Of the more profound places of my memory, the spacious concert hall of Cankarjev dom on a certain spring evening in 2004 stands out as a curiously doubled occasion. I still remember the hypnotized wonder with which I gazed down upon the collective of Electric Masada playing their fiery music, which for an hour or so abolished the notions of time, space and myself. Yet the temporal aspect soon came back with a vengeance, with the performance haunting me as one of those rare moments which happen only a certain number of times and are then disgracefully undone just like tears in the rain. I was young then, more prone to melancholic sensitivities, and I was also overstating the aesthetic uniqueness of the evening, for this certain musical sensibility called jazz was at that time still new to me.
With time, the memory gained a kind of a nostalgic flavour to it, and I retrospectively set it as a symbolic cornerstone from which my sentiment for this sort of music has arisen. So, the release of an album called At The Mountains Of Madness, which was a live recording of that concert and which I found with some delay, was a somewhat ambiguous thing. It captured a certain layer of my youth, prolonging and storing it indefinitly, but at the same time banalised the profoundness of the memory. Luckily (and consolingly), the music on the album was just as good as I remembered, and it coloured a number of hours to come. Interestingly, it also left the nature of this certain memory almost intact and the performance from that May abstractly persists in the registers of cult rather than art.
This memorial loop came back to me when recently I was reviewing a pair of albums by Angles Octet and Igor Lumpert Trio, which were recorded at last year’s edition of Ljubljana Jazz Festival and are now opening an album serious called Ljubljana jazz Series, released by the Portugese label Clean Feed. The associative webs that arose along were at first, logically, entangled around the madelaines mechanics, and they really did bring back some vivid memories. The associations spanned on and also passed by Benjamin‘s insights on the technical reproduction of arts, which still maintain a pertinence when one thinks of the auratic nature of live concert experiences with their singular authority and the accompanying rituals. Their singularity is assured by the shell of time passing, creating a distancing unattainability of the sonic object.
As fot the rituals, immersed in tradition, they are a re-enactement of social relations and norms. Live concerts enable and demand a different kind of involvement then their technical reproductions, with distraction and concentration as the supposedly polar opposites »which may be stated as follows: A man who concentrates before a work of art is absorbed by it. He enters into this work of art the way legend tells of the Chinese painter when he viewed his finished painting. In contrast, the distracted mass absorbs the work of art.« Thus spoke Benjamin who, nevertheless, did not lament the ongoing transitions of arts positions, noting the democratic and political potential of these changes.
With a more sociological imaginarium at hand my mind took a path of treating the released recordings of last years performances at Ljubljana Jazz as a diversification of the accessibility regime of the festival, which has in recent years (at least partly) transformed itself from rigid and enclosed series of events for those with interest and/or time, spatial proximity and money to a rather more open organism. Concerts (well, one or two at least) were the previous year held in the middle of the city, addressing the distracted by-goers as well as the involved ones, and were thus at least temporarily remaking the functional coordinates of the more venturous musical forms. Other were available free of charge and in morning or midday hours, and some of them have now come to us in the form an music album. By transforming the accessibility regime both the artistic object (live music) and its experiencing mode are re-articulated, not least in its financial accessibility character, as not only free-of-charge concerts but also the release of the soon pirated CDs presents the potential for a more equal distribution of consummation opportunities.
I do not have any conclusive thoughts about this, only some further associative currents. For example, how the Kino Šiška practice of putting up audio and video recordings of the concerts held there curiously echoes these lines. »The cathedral leaves its locale to be received in the studio of a lover of art” wrote Benjamin in the text mentioned above, having in mind photographies of the sculptures placed in the cathedrals. With »Cathedral« being the name of the big concert hall of Kino Šiška, the quote coincidentally once again captures the technical reproduction modes of today. A further instance is offered by Jazz Cerkno festival, which is making a habit of live streaming one of their concert evenings on Radio Študent, providing yet another mode of access and again a different structuration of the distraction/concentration topos, time/place localisation and other possible thematisations of the auratic property,
Some say blog posting is the thought vehicle analogues to Benjamin’s theoretic technology. Modestly following its outer form, I will not elaborate any further and along with the patched and randomly assembled nature of this fragment, now for something completely different – some real music is in order.
‘Twas an evening to remember…Album: Angles 8 – By way of deception: Live in Ljubljana (Clean Feed, 2012).Song: Today is better than tomorrow