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Baker's Dozen

Winners' Music: Daniel Patrick Quinn's Favourite Albums
Luke Turner , May 21st, 2015 09:11

Island-dwelling outsider musician and One More Grain brain Daniel Patrick Quinn tells us about his 13 favourite albums from Suede to Fela Kuti, Nico to Robert Wyatt and Gamelan to ELO, plus the sound of a snipe drumming, and wonders whether he'd have sexual feelings for Jeff Lynne were he a woman.

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Musicians of Paku Alaman Court – Java Court Gamelan
The opening track on this album convinced me I had to move to Java and especially had to visit Yogyakarta, where this was recorded in 1971. Looking out of the window in Cumbria at another day of drizzle and skies so grey you could believe for a moment that the Devil did really exist and was testing your patience, I could not begin to properly visualise what wonderful, flourishing universe this gamelan music came from. Luckily, it came from a place that threw much of our British conceptions on their heads and continually dazzled, amused and perplexed with its plentiful supply of intoxicating sensations.

Initially the only comparison I could make was to a vivid experience of hearing a distant ice-cream van jingle on a summer afternoon in Dunbar in the mid 90s. Or perhaps that chap who used to play the steel drums near the Royal Festival Hall. It was like someone in a crowd holding up a sign on a big stick with your name on it, but that you had only just noticed after years of him trying to get your attention with things like the ice-dream jingle and the steel drums sound. Kindly he introduced himself to me finally and escorted me out of my drab British life and into a very peculiar film that lasted five years.

Gamelan made me think an awful lot about tuning systems and how we have been conditioned and limited by our lack of familiarity with microtones. It's ridiculous really. Imagine an artist only painting with 12 colours, and ignoring the countless shades in-between them. It's a very limited palette we have conditioned ourselves into by taking it for granted that equal temperament is in most instances the only system worth using. A lot of so-called musicians wouldn't even know what you were talking about in this regard which I think goes some way to highlighting what an immense problem it is. They just make the E-shape bar chords and carry on as usual.

The opening piece, 'Puspa Warna', was on a Golden Record sent out in 1977 on the Voyager spacecraft. Apparently, the Voyager probes are currently the farthest away human-made objects from Earth. Javanese gamelan is a wonderful choice for other lifeforms to potentially listen to as a way of learning about the human race.


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