Sunday, September 03, 2017


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rrh'isOIV  ... a wasp just buzzed in through the Velux & went scrabbling across the desk & keyboard ... now up & off into the blue above my head. 

This morning's enthusiasm: Beatrice Rana's recording of the Goldberg Variations. You grow up being told the significance of this work, you go out & buy the first & then second Glenn Gould records. You listen & admire. You then begin to explore other versions - the Igor Levit, for example - & they confirm that GG was not the final word. & then you sit down & listen to Beatrice Rana's interpretation & you find admiration turning into something else - sheer delight. Honestly, I have never heard these variations played with such emotional delicacy (yes, that's the phrase). Beautiful.

Suffice to say, I went on line & downloaded the score for the first variation & then sat at the piano. Painfully I plonked my way through. Who cares? The house is empty. I have no audience. My woeful inadequacy aside, what I hear through my fingers is a distant & deformed echo of Rana's playing & Bach's composition - but the thrill at bar 11 touching that left hand E & the right hand arpeggio of G-B-E-G. 

(& it's just occurred to me: G-o-l-d-B-E-r-G). 

Utter joy. 

Sunday, August 27, 2017









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An unashamed plug for the wonderful CD store a mere 20 minutes up the road from where I am writing - Mark Sound in Kraainem - with its outstanding selection of jazz & classical (including contemporary composition). 

I had a delightful conversation with Mr Mark which revealed our shared taste for punk jazz (Lounge Lizards, Zorn) & obsession with Frank Zappa. Enough said. From now on my music buying will be redirected via this veritable oasis. 

Why was I there? My online searches had drawn a blank for an affordable copy of Pascal Dusapin's earlier String Quartets with the Arditti Quartet. However, an exchange of emails with Mr Mark & the 2 CD set was set aside for me to collect. Perfect. I listened right through to disc one yesterday afternoon (Quartets III, IV & V) and it confirmed my suspicions that these would be fascinating compositions. 

Item is a collection of Dusapin's works for cello in various combinations. I haven't yet had time to listen to these pieces. However there is absolutely no need to hurry. In an interview, Dusapin talks about his own listening habits, explaining how he can spend days in preparation before making the commitment to a piece of music. Reading, too, forms a crucial part of his working process. 

Acts of attention. 





Sunday, August 20, 2017

P.S. to previous post ...

.... the 'formula' was in no way meant to imply any criticism of Dusapin's music.

Quite the contrary.

More = why has it taken me so long to discover this music?

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Return to the chalk face tomorrow. The usual resolutions apply.

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i.m. Bruce Forsyth

"You were -  & will be - much repeated" (the BBC)

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Varese + Xenakis + Deleuze + Beckett = Dusapin

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Tuesday, August 15, 2017


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(always a pleasure to find a photo of Anna Karina)

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A rainy morning in Balamory & so it was a good excuse to go through boxes turning up a depressing amount of old papers & notes & scribblings. I was mainly searching for a text about looking at a Bonnard painting but I can't put my finger on the notebook. The one I thought it was in drew a blank. Know the feeling?

However, I did find this long quotation from Valéry. It must have caught my attention round about 1983 ... 1984. I lifted it out of History & Politics vol. 10. 

"As for the most central of our senses, our inner sense of the interval between desire and possession, which is no other than the sense of duration, that feeling of time which was formerly satisfied by the speed of horses now finds that the fastest trains are too slow, and we fret with impatience between telegrams. We crave events themselves like food that can never be highly seasoned enough. If every morning there is no great disaster in the world we feel a certain emptiness: "There is nothing in the papers today", we say. We are caught red-handed. We are all poisoned. So I have grounds for saying that there is such a thing as our being intoxicated by energy, just as we are intoxicated by haste, by size ... We are losing that essential peace in the depths of our being, that priceless absence in which the most delicate elements of life are refreshed and comforted, while the inner creature is in some way cleansed of past and future, of present awareness, of obligations pending and expectations lying in wait." (Le Bilan de l'Intelligence)

What prompted me to copy this out? & at a time when I had no inkling of email, internet culture, Google, online newspapers, refresh buttons, iPhones, social media ... 

O brave new world. 



Sunday, August 13, 2017

Just back from the second summer trip to Poundland.

Further gripes such as:

1) the now obligatory use of automated scanners in WH Smith. Entering Boots next, I was pleasantly astonished to find actual human beings 'still in operation' (to use the lingo) behind the counter.

2) the fake cheery question "would you like an extra shot of coffee in that?" oblivious of the fact that there should be enough bean strength in the first place.

I mean, really.

3) the increasingly vacuous use of language. Paying for petrol at the neighbourhood Esso garage, I declare the relevant pump number & amount. "Awesome" says the cashier. What? Why? 

4) to make a telephone enquiry at the euphoniously titled GOV.UK about British passport eligibility you must have your Visa card at the ready. Why? Because there is an upfront charge. & sod the bright idea of an email - it's even more expensive. How, possibly, can it seem appropriate (or fair or democratic or ... you find another word ...) to demand this? How many people abandon their application at this the first stage? (& you'd have to be pretty naive not to suspect the sinister agenda lurking behind the policy).

So much for openness, access & transparency.

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BBC One listings for Saturday - Pointless Celebrities

Spot on.

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On a brighter note, I got hold of this CD by Pascal Dusapin & listened to it right through this afternoon.

Awesome ... in the true sense. Some really powerful writing for orchestra. Love it.



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The John Lanchester article on Facebook in the current LRB is required reading. 

I am even more proud to be one of the defiant number not to have an account. (Although it is probably tracking we refuseniks as a separate marketable category). 

Just remember boys & girls ... 

When The Content Is Free 
You Are The Product







Friday, August 04, 2017


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Two new releases from ECM

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A Travel Diary in Twelve Pictures ... 



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Museum of Modern & Contemporary Art (Strasbourg) 

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Twomblys (I-V)

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Early morning Sunday

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 Tuesday breakfast

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Etruscan fragment

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Interior space (Arezzo) 

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Well obviously ... 

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No posts for over a month reflecting yet another of those recurrent periods of uncertainty as to why maintain a - this, in particular - blog. 

Without boring the few stalwarts & all faithfuls who might still be reading, the doubts come under these general headings:

1) might there be other more effective forms of social media? (Twitter & Instagram, for example, have been suggested to me).

2) might the moment have passed there being just so much talk & garbage out there? Go back ten years or so & there seemed to be a space of permission & possibility worth investigating. Now, in 2017, who needs it? I wonder whether a similar doubt has led the likes of Ron Silliman, John Latta, Kate Greenstreet to either completely or partially abandon the form (much to my regret). 

3) might it have been but an excuse, a ruse, a form of evasion for really knuckling down & doing something more worthwhile? 

4) might it have lost its sense of purpose? Originally it was a continuation of a correspondence related to poetry, a way of putting myself 'out there', of standing by one's words. 

5) might it have lost its audience? Related to (4) above, there really was the hope (delusion?) that a dialogue would occur. And, to an extent, that did happen. But now? 

6) might it have lost its focus? Little by little I've become aware of different people dropping by & therefore including certain kinds of post (as well as excluding others). There are times when I begin a post only to erase it thinking 'what happens if X reads this ...?'). Not just content but also the manner of writing becomes compromised. 

7) might I have lost my focus? I sense how posts have veered off towards music reflecting a growing interests in modern classical composition (for want of a better term). But is this such a bad thing? Whereas the poetry posts have diminished. I'm still reading, for sure. However I am cagey about publishing my tentative readings. Why? Because I increasingly distrust such critical approaches. No, it's more I feel uncomfortable pushing it under people's noses. Plus, I am more & more of the opinion that the best 'reading' of another's work is the new writing it produces. And what of this? (Silence).

8) might it be laziness pure & simple? Hmmm ... 

& yet ... 

I am aware that this blog has been of use - perhaps introducing someone to a new book or CD or exhibition; perhaps infusing them with my own erratic enthusiasms; perhaps allowing the classroom experience to continue in another form; perhaps acting as a reassurance that I'm still around & things continue; perhaps leading to a new acquaintance ... 

So. To be continued? 



Friday, June 09, 2017

It seems my crystal ball was not so grubby ...

... resisting the temptation to say "told you so".


Sunday, June 04, 2017

Current ear food ... (my scanner decided to pack up yesterday - otherwise I'd try to supply a series of images from the various Zappa vinyls I've acquired. This will have to wait. In the mean time ...) ... 



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... of the slew of Zappa Family CD releases this looked more than tempting & is of interest

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... this is a 'must' given its status as the last entire album Zappa saw through to the end. 
Synclavier compositions & hard not to hear behind them all sorts of anticipations of The End.

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An absolutely revelatory CD set & very much in sympathy with the Zappa release. Dérive 2 is fascinating & a far cry from the 'dry' & 'cerebral' reputation I've always heard concerning Boulez's music. Probably benefits from a live recording to give it some oomph. 

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In interviews Pina N claims that Schoenberg is so full of emotion. 
I can't say I feel this so far but will persevere ...

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I ummed & ahhed about this one (how many complete sets does one need?) & then accepted that it is one of those that will yield ever more joy & insight over the years. 
Reading the book by the first violinist in tandem only furthers appreciation & astonishment. 

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Because ...

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The closest we'll get to a new Pink Floyd album given the truly dreadful efforts of Dave G & Polly as well as the travesty release of Endless River. While Waters has a distinctly limited repertoire of vocal expression (the husky, home-spun tones we recognise from 'Pigs on the Wing'; the Ginsberg derived litany we know from Dark Side of the Moon & 'Pigs'; the sudden vitriolic scream we've heard on ... well, pick your favourite; &, of course, that trademark fade echo ("echo ... echo ... echo ...")) there is a sense of genuine anger & bitterness & which - finally - seems to have gone beyond his specific preoccupation with the War. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, the many lifts from earlier Floyd albums can be attributed to allusive irony rather than creative exhaustion. Sound effects are more or less justified in terms of the compositions but you wonder what would happen if he really broke free & worked an entire album through sonic collage. Now that would be interesting. B/B+ for effort. (Many millions of dollars through sales & related tours no doubt.)

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. rrh'isOIV  ... a wasp just buzzed in through the Velux & went scrabbling across the desk & keyboard ... now up & ...