My absence is easily explained. It's called feeling like you're on death's door. I've suffered an absolute killer viral infection the last fortnight, which included several stays in hospital, and I'm only now, under the guidance of heavy medication (including steroids!), starting to see through the fog. When your body starts to fall apart like that, and there's nothing you can do about it - such as when you wake up to find that your lips look like a bad Botox job, your face looks like you've been punched around the night before, your wrists are swollen up and feel like they're broken and you look and feel like you have hundreds of peas under your skin throughout your neck, shoulders and back region - something is seriously starting to go wrong. Well, I don't want to go too much into it; suffice to say, things are on the mend and I'm starting to feel human again. I would not wish that anyone go through what I've been through the last two weeks, even though I'm all too aware of the fact that millions (billions, likely) go through much worse every single day.
The picture above is of good ol' Stocky, or Karlheinz Stockhausen, as he's more commonly known. He passed away on December the 5th, and I feel that it is my duty to acknowledge him in some way. Perhaps not because I believe he was a particularly wonderful human being. From all reports he was a cantankerous ballbreaker, though his contribution to 20th century music - his positive contribution, I should add - remains enormous. Not only is he responsible for perhaps my all-time favourite "avant-garde" (in a purely classicist sense) outing, 1967's magnus opus double LP, Hymnen - a collection of reconfigured national anthems, shortwave-radio bursts and tape manipulations which ranks as one of the best acid-trip soundtracks released anywhere - but his music was a pivotal influence on the increasingly strange (and interesting) music of the Beatles as they hit their stride ca. '67-'68, the Velvets, Jefferson Airplane and pretty much any Krautrock outfit worth a pinch of salt. I had a major hard-on for all the big-name avant players of the 20th century about 10 years back, just when I was really starting to delve into the worlds of John Cage, Penderecki, Morton Feldman, Iannis Xenakis, etc. It was all a great deal of fun for a while, and along the way I discovered stand-alone works of genius such as Feldman's Rothko Chapel and Penderecki's "Threnody For the Victims of Hiroshima" which will remain with me forever, but for me there's still that one standout: Hymnen. Stockhausen's life is not contained to merely one piece of music; there are, after all, others of his I like a lot and many more I'll probably never even hear, but I'm not writing a professional obituary here. I'll leave that for the papers. I'm simply glad the guy was here.