A classical flutist listens to Ian Anderson in 1969 and 1976

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2020/05/09/a-classical-flutist-listens-to.html

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What percussive breathing he has. A wild talent; if you’ve got it, flaunt it.

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I’m a big fan of Ian Anderson (the first concert I ever attended was Jethro Tull) and a big fan of William Gibson, but I didn’t expect those fandoms to ever intersect. Kudos for the spot-on quote from Burning Chrome (“the street finds its own uses for things”) relating to Anderson’s use of the flute.

I watched the latter reaction video and enjoyed it very much. It was fun watching her be surprised and occasionally delighted. Clearly his pinky positioning was killing her as a flute teacher, which cracked me up.

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Interesting. I still prefer Rahsaan Roland Kirk, though. https://youtu.be/D_0UE7wjFYA

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I’m not super interested in either the flute side or the Jethro Tull side tbh, but I’m always interested to see the formally-trained approach to anything compared with the self-taught version. The two backgrounds tend to scorn each other, but it’s been my experience that most things are a lot richer if you can come at them from both sides.

Re: standing on one leg, there’s a lot to that – it’s a fairly well-known trick for both taking photos and sawing wood straight, for example. I think it’s to do with the fact that standing on two legs, it’s a lot easier to be badly balanced without the feedback of actually falling over, so your muscles are shucking and jiving to keep you upright, and you’re too focused on the task at hand to be aware of this unconscious background activity detracting from your overall control.

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Ian’s vocalizations while playing can probably be described as something similar to Jazz’s “scat singing”.

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These vids were great. What she is witnessing is someone using the flute in totally their own style, and in a rock context. I remember being blown away by it at the time. The intersection of different types of sounds, and non-classical techniques makes the flute a new instrument, never heard in quite this way before.

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I’ve speculated that these sounds started involuntarily because, being self taught, he wasn’t originally breathing properly. Not that I know anything about flute playing. (Never did cut the soles off my shoes, either. Sigh.)

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wow, i’ve been listening to and loving Tull for many many decades, and i never realized that he was new to the flute for their first album. super interesting to see her take on him and contrasting it with how was almost a decade later. he is so unique and he always approached his playing with a sense of humor, which i love.

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That could very well could be the case, although his chosen style of playing was greatly influenced by the legendary and inimitable Rahsaan Roland Kirk who also was known for his pronounced breathing. (Note that Rahsaan and Ian were both multi-instrumentalists who played the saxophone; I’d think they both knew how to handle wind instruments and the “classically” required breathing… perhaps.) Whatever the case there… I hope you enjoy this incredibly fun video of Mr. Kirk working two flutes… singing… breathing… the works!

More: Ian Anderson met [Rahsaan] when he played the same night at the famous 1969 Newport Jazz Festive. As Ian Anderson himself puts it a few years ago, "Rahsaan was a lot like Captain Beefheart. They’re cut from the same cloth. There’s something about these colourful shamans. They can tease us, but we go along with it, because we know they’re touched by genius, but at the same time there’s a little bit of the snake oil for sale.”

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Next up: Christopher Parkening critiques Jimmy Page “He’s quite sloppy, I would say, you can hear all sorts of unwanted noises when he puts the bow across the guitar strings…”

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He wasn’t. He was playing the flute pre-Tull, in at least 1966/67. He was playing sax even before that, so it’s wasn’t entirely new to him.

I was a big fan critical admirer :wink: of Tull for many years, but less so since 1995, TBH, because that’s when he finally learned to play the flute ‘properly’, and tamed his wonderful style.

Incidentally:

  • The confusion about his ‘pinky’ technique: his finger’s a slightly odd shape.
  • Ian doesn’t improvise. At all. :slight_smile:

Right; off to play some Tull loudly, probably for about a week…
http://www.ministry-of-information.co.uk/setlist/

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These guys are fun:

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I loved these guys in high school, Benefit my favorite album.

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I’ll have to see if she checks out “Part of the Machine”. I’ve always loved the flute parts of that one.

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I just watched their Sultans of Swing video. Watching them recognize how good Mark Knopfler is and knowing they still have not gotten to the solo yet was pretty entertaining.

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“Listening to jazz gives you a brain massage” - that just nails it.
Off to crank out some Jimmy Smith now.

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Alice Coltrane and a big glass of whisky is my go-to for head-fixing.

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One thing you also need to consider about Ian Anderson’s flute playing is that he never had his flute serviced it was like the day he bought it. When his daughter decided to learn flute he offered her his flute. She told him it was in terrible shape and she would rather use the one that came with the lessons. He took that flute to be serviced and it needed everything done to it but it was pointed out that even new it was a crappy flute. It was after that point (I think in the 90’s) he got much better flutes and even took lessons to improve his technique. But he’s always kept that singing in the flute style. Regardless of any of that he’s still an engaging musician. I’ve seen Jethro Tull over 20 times over the years and was always thoroughly entertained as was the rest of the audience. I remember reading around 2000 that Jethro Tull had performed in front of more people than any other band. That sounds preposterous but Ian Anderson was relentless touring every year with world tours that went everywhere. YMMV

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