Pulse Emitter; Black to Comm; Leyland Kirby; Moritz Von Oswald Trio; Beethoven (string quartets, especially 12; piano sonatas, especially 30 played by Mitsuko Uchida); Chris Whitehead; BJ Nilsen & Stiluppsteypa; Ben Frost; Sun Araw; Jimmy Giuffre Trio; Keith Fullerton Whitman; Tim Hecker; Cordell Klier, I Believe; Tirath Singh Nirmala; Matthew Shipp (solo and in various groups); Christopher McFall & David Velez, Credence; Daniel Menche & Anla Courtis, Yagua Ovy; Twells & Christensen, Coasts; Luis Antero; Aethenor; Cleared; Birchville Cat Motel (solo/with Anla Courtis/with Matthew Bower); Mountains, Air Museum; more Beethoven (piano concertos 4 & 5; symphonies in Bernard Haitink’s recording); Stephan Mathieu; Daniel Menche, Feral; solo saxophone by David S. Ware, Peter Brotzmann, Anthony Braxton; John Fahey; Golden Retriever; Hive Mind; Sibelius (‘Finlandia’ & ‘Karelia Suite’); John Handy, Live at Monterey.
The two things that stand out in the year are, first, listening to a lot more orchestral classical music than I have before. That’s partly because I’ve had Classic FM and Radio 3 on a lot for my son, partly because I became somewhat obsessed with Beethoven. Second, I moved gradually away from my 2009-10 high-water mark of extreme noise (Daniel Menche, Lasse Marhaug, John Wiese, Yellow Swans) towards equally non-melodic and experimental but much less harsh music, often involving field recordings and often as free downloads from various netlabels. I still enjoy full-on noise (two records by Menche are on the list above, and I currently have records by Jazkamer and Skullflower on my iPod), but I’m not as focussed on it as I was.
Album of the year:
Mitsuko Uchida, Beethoven: Piano Sonatas 30, 31, & 32—pure joy in being human. If I understand rightly, Uchida’s playing is at the ‘late Baroque’ as against the ‘full-blown Romantic’ end of the scale of Beethoven interpretation; I certainly like her lucid, conversational approach.
Francis Spufford, Red Plenty; William Morris, News From Nowhere; Michael Jackson, Life Within Limits; Herbert Read, The Innocent Eye; John Fowles, The Magus; Robert Bates, Prosperity & Violence; Sebastian Junger, War; John Stuart Mill, Autobiography; Matthew Crawford, The Case for Working with Your Hands; John Maynard Keynes, Two Memoirs; Sara Maitland, A Book of Silence; Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild & Into Thin Air; Henry James, The Golden Bowl; Joe Simpson, Touching the Void; Maurice Herzog, Annapurna; D. H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterley’s Lover; Martha Nussbaum, essays on The Golden Bowl in Love’s Knowledge; Thomas Mann, ‘Death in Venice’; James Joyce, Dubliners; Nikolai Gogol, Taras Bulba.
The main thing that stands out here is how few of my highlights are in my own discipline. I did read a fair amount of recently published professional philosophy for work and for interest this year, but none of it really grabbed me that much.
Book of the year:
Henry James, The Golden Bowl—a huge reading project on which I almost gave up several times, but an astonishing novel. The best account I have ever read of what it’s like to be a self-attentive self moment to moment. Has ruined me for a lot of other fiction: it just doesn’t seem worth the effort.