Saturday, May 31, 2003

Doucaines, symphonies, crumhorns, bombardes...
...they all combined together to make a new medieval music. Except this new medieval music took place not in the 1470s but the 1970s. But towards the end of that decade people got sick of the bells-and-whistles treatment, in which craftsmen had suddenly started to make 'medieval' instruments by the truckload. Why? Because so much of it was guesswork. Nobody *knew* for sure what the things really had sounded like - or how the music was meant to be sung. Or even if it *was* meant to be sung, and not played - or played and not sung.

So that clever chap James Fenton, writing in the Guardian's Review, comes up with another good article, and the book he mentions at the start of it can be bought here.

Friday, May 16, 2003

This is not a sneeze.
It's a slightly distorted and textured version of a print of.... what? Can you guess? Comments please. :o)
Get the picture?

Sunday, May 11, 2003

Greedy bugger?
Some of you might've noticed the paypal button which has recently appeared. This is because I'm poor! I'm not asking anyone in particular to give me any amount of money, for any reason - but if anyone ever feels like bunging a virtual tenner into my bank account, it'd make a massive percentage difference to my balance, and I'd therefore be very grateful. Support the arts, support struggling poets... or just support me. :oD If you do - thanks! If you don't - well, I'll never know you saw the thing in the first place, will I? ;o)

Saturday, May 10, 2003

Music matters - and Radio 3 delivers
Before we get going - does anyone here listen to BBC Radio 3? How long have you been a listener? And if you're not - why not? What do you imagine it to be like?

It is in radio talks that we can hear musical examples, without having to be able to read music. And if we can hear musical examples, a reviewer can make real, telling comparisons in matters of performance.

On radio we can listen to musical analysis of a complex orchestral work, and the BBC, using its orchestras, is able to offer, not extracts from existing recordings but specially recorded examples, telling us what the violins are doing at a given moment, and how that relates to what is going on in the woodwind section.

Nothing a newspaper or a weekly magazine can do can come anywhere near this. And yet one always yearns to find a good piece of music criticism - something more than the conventional deployment of boo/hoorah-words. If, as MacMillan wants, we ought to be able to talk intelligently about classical music, then composers and musicians would seem to be the people to teach us.

--From James Fenton's excellent Guardian article in today's Review.

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

Alan Maxwell
A friend of mine, who I met during my final year of university in Aberdeen, died in the last couple of days.

I first met Alan on a sunny afternoon in 1999. He was a guy who had approached the befriending service we'd set up in the LGB society in Aberdeen only at the start of that year, and I'd arranged to be the person from the society who was to meet him. I was therefore the first person he came out to. He stepped half-warily into my flat, wearing the same friendly smile he always wore, giving me a firm handshake and sitting down with someone he didn't know, about to say a lot of things which had been mulling around his head - for the first time.

During the next few months, Alan became more self-confident, and his easy conversation with total strangers deepened into frendship with many of them. He shared a bond with my flatmate Ross, grew close to my friend Andy for a time, and became lasting friends with Patrick and Anita, friends the goodness of which nobody could ever expect. The closeness deepened, and Alan's acceptance grew strong and, characteristically for him, quiet and assured.

When we graduated in 2000, I lost contact with Alan. He had his first relationship during the last year, something which I'm sure would have brought the world to his door in a kaleidoscope of colour and variety which he'd know he'd never seen before. Maybe it was to much for him. I don't know. But a few days ago, Alan quietly left his house in Edinburgh, drove his jeep out into the countryside, and died, faithful to the end to a nature which urged him not to rock the boat with anyone.

I wish he'd stood up and wavered. I will miss him.

'Where am I?' Consulting the Modern School Atlas
You underline Dalkey in Ireland, in Scotland Barrhead.
'What day is it?' Outside the home, house-sparrows
With precision tweetle and wheep under the eaves.

Although you forget their names, you hear the birds
In your own accent, the dawn chitter, evening chirl,
The woodpigeon's rooketty-coo and curdoo. 'Who
Am I? Where am I?' is what a bird might sing.


Sometimes the quilts were white for weddings, the design
Made up of stitches and the shadows cast by stitches.
And the quilts for funerals? How do you sew the night?

- Michael Longley

Monday, May 05, 2003

Who wrote / filmed / acted this? Does it matter?
Well, even if it does, this person obviously doesn't agree with Roland Barthes who says that in any creative work whatever, the author is dead.

Friday, May 02, 2003

Interesting snippets for Friday
...but largely feeding on other people's embarrassment or misfortune as usual. ;o) First of all, the climber who amputated his own arm. Next, an 18-year-old American student newly entered into a Fraternity dies after being fed water through a funnel. Seventy Chinese navy submariners die in an accident. And if you don't turn your mobile phone off on that next flight, you could die too.

Thursday, May 01, 2003

Jamie Cullum...
...has been on my desk for a good few months. Ever since my friend Mike from OUT came to visit last year and bought me this album by his mate (which took some finding in HMV since they only stocked one disc at any one time), I've been listening to the album - Pointless Nostalgic - and shuffled the case around. Jamie Cullum, in other words, has been buried by bank statements, letters, hidden under coffee cups. What an injustice. ;o)

And an even greater injustice: some UK tabloid piece of shit decided to fly a helicopter over his parents' house the other day when his signing with Universal Records was confirmed, plastering the resulting photo with a headline which more than hinted that he was in it for the money. Now, I don't know the man personally. But if you listen to the album, and the way he plays and sings, you'll know he's always been in it for the music, you twisted bastards.