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Musical Mavericks

I love radio. The finely-crafted radio documentary is one of the finest achievements of the human species. I love music, too, of all sorts. This morning, I was lucky enough to catch the first episode of what seems to be a really interesting radio documentary on American musical mavericks.

The first episode discussed the earliest discovery of "tonal groups" by Charles Ives (who wanted to imitate the sound of the big drum in a brass band and found the only way to do it was to punch his fist into a group of piano keys) and Henry Cowell (who played 31-note chords on the piano by using his entire forearm), and how that reverberated through Harry Partch, Leo Ornstein, John Cage and others. Fascinating stuff, and I'm looking forward to the next 12 episodes.

To have an early death caused by massive self-abuse is probably no longer the mark of a maverick in the rock and roll world; it seems to be a regular happening. The latest potential victim is Pete Doherty of The Libertines, the "next big thing" out of the UK. Doherty is described as "one of the great British songwriters of the last two decades. He is the real deal, a genius." Unfortunately, he also loves crack as an almost sympathetic piece in the Guardian this weekend describes.

For me, the most interesting parts of this all too familiar tale are the details of the various rehab facilities around the world that all these folks seem to know about.

"The Libertines are believed to be in despair after wasting money on Doherty's treatments in recent weeks, including an abortive stay at The Priory in London and at a clinic in France. He then got a place at the world's toughest clinic, the Thamkrabok monastery in Thailand, with the help of the actress June Brown, alias Dot Cotton in EastEnders, whose godson, Tim, has been hooked on crack. There he faced a pitiless regime, including beatings with a bamboo cane and being forced to drink a black concoction of vile herbs that made him vomit throughout the day to rid his body of impurities."
Bizarre. But the truth is, if you have money there are a billion ways to use it up.

July 4, 2004 in Music [1] | Permalink


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