harmonious thelonious

Listen (2012)

Talking (2010)

Santos (2015)

Info paraphrased from Discogs:

Stefan Schwander (composer, producer)
"Harmonious Thelonious is a solo-project focusing on rough and dense beats and textures inspired by american minimalist music and african rhythm patterns."
Schwander also records as: A Rocket In Dub, Antonelli Electr., Leroy Versions, Repeat Orchestra, and Rhythm Maker

The Harmonious Thelonious website describes the work as "american minimalists vs. african drumming vs. european sequencing."

In past projects Schwander has worked with grooveboxes such as the Elektron Machinedrum, which may be what's meant by "European sequencing." As for American minimalists you can hear some Glass/Reich references but also Moondog and a hint of John Cale/Terry Riley's Church of Anthrax. Not sure where Thelonious Monk fits in; non-American influences could include Carl Orff and King Sunny Ade. In each of the 24 songs linked above, a steady multi-instrumental groove is maintained, with "tribal" sounding percussion based on samples of real drums, congas, etc, and some synthetic percussion. The main connections to Schwander's earlier work are catchy melodies based on simple overlaid figures, in this sense he is more inventive and ingratiating than say, Steve Reich. The melodies may be basic but have to sustain interest over six minutes, and these all do, through variations and "dropouts."

One odd feature of the music is samples of cheering, whistling crowd noise that can be heard in the background of several tracks. Rather than the narcissism or manipulation of a TV laugh track, these sounds add grit and texture in a musique concrète or industrial manner. [Update: On further listening, the crowd noise becomes more irritating and unnecessary. The earliest release, Talking, is the worst: the same loop of an appreciative whistle is heard repeatedly throughout the LP; by the end it's a distraction from what would otherwise be excellent melodies and percussion.]

book quotes

E.L. Doctorow, The Waterworks, 1994, page 91, Random House ebook. The narrator, a newspaper editor in 1870s New York, talks about a talented but obnoxious painter:

Harry was a boor. It has been my experience that artists are invariably boors. That is the paradox … a mysterious God lets them paint what they will never understand. Like all those Florentines and Genoans and Venetians … who were scoundrels and sybarites, but whom this God trusted to give us the angels and saints and Jesus Christ himself through their dumb hands.

Arthur Machen Ultimate Collection, page 821, e-artnow edition, 2016, from the novel The Terror. "Merritt" is an industrialist from the Midlands vacationing in a seaside town in Wales:

Merritt gazed on, amused by the antics of the porpoises who were tumbling and splashing and gamboling a little way out at sea, charmed by the pure and radiant air that was so different from the oily smoke that often stood for heaven at Midlingham, and charmed, too, by the white farmhouses dotted here and there on the heights of the curving coast.
Then he noticed a little row-boat at about two hundred yards from the shore. There were two or three people aboard, he could not quite make out how many, and they seemed to be doing something with a line; they were no doubt fishing, and Merritt (who disliked fish) wondered how people could spoil such an afternoon, such a sea, such pellucid and radiant air by trying to catch white, flabby, offensive, evil-smelling creatures that would be excessively nasty when cooked.

televisions (with and without recursion)

On the subject of recursive images, this post about Ken Shirriff's nested Alto computers reminded me of an earlier idea. In the late '80s I'd been invited to show in an exhibit on the theme of television, organized by some artists who did public access cable. The venue was a "major museum" so I wanted to make a statement. I had the idea of televisions in toilets receding to infinity. I couldn't make it work -- drawing a toilet seat is easy but it was hard to make a TV monitor that "popped" in the arrangement. Below is as far as I went with it:


An initial sketch:


After abandoning these I did this painting, TV Dinner (acrylic on canvas, 62 x 46 inches). The museum had a Philip Guston show up at the time and a local curator thought my painting was "derivative." One person's inside joke is another's failure of imagination.