Thursday, May 21, 2015

At lunchtime I run a voluntary class on Barthes' essay The Death of the Author. The room is packed - students plus one of my colleagues. We get through a couple of paragraphs & then broaden out the discussion to connect to the current course.

The atmosphere is relaxed but completely focused. All the more remarkable given that a) by any standards, the material is challenging for a group of 16/17 year olds; b) they're giving up their own time. & it's evident that everyone is getting something out of the 45 minutes (me included). At the end there's a general agreement to pick up where we left off next week. I find I go into the next 'official' class with renewed enthusiasm.

Such occasions are enormously rewarding & need in some way to be 'bottled' against all those times when - for one reason or other - you wonder whether it is worth it.

It is.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A day of strange internal weather. At breakfast it feels an effort to eat. On arriving at work I feel sluggish - dull in the head, stomach queasy, oddly detached from things around me. Standing by the photocopier, a colleague asks if I'm feeling OK, "you look a bit peaky".

Having taught my classes, I head home & climb into bed. Radio on & that peculiar drift in & out of sleep when you're out of sorts.

Then, around 5pm it's as if the clouds have cleared. I realise what's really needed is a jog through the woods. So, on with the shoes & out.

The fresh air & exercise work their magic - whatever nasty little bug had got into the system has been sent packing.


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

What greater pleasure than being handed an Amazon package you'd forgotten you'd ordered ...

... than seeing the expression on your younger daughter's face when she discovers the latest Carrie Hope Fletcher book has arrived.

Carrie who?

Me neither.

Monday, May 18, 2015

... & this occurred to me ...

A Modest Proposal to Save the NHS

Given Mr Cameron's laudable aim - at least taken at face value - to have a seven days a week Health Service the question arises: how to fund it? Not - as seems likely - to simply rewrite contracts & force nurses to accept flat rates of pay (already below what they deserve) irrespective of the day. No, my suggestion would be a true application of the 'trickle down effect'. Thus: for each & every financial transaction processed through the City of London a nominal 0.5 percent fee is levered on the gross amount which is then siphoned off into an NHS bank account. The same principle would also be applied to 1) Premier League football transfer fees, 2) corporate head hunting salaries, 3) golden handshakes & 'compensatory' packages for outgoing directors, 4) takeover bids, 5) any earnings made by ex-politicians as a result of their term in office.

Naturally there are many more possibilities but this should get the ball rolling ...

Not only Mary Ruefle's prose work - The Most of It - arrives today ...

but also ... there on the kitchen table when I get home, in an exciting UPS bubble wrap pack all the way from the U.S. of A, Music & Literature No. 4 (the Clarice Lispector & Mary Ruefle special).

Despite the rain & clouds ... sunlight!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

(A Highly Personal List of ) Essential Keith Jarrett Recordings 

As I am sitting upstairs with half an hour to spare & Jarrett's music is on my mind ... why not a heavily selective set of recommendations?

My choices are definitely influenced by repeated listening over a good twenty to thirty years. & you'll notice that none of the Trio recordings feature. It's not that I don't like them, but there's nothing that has entered my blood stream quite like the records below. Difficult, too, to separate when & where (& who with?) I first listened to this music. While CDs remain unblemished, the vinyl records stand testament to many happy & unhappy hours.


For me, some of the most joyful music Jarrett has ever produced. While I am not a great fan of Garbarek's sax sound (to my ear often jarringly just out of tune) here the quartet are playing beautifully. The cover, too, is lodged in my memory - the rather unusual (for ECM) holiday snap against the immediately recognisable Barbara Wojirsch runic calligraphy. 



Gets short shrift in the Penguin Guide & I suspect many people don't like Jarrett on electric piano. However, I love this record & the interplay with deJohnette is wonderfully unstated. Certain rhythmic patterns have lodged deep in my veins. 

Admittedly 'untypical' (like Spirits) but none the worse for that. 



The My Song line-up but this time live. It was recorded in 1979 but only issued a couple of years ago - not sure why. For me this is superior to the highly-rated Survivor Suite & other releases by the same quartet. The shift some 13 minutes into the first track is one of THE GREAT Jarrett moments. (I notice Geoff Dyer raves about it, too). 



I have listened to this again & again & - like Ruta & Daitya - there are melodies & rhythms that have gone very deep indeed. An early Jarrett & full of intimations of what was to come. It's interesting to play this with the later 'rehabilitation' recording The Melody At Night, With You - the tentative frailty of the later disc against the utter cockiness & dazzle of the earlier. The black & white covers seem to invite comparison themselves.



It's not a false claim to say that I discovered this before everyone else (at least amongst the people I knew in the 80s) & certainly before every bloody cafė, restaurant, bar & TV soundtrack editor. Like Miles' Kind of Blue it has been played to death to the point where you wonder if you can hear it - really hear it - again. 

I remember being sat down by (what a friend once described as) a 'near Miss' & told I just had to listen to the bit where ... & suffering a lengthy description of how her new boyfriend had played it in the car driving back from Stratford. Not wishing to be churlish, I had to point out that I had played it to her six months before but (clearly) to lesser effect ... ("If music be the food of love ..." Yeah, right.) 

I don't care what anyone says, this is THE ONE. Were everything else he recorded to be swept away The Köln Concert would stand alone. That we now know that he was suffering acute back pain & that the upper & lower registers of the piano were out of tune only makes the achievement all the more astonishing. 

The Quintessence of Keith, one of the great recordings not only in Jazz but in any genre. 

If you've not heard it a) where have you been? b) lucky you! - what a treat is in store. 


"One is reminded of those masters of musical improvisation whose hands the listener would also like to credit with divine infallibility although here and there they make a mistake as every mortal does. But they are practiced and inventive and ready at any moment to incorporate into their thematic order the most accidental tone to which the flick of a finger or a mood has driven them, breathing a beautiful meaning and a soul into an accident."

(303. Book Four. The Gay Science.)

Listening last night to this disc of Jarrett's & then, this morning, happening (auto-correct supplies happiness) upon this page by Nietzsche. 


Saturday, May 16, 2015

Finally chopped in the old modem & television box - they'd been playing up for months - & so I'm upstairs trying out the new connection. I'd hoped that this would have solved the recurrent problem of a sluggish connection to the internet. Hopes dashed. For some reason, on starting a new session, the Mac starts searching once again for a Wi-Fi connection - which it patently has (little antenna sign in full, Network statistics all looking fine). The issue seems to be with an Ethernet connection which - obviously - I don't need. This goes into a spin as it searches for the (non-existent) link. Why Ethernet when I'm using Wi-fi? I go into Network Preferences, switch Ethernet off, only to find it reconnecting itself moments later. Duh? What sadistic geek at Apple has programmed this irritating little glitch into the Yosemite OS?

I'm loathe to start fiddling with deeper layers of the set-up but the 3 to 4 minute wait as whatever it is sorts itself out is fairly tedious. (So much for the State of the Art Operating System - it feels like I'm back twenty years with a dial-up modem *squeak-screeeech* tones). Then, suddenly, everything has settled down & the pages load in a jiffy. Magic!

If anyone has experienced a similar problem & found the solution - please let me know.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Disappointing & (dare I say) stolid as Creation is after a few listens ... the first disc of Rio is absolute joy. I put it on - well, not quite sure why. Perhaps to test my ears in case.

Track one is packed with fragmentary ideas - think one of those wall-size de Koonings: scrapes, blurs, erasures, drags, scatters. Then each subsequent phase (2-6) seem to draw out motifs from this 'magma' (if that is the word I'm after). In contrast to Creation is the sheer invention - melodic, harmonic, rhythmic, even (maybe this is often overlooked) comic. This is composition in Real Time, the ear split-second behind the Creative Eye-Finger nexus. It's as exciting as that.

Honestly, when Jarrett is in this kind of mood I'll follow him anywhere.

Disc two tomorrow.