Saturday, November 26, 2011

Albanian Escapades

I just did an excellent gig in the Ruskin gallery to accompany the David Ryan film on Scelsi, as part of a forest of licorice logs (as opposed to the old licorice sticks; actually, only three bass clarinets), one of whom was a serious Mr. Bass Clarinet Guy. It was interesting as we were spread around the gallery to coincide with the three differing simultaneous cuts of the film. Our mission was to amplify any ambient sounds in the soundtrack, and to play around with the 'resultant tones' that come about from the slight differences of pitch between everything involved. This set up an unearthly beating in my chest as I played, and after twenty minutes I couldn't tell whether I was actually the one making a particular sound or not. The only problem was having to stand there beside Mr. Serious Bass Clarinet Guy, clutching my plastic (or ebonite, as the ads have it) Yamaha student-model special and occasionally squeaking. But it was kind of sad the way I kept trying to bring the conversation post-gig to saxophones to try and retrieve some dignity: "...actually, you know, if I was doing this on sax, where I'm more comfortable, I would...." He was, of course, ever so understanding.....

I had been suddenly plunged into one of those moments when one is revealed as a fraud (at least mildly). It was not unlike trying, as we all have at a party full of strangers, to pass yourself off as an Albanian with a contrived
Mittel-Europa accent, (even though Albania is properly Südost-Europa) complete with monocle and a sharp hat at what feels like a jaunty angle at the time (such as Erich here on the right), fabricating adventures based on half-forgotten Franz Lehar operetta scenes out of the Die Lustige Witwe, only to find out that you are in fact speaking to a descendant of King Zog himself (cutting a gay, dashing figure to the upper left), and haplessly find yourself drawn inexorably into a gun-running plot aimed at his restoration... it's the sort of thing that always worked for Da Ponte and Mozart? But the enduring attraction of Ruritanian escapades never really fades - and you can get a very good dose of the Hollywood version of the fantasy in Erich Von Stroheim's 1925 silent version of The Merry Widow is not to be missed:

and who doesn't sometimes wish to channel the Hussar look from old Vienna? Von Stroheim had it down: dueling scar (check) (those Heidelberg mensur clubs), monocle (check), plus fours (check), riding boots, lots of medals...and to complete the picture, one should be able to refer to the arguments made in Richard Burton's Sentiment of the Sword, a fascinating Victorian equivalent to Musashi's Go Rin no Sho or The Book of Five Rings.

Apart from that, the last few weeks have been spent doing the boring stuff; getting all the charts ready for rehearsals for the CD recording, it's all just wildly time-consuming. And of course the first run-throughs, while exciting, have, as always, thrown up a number of minor problems and corrections to be addressed.

Anyway, so it's early Sunday morning; and, sitting balanced on the
zafu, the rain spatters against the window's glass with a tinkling sound while a bolt of glaring pink light crosses the room horizontally from the low rising sun, ruffling the edges of awareness and filling my all-too-always-ruffled mind with intrusive questions: fixie with mudguards or road iron? 3/4 length bibs or roubaix longs? Hot chocolate/mocha or a nice pot of tea when I hit Finchingfield in a couple of hours time? Cancellara (in red) didn't need anything but shorts here; watch his break at about 2:20 over the pave, complete with Belgium commentary:

All this was originally going to be about David Foster Wallace and my hard-as nails late Father-in-Law, along with some observations about pictures of the beer chair... strange how things drift sideways? More a kind of dérive, I suppose


Honor said...

I'd go with a nice pot of tea.

How far do you cycle? You'd like it in Holland I'm thinking, they've got it sussed out here what with all their cycle paths and that. Much safer. Road is ironed flat, ain't no hills here :-(

can we expect some funky cool black and white beer chair shots plus accompanying witty observations sometime soon then?

kbop said...

I get out 3-4 times a week, (more in the summer) with at least one 80-100k ride at the weekend on a club run.

And I lived in Nederlands for about a year in the 80's, and although I like the place, and still have friends there, I much prefer cycling in the mountains.

Honor said...

that's a lot of cycling - lovely in the English countryside and definately good for airing creative ideas.

kan je nog een beetje Nederlands praten dan? Waar woonde je? Ja het is inderdaad prachtig om in het bergen te fietsen. Maar fietsen in Noord-Holland in het lente is ook ontzettend mooi met al de lente bloemen velden.....