Saturday, 25 June 2011

Bill Bruford

78 people showed up for the Bill Bruford talk last Friday evening - the joint was packed, as they say - afterwards he sold a fair number of books. The talk itself was very absorbing, covering some of the historical and economic reasons for the development of a music 'industry' and 'business' and the ways in which technology has influenced the production, distribution and consumption of music; he also threw in some amusing anecdotes involving Yes, King Crimson, Genesis, Dire Straits and Coldplay.

The questions produced some stimulating responses - surprisingly (you might think) the most technical inquiries about drumming came from women in the audience and there was much talk of playing in unorthodox time signatures and different ways to hold a drumstick. It was encouraging to see a few young people in the crowd - two walked away afterwards carrying a drum head that he had signed, it also bore the signature of Steve Gadd.

I read his autobiography this week and it's certainly the most intelligent and thougtful I've seen written by a former 'rock' musician; there are even footnotes quoting music theorists and sociologists such as Chris Cutler and Simon Frith. As he said in response to an inquiry on Friday he 'doesn't do dirt', so you won't find any stories about snorting cocaine off Rolls Royces in swimming pools or debauched hotel shenanigans with groupies. Similarly, the ineffable mystery of Robert Fripp remains intact, despite some interesting insights. I think anyone considering a career as a musician should read it - it also offered some wisdom that I can apply to my own meagre creative endeavours. After the talk he spent a long time signing books and answering more questions including my own about the recording of 'Starless' on the influential Red lp by King Crimson (one of Kurt Cobain's favourites apparently). What a gentleman.

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