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Music of the mad.
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Robot Emperor
Robot Emperor
748 posts

Music of the mad.
Aug 17, 2011, 02:48
Treading on egg shells here and I apologise in advance for any unsympathetic terms I may use through ignorance.

Been reading about “art brut” or “outsider art” - being art created outside the boundaries of official culture, specifically art by the insane or institutionalised or those who are estranged from society at large. The term is used in relation to painting, illustration and sculpture and is characterised by “extreme mental states, unconventional ideas, or elaborate fantasy worlds.” Its very oddness renders it transcendental. Those considered as having produced art brut include Louis Wain and his sinister psychedelic cats (yowza, there’s a band name), the fantastic A.G Rizzoli and Martin Ramirez (really, look these guys up if you had never heard of them like me. Astonishing).

Anyway started thinking about the art brut of music, those who created a great album through the extreme mental state they were in, and if the cult of the mentally ill artist is a positive thing or if it became another lazy cliché. An affectation.

I have never been comfortable with the Sid Barrett solo albums, they sound to me like a private tragedy - a desperately sad and lonely cry from a tortured mind. I find nothing transcendental here but know many are deeply attached to these albums. By contrast Oar by Skip Spence, from arguably a similar place, I do consider a great work of art and that its greatness comes from Skips problems. It does not feel voyeuristic as Skip seems to be a cipher, a conduit to another world I will never see (god willing frankly).

Others would include Captain Beefheart and Kevin Coyne - both could be considered as belonging in the established definition of art brut (Coyne seems to have spent most of his time on paintings of teddy bears). With Beefheart, I never got Trout Mask Replica. Remove that and how odd is his legacy? Not questioning its genius but sometimes think that everything he did is coloured by the existence of TMR. It changes our perception of his work.

Now the faux practitioners, those who I feel attempt to add mystique to their work by adopting the trappings of the troubled (sorry, had a bit of a smoke). Tom Waits. Isn’t he just an actor? Got bored (and now embarrassed) with the whole Kerouac thing and has been pretending to be Beefheart ever since? I even like some of his later albums but that thought is always lurking at the back of my mind. Which has now gone blank. Legions of these lurking in metal and goth etc. Your nominations please.

Eno is an odd one. The arch theoretician, I think his first solo albums were an attempt to create this by design, by strategy. Even down to the musicians he used.

So anything you consider to be the art brut (or outsider art) of music? Or even everything you like? Did anything great come from Brians sandpit? Or did his problems strangle his gifts? Etc, etc.
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