a very simple example of where I'm coming from, if I wanted to write, say, a poem about war, I might use broken sentences, harsh sounding words, abrupt dislocations of meaning. Now someone might not LIKE such a poem, but could still appreciate WHY it was written like that.

The 'Songs of Innocence' are little poems by William Blake that I personally don't like. They have no connection to Mike's music (not directly, anyway: Jon Anderson sings one of them on Alan White's Ramshackled album (my nomination for obscure music reference of the day).)
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The Caveman Offline




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Posted: May 19 2008, 09:43

You just inspired me to dig out my copy.Had it years and not played it.Thanks Nightspore.
I'll stop now.


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Tayniee Offline




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Posted: May 19 2008, 10:03

Ok, nightspore, you are using the term 'artistic integrity' when referring to to the extent  MO consciously uses his mind and intellect (rather than emotion) during the creative process of composing.

So you believe that L+S is primarily an intelligent piece of work (and also TB2). His interpretation of Shade does have those components you mention and Light has clarity. Shade also has 'negative' emotions and Light 'positive', putting it simplistically.

I always believed it was about getting the right balance between intelligence and emotion for it to be  enjoyable but I could be wrong there. TB2 does appear a particular clever piece of work and also enjoyable. MOTS feels too intelligent in places and therefore not as enjoyable. And yes, I think I understand now why I never liked Dancing Queen,  although
I was told it was a great song.

I have a problem with the term 'artistic integrity' if it  impies intelligence is superior to emotion, as some might interpret it.


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nightspore Offline




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Posted: May 19 2008, 10:19

Quote (Tayniee @ May 19 2008, 10:03)
I always believed it was about getting the right balance between intelligence and emotion for it to be  enjoyable but I could be wrong there.

Tayniee, this was the philosopher Kant's exact point: in his Third Critique he said that in music, painting, etc there's a feeling dimension and an intellectual dimension, and the two must be in balance for the art to be art. I agree, and I think this is where most modern "classical" music has gone wrong: melody itself is held by most modern composers to be a cliche (all melodic patterns, so the argument goes, have been exhausted by masters like Mozart and Beethoven years ago), with the result that it's virtually impossible to get any pleasure out of a work by, say, Michael Tippett or Peter Maxwell Davies. (There are a few contemporary "classical" composers, notably the Hawaiian composer Jerre Tanner,who has composed a brilliant piece called "Boy with Goldfish", who don't hold with this theory, but such composers are few and far between).
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Posted: May 19 2008, 12:06

Quote (Sir Mustapha @ May 18 2008, 15:38)
Quote (prisoner.of.the.dark.sky @ May 18 2008, 06:49)
I think the good Mike Oldfield owes us an apology for making such a crappy album..

Does Music of the Spheres work as an apology?

No, not nearly enough...

He should do a new album where the sentence:

"I´m very sorry for making light & shade"

is said at least 1000 times!   :D

and of course give 100 televised interviews saying the exact same sentence..

then - and only then - I will forgive him    :p   ........maybe...
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Dirk Star Offline




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Posted: May 19 2008, 12:10

:laugh:
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Alan D Offline




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Posted: May 19 2008, 14:20

Quote (nightspore @ May 19 2008, 15:19)
this was the philosopher Kant's exact point: in his Third Critique he said that in music, painting, etc there's a feeling dimension and an intellectual dimension, and the two must be in balance for the art to be art.

Like the idea of left brain (for intellectual mental activity) and right brain (for intuition), I find these really are helpful practical concepts - not just a matter of abstract philosophising for philosophising's sake.

Blake (whose Songs of Innocence were introduced in a different discussion though they have nothing to do with this one - except insofar as they have something to do with everything, Blake being Blake) overlapped with Kant's lifespan and had his own system, which was fourfold, not twofold. It's not irrelevant to mention this here, so I will (stick with me, because I'm coming back to Light and Shade shortly). For Blake the four key areas of human activity were
1. the intellect;
2. the emotions (so far, so like Kant);
3. the senses; and
4. the imagination.

This 4-fold division is perfectly suited to describing what happens when we enjoy art (of any kind). In terms of engaging with music, there's
1. the intellectual exercise of understanding what the composer is doing;
2. the emotional aspect - how the music makes you feel;
3. the sensual aspect - the sheer physical impact that the sound makes, pleasurable or otherwise;
4. and then there's the imaginative aspect - the ability we have to take all the various parts and grasp them all together as a whole. For Blake and others, like Coleridge and Ruskin, the imagination was the key to the operation that brings all these four together - and there's the rub. To achieve the perfect response, all these have to operate in balance, together.

It's interesting to try ticking the boxes in a particular case. So for instance, when I listen to Light and Shade I can't say my intellect is very fully engaged (mostly because I have a poor intellectual understanding of music in general); but the music certainly has an emotional impact (varying in degree from track to track, though). There's not much in the way of sensual response - I suppose all those computerised sounds don't seduce me as much as 'real' instruments would, and the synthetic voices certainly make me uncomfortable. And since I really only see the album as not much more than the sum of its parts, it seems that my imagination is only operating in a limited way - either because there's not much there to grasp, or because I just haven't really 'got it' yet.

I suppose what Blake might say is that the ideal is for all four to be operating together in the 'perfect' composer when he's making the music; and then all four should be operating again, in the 'perfect' listener when he's listening to it. In practice what we get is always going to be less than that, because neither composer nor listener can fully balance those four factors. I suppose this is partly why we get such a range of responses by different people to the same piece of music - we each operate, as listeners, with a different mix of the Big Four.
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nightspore Offline




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Posted: May 19 2008, 19:59

I wasn't aware of Blake's system, Alan - thanks for sharing it. (In the first version of the first Critique Kant had a faculty of imagination, too, but he dropped it in the second. Heidegger reckoned he got seduced by an oppositional metaphysics represented by the duality understanding/Anschauung (feeling).

Getting back to Light and Shade, I personally like those ghostly artificial voices. It's as though those acrobats in the Maestro game have finally spoken. The fact that what they say (eg in "Surfing") doesn't quite make sense suggests to me vast alien differences, where communication is only partly possible.

One thing I admire about Mike is that no two of his records sound the same. He takes risks, where it would be so easy for him to rest on his laurels.
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Tayniee Offline




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Posted: May 20 2008, 06:56

Quote (nightspore @ May 19 2008, 19:59)
One thing I admire about Mike is that no two of his records sound the same. He takes risks, where it would be so easy for him to rest on his laurels.

Nightspore, I second that, each piece his work is unique and I hope he never changes or conforms.

Alan, your 4 catagories to creativity make sense.

Is L+S then one of MO more cerebral creations. I find it hard to measure, except to say that there is something about it for me that feels cold or hollow, meaning it doesn't have a great deal of warmth in it. Not that it has to have warmth or tenderness in it to be enjoyable, but is that one way of measuring the 4 creative sources.


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Alan D Offline




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Posted: May 20 2008, 10:21

Quote (Tayniee @ May 20 2008, 11:56)
Alan, your 4 catagories to creativity make sense.

I feel I ought to emphasise that they aren't my four categories (oh my goodness, if only I had that degree of insight! ), but William Blake's - in other words, they come from a great visionary genius, so they ought to be worth something.

On the other hand, all systems are fallible. I personally find the idea of these four categories extremely helpful when I'm thinking about art - but if I did happen to find them starting to get in the way of actually enjoying the art itself, I'd drop 'em straight away. In other words, if I found that listening to (let's say) Light and Shade somehow didn't fit very well with the 4 categories, I wouldn't worry much about it. If it comes to a conflict between 'the real impact of this art, here and now' versus 'my preferred system of analysing it', then for me the real immediate artistic experience here and now wins every time.

Incidentally, Blake guarded against this kind of 'system sterility' with characteristic brilliance. He created his own mythology in which the four modes or categories of human activity are represented by mythical beings, and the drama between them (and other symbolic figures) is played out in his great illuminated poems in such a way that they have universal significance. (Virtually everything Blake did needs to be seen against this vast mythological background.) We just happen to have dived in and used his ideas to look at the way we listen to a Mike Oldfield album, but the potency of myth, of course, is that it can't be tied down to any one interpretation. It retains the changefulness and flexibility of life itself, and Blake knew that.
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