This week it's all about musician Robert Rich who's talking about photographer Brad Cole.
During the last 30 years Robert has recorded over 30 albums and has helped define the genres of ambient music, dark-ambient, tribal and trance. He does this using all manner of instruments, ranging from home-made acoustic and electronic instruments to computer-based signal processing and slide guitar - always a winner with me.
IAAY is published every Wednesday (yes, all of them), so there's plenty of time for you to join in too! Contact me via the comments section or via Twitter: @mickdavidson.
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It’s All About Robert Rich
It’s All About Brad Cole
Brad Cole’s photography: the Remnant series
Commentary by Robert Rich
Brad Cole’s Remnant series creates poetry from the detritus of the industrial age, juxtaposing the human-built landscape with the corrosive forces of nature and time. The photographs themselves look old, like long lost glass plates discovered in a desk drawer last opened in 1860. They echo the haunting beauty of those Romantic era albumen prints depicting the ruins of Greece or Rome, yet instead of temples and coliseums we see the crumbling docks and rusting pipes of our own forgotten wastelands.
The sheer beauty of these images veers away from social commentary, and transforms them into a meditation upon the smallness of our own endeavor, the inevitability of time, the certainty of impermanence. They show the earth reclaiming the artifacts of a lost civilization – perhaps ours, following our own extinction.
These photos also expose artifacts of the photographic process itself. Cole has intentionally marred them with scratches, washed them with bleach, abused the negatives in ways that obscure the image (see the examples at the bottom of the page). These visual intrusions distance the artwork from its subject, and declare it as a story, a myth, rather than as a depiction of the literal world. While the abused surfaces make us aware of the plastic character of photography, they also create a self-referential echo of the theme of time and decay, merging the artwork with its content; yet their aura of poetic mystery helps avoid ironic sensibilities.
Brad Cole’s photographs do not depict exterior locations, but interior states of mind. One could imagine that their isolationist solitude conveys a kind of depressive pessimism, but I don’t personally sense negativity within these images: perhaps, an existential resignation. Certainly, the Japanese idea of Wabi Sabi resonates strongly here, accepting transience and venerating the patina of age. From art such as this, I feel a sense of wonder, as I ponder the deep recesses of time and the relative smallness of my own activities. I respect the moments when an artwork places me in such a state of awareness, an awakening of relationships between myself and my universe; perhaps briefly pausing the incessant chatter of my internal dialog, as it reminds me of the vast silence from which all things come and to which all things return.
It's All About Robert Rich
“Temple of the Invisible”
By Robert Rich
Just as I’m drawn to the idea of vanished civilization portrayed in Brad Cole’s Remnant series, I am enchanted by the idea that certain artifacts of culture are completely evanescent. As a musician, I am aware that music is one of those art forms that evaporates in time, and only thrives when people engage actively in its creation. For example, only a few partial fragments of musical notation remain from the entire Greco-Roman era, and we can only speculate about details such as intonation and performance inflections. I ponder what rich musical languages have been lost to the shadows of history.
My album “Temple of the Invisible” began with this question of lost language, and with an idea of creating a musical culture from the imagination. At first, I placed my fictional culture somewhere in the Sumerian-Akkadian era, imagining a re-enactment of cuneiform mythology; but I realized I wanted to use instruments that could not have existed then. So I placed my civilization perhaps 1500 years ago, located somewhere in western Asia, maybe in the shadow of the Himalaya or Caucasus. Perhaps, every trace disappeared after the confrontation between Islam and Zoroaster, or when Genghis Khan moved west.
I imagined some words in this language, sharing roots with Indo-European. The titles of each piece hide meanings, even from me. I imagined a ritual, perhaps a seasonal re-enactment of communal myth, much as Karnatic songs preserve stories from the Upanishads. “Temple of the Invisible” is the music from one such ritual. It has a chorus like Greek theater, soloists representing the main protagonists, instruments calling to each other to symbolize an arc of mythic action. Yet the libretto is lost. We can only guess the actual meanings and significance of each act.
Something strange happens when creating a fiction like this. Many writers attest that fiction can tell truths that nonfiction cannot reach. Sometimes those truths come as a surprise, even to the authors. Listening to “Temple of the Invisible” gives me the strange feeling of looking into my own private universe from the outside. Somehow, the act of inventing a fictional culture gave me permission to expose a part of myself that stays hidden even to me. I don’t know what these songs mean, but they are very personal and expose a mystery that even I cannot quite decode.
Do I write a new libretto for this album each time I listen? Perhaps I imagined… a young prince is born of high parentage. The exuberance of youth follows a hero’s path, forsaking love for power. The journey of life takes the hero to high places, hubris grows and leads to the inevitable fall. I can say this: the song “Tulchru” depicts two vultures circling over a battlefield, mountains on all sides. Two dancers, dressed in black feathers, circle each other slowly towards the center. In the last two acts of the ritual (“Lan Tiku” and “Otranon”) I imagine a coda of loss and resignation, battles lost and loves departed, yet a hopeful serenity informs this fall from grace. We know that civilizations rise and fall, our own included, with our great hopes and great arrogance; while somehow the flow of life and death circles onwards, erasing all traces.
You can find out more about both men by following these links: