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Guest Blog: Owen Kilfeather

We invited Owen Kilfeather to write the following blog post to mark his performance in The Front Room here at The Model:

Nowadays we listen to music streamed from the cloud (a faux-metaphysical term for a data-centre server in an industrial estate just off the M50) into a sleek pocket-sized device made of plastic, glass and dubiously-sourced minerals, and while to many of an age to have lived their formative years in the era of purely physical recorded media (CD, vinyl, all manner of tape, etc.), or indeed of a younger age who grew up with an affection for same, our listening experience in this transitional era seems impossibly intangible, as if music somehow exists to a lesser degree now that it is far less likely to be sitting on a shelf in your living room and you can’t even give away a CD, in effect our relationship to music has always been of a highly ephemeral nature: the shape of it being that humans have been making music for 43,000 years, from the earliest examples of bone and ivory flutes (keeping in mind the impossibility of assigning a date to the first instance of the human voice employed for song or the use of highly-perishable percussion instruments), while we’ve been recording music for a mere 142 years, since the invention of the Edison cylinder.

Put plainly, the era of physical music so far is a historical blip that we have been fortunate enough to live through and participate in, and our current musical climate is one of instant access to all recorded music, or the vast amount of it that makes it onto one of those servers. (This is no way shape or form an endorsement of the trinket-based economy that allows actors such as Spotify to dispense royalty cheques for the price of a sandwich to music legends and exposure as valid coin to lesser-known musicians under the guise of a bold pioneer spirit, when really just embarked on something as prosaic as rediscovering then monetising fire, all the while rocking yachts and mansions for their trouble.)

These are exciting times for the listening to and making of music (to paraphrase the composer John Zorn, just wait another fifty years until we hear the mature fruits of musicians fully accustomed to listening to everything, a magpie talent that was more often the province of a niche personality back in the days when physical music formats dominated), and with them come new modes of experience and communication.

During my hosting of The Front Room I will be imparting a series of strategies for listening and discussing music in an age when recorded music surrounds us more than ever and we require a greater precision of musical category than those that had heretofore served us well, accompanied by an illustrative selection of vinyl spanning different cultures and centuries.

Owen Kilfeather is a composer and improviser who performs with the bands Miss Foreign Affairs and Gulpt. 

Owen will host The Front Room on Thursday, 14 Nov. from 8-10pm: Admission Free, includes one welcome drink.