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.

Tuesday, 7 March 2006

Plums unknowingly find artistic purpose

During an Opera Writing Workshop at Snape Maltings, I sieze the opportunity to air my plums (both literally and metaphorically).

Plums are essentially like people, just skin, flesh and seeds, programmed primarily simply to survive and reproduce.

Thursday, 2 March 2006

The Importance of Seasoning

Aldeburgh beach (covered in rock salt)

It's so important to make sure your life has enough spice and seasoning.

After much effort, I make winter return.

Wednesday, 1 March 2006

Debussy made more musical

"Music is the silence between the notes." - (Claude Debussy)

I checked a recording of 'Clair de Lune' and there are no complete silences. Each note hasn't completely faded and quiet resonances always continue beyond the point the next note is played.

The most silent parts of 'Clair de Lune'