Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Ivor Cutler & the silent music

Sad news about the death of poet/musician Ivor Cutler. If anyone outside the UK remembers or recognizes him, it would be the Beatlemaniacs who saw him in the Magical Mystery Tour flick that the Fabs did (it was seen as their first flop but it's my fave record of theirs). It's a shame that he's not known otherwise but he's one of those people who are just so British that their stature and influence don't cross the sea well- think of Spike Mulligan, another example of a wonderful loon who the Beatles also loved and Peter Sellers owed a lot to.

In 1999, as part of EMI's Songbook series (much like Starbucks did with their spotty Artist's Choice series), they put out a collection of some of Cutler's favorite music called Cute (H)ey? It features some Albert Ammons' boogie-woogie, Nina Simone's lovely "I Wish I Knew How It Felt To Be Free," Bartok's "6 Romanian Folk Dances", Japanese traditional music, polymath jazz pianist Lennie Tristano, South African diva Miriam Makeba, gospel diva Mahalia Jackson, Robert Wyatt, African drumming and plenty of modern composer Arvo Part's pieces ("which jar the teeth and raise the hackles delightfully" said the compiler). Plus a nice selection of wacky poem pieces by Cutler himself (how modest). It's a rich, varied collection that's of a piece, which speaks to Cutler's taste. He illustrated it with his adorable child-like paintings and brief notes on the pieces, ending with this thought:

"That's all folks but if you feel I've sold you short, try listening to silence, the music of the cognoscenti. You'll never look back."

You couldn't ask for a better sign-off than that.

Sad to say, this collection appears to be out of print or in "limited availability." There are some albums of his own work still around as imports but it's this one, a generous tour through his record collection, that really captures his essence. If you find it floating around used, do yourself a favor and indulge it and relive Cutler's wild spirit again.


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