A Journal Of The Dark Arts
It would be all too easy to lump Bing & Ruth‘s second LP with the retrofuturistic “longing for a future that never happened” of Leyland Kirby’s Sadly, The Future Is No Longer What It Once Was , a work that Tomorrow Was A Golden Age shares sonic similarities with. However, Bing & Ruth do not seem to be longing for some Edenic childhood. Instead, they seem to be reaching for something that never was, or simply is. Simply put, Tomorrow Was The Golden Age is timeless music, that manages to be entirely timely, and utterly modern.
Bing & Ruth are a troupe of 7 musicians (pared down from 11 on their last release, City Lake, comprised of two upright bassists, two clarinetists, a cellist and a tape delay tech. This group of seasoned musicians, who met at New York City’s New School of music, create dense soundscapes that duck, dive, swoon, and soar around pianist David Moore’s colorful, repetitive, meditative piano. Bing & Ruth have been described as both “drone-based” and “microtonal”, but could just as simply be called “modal”, in the vein of electric-era Miles, like Bitches’ Brew or In A Silent Way, where musicians would jam on one key for an indeterminate amount of time, and see where it goes. This is music that does not have an incessant forward thrust, instead being happy to linger and explore and contemplate.
Bing & Ruth took their name from a short story by writer Amy Hempel, and were initially inspired by the school of New York minimalist short story authors like Raymond Carver or Gordon Lish. These short stories are atmospheric, slice-of-life vignettes, that look at life in miniature, looking for the nobility and tragedy of the everyday. From there, David Moore began to write “longer-form, slower, textural music,” as he put it in an interview with Bomb Magazine, to create a sonic approximation of Hempel’s work.
Tomorrow Was The Golden Age is a single suite, chopped into nine segments. It’s breathtaking from the word go, with “Warble”‘s twinkling piano and looming cello playing like light and shadow, like sunlight across a rippling pond, with the clarinets’ breathy harmonics playing the part of the breeze. The wooden drones of the basses alternate between tension and release, between ominousness and gorgeousness, playing to the album’s themes of the resolution of opposites, between silence and volume, between darkness and daybreak.
TWTGA, presumably the title track, is the album’s sweet center, with a plaintiff, tender piano melody, surrounded by twinkling arpeggios and breathless a disembodied choir of angels. It cuts straight to the heart, stirring up a beehive of emotions, without telling you what exactly they are. Such is the strength of instrumental music. This is the perfect music for remembering, or forgetting, or dreaming.
One of David Moore’s goals, with Bing & Ruth, is to create “something that evolves over the course of a life or over various experiences—something that means something to me when I’m twenty-five, and then means something totally different when I’m thirty-five, so will fulfill what you need when you need it.” This cuts right to the quick of the idea of musical progress, and as a by-product, to the roles of music journalism and criticism, and deposits us in the invisible nucleus of the modern age.
Music journalism seems built around the suppositions of “better” or “worse”, playing into the supposition of musical progress, and for a long time, it was that way. Beethoven was the death knell of the Classical period, giving way to Romanticism, and everyone who reverted to the classical style was considered old fashioned, and discarded. The same thing can be said for late 20th Century electronic music, with one style giving way to the other, and people would only dance to the flavor of the week. In this worldview, dubstep killed drum ‘n bass, and it did, in a way.
But this is one slight (but with significant implications) of the atemporality of the internet, and the omnipresent access to information. I frequently listen to classical music, romantic, dubstep, AND drum ‘n bass, before i get out of bed in the morning. I love them all, for different reasons. This hierarchy of better or worse is simply flawed, and no longer relevant. All that remains is what story you are trying to tell, and how well do you pull it off?
But without psychoanalyzing the minutiae of art and music history, people remain as puppets to forms and styles they are used to, subconsciously adhering to the epic, heroic arc of the pop formula, the adventure of ranging out into distant keys, the combat of the perfect fifth, and the peaceful resolution of returning to the home of the root note.
The implications of minimalist fiction, and microtonal music, is simply what stories we are able to tell, which results in a philosophical shift. What happens when you still the march of “history” and “progress”? You simply ARE. Yr eyes open to the moment around you. You are lost in details and texture.
Suppose for a moment that McKenna’s singularity happened, silently, while no one was watching, on 12.21.12. We are now living in an eternal, timeless present, and are feeling the tremors, without realizing it. The possibilities are a peace, beyond the eternal war of capitalism. This is a profound, but subtle, shift in seeing. What would happen if everyone who was obsessed with money simply stopped, for one day, one hour, and simply felt okay? The peace that surpasseth all understanding. How would life be different, if you simply had enough, and were content?
Tomorrow Was The Golden Age couldn’t arrive at a better time, in the fading blossom of the autumn. As i type, lemon yellow trees burn like the sun, against a flat grey sky. I wish this moment would never end. All i require is the minimal resources to keep a roof over my head, and eat once a day, and the space and time to pursue my art and live my life. I want to dismantle the cogs of capitalism in my mind, and all the harm it does to my masculinity, and realize that everything is okay.
If someone is constantly stressed, constantly rushing, constantly grasping, they’re missing it. If you think the world is shit, you’re blind. There is amazing, mind-shattering beauty every-which-way you turn. It’s all a matter of what you’re looking at.
In this way, Bing & Ruth’s Tomorrow Was The Golden Age is the opposite of nostalgia. In fact, it’s entirely present; a sonic architecture or dense wood to explore, endlessly and repetitively.
So, i entreat you, listen to Bing & Ruth, and come alive to yr own life. Make this autumn count, make the most of it.
Bing & Ruth are David Moore- Piano Jeremy Viner & Patrick Breiner- Clarinets Leigh Stuart- Cello Greg Chudzik & Jeff Ratner- Basses Mike Effenberger- Tape Delay
Bing & Ruth – Tomorrow Was the Golden Age