Back to Dreaming E. MisK
Date: Sun, 13 Oct 85 21:46:40 edt
From: Doug Alan <nessus>
Subject: KBC trivia
I just got some back issues of the KBC newsletter (unfortunately, they are out of many of them), and here's some interesting trivia from the first couple (from 1979):
Kate had not read "Wuthering Heights" at the time she wrote the song.
"Wow" was Kate's try at a Pink Floyd song. "Kite" is a Bob Marley song.
"Don't Push Your Foot On The Heartbrake" is a Patti Smith song.
Date: Thu, 7 Nov 85 17:53:13 est
From: nessus (Doug Alan)
Subject: What is so different about KB?
> It is almost like it was some kind of cult or religious following....
Kate Bush probably has the most dedicated following of any artist in the world. (There was a review for "Cloudbusting" in Melody Maker which read "Miss Bush's frighteningly intense fans will already know that the second single from "Hounds of Love" is a dreamy, gentle intense Sousa-esque matching tune chockablock with the usual whimsy." Yow, are we "frighteningly intense"? The review gave a nice description of the song too. To bad it doesn't seem quite overly positive....)
What makes her fans so dedicated? I guess that to those whom she reaches, she touches them more deeply than other musicians touch anyone. To those who she reaches, her music takes them to another world -- this world. This world viewed through Kate-colored glasses. An escape from reality into reality. Where one is shown the beauty of ugliness and the ugliness of beauty. A world where estranged lovers settle their differences by turning into mules. Where electronic swallows and blackbirds swoop and dive through the recesses of the inner mind. Where hounds attack to tear you apart with love and witches try themselves. Where Irish jigs and African drums and Tennyson poems and movies about vampires are coherently aspects of One. Where frustration and pain are fundamental and essential, but where there is always hope and love and joy. A world of infinite pain and infinite pleasure. A mirror for all that is important in life. Life itself.
Uh, er, um..... I'm sorry....
Date: Tue, 12 Nov 85 18:21:14 est
From: nessus (Doug Alan)
Subject: Kate Bush influences
Well here's a list of some of the musicians that I recall Kate saying have influenced her:
David Bowie, John Lennon, Pink Floyd, Elton John, Killing Joke, King Crimson, Peter Gabriel, The Beatles, Roy Harper, David Byrne, Brian Eno, Brian Ferry, Stevie Wonder, Captain Beefheart, Rolf Harris, early Roxy Music, Nat King Cole, Frank Zappa, Donovan, Steely Dan, Windom Hill, ECM, Eberheart Weber, Alan Stivel, A. L. (Bert) Loyd, Ewan MacCall, Delius, Eric Satie, Debussy, The Eagles, The TV National Iranian Chamber Orchestra, Pipers Rock, Kate and Anna McGarrigle, Choir of King's College Chapel, The Bothie Band, Billy Holliday, Buddy Holly, Jules and The Polar Bears, Bob Marley, Patti Smith, ....
She also claimed to be influenced by the energy, emotion, and newness (at the time) of Punk music.
She says that her song "Sat in Your Lap" was inspired by seeing a Stevie Wonder concert. How "Sat in Your Lap" came out of that, I don't know... but art is strange!
She once said that after hearing Pink Floyd's "The Wall" she nearly couldn't write music again, because she thought it said "everything there is to say".
The song "The Dreaming" is clearly based on a Rolf Harris song from the sixties called "Sun Arise".
She has also said that she loves backwards vocals.
"We let the weirdness in"
Date: Mon, 16 Dec 85 15:30:37 EST
From: Susanne E Trowbridge <ins aset@jhunix>
Subject: The lush life
Kate confesses in MUSICIAN magazine that she gets drunk before recording some of her vocal performances!!! She was a little sussed while singing "The Big Sky," and very drunk while recording either "Waking the Witch" or "Jig of Life" (can't remember which she mentioned).
Date: Tue, 17 Dec 85 02:25:15 est
From: nessus (Doug Alan)
Subject: London Vice
> [Sue:] Kate confesses in MUSICIAN magazine that she gets drunk before > recording some of her vocal performances!!!
And a couple years ago Kate said she didn't like alcohol. Gee, she drinks, smokes, tokes, and is addicted to Kit Kats. Who knows what's next? Already she's singing about poppies and cutting little lines.... And she probably doesn't get enough complete protein and trace elements because of a vegetarian diet. Oh well, live fast, die young, and put out a bunch of wonderful albums, Kate!
Date: Fri, 24 Jan 86 14:20:59 est
From: nessus (Doug Alan)
Subject: Re: Regarding HoL in Rolling Stones
I was in a mall a few days back and happened to see a book called something like "The New Rolling Stone Encyclopaedia of Music" or something like that. I flipped to the B's and found one thing about Kate Bush, a review of "The Kick Inside". They gave it two stars, and from memory, it went something like this:
Kate Bush caused quite a stir in some circles back in '78 with "The Kick Inside". Not quite new wave, not quite art rock, she sounds like a cross between Patti Smith and a Hoover vacuum cleaner.
The more things change....
Date: Fri, 14 Mar 86 00:20:00 EST
From: nessus (Doug Alan)
And about this erotic undercurrent that's always been there... there are some things that have been puzzling me for a while. Like in "L'Amour Looks Something Like You" Kate sings at the end "I find I'm living in that evening with that feeling of sticky love inside". What is this feeling of sticky love inside? She's not talking about *seamen* is she? Gosh. Is the feeling of old seamen inside you something that is fun to remember? Perhaps some of the women on the list would like to elaborate.
And in "Ran Tan Waltz" Kate sings "But some night she'll run back in fright if she picks on a Dick that's too big for her pride." I don't get it. Are all of the woman's extramarital boyfriends named "Dick"? And why would they be too big for her pride? Oh... golly, she's not talking about penises, is she? Well why would a penis be too big for the woman's pride? I don't get it. Could someone explain this to me.
And once in an interview, Kate was asked what her favorite songs on "The Dreaming" were, and for one of them, she said "Nice To Swallow". Now, there's no "Nice To Swallow" on the album. There's "Night Of The Swallow", so Kate must be making a pun. But why "Nice To Swallow"? Oh, golly. She's not talking about penises again, is she?!? Or maybe seamen again?
This reminds me of one of my friends who was in my M.I.T. dorm. He went to Wellsley for a semester as an exchange student. In a biology class there, the professor was talking about how seamen has a high salt content. One of the students blurted out "But it tastes so sweet!" and then she immediately looked very embarrassed. Maybe someone would like to elaborate and tell us whether or not seamen and/or penises are nice to swallow and whether seamen is salty or sweet.
Well, I'm pretty confused now, but at least I can rest assured tonight that since I haven't used any profanities here, that at least *I* haven't offended anyone today.
"Breathing the fallout in out in out in out in"
Date: Sun, 16 Mar 86 20:00:22 EST
From: nessus (Doug Alan)
Subject: "Never for Ever"
Don't always believe stickers. "The Dreaming" has the sticker that says "Contains 'Suspended In Gaffa' as seen on MTV'. Right. Maybe MTV showed it twice. And the most recent U.S. pressing of "Never for Ever" has a sticker which says "Featuring 'Never for Ever'".
Now, there is *no* song "Never for Ever" on the album, but putting that sticker on the album sure is a way to drive KB fans crazy, because Kate *did* record a song called "Never for Ever", but she decided to leave it off the album.
> And what is Kate doing on Harvest records?
KB was originally on Harvest in the U.S. The first U.S. pressing of "The Kick Inside" was on Harvest and had the Canadian cover. She was very shortly moved to EMI-America, however. In Canada, she was probably on Harvest for a longer period of time.
Date: Fri, 4 Apr 86 23:50:39 EST
From: nessus (Doug Alan)
Subject: Re: The sound of Kate Bush
The fact that there are as many totally devoted fans as there are for Kate Bush in the United States, where she's gotten nearly no support, publicity, or hype from her record company, is in itself strong evidence that her music deserves the praise that she has received.
And I think you'd be awefully hard pressed to find another musician as young as Kate Bush that as many *musicians* admire (or even idolize) --which was your criterian for significance, was it not?
"Breathing the fallout in out in out in..."
Date: Mon, 12 May 86 11:34 PDT
Subject: Early KT
I was going to try to set J. Rossi straight about early KT but Doug already did an excellent job, and, besides, Mr. Rossi is already recanting. But I, too, want to stress that this was long, long ago.
The Kick Inside was universally regarded as a major stylistic departure from anything else on the market in 1978. I remember hearing "Wuthering Heights" on the radio in April of that year and thinking that *no-one* sounded like that; but it wasn't just the voice, there was that bizarre phrasing -- the lyrics were twisted into strange phonetic jumbles, and the time signature had a way of changing every few bars. (In the final measures before the fade-out, if you follow the drummer's back-beat, you can hear him lose track himself, and skip a few beats rather than make a mistake). This was a very young girl, still without control over the production; it's easy to hear the weaknesses in the early music now, when we have The Dreaming and Hounds of Love to compare it to, but The Kick Inside was definitely a break-through album in its day.
Lionheart always gets abused nowadays, mainly because it's so smooth and safe. That was audible even when it first came out, but remember that Kate had to put that LP out in November of 1978, only five or six months after The Kick Inside. Only a few of the songs on that album were newly written, and she still had little control over the arrangements or sound. Even so, Lionheart has a sonic intimacy and eccentricity that sets it far apart from other pop music of its time. And there are many first class Kate Bush musical ideas in it, as well.
The tour, too, was unanimously accepted as completely unique, mainly because of the use of choreography and theatrical methods in performance. And once again, that was *seven* years ago.
Date: Fri, 16 May 86 15:59 PDT
Subject: Kate and the commercial
In response to John's ominous predictions of Kate "selling out", let's set aside for the moment the fact that nobody can reasonably predict what Kate's next album will sound like before it is heard; and come instead to the question of what defines "selling out".
The big mistake being made in Love-Hounds (and everywhere else, for that matter) is the confusion of "innovation" with "quality". The words are not synonymous. I am willing to concede that Hounds of Love was probably not as "daring" or "challenging", from a musical standpoint, as The Dreaming. This does not, however, by any means indicate that Hounds of Love is a "worse" album, even in reference to its musical content alone. The Dreaming is raw where Hounds of Love is polished. Kate may hone the jagged edge of her creative development to an even smoother finish in the future, or she may react against her recent tendency to perfect a fully developed style. This is a relatively insignificant matter, when one realizes that, whether partially accessible to a large and unconsidering public or not, whether rough or smooth in texture and effect, whether related to recognizably "commercial" musical idioms or not, it still cannot fail to be the best music of its time, because it will evolve out of the mind of Kate Bush.
There are different ways of defining the nature of "progressive" music. Is Thursday Afternoon, Brian Eno's nth edition of non-commercial and highly sophisticated ambient music, really deserving of greater respect than Gabriel's unabashedly commercial new record, simply because Eno's work still bears hallmarks of an avant-garde sensibility, despite the inescapable fact of its similarity to Discreet Music, a recording of nearly ten years earlier? I don't particularly like Gabriel's venture into the musical idiom of Otis Redding, but I see no reason why his deliberate change of direction should be deplored, simply because the result is more palatable to the public. Should not the stagnant productions of a self-conscious avant-garde be deplored equally?
For the same reason, I will argue, Ferry's latest -- and admittedly highly commercial, even cloyingly commercial -- record, is not to be regretted more than the recent work of his renegade colleague; there is, after all, in the tameness of "Is Your Love Strong Enough?", at least a sign of movement, evidence of a kind of creative development which Thursday Afternoon's rolling fields of arcane sound lack. Commerciality is not in itself proof of poor quality or low artistic value; conversely, an unswerving devotion to pre-conceived ideas of the "new" does not in itself gain admission into the neverland of the "good". So, as we recognize the audible signs of commercial finish in Hounds of Love, we should appreciate, as well, the novelty that such a finish can acquire, when born of a union of the commercial and -- Kate Bush.
Date: Wed, 02 Jul 86 22:52 PDT
Subject: Zaine Griff
> So how'd you stumble onto Zaine Griff, Sue? I've never met anyone who's ever heard of him except 'cuz KB's on one of his albums. He and Kate are friends because they were both in a dance class taught by Lindsay Kemp.
IED bought his first album in 1979, because it sounded (and he looked) promisingly Bowie-ish. It was, mildly. ("Flowers" appears on his second album. He has put out nothing of his own since then, as far as IED is aware, although he did share a lead vocal with the French singer Ronny on one track from Yukihiro Takahashi's fourth LP, "What, Me Worry?")
Date: Tue, 10 Feb 87 20:15 PST
Subject: The Fairlight
Kate first learned of the Fairlight during her sessions on Peter Gabriel's third solo LP. She hired Richard James Burgess, the leader and synth wiz of a shortlived electro-pop group called Landscape, to help her learn more about the technical aspects of composing on the Fairlight.
Since Never For Ever Kate has done all of her own Fairlight work. That means that for five years and two history-changing LPs she has been in complete control of all aspects of the Fairlight (and of everything else connected with her art). Don't you think just once you could try catching up with the facts before launching your inept slurs, Rossi?
> P.S. Oh, yeah, also notice that the digeridoo, which connects "The Dreaming" and "Night of the Swallow" sounds a lot like an airplane engine (or something similar -- in fact, that's what I thought it was for years, until someone told me it was a digerdoo), again showing how FUCKING brilliant Kate is.
And anybody who can sit through The CD of "Get Out of My House" on a good stereo at maximum volume and still have only lukewarm praise is either stone deaf or a pathetic jerk. There are no other possible explanations.
Date: Tue, 10 Feb 87 23:49:18 EST
From: nessus (Doug Alan)
Regarding IED's claim that Kate learned of the Fairlight during sessions on Gabriel's third album... I don't know if this is strictly true. Kate has said that she was lucky enough to have been at Fairlight's first demo of their Computer Music Instrument in England, and that she had known from then on that it would be a very important tool in making her music.
Date: Tue, 3 Mar 87 09:59:38 PST
From: ed191-bq%violet.Berkeley.EDU@berkeley.edu (Taylor)
Subject: Digital recording & Kate
(Really from Hugh Maher)
Glad to hear someone was interested in my posting yesterday - Thanks Andrew! Whatever anyone might say about IED, at least he's consistently the most polite person on the net!
However, I don't remember the exact source and date of that interview -I remember reading it after having a discussion with Peter Morris and the others at Homeground about Kate's attitude toward digital recording. He showed me this article/interview that she gave to a magazine called something like "Electronic musician" or "Modern Music and Recording" or something the equivalent of "Musician" magazine in Britain. I'm pretty sure that the interview was given in the wake of the release of "The Dreaming" (Fall '82 or spring '83). Perhaps you could scour your old copies of Homeground for the "Medialog" section and track down articles around this time in magazines that sound like this.
I'm certain, though, of the content (I have a weirdly sharp memory for this stuff, but it tends to fail rapidly in other areas!). She definitely did do comparison tests between analog and digital and expressed a preference for the analog recording, although she admitted that it could probably just be due to past biases. Also, when she said that the analog was "warmer" she also said something about how the digital was somewhat "harsh" - but NOT in terms of the actual sound of the instruments as many claim; but more along the lines that it was TOO good at perfectly reproducing the sound of the instrument without any background hiss or noise. This seemed to throw her off, and she DEFINITELY made a statement that she LIKES a certain amount of tape hiss "Just to remind you that you're listening to a tape" or something like that. She even said something like "If you listen to "The Dreaming" closely, you can still hear a bit of hiss, which is comforting" (I don't know if "comforting" was the word, but that was the general idea).
She also went on about what a nightmare it was to digitally mix "The Dreaming" (this is from the one-column Musician feature on her home recording techniques in the spring of 1983) and how certain parts took "easily twice as long as analog" to do; However, her liking for the end product and the "edge" that digital mixing gives is supported in the fact that "Hounds of Love" was also digitally mixed.
I think she should take a leaf out of Peter Gabriel's book and think about using a combination of the two - the digital recorder for the electronic stuff, fairlight, drums, and voices (which all work great with digital) and use an analog for the acoustic instruments. I have to admit, the opening fiddle on "Jig of Life" is one of the most earthy and real sounding acoustic instruments I've ever heard on CD, and it was done on analog. This way, she'd have the best of both worlds. As it stands, her constant re-playing of the analog tape over and over (I think) tends to erase the highs and generally muddy up the sound. This might explain why "Hounds" doesn't sound as good as "The Dreaming" in terms of clarity. I have to admit, I sort of worry about her using Del as the sole engineer - sure it saves money, but how good is he around the studio?
I'll be curious to see how the next album sounds, since it will be done from start to finish in her home studio. (The basic tracks of Hounds of Love were recorded on an 8-track as demos, and then were transferred onto the new analog 24-track, which probably has a lot to do with the "muddier" HOL sound).
Date: Wed, 04 Mar 87 18:38 PST
Subject: re digital recording
To Hugh Maher:
The passages of muddy sound you notice are undeniable in HoL. But IED thinks he understands what Kate means when she says that signs of hiss are "comforting". At any rate, he has his own reason for appreciating such traces of hiss, especially in Kate's work. First, we're talking about traces of hiss which come and go throughout a given track, and these can only be detected on the CD versions. Both other media have far too much hiss or other surface noise of their own to make Kate's master/demo hisses audible.
Now, what's interesting is hearing where the hiss comes in and goes out. On "Mother Stands for Comfort", for example, not only can you hear where the different master tracks are augmented by the earlier demos (or perhaps vice versa), but you can also hear very distinctly a constant low hum, which may come from the Fairlight (being left on throughout the recording). Whatever the cause, these traces of the recording experience are like traces of underpainting beneath the final touches on an oil painting: they are reminders of the artificiality of the illusion, the stamp of the studio environment.
Anyway, that would explain her comment that "she LIKES a certain amount of tape hiss, 'Just to remind you that you're listening to a tape'. It's the artist's love of process, an unwillingness to remove all traces of her "handwriting", so to speak.
-- Andrew Marvick
Date: Tue, 29 Mar 88 18:41 PST
Subject: unconnected reflections
The following are a series of unconnected reflections on Matterse Katte Bushologicke which IED originally sent off to individual victims, mainly MarK T. Ganzer. This explains the author's peculiar (for him) references to a non-existent "I" and "me". Please disregard those.
As I'm sure you're aware by now, I'm in the midst of making a new transcription of the complete lyrics, emphasizing their narrative side, and I've finally gotten almost all the way through.
I can't get over how terrific Kate's lyrics are. The biggest eye-opener so far has come out of my feeble attempts to re-structure the lines' break-off points by trying to keep stricter ties with the musical structure -- something which none of the earlier transcribers has ever managed with any consistency. In doing this, I've been gaining a new appreciation of the complexities of the song-structures.
There are very few songs -- even including the early ones --which follow a conventional verse-chorus pattern. Almost all of the songs include a third, "bridge" component, and there isn't a single song that doesn't involve a significant re-organization of the verses' original rhythms and melodic lines in later verses. This is completely at odds with the tendency in pop music in general, where virtually all songs follow a simple verse-chorus pattern (once in a while adding a radically shortened and usually instrumental bridge interlude), and where the melodic line or the lyric metre is rarely altered by so much as a note or a syllable. In Kate's recent songs her shifts and additions are so significant that the job of figuring out where one verse ends and another begins becomes quite difficult.
Take "There Goes a Tenner". [Explanation omitted, see TD-section. --WIE]
I've had quite a run of similarly fortuitous, minor but exciting little discoveries recently. Finding the lyrics and music to "The Two Magicians" and The Ballad of Lucy Wan"; hearing Edna O'Brien on the radio last week (her Irish accented voice, which JCB said they had originally wanted for the reading of the poem in Jig of Life, was exactly the same nearly-"BBC"-English-accent-with-just-a-trace-of-Irish- lilt-to-it that John used in the recording); the discovery of the original "Auntie Hetty" in an episode of The Avengers ; and now all this stuff about There Goes a Tenner.
It's exciting, but it's also a bit worrying, because it implies that there's a similarly clear solution to all of the other countless mysteries to Kate's work, which we'll probably never know unless someone just happens to stumble on them in the same way.
Date: Fri, 10 Jun 88 14:43 PDT
Subject: Oops. Correction and apology.
> The guitar part for John Williams in "The Morning Fog" is an example of a part that Kate wrote out note for note.
Allow IED to correct himself before anyone else does. The above example was incorrect. IED should have said that the cello part for Jonathan Williams in "Hounds of Love" is the only time (for the HoL LP, at least) Kate actually hand-notated the musical part. The guitar part for "The Morning Fog" was written originally on the Fairlight.
Sorry about that.
-- Andrew Marvick
From: keving@gaffa.SGI.COM (Kevin Gurney)
Subject: Re: Oops. Correction and apology.
Date: 21 Jun 88 17:45:07 GMT
> IED should have said that the cello part for Jonathan Williams in "Hounds of Love" is the only time (for the HoL LP, at least) Kate actually hand-notated the musical part.
Is IED sure? The 'cello part for HoL only has one stinken note in it! Well, okay, two notes (but the second is just an octave of the first). I can hardly imagine Kate (or anyone else for that matter) sitting down and writing that out. Hell, even I picked it up the first time I heard it.
Date: Thu, 23 Jun 88 16:35 PDT
Subject: Kate's composing methods
> Is IED sure? The 'cello part for HoL only has one stinken note in it! Well, okay, two notes (but the second is just an octave of the first). I can hardly imagine Kate (or anyone else for that matter) sitting down and writing that out. Hell, even I picked it up the first time I heard it.
Yes, Kevin, that's what Kate said herself, anyway. As for the cello part being all of one note in octaves, that's misleading. Try really listening to the two (separate) cello parts, each playing in octaves, all the way through the track, and you'll discover that there are actually several melodic shifts; in addition there's a crucial third cello line (actually just one note) that comes in with the words "His little heart/It beats so fast".
Admittedly, the cello parts are quite simple, and that's probably why Kate was willing/able to write them out. Since, as you say, it sounds as though the parts would be very easy to pick up by ear, the fact that Kate did go to the trouble of writing them out is further evidence of the precision which she expects from her players in the translation of her original musical ideas. Here are Kate's words on the subject:
Question: You don't have staves with whole lines of music written out?
"Well, no, the only time I did that was for the cello parts in 'Hounds of Love', that's the only time I've ever written out a part, that's the only time I've ever written out a part. I stayed up all night to do it and wasn't sure if I could. But I worked them out on the Emulator and wrote out the chords that I played in the treble clef. Then the cellist Jonathan Williams--he's such a great player and so into the music he was-- helped me out by working it an octave lower."
The catch is, though, that Kate's method of "writing" is still very unclear. In the following excerpt from the Keyboard interview (this part was excised from the published version) Kate seems to indicate that she actually does "write out" parts more often than her above comment would seem to imply; and that she uses the Fairlight to help her actually notate (in other words, she uses it not only to create and record sounds, but also to help with the actual notation process).
"The great thing, again, you can do with the Fairlight that I enjoy so much is I can write a piece on it, say, with an acoustic guitar or a cello, and I can write it out, and then I can get a musician in to actually play that. So he's playing what I've written, but he's doing it much better than I could do. You see, without the Fairlight, I probably couldn't have written these parts before.
I would have written them on the piano and they wouldn't have had the feel of the strings, or acoustic guitar. And at the same time, you know I don't think me playing them on the Fairlight is as good as these people. But it's an interesting blend."
Date: Tue, 05 Jul 88 12:10 PDT
Subject: Subject: Kate Bush
> Subject: Kate Bush
> I'm posting this so that I can see Kate Bush's name in the next issue of Love-Hounds.
IED fully shares your frustration over the dearth of worthwhile KT discussion in L-Hs, but he for one long ago gave up complaining about the apalling tendency on the part of many Love-Hounds to clutter up this forum with endless dialogues (more often monologues) about inconsequential musicians (i.e., all musicians unconnected with Kate's work). No matter how strong the argument, he has found, Love-Hounds will keep prattling on about "Colourboxes" and "XTCs" and all the other flotsam and jetsam of the pop-music world. No amount of complaining will alter the essential triviality of the average Love-Hound's extra-Katian musical tastes. We just have to put up with it.
Date: 29 Jul 1988 0901-WET (Friday)
From: Jamie Andrews <jha%lfcs.edinburgh.ac.uk@NSS.CS.UCL.AC.UK>
Subject: on the multitude of Her talents
On Her voice:
I think the great thing about Kate's voice is not necessarily her range, although that's technically impressive. It's the way she uses it: her sense of how to phrase, what to do with a note, which way and how long to "smear" the first or last note of a phrase. Take "The Man with the Child in his Eyes", for example. Pat Benatar (ecch) or even Suzanne Vega could not get the emotional content out of that song that Kate does. Consider specifically the following (my punctuation):
"Here I am again my girl, wond'rin' what on earth,
I'm-a doin'-a here; maybe, he doesn't love me;
I just took a trip, on my love for him."
Think of what she does with each note there. The only singers I can compare that to are Nat King Cole, and Barbra Streisand when she had some sense of musical style.
But of course there's more to it than that, because that great sense of presentation is integrated into the writing of all her songs. When she wrote the melody to the line "the man with the child in his eyes", she knew exactly how she was going to sing it. (Actually I suppose the two came together.) Similarly with all of "The Flight (night? oops, I forget) of the Swallow", or "The Hounds of Love", for example.
On Her videos:
What we must remember is that Kate was making videos back when they weren't even called videos, when it was kind of "oh yeah, Kate Bush has recorded this kind of movie clip to go with her song". The videos for "Wuthering Heights" and "TMwtCihE" are pretty embarrassing (to me, anyway), but for instance those for "Breathing" and "Sat In your Lap" I think are excellent, and they were before the video boom too.
Of the post-video boom videos, I think "Cloudbusting" is vaguely farcical (unfortunately, because it's my favourite Kate song). But "HoL" and "RUtH" are great, and I would almost say that she wrote "The Big Sky" as a video song specifically, it works so much better on video than just the record itself.
On Her emotional impact:
I think the thing that ties together Kate's songs with things like, say (for me) Blade Runner, Lolita, or Ravel's music, is the sense of "artistic rapture" in them (to coin a phrase). It's art taken to a level where it becomes a tangible sense of esthetic bliss. When it doesn't work it comes off as bad melodrama or bad psychedelia, which is how some people view all of these things anyway, but when it works it really is rapturous.
happy birthday Kate
happy Katemas everyone
"Tonight's the night of the flight"
Date: Tue, 18 Oct 88 16:15 PDT
Subject: KT NEWS
from the latest (32nd) issue of "Homeground":
Nigel Kennedy, the young English violin virtuoso about whom IED recently wrote in Love-Hounds, has performed a cover version of one of Kate's songs in concert. The identity of the song is not known, but Kennedy subtitled it "Marilyn Monroe meets the Mugger" (which "HG" notes suggests "Hammer Horror"). Kennedy also had "much to say about Kate" on a UK radio programme recently.
Lastly, among the ever-expanding list of "personals" that appear at the end of the fanzine is a cryptic note:
GG -- Roll on 28th Sept. If they make me wait any longer, I'll cry and our lovely little friend will sulk & knock like mad. Love you. JCB.
Any ideas, |>oug?
-- Andrew Marvick
Date: 23 Nov 88 01:43:38 GMT
Subject: Re: Clannad and Kate and Celts
I quite like Clannad and have a CD of theirs (Macalla) and a few tapes as well. They were in Australia a few months ago and some friends of mine went to see them. I breated them severely for not getting me a ticket, Apparantly, they sound every bit as clear and harmonious on stage as they do on their albums.
I have quite an interest as well in Celtic and Gaelic legend and mythos. Its wonderful stuff. The fantasy fiction books that follow this line are amongst my favourites. As to the connection with KaTe, I'm not sure. Certainly her music is very deep minded and alive with subconcious imagery. I find that many myths tend to also be like that. Jung has a lot to say on the subject (not that I'm necessarily a Jungian). Basically KaTe's music can scare the shit out of me, especially the Ninth Wave.
Although I couldn't say off hand if KaTe draws imagery directly from any particular mythos, it is entirely possible that these sorts of legends are the sort of thing tht she may have been bought up on on in her childhood. This would probably have an affect on her music.
Date: Mon, 8 May 1989 19:36:47 PDT
From: John M. Relph <email@example.com>
Subject: transcription of an abstract idea
Ferruccio Busoni said:
"Every notation is, in itself, the transcription of an abstract idea.
The instant the pen seizes it, the idea loses its original form."
[ Sketch of a New Aesthetic of Music, c. 1907]
So I can see where Kate would want to be able to transcribe directly the ideas in her head onto the recording medium. Varese had much the same attitude, as shown here:
"I find myself frustrated at every moment by the poverty of the means of expression at my disposal. I myself would like, for expressing my personal conceptions, a completely new means of expression. A sound machine (and not a machine for reproducing sounds). What I compose, whatever my message is, would then be transmitted to my listener without being altered by interpretation..."
[Edgard Varese, c. 1933, in The Recording Angel, Evan Eisenberg, 1987]
This "sound machine" that Varese desired is obviously the forerunner to the modern synthesiser. Eisenberg asserts that a musical laboratory, also envisioned by Varese, was fully available only in 1977 at Pierre Boulez's IRCAM. However, Varese was given an early Ampex tape machine in the early fifties, and he began splicing (by hand) the tape portions of his piece Deserts, for winds, piano, percussion, and tape. Eisenberg further asserts that although Ussachevsky and Stockhausen had been producing electronic music experiments at this time...
...Varese, by contrast, had been making electronic music in his head for half a century; the moment the tools were put in his hands he knew what to do with them. Deserts expresses all the emptiness of those fifty years of history in a language exploding with their fullness... Stockhausen's Gesang der Junglinge of 1956 was perhaps the first worthy successor of Deserts, and Morton Subotnick's The Wild Bull of 1971... perhaps the most popular...
[ The Recording Angel ]
I think that perhaps Kate wasn't the first composer to be able to put the ideas in her or his head directly onto tape. I would argue that Frank Zappa was also doing this before Kate, but Zappa also chose not to devote himself entirely to this, as Kate has -- Zappa wanted to be able to do the live show, and thus chose to limit himself with the capabilities of the live rock band. Although he did take those recordings and add many overdubs in the studio to produce a different kind of musical experience than the live, he was not performing musical alchemy.
My other concern is expressed fairly well by the Talking Heads' song "Seen and Not Seen":
He would see faces in movies, on T.V., in magazines, and in books... He thought that some of these faces might be right for him... And through the years, by keeping an ideal facial structure fixed in his mind... Or somewhere in the back of his mind... That he might, by force of will, cause his face to approach those of his ideal...
He imagined that this was an ability he shared with most other people...
ALthough some people might have made mistakes... They may have arrived at an appearance that bears no relationship to them... They may have picked an ideal appearance based on some childish whim or momentary impulse... Some may have gotten half-way there, and then changed their minds.
He wonders if he too might have made a similar mistake.
Date: Wed, 10 May 89 16:21 PDT
Again, IED wasn't making himself clear, judging by the nature of people's comments. He never meant to say (nor, in fact, did he say) either that Kate was the first to produce her own music or that she was the first to use the Fairlight CMI! Nor did he mean to say (or say) that Kate was performing "alchemy" by the mere use of synthesizers! Nor did he mean to say (or say) that Kate used only synthesizers (unlike much of Tangerine Dream's music, which was an example one L-H gave). It should go without saying that none of those propositions is true. IED doesn't believe that these misunder-standings would have arisen had readers paid closer attention to IED's words--but on the other hand IED will admit that his words are not of a type that inspires people to read them with excessive care. They're more likely to make people hit the 'scroll down' key with a vengeance. So no offense is taken.
About the comparison with Wagner. Yes, in some respects Kate's efforts are similar to Wagner's, though IED would never dream of trying to suggest that any kind of qualitative comparison between these two artists' work is warranted. The technical differences between the two musicians' methods are enormous, however. That's one reason why IED used the term "modern musical history" (by which he had post-WWII music vaguely in mind). Anyway, the likeness of Kate's work to Wagner's is more sensible when considering her overall performance concepts of her music--either the stage shows or the videos, and perhaps a few of the television lip-synch performances. IED isn't so sure that Wagner's orchestration techniques--the actual sonic "fingerprints" of his music--are in themselves the result of quite the same attitude that IED sees behind Kate's creation of The Dreaming. But again, it's all subjective, and all a matter of degree.
He also wants to reiterate that he was only stating a very personal view of how Kate fits into musical history. He realizes that it's relatively easy to provide examples of music which, at least by objective comparison, seem to have preceded Kate's in terms of the innovative approach which IED has ascribed to Kate's work. Ah, but if only you could all make such comparisons after listening through IED's hopelessly Kate-obsessed ears! There'd be no argument.
IED honestly didn't want to start a fight over this nebulous question as to which artist was first with this or that innovation, much less which artist is "better or worse". That's been done in this group in the past, and IED still smarts from the tanning he got for sticking to his guns. Also, his comments about musical alchemy were not intended to stand as an intellectually defensible argument. They were merely impassioned expressions of IED's more or less spiritual conviKTions. That's why they were admittedly vulnerable to rebuttal.
From: Doug Alan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Thu, 11 May 89 08:49:37 EDT
Subject: Alchemical matters
Reagarding all the ferver IED has created over his claims about Kate's unique alchemical approach... I think most people are completely misinterpreting what he said. IED never said that Kate was the first person to use synthesizers, or the first person to produce her own album, or anything like that. I don't know if I've correctly interpreted IED either, so I'll just tell you my opinions about Kate's unique innovation on *The Dreaming*, which I think is quite related to what IED had to say.
Most often throughout the history of recorded music, production techniques in the studio have been used to add something to already existing music. Most often this studio production has been used to smooth and polish the music; to remove rough edges and turn the music into a glossy commercial product. Sometimes it has been used to add embelishments to the music. And sometimes the studio has been used itself as a primary artistic tool. In recent years, we have seen music that could not exist without the studio -- music, where the studio production is so integral to the music that if you removed the studio production, there would not be enough left to stand on its own. This is not a bad thing -- in fact it is a quite good thing, because it's a whole new art form. Groups like Tackhead and M|A|R|S come to mind.
The Beatles did some of the earliest interesting art using the studio. *Sgt. Peppers* was a showcase for the state of the art in studio production. And everything was done on 4-track tape recorders! The Beatles didn't take this approach to it's conclusion, however. They didn't have the technology to, nor probably the desire. Parts of *Sgt. Peppers* could not have existed without the studio production (some of "A Day in the Life", for instance), but for the most part, the music could have existed in a form without the studio embelishing and still have been darn good and recognizable. On the White Album, Revolution Number 9 is completely a studio production and could not possibly exist without the studio. However, Revolution Number Nine can not really be though of as a "song". It is more a collage of sounds. In the seventies there were many avant-garde musicians who did works that could only be studio creation, but almost all of this is more apropriately classified as sound collages. Pink Floyd did a lot of interesting studio work that greatly enhanced their music. Listen to all of the sound effects and sounds on *The Wall* and try to imagine the album without these. I think it could be done -- it wouldn't be as good, but it would still be good. The same thing can be said about Peter Gabriel's third album.
What about *The Dreaming*? Could *The Dreaming* exist in any recognizable form with the massive studio effort that was put into it? Without samplers, and overdubbing, and all the weird little sound effects, sound processing, and sounds? I don't think so. There are a couple of songs which might be recognizable in an unproduced form, played on more convential instruments, but for the most part, the "instrument" the songs were played on is the studio. *The Dreaming* would not of, could not of existed without the studio. *The Dreaming* is the first album of music (as opposed to sound collages) which took studio production to the maximal artistic extreme, and thus it deserves a place in history just for this (not to mention for also being the greatest album ever recorded).
Date: 10 May 89 15:39:24 GMT
Subject: re Alchemy
Listen, I think that Kate is a wonderful artist and I bless her for not being restrained by the limited musical outlooks that too many modern pop artists have adopted. But, PLEASE, don't take this too far. Talking about who did what first is always a dubious undertaking. This process (or non-process) of musical creation may be a refreshing change in pop music of the eighties but it is hardly something that has been uncovered by Kate (or any single artist for that matter).
It is a fundamental practice of artists in many of the Eastern countries. The fact that principles of Zen, meditation and the like have slowly been trickling in to the West has become more evident as musicians like Kate, Steve Reich and David Sylvian get recognition and understanding. Even so, I would contend that the only means of "Alchemy", as you term it, would be through improvisation. This, of course, could be argued (probably without any decipherable outcome). While I'm way out here on a limb, I would liken The Dreaming to a Claude Debussy piece rather than to a John Cage piece. That is, like Debussy, Kate uses the studio sounds like a palette. Of course, the studio has certain limiting factors (to our minds), but Kate seems unaware of them (and thus they don't exist! (there is a nice explanation of this idea in Zen in the Art of Archery by Eugene Herrigel)). These are ideas that both Debussy and Cage explored. They did not see limitations in there work. That is a feeling I get with a few of Kate's records: the artist's total indifference to the ideas of limitation in their composition.
This is something I am working towards in my own music and something that we all can aply to any aspect of our lives. So, LIVE CREATIVELY!!!!!
P.S. If the tone of this article sounds a little negative, it is not meant to be. I think that having sheros is fine. I think keeping your feet on the ground when talking about them makes for better net reading. On the other hand, when listening to her...
Date: Sat, 13 May 89 12:13 PDT
Thanks to |>oug for his hearty defense of IED's observations about The Dreaming. IED agreed with virtually every word |>oug had to say on the subject. |>oug and IED seem, oddly enough, to be of one mind on most aspects of this particular issue.
IED questions only one point of |>oug's--the idea that even one or two of the songs on TD could stand on their own "without the production". IED doesn't know how such a thing could possibly be proved, unless Kate herself were to strip away the production and make recordings of the simple "songs" themselves. I really believe now that even the tracks that seem to have been "built up" around "songs" ( Suspended in Gaffa, There Goes a Tenner, etc.) are nevertheless inextricably mixed up with their production. For example, one could certainly recognize the song Leave It Open if Frank Sinatra, Jr. sang it on Late Night with Paul Shaffer on electric piano. There's enough of a "song" for that to be possible. But without the extremely elaborate and varied treatment of the different parts of the vocal (to say nothing of the multiple effects in the instrumental parts), would it really be the same song ? IED thinks it would be like listening to Tristan und Isolde (to use Julian's analogy) with just a single bel canto soprano and a piano accompaniment. In other words, identifiable but hopelessly incomplete, and totally at odds with the intentions of the music's creator.
IED never thought he would be coming to the defense of "Phil Collins" in this forum, but |>oug's opinions should not be taken as representing all Love-Hounds'. IED agrees that Collins seems very often to be actively courting popular favour, and that much of his music seems to be designed for commercial success, rather than through what IED believes Kandinsky liked to call "inner necessity". But that is not always a totally damning motivation for the creation of art. On that point IED definitely does not agree with |>oug. It seems to IED that the reasons for someone's creativity--whether "purely" aesthetic; related to questions of morality; or merely commercial--are quite irrelevant to the end result. All that matters to IED--or all that should matter to him--is the music itself.
There is much to admire in Phil Collins's work, although IED personally never listens to it, and would never spend any money on it. And God knows Collins has made a lot of music that is far superior to some of the high-minded crap lauded in L-Hs in the past. (IED won't be specific because he's a coward and doesn't want to bring everyone in the group down on his head.) IED's point is that sure, commercial motivations can be terribly damaging to a person's art. But anti-commercial motivations can be equally damaging. So can any other motivating factor that isn't directly related to the making of the music. But it's also possible that these factors can have no effect, or at least have no ill effect on the art, too. That's because there are just too many other possible conditions that could affect the creative process--not the least of which is talent --something which Collins unquestionably has in considerable degree.
(Anyway remember, Kate once raved about In the Air Tonight. And that's enough reason for IED, as all of you know.)
The other thing about |>oug's criticism of Collins that IED didn't agree with was his statement that because "the other half of his music is completely derivative," it's "of no interest". IED thinks that's a very dangerous kind of generalization to make. It's impossible to be "completely" derivative. No artist in history has ever been "completely" derivative. Collins's work is sometimes quite derivative of earlier musical styles by other artists, and it is quite often very derivative of his own earlier recordings. But that in itself is not a damning quality. It's possible to identify virtually any artist in history as "derivative". But the degree to which a given artist is "derivative" is not proportionate to the "interest" level of that artist's work. One could easily argue that Mozart (jeez, this kind of analogy always makes IED cringe--sorry, people!) was extremely derivative of Johann Christian Bach; and that he repeated himself endlessly, as well.
One could also condemn much of Mozart's work for having been motivated by purely economic and/or extra-musical social conditions in his life. (Even the keys in which many of his works were written were chosen by Mozart because they were the "official" Court Keys for a given year!) But these criticisms still wouldn't in any way touch on the ultimately indefinable aspects of Mozart's work which have made them so curiously moving to so many people over such a long period of time. Without meaning in any way to compare Collins's work to Mozart's (God forbid!), IED fails to see how the fact (if it is a fact) that Collins's work is often motivated by the wish to succeed with the public and in the marketplace should in and of itself condemn the music which results from those motivations. Nor can IED see how the fact that Collins's work is closely derived from other music should in itself mean that his music is "of no interest".
-- Andrew Marvick
Date: Sat, 20 May 89 14:04 PDT
Subject: IED wrestles with Love-Hounds' Big Issues
>A similar question: if I have mastered only one style but you have mastered many, haven't you accomplished more than me? These questions lead to possible criteria for judging musical greatness, like:
o mastery of various styles
o making one's work accessible
o invention of a new but personal style
o invention of a new and widely-adopted style
-- Glenn Bruns
All these little formulae look sound enough, but they leave out a mass of variables, Glenn. First, how do you define "mastery"? Second, how does the number of accomplishments in itself have anything to do with the quality of those accomplishments? Chopin was a "master" of composition for the piano. Beethoven wrote "masterly" piano music as well as orchestral music. But does that have anything to do with the accomplishments of Chopin? No. Does it make Chopin an inferior atist? Of course not. Such comparisons are pointless. Wagner was the first master of the Gesamtkunstwerk--incorporating a number of different media all at once to make a new, "comprehensive" artwork. But does that in itself make Wagner the "greatest" artist in history up till then? Of course not! What he did was unique, and not something that we can rank by totting up the number of inventions in it. And what makes Wagner's music great is its ability to move people. It's not its innovations alone that give Wagner's work "greatness"; rather, it's its evocative power that gives his innovations a reason for being.
Conversely, the "ability" to make one's art "accessible" to a larger audience is not something to be considered a virtue in itself. If one artist makes powerful music, but it's not popular, he isn't less good an artist than another who makes powerful music that is popular. It just means their arts are different. In other words, these criteria--number of techniques mastered by the artist, number of people attracted to the work, number of innovations in the art, etc.--are all far too vague and subject to other more work- and artist-specific criteria to be of much use in comparisons.
A far more sensible means of gauging artists' "greatness" would be to begin with Kate Bush's work as the ideal, and to measure all other art in terms of the degree to which it approaches that ideal. That way, no art could be mistakenly identified as equal or superior to Kate's. As a result, the differences in quality between all other artists' work would rightly be recognized as an entirely trivial and irrelevant matter, since no matter how "good" they might be, they could never be as good as Kate's!
-- Andrew Marvick
Date: Sat, 1 Jul 89 15:24:41 PDT
From: Douglas MacGowan <MACGOWAN@SRI-NIC.ARPA>
Subject: Playing a Role
To change the subject again, I have noticed (especially in the very early works of Kate that IED recently transcribed), a very unusual point of view that seems to show itself in the majority of Kate's works. It's so unique that I can't quite think of the right word for it, but the closest that I can come is "victim."
Not to mean that Kate's persona in her songs are asking for pity or anything, but there seems to be a genuine feeling of "There's nothing I can do about this. I'll just ride it out (sit back and look at the Big Sky.)" Maybe the word is powerlessness.
This is apparent in many of her songs dealing with relationships: she would run up that hill *if* she could -- the actor can't save himself in Wow -- Mrs. Houdini stands powerless, watching the magician die --the girl has no ability to choose what's happening and who she picks in Canasta.
At the same time, there is no real feeling of anger in much of her songs. Revenge is only on her mind in The Wedding List. Anger is displayed in GOOMH and, to a smaller degree in Hounds of Love, but there is also a strong sense of running and hiding in both songs.
In her non-relationship songs, there is a similar feeling of helplessness -- the fetus in Breathing, the child in Cloudbusting, the stalked in Hammer Horror.
Anyway, I have just been listening to a long stretch of Kate's works, and this thought came to me. I know Kate is pretty infamous for her lack of anger, and it really seems to come through in her material. I find it just adds to the genius of Kate that she can make songs about kinds of powerlessness so strong.
Thought I'd pass my thoughts on for comments...
Date: Tue, 04 Jul 89 12:16 PDT
Subject: Kate's point of view
On quite a different subject, Doug MacGowan has made some very compelling and provocative new points about Kate's themes:
> To change the subject again, I have noticed (especially in the very early works of Kate that IED recently transcribed), a very unusual point of view that seems to show itself in the majority of Kate's works. It's so unique that I can't quite think of the right word for it, but the closest that I can come is "victim." Maybe the word is powerlessness.
This is apparent in many of her songs dealing with relationships: she would run up that hill *if* she could; the actor can't save himself in Wow ; Mrs. Houdini stands powerless, watching the magician die; the girl has no ability to choose what's happening and who she picks in Canasta.
This is a very interesting thesis, and IED cannot deny that Doug gives strong examples to support it. It's a mystery, since Kate does not, in fact, believe that people are, strictly speaking, "victims" of fate, or helpless beings. Her philosophy, if it can be called that, is that we can affect our fate through our attitude. But she doesn't mean by this that there is any supernatural force at work. She has made it clear in interviews that what she means is that if we are able to view our environment in a positive light--if we can succeed in transforming our "negative energies", or attitudes, into positive ones, through the exercise of our will --then that very positive attitude will have an effect on our environment, hence on our personal destiny.
She has been quick to stress that if such an attitude can be maintained, then even if tragedy should befall us, we will be better able to deal with that tragedy, and thus our fate will be more hopeful.
Therefore, it's very interesting that Doug notices a theme of hopelessness running through Kate's work. Kate has said at least twice that she always wants to include at least some note of hope in her work. But IED believes she was referring more to her albums in a general sense, rather than to each individual song. Also, she insists that The Ninth Wave ends on a note of hope for the future (the heroine does NOT die at any time in that work, and that's FINAL, Joe!). This attitude is not always readily apparent in the songs, and Doug MacGowan makes a very valid point, IED thinks. It's a puzzle, but IED would just like to remind everyone that Kate is not writing autobiographically in these songs.
When she assumes the pessimistic, forlorn attitude of the fetus in Breathing, or the even more pathetic aspect of the mother in Army Dreamers, she is not trying to express her own personal attitude or opinion. In this respect Kate Bush is quite different from 99.9% of the artists writing songs today. Kate tends to take on the personalities and to share the attitudes and opinions of the characters who narrate the various songs she composes. She does not (for the most part) mean to endorse those characters' attitudes and opinions, although she might happen to agree with some of them. Rather, she simply responds to those characters' situations as she believes they would respond: her capacity for empathy seems to be one of her greatest gifts and inspirations.
Given this fact, it's not necessarily a contradiction of her own philosophy that a certain number of her songs seem to explore the theme of helplessness or hopelessness. Such emotions are of great concern to her, and it's almost inevitable that she should be moved to try to express them in her music. IED believes, however, that her ultimate and overriding message is a positive one.
-- Andrew Marvick
Date: Thu, 6 Jul 89 08:48:11 PDT
From: Douglas MacGowan <MACGOWAN@SRI-NIC.ARPA>
Subject: More Powerlessness
>Therefore, it's very interesting that Doug notices a theme of hopelessness running through Kate's work.
I don't have my posting in front of me, but I'm pretty sure I used the word "powerlessness" -- which is quite different from *hopelessness*. I agree that Kate's work is full of hope and good beliefs, and that she has the attitude that we can make changes to the beds that we lie in.
>she insists that The Ninth Wave ends on a note of hope for the future
Interesting you should point this one out, IED. After thinking about the theory I presented in my last posting, I have come to the conclusion that this aspect of helplessness or powerlessness is most apparent in The Ninth Wave, the song Hello Earth particularly:
Can't do anything - just watch them swing on the wind out to sea
And the passages where all the possible rescuers (sailors, fishermen, life-savers, etc.,) are told to head for home.
The more I think about it, the more I see this trait in her songs. Even a song about transitionary action, such as Full House, has the character making a change, but only after Pride and The Voices force her into it.
I cannot think of any of Kate's songs where the perspective is that of a person who is not acting on some kind of interior or exterior source that leads them into action: Under The Ivy has the "little girl inside me", Ran Tan Waltz's main character is a very weak man, Cloudbusting is full of other sources, and Ne T'en Fuis Pas (which I still maintain is the *best* song Kate ever did) has "the large eyes of my God."
>she is not trying to express her own personal attitude or opinion. She does not (for the most part) mean to endorse those characters' attitudes and opinions, although she might happen to agree with some of them.
I'm going to have to ask you to expound on this one. Maybe I am misunderstanding what you're saying, but I would maintain that she identifies in some way with most, if not all, of the attitudes and opinions of her characters. This does not imply that she has experienced everything that her characters have (so I agree the songs are not autobiographical), but I believe that her character's actions must portray some aspect of her personality. I've read that she gets some of her ideas from TV or things she's read; and while she has not experienced events like in King's The Shining or World War III, she can imagine if-that-were-me- I'd-feel-like-this, and write songs like Get Out Of My House and Breathing, putting herself into those imaginary situations. The very fact that there is so little resemblance between GOoMH and The Shining (thank god) is because Kate took that material and put aspects of *herself* into it.
>IED believes, however, that her ultimate and overriding message is a positive one.
Abso-blooming-lutely, to quote the Griffin in "Dreamchild." But not, however, your run-of-the-mill kind of positiveness.
Date: Thu, 06 Jul 89 12:27 PDT
Subject: English allusions in Kate Bush
OK, so what is the special British significance of purple flowers? Also, IED meant to ask this of the Love-Hound who indicated he/she knew of a special meaning to the "ravens" in Lionheart a couple of years ago in Love-Hounds. If someone can explain this reference, IED would appreciate it. (He feels appropriately ignorant and foolish having to ask about these.)
Incidentally, IED believes there is more than just a general passing reference to Spring in the following lines from Lionheart : "Just give me one kiss in apple blossom/Just give me one kiss and I'll be wassailing/In the orchard, my English rose/Or with my shepherd, who'll bring me home."
Knowing that Kate is quite intimately acquainted with the early Pre-Raphaelites' paintings, IED believes the above verses are certainly a reference to one picture, possibly two. The certain (or nearly certain) reference is to John Everett Millais's Apple Blossoms, also known as Spring (1859). It depicts a group of young girls and ladies sitting or standing in a rough semi-circle on a softly sunlit day, in a meadow near an orchard of apple-trees in blossom. Some of the girls are drinking some sort of drink or porridge. The painting is one of the most famous and important of Millais's Pre-Raphaelite works. Knowing that Kate's lyrics for Lionheart were designed to be a kind of panorama of distinctively, recognizably English images, it seems extremely likely that the apple-blossom verse is meant to allude to Millais's painting. (Kate has specifically singled out two of Millais's other early, Pre-Raphaelite pictures in interviews: his Ophelia and his A Huguenot, both from about 1852.)
The other possible (but not certain) reference is to another famous Pre-Raphaelite picture of English life, William Holman Hunt's The Hireling Shepherd, which shows a ruddy-faced British shepherd stretched out on a field, sweet-talking a young country maid (who is feeding an apple to a little lamb), while behind them the shepherd's flock of sheep, unattended, stray dangerously out of their proper meadow. The shepherd has a small cask of beer round his waist. Hence IED's suggestion that the verses above may also refer to this picture.
-- Andrew Marvick
Date: Sun, 09 Jul 89 01:52 PDT
Subject: Kate's work
> I cannot think of any of Kate's songs where the perspective is that of a person who is not acting on some kind of interior or exterior source that leads them into action...
IED must applaud you, Doug, for introducing a really intriguing new way of considering Kate's work. You have provided a large number of examples to support your thesis, too, and IED agrees that there are many songs which seem to stem from, if not "hopelessness", than at least a kind of fatalism, or a sense of resignation about the inevitability of fate. One could, however, argue that every action is merely a re-action to another, previous action; so we should be careful not to lump all of Kate's songs of action into this "reactive", or "power-less" category, if only because it becomes too general a criterion.
IED can think of several songs, off hand, which seem to celebrate a kind of power ful, affirmative action and attitude on the part of the narrator. What about Pull Out the Pin ? There we see a Viet Cong guerilla soldier taking drastic (and highly efficient!) action in what he sees as a perfectly justified act (even though his attitude is not entirely unmixed). And in There Goes a Tenner the group of protagonists, although perhaps (only perhaps, :>oug!) not ultimately successful, nevertheless have taken upon themselves an extraordinary new step in their "careers", so to speak. These are not exactly heroes, but they are also not powerless victims of fate. They have taken a position and they will stick to it till the end.
Moving, about Lindsay Kemp (or about a young girl in the audience at one of Kemp's shows, perhaps), is another highly affirmative song, one which seems to defy the fatalism of many of Kate's other early texts. And the words of Them Heavy People very clearly advocate that we can change our situation in life and the universe through the acquisition of knowledge. Room For the Life is another call (this time directed at the passive, fatalistic woman whom the narrator addresses) to take a positive direction, to survive difficulties and overcome them, to embrace life rather than shy away from it. James and the Cold Gun does much the same thing, only this time in reference to a man. In both these songs the subject is being urged by the speaker to change course toward a more life-affirming philosophy. Both songs seem (to IED, anyway) to be arguing against a negative or fatalistic attitude.
There are several other songs with similarly optimistic, determinist messages: L'Amour Looks Something Like You ; Leave It Open (perhaps); the man's position (told through the choruses and bridge) in Night of the Swallow ; The Big Sky ; Jig of Life (a song which fairly reeks life-affirmative, determinist philosophy!); and The Morning Fog. All of these songs, in IED's view, seem in one way or another to carry strong anti-fatalist, anti-powerlessness messages.
This is not to deny your own point, which is amply documented. IED is even ready to concede that the songs which convey a feeling of pessimism or powerlessness exceed in number those which suggest a more determinist attitude. But this all really goes to the more central characteristic of Kate's work: its empathic, rather than autobiographical, nature.
IED doesn't want to try to argue that none of Kate's songs bears any relation to her personal life. That would be ridiculous. Clearly many of her songs, particularly in the early work, bear the mark of the confessional songwriter. And some songs are so vague--or at least their specific narrative referents are so obscure to the public so far--that, in the absence of more concrete information, they appear to us to be self-referential ( Under the Ivy, for example, or Burning Bridge, perhaps). But in general, Kate's source of inspiration for her songwriting seems to come from outside herself. She is captivated by other people's situations, ideas, feelings and predicaments. She seems perpetually to be delighting in, even revelling in, her own capacity to empathize with the mind and soul of another human being.
She gets inside her subject, and assumes his/her world and viewpoint long enough to write and record a song. For the most part this vast, almost limitless capacity to empathize with the experience of people other than herself is absent in other contemporary songwriters. And it's this capacity which is at the core of Kate's ability to crystalize human emotions that are at once universal and complex --something which virtually no-one else working today can do, certainly not to the degree that Kate can.
> I'm going to have to ask you to expound on this one. Maybe I am misunderstanding what you're saying, but I would maintain that she identifies in some way with most, if not all, of the attitudes and opinions of her characters.
Well, this is just the point IED is wrestling with. There is a world of difference between empathy and sympathy. When you say that Kate "identifies" with the attitudes and opinions of her songs' characters, IED must agree, with some hesitation. But he would argue that Kate "identifies" with those attitudes only long enough to communicate the power of the characters' feelings. There is no reason for us to assume that Kate shares those characters' attitudes herself, when she is not performing those songs. On the contrary, she herself has explained many times that she becomes the character only when she is performing (or, of course composing) that character's song; she does not "carry it home" with her at night. And she often uses language very carefully so as to avoid sounding as though she has taken a definite moral or intellectual position in regard to an issue raised in a song.
Her remarks about Cloudbusting, Mother Stands For Comfort and Experiment IV, for example, are amazingly neutral and detached. She is always very careful never to say, for instance, that she "believes" in the theories of Wilhelm Reich, or even in the cloudbuster itself. Nor will she ever say that she feels the mother in Mother Stands for Comfort is "justified" in protecting her murderous son from harm. And she is even careful to describe the policy of the government types in Experiment IV as "interesting" and "fascinating", rather than "horrid" or "rotten" or something like that. This is what IED means by "empathy": Kate "puts on the skin" of her subjects. But this means that the song represents the thoughts and feelings of her subjects, and not necessarily of herself.
Now naturally there are some exceptions, and they are very obvious ones to spot: the plight of the Aborigines in The Dreaming, of the fetus in Breathing, etc. We all know that Kate has definite views about these songs' themes. But these are exceptional songs for that reason; they are not typical of her work.
>can imagine if-that-were-me-I'd-feel-like-this, and write songs like Get Out Of My House and Breathing, putting herself into those imaginary situations...
IED agrees with you completely here. It seems we have simply had a confusion of terminology. Kate does "put herself into those imaginary situations," exactly. This is what IED means by "empathy". But that's quite different from saying that, just because she can imagine what her characters are feeling and thinking, she herself--even when not performing those songs--feels and thinks the same way that her characters do. It's precisely because she does not (necessarily) share her characters' views that she can write songs which present such a wide variety and range of attitudes--including ones which seem to be in direct contradiction with one another, as in the case of the group of songs which explore themes of "powerlessness" and those which seem to present "determinist" attitudes.
-- Andrew Marvick
On to Her Work - General Thoughts Pt. 2
written by Love-Hounds
compiled and edited
Sept 1995 June 1996