Tuesday, October 6, 2009

my original face

Coming out of Cambridge the other night on the Guzzi, a bit late after an interminable student ensembles session, I was suddenly confronted by a sea of weaving blinky lights ahead on the way to Stow-cum-Quay. As I approached, with not a little apprehension, rolling off the throttle and digging my knees into the cylinder heads as the engine braking spun the speedo backwards, I was suddenly engulfed by a local flowering of hipsters, my first real sighting en mass. And even better, most of them were on over-accessorized fixies, many brakeless. It was a suburban attempt at an 'Alley Cat'. Damn - I now know how birdwatchers feel spotting that elusive corncrake.

I suddenly felt old, watching them all huffing along in the dark (somewhat slowly) with all the wrong gear - I wanted to flip up my lid (...not, like, 'flip my lid, daddio', but the one on my helmet) and say something like " ...hey guys, I've got one of those things and I've been riding them for 30 years, thanks to my dear departed (and hard as nails) Father-in-Law...", but that would just be sad. I will post up a few bits about my Father-in-Law John's riding at a later date.

And, once again continuing with the "stuff brings happiness" tangent, I have to admit that I seem to have reached a slight impasse. ("oh no?", you say? "Who could have foreseen that?") What I haven't mentioned thus far was that the bass clarinet I had been hoping for (in a fashion not unlike those fervent TV evangelicals in the US) arrived about 6 weeks ago, and I have been messing about with it daily since (thus proving the existence of higher powers, albeit in a lower register). When, the previous summer, I played a concert of semi-free improv at Kettles Yard with two laptop guys I know, I had snagged a bass clarinet a couple of weeks before, practiced it a bit (I used to have one 25 years ago, along with a clarinet) and was perfectly happy to just let my fingers and instincts do the walking. And, to my surprise, it turned out pretty well. I fell in love with it.

But, now after 6 weeks of diligent scales and arpeggios with a metronome, I now feel completely inhibited by the thing, (especially when I put it down and pick up the sax), and the contrast is scary. I'm much, much more fluid on the damn thing then I was the last time, but now I'm thinking about it. I'm trying to do very simple versions of the sorts of relatively complex patterns that I use on sax and just freezing, totally falling on my face. After the years of practice in improvising, you just need to do it; taking a line for a walk with an almost blank mind, no preconceptions. That seems to stem either from having no inhibitions on an unfamilar medium, or being supremely comfortable and totally detached from whatever is found in your hands: one thought and you are lost, utterly and completely. Quickly: what is your original face?

However, I'm back into tenor big time, and I'm going to drop using alto on the Riprap gigs. A decision.

And other things, the violist seems to be getting on with the piece, she said she was going to play it for her chamber group - hopefully the news will be good. Here's the usual cheesy synth fragment in lieu of the real thing; just click on Viola piece.

however,as far as important things go, there is now the rebirth of the old Sturmey-Archer 3-speed fixed hub of legend to consider for us sad-assed fixie riders.