Monday, October 27, 2008

A Fresh Start.

Normally, life out here proceeds with the infinite calm of 'silver mountains, iron cliffs', as beloved by the sages in the Shobogenzo. However, after the entropic events surrounding the organizing of the last couple of gigs, and my resultant somewhat over-wrought and fried playing, I have felt there might be other ways to make a living - so what could be more fun than taxidermy? Why the original author of the manual used an illustration of a mounted bat's head for his dust cover on the left here is something we'll probably never know. Perhaps this is the taxidermist's equivalent to putting small ships in bottles, (how do they do that?) another lost art. Disturbing imagery, perhaps, but humor me for a moment; especially as one could now always reside with ever-faithful companions, such as the former wonder dog Bonzo, (admittedly, after 12 years in the ground, not really a good prospect for stuffing) or even surround oneself with friends (and not-so) that one has outlived? Imagine the fun, as you regale them with stories, or even draw hilarious toothbrush mustaches and Frankenstein-style scars on them that they never would have put up with in this realm?

Anyway, things have gotten better over the last 24 hours: I no longer have to pretend that I'm Canadian, and have taken the red maple leaf off my backpack. (a later note - I now see that this little phrase is all over the Internet amongst ex-pat bloggers... that's me, always behind the curve) I always had a problem if anyone followed up with a question about Canada, only having hitched up there a few times in my late teens to circumvent the New Hampshire drinking age, therefore remembering very little about Montreal, or the trailer parks one inevitably ended up in. So I sat, in the small hours of election night, surrounded by half crushed tins of Co-op budget lager (the requisite bottles of Pabst Blue Ribbon being unobtainable in Suffolk) getting a bit emotional.

So apart from my playing, the gigs went well, and Riprap were able to pull the settings together of Malcolm's stuff convincingly on the night. In a contrast to working with just music, I find that the text is a very useful structure - I think this has always been the case, now more than ever, when the lack of agreed templates or song structures makes it more difficult to handle larger spans of musical time coherently. I tend to try and compose a series of discrete 'triggers' that have their own particular texture for us to move away from and towards - almost a series of stones in a Zen garden.

I consider myself incredibly lucky to have accidentally assembled an ensemble with such a spooky level of space and communication. The thing I was always aiming for was the type of open-ended trigger-forms that early (and I must stress the 'early', it all went a bit off after say, 1974) Weather Report developed from Miles. That, and the concept of acoustic/analogue group improvisation that remained largely unexplored since New Orleans. What you see on above is a fragment of some of the triggers we use to take off from and return to, allowing the structure to be open enough to allow the ensemble to react to whatever pace the poet chooses to read at. The interesting thing I have already noticed is that Malcolm already feels confident and comfortable enough to depart from the strict reading of the text, and enter into the general continuum of improv. Only in a small way at present, but it's something we can develop.

So, we continue our mad search for kicks

friday week gig ... maybe laptop guy as well.


Saturday, October 18, 2008

Life out at the Lazy K....

Things are, of course, never dull out here. Granted, although we are certainly not in the league of the Lazy K Dude ranch of Montana, (the original dude ranch seen at your right) but in our own small way we keep up our levels of duderino-ness, although eschewing White Russians and bowling, for the most part (if only to preserve my marriage). It's my own small way of making a difference to people's lives here in East Anglia.

I've been sitting around in a mild panic not quite composing a new series of settings for the kick-off of the next series of Riprap gigs. Suddenly the days consist of a series of minor crisis: the dog and I have a series of crippling problems about the right kind of mechanical pencil, whether I've already had too much coffee, where's my favorite eraser, should I make bread? Would I be better off sitting at the piano and going through all the scores I have out of the library for a hoped-for flash of inspiration (or at least just something to steal), or should I just sit down and get on with it? The phone rings, and I'm greeted by a pre-recorded foghorn blast announcing I have just won the 6th holiday this fortnight. The John Cale/La Monte Young Dream Syndicate drone CD is proving strangely irritating (I suppose you just had to be there, man: NYC '65). Perhaps I should just put on the kettle?

The day started out in a promising fashion: a short sitting, empty the wonderdog as the sun came up, doing Wu Dang Long Form while the dog ran around me barking every time I attempt to 'sweep lotus leg', (something he finds wildly exciting, strangely). Make coffee, nuke oatmeal, eat.

That's it then - I will have to go and sit in my room and actually do something. A couple of hours later, there's this stubborn passage that, after much fidgeting about, will probably serve as a basis to Malcolm's poem Singing Bowl. Now it's time to start the kettle again. The dog and I eye up the truculent cheap-ass Screwfix chainsaw, in lieu of doing anything. This of course leads to 15 minutes of cleaning plugs, yanking and swearing before I finally get the thing to start for the first time in months. While I stand around like a maniac cursing and revving the nuts off the little bastard as punishment, I realize the whole last part of this sorry episode has been quietly watched by a Polish painter who had come by to give us an estimate, and is now clearly having second thoughts about working for this particular household.

So, an attempt to regain mental balance is necessary, and of course this entails two wheeled conveyances. I pull my road iron (as opposed to the fixie) off the rack and start to effect a few minor repairs with a view to having a quick, brain-clearing hour circuit before lunch and more work. Pull pedals off, start to replace and the phone rings; back to the bike again, and the postie shows up waiting for a signature. Return to wrenching, phone rings and I've won another holiday. Damn... run into house to tog up in embarrassing roadie gear and get out before anything else happens.

Barn locked, bike out, I clip in and start to spin down the road in a low gear. Legs always hurt for the first couple of miles, for no explicable reason, but it feels good to be out, as always. A few hundred yards down the road I shift up, and stand out of the saddle to pump it a bit and get it up to cruising cadence.

Bang... I'm on the deck, flat on my back, winded, with the bike on top of me, like a starfish spread in the middle of the road. It was as if I stepped into a manhole : straight down, no warning. Lying there dazed, I realized I had heard that funny roadie sound, which was made by me, of a large, hollow whump of a leather bag being tossed and slid along the tarmac, followed by a sudden silence punctuated by birdsong and the quietly clicking rear wheel as it slowly stopped. This was going to hurt in a minute, I knew... road rash, bruises, general next-day-soreness. As I struggled to unclip, I could hear a car coming around the corner......great, just great.

I had forgotten to tighten up one of my pedals.

things just get better.


Thursday, October 9, 2008

Normal Service Will Resume Shortly....

I apologize for the interruption in service, I got back from the States completely relaxed, straight into term-time madness. Then, to top things off, the cruel mistress who toys with my heart ended up overnight on a drip in A&E with blood loss because of a nose-bleed. I had gotten home that evening from Cambridge to find, Marie Celeste-like, all the house doors open, the lights on, the car sitting in the drive, the dog wandering in the yard, and the phone, ringing, ringing.....

But what I was going to go on about, and will have to wait, was Seamus Heaney, in The Redress of Poetry, writing about John Clare. He speaks about how in composing a poem , the fact that as he had already thought twice about a particular usage as to whether or not it was authentic, it was already too late. The idea that the first thought is as swift and inexorable as a descending katana is an interesting one. As Mushashi stated in the Book of Five Rings, to have a thought means that the moment has already passed.