Thursday, 25 May 2006

Global Quickening

To experience a physical sense of the passing of time, watch a sunrise, closely.

Light, Time, Matter & Space reveal their intimate choreography.

Now available in convenient durations.

Sunday, 23 April 2006

Tuesday, 4 April 2006

Seeing and Hearing Double

'the night rider' - homage to Frances-Marie Uitti by Paul Griffiths

Hands tight on the reins, eyes steady forward,
astride her living wooden horse, she tears ahead.
There are others, at the side,
holding searchlights to catch her as she goes.
Iannis Xenakis sees her spectacular dexterity.
John Cage smiles at her humour.
Giacinto Scelsi welcomes her gravity and intensity.
Jonathan Harvey hails her wild imagination.
Gyorgy Kurtag observes her true power.
Now this.
She looks neither to right nor to left.
Hands tight, eyes steady, astride, she tears on.

As part of a fantastic series of concerts programmed by Rolf Hind and the society for the promotion of new music (spnm), I went to see Frances-Marie Uitti, renowned avant-garde cellist and inventor of the polyphonic two-bow cello technique.

To her great credit I heard she had spent considerable time working with four of the UK's best up-and-coming composers on a programme of their new two-bow works, written especially for the event.

I was so surprised at the list of composers who had written pieces for her and dedicated them to her, I had to checkout what all the fuss was about. In the end perhaps after such high expectations I was a little disappointed not to find her playing more inspired, but I enjoyed immensely the fizzy masturbation of Xenakis's Kottos, the dogged hypnotic constancy of Scelsi's Ygghur, and a beautiful miniature from Kurtag.

Saturday, 18 March 2006

How To See - A Beginner's Guide

Josef Albers - 'Variant' (1948-52)

Laszlo Moholy-Nagy - 'A 19' (1927 - detail)

Josef Albers was one of the inspirational teachers at Black Mountain College (see below), tutor to Robert Rauschenberg whose series of 'White Paintings in part inspired John Cage to think about silence and write 4'33", so I just had to see this exhibition of his work along with Moholy-Nagy.

To change something or at least your experience of something, you don't have to change the thing itself, simply change the things next to it, or what is experienced before, or after it, or indeed at the same time.

Albers illustrated and explored this idea in his monumental work 'Interaction of Colour' (1963), a comprehensive study of the effects of combinations of colours on eachother - ground-breaking and important and relevent to all creative disciplines!

I didn't expect to be blown away by Moholy-Nagy's abstract shapes and colours, but I was! How do my eyes and brain make sense of what I am looking at. Is that a red rectangle on top of a black one, or a red shape beside a brown shape beside a black shape - aha so that's how my mind is working!

Life is full of illusions!

Saturday, 11 March 2006

Black Mountain College

Fascinating exhibition at the Kettles Yard Gallery Cambridge about Black Mountain College (BMC), where the teachers and students formed a collective of composers, artists, poets, and craftspeople, who all shared the work at the college, grew their own vegetables, and cross-fertilised their ideas.

Concerts of pieces composed and developed at BMC were performed. John Cage's 45' for speaker was read by composer Christopher Fox, whilst 31'57.964" for prepared piano and 26'1.1499" for cello were both performed at the same time, but independently.

Cage makes some provocative assertions - There is no such thing as absolute silence - All noise is music - All music is theatre - Theatre is when there are simultaneous audible and visible events. This feels liberating and explodes the boundaries of what I thought of as 'music-theatre'!

62 mesostics Re Merce Cunningham was performed by Phil Minton, an extraordinary vocal gymnast. For 25minutes I thought he was possessed by the devil.

Friday, 10 March 2006

From Perfect To Human

('The Perfect Human')

('The Imperfect Human')

Seeking late night stimulation I watch Lars Von Trier's genius film 'The 5 Obstructions' for the 2nd time. In it he forces his old teacher Jorgen Leth to remake 5 times his previous 1967 masterpiece 'The Perfect Human', each time with a different set of obstructions.

Limitations inspire creativity, and sure enough when Leth is asked to remake the film with no restrictions, it proves his hardest test and for a time he is lost and cannot begin.

Von Trier admits he wanted Leth to fail, to be human, not perfect, his idea being to move from Leth's 'perfect' original film to Leth's human failings during the course of the film.

"True love comes not from finding a perfect person, but through learning to see an imperfect person perfectly." (Anonymous)

Thursday, 9 March 2006


I find myself sitting in a room in Queens' College Cambridge, almost 20 years after I first sat there in 1986. It's as if I've been off on an adventure, but now I'm back home in my simple student room after half a lifetime of experiences.

It feels like a journey straight out of Sebald's groundbreaking book 'Rings of Saturn', the story of his walk down the Suffolk coast from Lowestoft to Southwold, in which he regularly stops to reflect on history, philosophy, biology, music and more.

At one point he sits on a bench to eat a sandwich, and looking out to sea, muses on the history and decline of the European herring industry, and the folly of war. Some 87 pages later we're back on the bench after a wonderful imaginary adventure.

When I wander into the packed college bar for a beer, the students look at me like a man from another planet.