Sunday, September 03, 2017


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



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?


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


i.m. Bruce Forsyth

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



Varese + Xenakis + Deleuze + Beckett = Dusapin


Tuesday, August 15, 2017


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


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.


BBC One listings for Saturday - Pointless Celebrities

Spot on.


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.


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


Two new releases from ECM


A Travel Diary in Twelve Pictures ... 



Museum of Modern & Contemporary Art (Strasbourg) 







Twomblys (I-V)



Early morning Sunday



 Tuesday breakfast



Etruscan fragment



Interior space (Arezzo) 



Well obviously ... 



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 ...) ... 


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



... 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.



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. 



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



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. 



Because ...



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.)


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Just watching the footage on Belgian television of a helicopter circling overhead, troops deployed in the streets, festoons of barbed wire, sections of the city taped off ... all to allow a series of swollen black limousines to glide by & disappear unhindered.

Surely this is one of the brazen lies we live by. How those who claim to represent 'us' depend upon so many systems of concealment, protection & isolation.

If you love the people so much, if you are so popular & loved by all ... take a walk in the streets. Smell the unconditioned air.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Interesting ...

... looking back at the April crystal ball predictions there was an NHS crisis - the computer hacking - although admittedly wider in scope than simply the U.K. health service.

This morning a pretty stunning volte face concerning the so-called 'dementia tax' in the Tory manifesto.

Caroline Lucas has just been interviewed on PM & it's clear that moves are underway to establish some kind of cooperation amongst smaller parties not to run candidates against each other.

Trump has been doing his best (the FBI sacking/ Russian business etc.) but we remain confident that he has more up his sleeve.

Not that we believe the polls but ... putting this all together & there is a glimmer of hope.

Might the eighth of June prove to be the last day of May?

Other news ...

... good to see the younger Wisteria sister is finally hitched. Perhaps she will now disappear into well-heeled obscurity. Judging by the media reporting of Saturday's wedding, she's really in touch with Austerity Britain.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The belgianwaffle election prediction ...

... looking into my rather grubby crystal ball here are some possibilities ....

  • Trump's behaviour becomes even more erratic precipitating a major world crisis &/or a series of bungled decisions affecting international relations, the UK in particular. May's handholding is seen as desperately poor judgment & compromising Britain's reputation. As we all know, once the Tories sniff weakness in their leader they'll go in for the kill. There could also be some score settling after the post-Referendum fall-out. (Watch Gove). 
  • Voter fatigue &/or general disenchantment with May & her cabinet coupled with some as yet unanticipated scandal(s). Boris can still be relied upon to deliver a major embarrassment & this will erode support. The Media frenzy itself could lead to many switching off. 
  • Ukip antics muddy the water to such an extent that what had seemed reliable Tory votes are lost to Farage's bully boys - expect plenty of misinformation & rumour (e.g. that the Tories cannot be relied on to see Brexit through properly ...)
  • A weird pact uniting various No to Brexit groups (Greens, Lib Dems, etc.) which draws a substantial enough following of the disaffected - including some of the unconvinced Tory vote
  • A wild card - some major event which transforms popular opinion. Some options: 1) catastrophic mistake in the NHS; 2) another banking collapse; 3) terrorist or other attack/outrage; 4) constitutional crisis (the Queen etc.); 5) environmental disaster ... which in each case are seen to be related to government incompetence or duplicity. Extraordinarily Labour (with or without Corbyn) seems a better option - at least untainted by the mess.
The outcome? Not the resounding win that May expected but a split vote. No one party in control. A disunited kingdom with running sores of Scotland, Ireland & Wales as well as damaged relations with Europe, the USA, & the rest of the world. May - like Cameron before her - revealed as the chancers they are. 

The crystal ball clouds ... 

Monday, April 10, 2017


Time for an apology. 

I've been pretty dismissive of Philip Glass over the years, arguing that his music was boring/repetitive/lacked emotion/a one-shot deal/over-hyped/reflective of our attention deficit times/migraine-inducing/etc. etc. 

I've made damning contrasts with composers such as Steve Reich (subtle invention & patterns), John Adams (energy & great textures) as well as finding things of interest in Max Richter (the Vivaldi rewrites in particular). 

I've dutifully gone out & bought Einstein on the Beach & Satyagraha but they've remained more or less unplayed. Admittedly Glassworks has its moments. 

I'd written off Glass as not worth pursuing other than as an influence (directly or indirectly) on other people who seemed to be doing far more interesting things: the early Laurie Anderson, the David Byrne of The Knee Plays, the wonderful Meredith Monk. And let's not even begin to mention him in the same sassy New York avenue breath as - awed tones - Morton Feldman. I mean really ... 

And so I need to redress the balance. For this new disc Piano Works is extraordinarily good. I don't know whether it is the pieces themselves, the individual interpretation by Ólafsson, the tone of the piano, the recording acoustics, my state of mind on this rather dull grey April day but ... honestly, it's a lovely album. I hear strange ghosts one minute of early cinema accompanists, then Liszt, Schubert, Satie perhaps. Track 5 is especially haunting. 

If, like me you've always had an aversion to Glass, this is a CD which might change your mind. 

Saturday, April 08, 2017


So what have I been doing during the first week of the holidays? 

Reading in & around Francois Jullien's fascinating book on Chinese painting - The Great Image Has No Form or On The Nonobject Through Painting. I'm at Chapter 10 having gulped my way through the slimmer volume - The Book of Beginnings - where he explores the opening 'sentence' of the I Ching via two other sentences (representative of the Bible & Greek philosophy). Inevitably this leads me back to the Tao Te Ching & into the volumes of Chinese poetry I've accumulated over the years. All with a view to developing notes made in Turin during the calligraphy course back in September. (The orange notebook has been looking at me reprovingly from the shelf for some six months & so - finally - I sit down to type up the entries.)

Here's one that might be of interest to my poetry afflicted readers (whoever you may be ...) 

Dream: of being in a huge bookshop (Waterstones, Borders) with several floors & sweeping shelving. I chance upon what is clearly New Poetry & run my eye along the titles. Immediately I notice that pale green of the Frank O’Hara Selected & pull it out as I realise this is a kind of follow up volume. I leaf through & discover it’s not a Volume II more his manuscripts & drafts. Whole pages filled with an expansive handwriting including blotches & cancellations. Sometimes torn pages, ink stained, etc. as well as more professionally reproduced typewritten sheets with much underlining & revision. On the back (very similar to the preceding volume) is a blurb by O’Hara himself – an obvious impossibility – explaining the rationale for this new book. He was concerned about the previous choice of poems as well as widespread misunderstanding that his poems all arrived in one go without any drafts or second thoughts. His voice comes strongly off the page ...


I had also resolved to do some concentrated listening. As when winter approaches my ears turn to Schubert so, as Spring begins, it has to be Mozart. 

I made a good start with disc 5 of the Mitsuko Uchida/ Tate set of the Piano Concertos, enjoying no. 20 in D minor K466 & then moving on to no. 21 in E flat major, K482. Then, of course, there were interruptions & I strayed off into the Piano & Violin Sonatas (Pires & Dumay), the Clarinet Concerto & Flute & Harp Concerto (both Bohm & the VPO) which are all full of wonderful stuff. Then, last night, I remembered I had bought the Argerich-Abbado DG set while out hunting for the fabulous Stravinsky Rite of Spring duet with Barenboim. At the time I thought I was being fobbed off by the woman in the shop. I was wrong. 

Lovely as the Uchida performance is (of K466) the Argerich takes things to another level. Goodness me ... First, there is Abbado's astonishing work with the Orchestra Mozart (if I understand it correctly, his 'dream team' picked expressly for the purpose). Second, there is - there are - the fingers of Martha Argerich. It's pointless trying to do justice to such playing in words. I know everyone says she is special. I know everyone agrees Mozart is G-R-E-A-T capitalised to the point of bored familiarity. I know I know I know. But ... this really is an outstanding 30 minutes of music. It gives you the shivers. At least it did me. 

Buy it. Listen to it. Live it. 


Sunday, April 02, 2017






... and talking about great album covers ...

... it so happened that yesterday afternoon I chanced upon a secondhand copy of Zappa's One Size Fits All - a record I have coveted for the best part of 30 years. Until the CD release it had that Holy Grail status, known only through cassette recordings - at least for me. Imagine then the pleasure of finding it in reasonable nick for a mere 18 euros. Irresistible.

Saturday, April 01, 2017


I saw this album - as in vinyl album - last Saturday in Fnac. Surely one of the great covers of all time? Utterly beautiful.

"Silence is sexy" ... not the greatest of titles, however, but timely given the month long hiatus in posting. 

There are reasons. As will be explained. Later.

For now, fondle the new 'look'. 

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Watching the Italy v Ireland game on television.

One of the commentators describes a run by Zebo down the field as "adding value".


for god's
stay open
to your time

(from 'Tracking' (notes))

among the words left behind by Tom Raworth -

& what a challenge, looking out of the window.

Monday, January 30, 2017

News of some zoological discovery - the fossilised remains of a creature with a mouth & no anus. According to the scientists, it ate & shat through the same orifice.

Wonder why I am thinking of another creature that eats & shits & speaks ...

... you fill in the rest.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

PS to the previous post ...

... Thanks to our correspondent Frimley Dave for pointing out the real reason for the Mayday: Trumpton hand holding - that way she knew where his hands were ...


Ring for the fire brigade ... 


There's clever & there's stupid.

Here's clever ...

Imagine a really insightful world leader looking at the current 'situation': tens of thousands - millions - of people trying to enter another country than their own. Would not this really insightful world leader pose the simple question: why do all these people want to live somewhere other than their homeland? Might it be because 1) conditions in that country have become unbearable?; 2) there is absolutely no hope for them & their children?; 3) the government in that country is actively persecuting them & would, if possible, eradicate them?; 4) they have nothing to lose? 

And then, would not this really insightful world leader ask himself (or herself) what has brought such a dire situation to pass? Might it be that my country has 1) turned a blind eye to such persecution due to a 'conflict of interests'?; 2) hoped the destruction & bloodshed would simply go away? 3) on the sly profited by selling arms to the various parties involved?; 4) in fact created the mess either through bungled decision making or clumsy intervention in the past? 

And would not this really insightful world leader then realise that any truly great country has the honesty, integrity & vision to say This Must Stop? That shutting the doors to all these people is simply postponing the problem & running the risk of stoking ever greater hatred for generations to come & sending these people right into the hands of anyone who promises them a better future on no matter what false pretexts (a god, an everlasting bliss, a house, a job, a woman who'll satisfy your every desire)?

And this really insightful world leader would then decide to bring representatives of all these messed up countries around a big table (& it would have to be a big one) & start to discuss in what ways things could change. For example: stop the bombing; cancel all arms deals; set up building programmes (hospitals, schools, repair the infrastructure); begin education & training programmes - not to replicate some other country's way of life but allow these countries to grow & develop their own; draw up genuinely fair trade deals ...

And then this really insightful world leader would see fewer & fewer people seeking to enter his (or her) own country because there were now so many reasons to remain where they were born. Furthermore, they had looked at what was really on offer in these other countries & realised it wasn't as great as they had been told (lied to). 

And then this really insightful world leader would turn his (or her) attention to sorting out the misery within their own country & finding ways everyone could truly live & work & enjoy themselves: decent healthcare, education,  a sustainable & fair economy ... 

And then this really insightful world leader could sit back & pour himself (or herself) a glass of wine & smile for they would have made not just their but everyone's country great again. 

And as for stupid ...? 

Saturday, January 28, 2017





More Zorn ('Gnostic Gospels') & David Murray (the famous 'Ming') plus an unknown - 'Makrofauna' by the ampersand glued Vilde&Inga (not, in fact, a new fragrance or hair salon). 

The Zorn is disturbingly beautiful - a quality I find with all the CDs in the Mysteries series. That sort of head achey faintly nauseous sensation I experience with incense. The Murray is top flight (so, yes, everyone was right). As for Vilde&Inga it's the type of stochastic twang & screech & rattle I can listen to for hours (or not) depending on the mood. They're soul sisters to Mette Henriette - no doubt a Norwegian music school style declaring itself. 


Drove back from the UK with the Murray 'Dark Star' & The Lounge Lizards booming out. I drive therefore I listen (to music) - to rephrase Descartes. How else endure the tedium of sitting behind a wheel? 

Now that would be an interesting car programme: following people around with their favourite listening. What do you play, say, on the M25 (The Jam - ha-ha! cheap joke) as against a windy country road? How music can transform the most mundane journey.

I remember listening to Radio 3 one Sunday morning coming up to 8am on the long descending stretch towards the M20. Mozart's aria Soave sia il vento came on just as the sun was rising - so exquisite a coincidence of sound & setting I very nearly swerved off the road. 

(After it finished the announcer paused as if he, too, had been profoundly moved & then said "perhaps the most beautiful three minutes ever committed to vinyl". I'd find it hard to disagree.)

& the name for my new programme concept? Tracks - what else? 

(Needless to say anyone remotely involved with Top Gear would be strictly off limits). 


The Picture of Little J.J. in a Prospect of Flowers


According to the handwriting on the back (whose?) I am pointing out a dog somewhere out of frame. I recognise the high chair - it had a blue & white check pattern. The chair could be separated from the metal stand & I used it for some years afterwards. As for where this is taken - my guess is the front lawn at Freshwinds. The year? 1965. 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Anyone familiar with current corporate managerial behaviour - i.e. put a positive spin on everything, dress up facts, pick & choose statistics to suit - should have little difficulty in recognising the way the three-day old US Government is behaving. Except - wait ... wasn't this meant to be a new way of doing politics? Cutting through the professional deception! Power in the hands of the people!

Big joke.

& even then, not at all funny.

Saturday, January 21, 2017





Today's haul.

It's the first time I've heard the 'Godard' piece (my own CD is the earlier non-Tzadik release). It's interesting enough but seems to lack the logic of Spillane. And I was rather expecting more of an engagement with the films, the culture ... The exuberance & joy of Godard (especially the early period) is entirely missing. Odd.

Angelus Novus I've not yet listened to. Of course, Walter Benjamin haunts the title - silly of me not to have made the connection earlier.

The Lurie CD is a very different style to his Lounge Lizards work. Needs time shorn of the visuals.

As for the Marcin Wasilewski Trio ... beautiful. The first two tracks alone (the second is Bjork's Hyperballad reinterpreted) confirm that this is one to play & play again.

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