The Band of Möbius

Anyone who’s ever subscribed to the Apoplexy Newsletter, read this blog, or met me, will be unsurprised to read that The Fabulous Beth and I went to see Billy Bragg play Edinburgh’s Queen’s Hall last week. And those sorts of people will probably also find it predictable that Billy brought along a quirky support act, made an obscure and humorous reference to Craig Gannon in his stage banter, and was playing in the aftermath of the United Kingdom’s (sic) decision to open a new campaign of war.

Quirky support act

I was particularly taken by Duke Special – for it is he – because he has ridiculous/awesome hair, had covered half of the merch table with an eclectic range of different types of art, and he sang a song called Last Night I Nearly Died.  (That’s enough rule of three – Ed.)

Hey! Last night about three years ago, I nearly died!

But that wasn’t all that went on last week…

I also wrote a non-fiction piece about Scottish PEN’s campaign to reform Scottish defamation law, in my guise as a recovering lawyer. (I’ll give you all a heads-up if and when it sees the light of day.) The hook, such as it was, was that it’s been almost twenty years since Scotland reviewed defamation. And a lot’s changed since then. Around twenty years ago, I was (occasionally not) attending delict law lectures in Edinburgh’s Old College, and the handful of computers buried in the bowels of the grand old building that were available for the law students’ use were really the only avenue to the the information superhighway.

But anyone who’s ever subscribed to the Apoplexy Newsletter, read this blog, or met me, will be unsurprised to read that in 1992 I was going another three stops south on the number 29 bus route to see Billy Bragg’s Don’t Try This at Home tour at Edinburgh’s Queen’s Hall. And those sorts of people will probably also find it predictable that Billy brought along a quirky support act, probably made an obscure and humorous reference to Craig Gannon in his stage banter, and was playing in the aftermath of the United Kingdom’s involvement in the Gulf War (Desert Storm version).

That Year’s Model

But that wasn’t all that went on last week…

Last week, my bandmates and I started knocking around some ideas for a new Nerd Bait project. It won’t be seeing the light of day until spring 2016, so I won’t go into much detail, but we knocked around some kinda tonal references.

Science Steph introduced me to a nice Canadian boy at a Bar Mitzvah.

The Prof cued up a piano loop he’s been working on that put me in mind of the trip that Beth, Paw Broon, and I took to Edinburgh’s Modern One for the M.C. Escher exhibit earlier this year, and more particularly this woodcut:

Admit it, you were expecting Möbius Strip II (Red Ants), weren’t you?

In terms of spirit, at least, The Prof’s piece reminded me of Orbital’s Brown Album. Not its  introductory track, Time Becomes, in particular. But but that track’s instructive, nevertheless. In Time Becomes, we hear Michael Dorn as Worf in Star Trek: The Next Generation utter the line

There is the theory of Möbius. A twist in the fabric of space where time becomes a loop.

Something like this. (Well, OK. Exactly like this).

The sample is also used in the track Moebius on Orbital’s Green Album.

I shouldn’t have been surprised by the association. Take it away, Ian Wiki:

[Time Becomes] uses phasing, a technique popularized by Steve Reich, in which two identical samples are repeated at slightly different speeds.

You see, earlier in the week, The Prof had introduced me to Steve Reich’s It’s Gonna Rain

… which you can find on YouTube and I suggest you do!

So do I, Prof. So do I.

The most recent time I navigated to it, It’s Gonna Rain was hilariously postponed by a cutesy commercial for Mars’ miniatures brand, Celebrations. Hilariously, because as you can probably guess from the picture of the clean cut, professorial New Yorker above, it’s kinda terrifying, natch.

Y’see, as he notes in this NPR piece celebrating fifty years of It’s Gonna Rain,  Reich was drawn to the musicality of the words of the Pentecostal preacher therein. But at the same time, [a]nother reason for Reich’s interest in the sermon was the Cold War. Reich stumbled across the preacher in San Francisco’s Union Square Park in 1964, when the Cuban missile crisis was still a fresh memory.

And he’s talking about the flood in the Bible and Noah and the ark, and you’ve got to remember the Cuban missile crisis was in ’62, and this was something hanging over everyone’s head… that we could be so much radioactive dust in the next day or two. So this seemed very appropriate.

“Cake or death?” “Eh, cake for me, please.” (Thx, Eddie Izzard.)

So, that’s what I got up to this week. I’m hoping that anyone who’s ever subscribed to the Apoplexy Newsletter, read this blog, or met me, will be unsurprised if they discover in twenty years’ time that The Fabulous Beth and I have just been to see Billy Bragg play Edinburgh’s Queen’s Hall. If they do, those sorts of people will probably also find it predictable that Billy brought along a quirky support act, made an obscure and humorous reference to Craig Gannon in his stage banter, and was playing in the aftermath of the rUK’s withdrawal from one war, and its decision to open a new campaign of war.

But I hope not.

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3 thoughts on “The Band of Möbius

  1. It’s gonna rain is special isn’t it? As I’ve told you a billion times “proverb” is my fave along perhaps with “electric counterpoint” but boy he had a lot of ideas

    I learned recently that the rush r40 tour which I missed may be their last. That made me sad. Because I would totally see them every 20 years and now will probably miss that. Haven’t seen them since the power windows tour

    But it occurs to me that dividing time by performances seen is something self similar with constructing performances by dividing time, which is what reich is all about.

    And that paragraph fits my favorite thing of the week: http://journal.sjdm.org/15/15923a/jdm15923a.pdf

  2. I love me some Orbital. But I have to admit I couldn’t make it all the way through Time Becomes.

    Apparently I don’t have the patience for one minute and forty-four seconds anymore.

    I blame it on the internet.

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