Sunday, April 24, 2016

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To employ a line of thought typical of The Shadoks themselves, ignorance is to be desired in that it increases the occasion for discovery.

Thus, it has taken me fifty-two years to encounter this Parallel Universe of brilliant invention. At last! 

Appropriately, the DVD box set I ordered from Amazon France was subject to Shadokesque absurdity. Fearing the package would be too large for the letter box thereby necessitating a visit to the Post Office to collect, I cleverly (or so I thought) drew a little diagram indicating an alternative - the adjacent television room window sill behind the flower box & railings. I stuck the piece of paper into the letter box & drove off to work. Arriving home, according to TaxiPost delivery had taken place on Friday afternoon yet there was no sign of the brown cardboard pack. 

Exasperation/ irritation/ bafflement/ etc. all in quick succession. 

The various explanations were worked through before I plucked up the courage to contact Amazon itself. 

To cut a long story short ... putting out the rubbish this afternoon (Sunday) what do I see down beneath pavement level & just about visible but the very package on the cellar window ledge. 

Why? How? 

Perhaps it was a Shadok itself on delivery duty. 

Whatever. The main thing is I now have several hours' worth of Shadokism to enjoy, a 3 minute dose of absurdity to be taken daily. 

If you've never heard of The Shadoks (my own misfortune until recently) then you should know they were a regular feature on French television in the late Sixties on into the Seventies. The drawings remind me of animated Paul Klee with something of the Pink Panther cartoons thrown in. Production values are sub-Roobarb & Custard yet none the worse for that. The limited technology available seems to have only thrown crazy invention into relief. 

Watch just two episodes & you begin to sense where the writing is coming from - Jarry & Pataphysics for sure, plus Situationist critique. (I reckon Gilles Deleuze must have watched them with glee & recognition.)

'Je pompe, donc je suis' - a Shadok saying - leads to a pretty clear attack on Capitalist mindless overproduction. Shadoks spend their days pumping away to no particular purpose. There are pumps for Big Problems, pumps for Small Problems, even pumps for No Problem At All. The Shadoks just keep on pumping - at least it offers some sense of security. 

'Pourquoi faire simple quand on peut faire compliqué?' is another maxim & one that seems pretty accurate in terms of most Administrative decision-making. Don't you think? 

Vive les Shadoks! 

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It's tipping down with rain & there are reports of snow elsewhere in Belgium. Fitting, perhaps, that such freak weather coincides with me watching Barbara Hannigan's double act of soloist & conductor all in the same breath. By the normal  laws of Classical music tradition & decorum such a thing shouldn't be possible. I mean, really? Furthermore, imagine Herbert von Karajan walking on for an encore dressed in shiny black mac, fishnet stockings & dominatrix boots. Um ... no, thought you couldn't. 

Well, that is what Hannigan pulls off & it is truly astonishing & - at times - downright disturbing. This interpretation of Ligeti's Mysteries of the Macabre just has to be seen to be believed. Apparently there is talk of BH being 'supernatural' & I'm beginning to see why. How any individual can simultaneously deliver such a committed, physically demanding vocal performance and keep the orchestra right on the money is - ... truly extraordinary. 

Wow. 

(Not that my Verdi-loving grandmother would have approved ...) 

Saturday, April 23, 2016


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barbara hannigan & reinbert de leeuw
socrate
erik satie
winter & winter

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Watched the Barbara Hannigan DVD this afternoon with Lily snuggled up in the crook of my arm (she's been distinctly aloof & bad-tempered of late).

Admiration for BH only deepens - not just the ability to simultaneously direct an orchestra & deliver the most demanding vocal lines but also her sheer energy & self-discipline (the daily jog, Japanese knife pack for personal catering that is stowed in her suitcase, the 5-minute costume changes ...).

As the rather porky Simon Rattle says, one feels honoured to share the planet with her. 

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& it just so happens that the recent Satie CD is in Fnac & so I feel duty bound to investigate. 

Ravishingly beautiful, of course. One of the five voices that really touch.


& not that one should judge a CD by its cover ... but the photos are well-judged too.  The wonderful Reinbert de Leeuw* with cigarette lifted to the lips strikes a suitably dissolute note against the cascading locks of Hannigan (freshly showered after an invigorating work-out, no doubt). 

On est satiesfait ... 

_____

* listen to his Satie Gymnopedies etc. & marvel at the tempo - huge spaces open up between notes making Morton Feldman's inheritance all the more evident. Contentious, I know, but it works for me. 

Sunday, April 17, 2016

just wandering around ...


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Friday, April 08, 2016

Some thoughts on the Cameron offshore crisis ...

1. I remember in 1986 (?) finishing a meal in a rather splendid London fish restaurant  with an old university chum who had started a career in Merchant Banking. He - gallantly - insisted on picking up the tab. As he explained, they'd just received their bonuses. The amount was larger than what I was earning in publishing for the entire year.

That gave me pause for thought.

2. The same friend explained that working in his line of business meant that you had to maintain contacts. If, say, during an afternoon at Ascot, someone gave you a tip on a likely floatation, you were obliged to chip in or run the risk of being ostracised in the future. Thus, that bonus was a form of 'float'. It wasn't 'real' money as such.

3. Just before I moved away from the UK I remember watching a Channel 4 documentary in which they focused on City bonuses which were - already - becoming obscene. One of the finance heads confided how he was surprised how rare it was that any dealing room employee expressed thanks when being informed of their bonus - indeed, in some cases, they seemed disappointed (the amounts were six figure). Then, he continued, he thought about the amounts these individuals were moving about on a daily basis. As such, their 'reality level' concerning money had been lost. Six figures against seven, eight, nine ... well, peanuts.

Having watched the routine crucifixion by media of Cameron I'm surprised not at the tax evasion but - in true Zizek fashion - the scandal that we're scandalised. Come off it, didn't we know that such business went on?

Scandal = business as usual.

And, given the company the likes of Cameron keeps (& has kept) the amounts involved probably seem ... well, peanuts. Thirty grand? That's the kind of money you earn on the back of a bad deal. No? Whereas, for those 'other' people we're "in it together" with ... that's more than a year's salary.

Really? As Tracy Emin might say, I wouldn't get out of bed for that.

Here are a few other thoughts ...

a) perhaps after all this moral outrage & self-righteousness dies down the UK will look into the ease with which individuals can set themselves up as Companies & conveniently side-step normal tax ratings. (eg pay yourself & your spouse a salary, deduct cars & other 'expenses', reduce total profits before the taxable amount is decided ...).

b) what about the Company Car dodge?

c) & perhaps the most urgent of all ... what about ex-ministers & Prime Ministers who  profit from lucrative consultancy positions & lecture tours on retirement from office? Should not any subsequent earnings be seen as rightfully owing to the State they did their level best to ruin? Whereas ...

Think on't ...

Thursday, April 07, 2016



One thing leads to another ...


... The Quest for the Bento Box ...




... takes me via Peinture Fraiche ...

... where I find this book ...




... and an exhibition of work by Eve Calingaert ...




... who, in turn, leads me to discover Kitty Sabatier ...




... although I am still looking 
for the Scarlatti CD by 
Yvgeny Sudbin ... 













Monday, April 04, 2016

There's a rather depressing article on the Beat Generation in today's Guardian - a predictable complaint about a latent - even explicit - misogyny in the group.

I'm not going to argue the rights or wrongs of this interpretation, only regret that this type of mainstream press writing on poetry simply reinforces prejudice & ill-informed opinion.

In a feeble attempt to exert some kind of balance I've made a comment recommending Coolidge's account of reading Kerouac - one of the most energising bits of writing on writing I've ever read.

As always it's a matter of going to source - direct encounter with the words on the page.

& exactly what journalism tends to obstruct.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

... forgot to mention ... at the checkout at the local Carrefour on Place Keym I catch sight of the assistant's watch - a digital gold effect Casio. It's rather too large for her wrist & it occurs to me it might be a hand-me-down from her dad (or granddad?).

As I fumble with the bank card & try to focus on the keypad, I mention that I had pretty much the identical watch back in 1980. She laughs & says it's 'retro' - "très tendance" these days.

A true Prufrock moment.

I grow old ... I grow old/ I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled ...

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It would of course have been a lot simpler to have simply bought the CD on Saturday & have done with. Instead that stupid little thrifty voice of reason urged restraint & thus I have spent three days trying to recapture a sustained soprano note against slowly descending chords. 

No Mozart me - it's like trying to drink sunlight. 

Then as if in an act of mercy, plonk! a package drops through the letter box. 

I've just listened right through, mesmerised. Time dilates. At the end I had to check the track listings - the entire recording amounts to barely 30 minutes & yet the impression is of an entire morning. 

The texts are all derived from Shakespeare's Ophelia recombined & collaged (if I understand correctly) by Paul Griffiths. This, alone, would merit investigation. 

However, Abrahamsen's score ... well, this is impossibly beautiful music. Hannigan's voice feels its way through skull & skin into the very nervous system where it works that same strange magic that enchanted Caliban. I could make comparisons with Berio's Recital for Cathy, Gorecki's Third Symphony, Strauss' Last Songs ... but what's the point? This music exists. 

Listening is all. 

Gosh.