Reasons to be Cheerful – linked and annotated: AC Grayling – Autechre

So, as was previously mooted, I’m going to try to make these a bit more explicit and elucidate the reasons why they’re important to me. The list is rather long, so you’ll have to forgive me if I skim over a few.

AC Grayling
Professor of philosophy, particularly associated with Oxford and Birkbeck. Sceptic, atheist, writes concisely and accessibly on morality, aesthetics, etc.
I’ve particularly used (or at least attempted to use) his collections of essays as a jump-off point to learn about a variety of topics on which I wouldn’t generally know where to start. The ones I’ve read are The Reason of Things, The Meaning of Things and (I think) The Mystery of Things. I don’t always agree with him (one should be suspicious if one finds oneself agreeing with everything someone writes or says) but he’s very easy to read and digest and gives plenty to think about.
He also wrote Among the Dead Cities – Is the Targeting of Civilians in War Ever Justified?, which although providing an important and useful overview of many aspects of principles, history and philosophy of civilian bombardment, to me failed to live up to its subtitle, in the sense that it only considers the context of civilian bombardment of WWII, and therefore doesn’t approach the question it purports to address. It seems also to have been published with the subtitle ‘Was the Allied Bombing of Civilians in WWII a Necessity or a Crime?’, which seems rather more honest.

Accidental Records
Eclectic record company particularly associated with Matthew Herbert (see below), but almost everything they put out is well worth looking into. Intellectual, listenable, electronic, pop, experimental, soaring, challenging, accessible, etc, etc.

Alex Smoke
Techno DJ and producer from Glasgow. Was a good lesson for me in how techno can have a dancefloor/club orientation and reflect techno’s roots at the same time as being melodic and incorporating song elements. Plenty of layers. He also has a ‘side project’ called Wraetlic which is more kind of song-based, uses his own vocals and live performance to a greater degree

Amiina
Sigur Ros’s string section but so much more. Four Icelandic musicians who between them play a load of different instruments, sing, loop, process and produce these beautiful and intricate pieces of music. Good on record (first album’s still my favourite) but fantastic live. Also seem to be properly lovely people.

Aphex Twin
Not even going to attempt a biography of him. Essentially he’s blown my mind musically several times. Has pushed techno, experimental electronic, ambient, soundscape and remix genres forward consistently, always questioning the form in which he’s working. Always inspiring and interesting, often surprisingly accessible.

Armando Iannucci
Writer and producer of some of the most ‘important’ comedies of recent years: On The Hour/The Day Today/Brass Eye, The Thick of It/In The Loop, Veep, and yes, Alan Partridge. I also liked the Armando Iannucci Show – I just love the way the guy thinks, making serious points in a silly way and vice versa. Almost satire by stealth in some cases. Plus I think he went some way to making media critique and political awareness cool for our generation, which has to be a good thing.
He does twitters and articles for newspapers from time to time too.
Another one of those (this may be something of a recurring theme) whose anger stems from a deep compassion and conviction that things could and should be better.

The Art of Noise
Anne Dudley, Trevor Horn, etc. Another one of those bands who proved that found-sound, music concrete techniques, collage and electronic sound sources could be used in the service of pop music. Very clever, very influential. Listening back now I also love the fact that you can hear the tape – nowadays all the stuff they do would be done in the computer, but for some reason it sounds richer, fuller, dirtier, more… complete… (?) using their techniques. I know that sounds wanky, but there it is – I stand by it. Must have taken them ages…

Arvo Pärt
Estonian contemporary classical / minimalist composer. Beautiful stuff, understands the ‘space between the notes’ thing and the way tones interact incredibly well. I love the recording of Spiegel im Spiegel (contemplative, ethereal piece for piano and violin/cello) on which the clunk of the piano’s mechanism  and air moving inside the instrument can be heard really clearly.

Autechre
Mancunian electronic duo. Experimental, often difficult to listen to but really interesting once you listen your way into it. Were quite influential to me in their use of tiny fragments of sound, glitch techniques, etc. They think about sound and music in quite an interesting way I think, and parallels could be drawn with many techniques more associated with contemporary classical music – the indeterminacy influence of Gescom’s Minidisc album, for example. Ok fine – quasi-indeterminacy. But you know what I mean, I’m sure.

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