birds gigs music

Salt Cafe Gig

I haven’t got a quick and catchy phrase to describe my music or that of Mike and Rob (Nichols) come to that. I did once think of describing mine as elucinogenic mouse singing but I’m yet to stick that on a poster or any other type of blurb. Overall I’m happy to have the problem that my music is hard to describe nevertheless it can be a pain.

In his Facebook Event Page, Mike has given the gig the name – Mike Flew Over The Rob’s Nest and ideally I would have spent hours on photoshop trying to make an illustrative poster instead it took me about 15-20 minutes to make the one above using what seems to be a photo taken by accident on my phone. I suppose the nest could have been a mouse nest.

geology jazz may mixes music

Granite Mix 10

The last Granite Mix had a track by Bill Evans in it (not to mention earlier appearances in the geological section) and now I’ve decided to dedicate a whole mix to the man, just to show how much I love his music. His world is a curious mixture of beauty and tragedy perfectly expressed by the way he would hunch over the piano in his simultaneous role as servant and master. Here’s a clip to show what I mean.

Tony Scott was another character who found his contemporary world hard to deal with. There aren’t many clarinetists in so-called Modern Jazz (so-called because I don’t like labels/genres in music, but unfortunately the alternative is to redefine musical history which would be tedious).

1957 was a very productive year for Charles Mingus and as well as East Coasting he put out The Clown, Mingus Three and A Modern Jazz Symposium Of Music And Poetry as well as recording Tijuana Moods which wasn’t released until later.

Kind Of Blue was my first (as far as I’m aware) encounter with Bill Evans and it is no doubt the most well-known album that he played on. There is a certain amount of controversy over whether Bill should have had any of the composition credits on the album, specifically on Blue In Green. In his autobiography Miles insists

Some people went around saying that Bill was co-composer of the music on Kind Of Blue. That isn’t true; it’s all mine and the concept was mine. What he did was turn me on to some classical composers, and they influenced me.

On the other hand Evans has told how Davis gave him a piece of paper with 2 chords (Gmin13 & A7(#9#5)) and asked what he’d do with it. It seems he did a fair bit with it and all he did with it was used. So on the original album the track is credited to Davis and on subsequent recordings that Evans did of the track it’s credited to both men.

The live recordings taken from the 2 albums released in 1961 – Sunday At The Village Vanguard and Waltz For Debby which were recorded on June 25th 1961 for me are up there with the finest ever live recorded music. It’s all a matter of taste come to that but certain things affect the whole shape of what comes after and other things just disappear down a black hole.

Jim Hall – hugely underrated. Here’s his obituary from a couple of years ago.

So my favourite things by Bill Evans are the June 25th live recording, the contribution to Kind Of Blue and then there’s the solo session recorded on January 10th 1963 which Evans requested never to be released. For me that’s like Kafka saying in his will that all his unpublished manuscripts should be destroyed. Luckily in both cases it didn’t happen. Basically he was so strung out on heroin at the time that he did the session to get some money to score. I don’t remember the exact story. Obviously I wasn’t there, but I’ve read about it. Most of the time in this world you’re not there. Unless it’s yourself of course. But the thing about the session is that the deliberative, totally introspective nature of the performance means that… well it’s difficult to explain, but the most I can say is that listening to the music from that recording is like eavesdropping on a genius when he thinks he’s alone and musing with the universe.

After that there’s a couple of live tracks with the 2 main bassists that Bill found to replace Scott LaFaro (I haven’t even covered that, I’m going to have to save it for later). Firstly Chuck Israels and then Eddie Gomez.

And then finally another solo piece another popular song by Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse a ballad that was one of his favourites not least for the title. Fool though he might have thought himself sometimes for his massive heroin and then cocaine intake the legacy’s there. Few can claim to have achieved more.

here’s the mix

Granite Mix 10
Artist Title Album
Tony Scott Five The Modern Art Of Jazz
Charles Mingus Celia East Coasting
Miles Davis Flamenco Sketches (alt take) Kind Of Blue
Bill Evans Trio My Man’s Gone Now Sunday At The Village Vanguard
Bill Evans & Jim Hall Romain Undercurrent
Bill Evans Everything Happens To Me Solo Sessions Volume 1
Bill Evans Trio Stella By Starlight At Shelly’s Manne-Hole
Bill Evans Trio Blue In Green Live In Paris Volume 3
Bill Evans What Kind Of Fool Am I Alone Again

Reading list

Since 1983 I’ve been keeping track of the books I have read. I can’t remember why I started doing it, but it’s a useful exercise for me for a number of reasons which I don’t intend to divulge at present. As it’s nearly the end of 2012 I thought I would reveal this year’s details with a few appropriate or possibly inappropriate comments.

Wintersol,  Eric Thacker & Anthony Earnshaw (II)

The II in brackets indicates that this is a 2nd reading. Actually in this case it might be more than 2 since I’ve had the book for a long time, or there again it might have been the 1st time I read the whole book through in 1 go. The principal reason for this re-read was to write something here in the Nonsense category.

Red Room,   August Strindberg

I’m a big fan of Strindberg‘s dramas since I saw a student production of Miss Julie back in about 1973, but I’d never read any of his novels. I’m not sure exactly what I think about this book which I downloaded from the Gutenberg Project. I’m inclined to think that Strindberg is a better dramatist than he is a novelist but I will definitely try some of his other novels before being sure about that.

St Joan,    Bernard Shaw (II)

Can’t remember why I re-read this one perhaps I just happened to notice my old Tauchnitz Edition on the bookshelf and thought I needed some Shavian dialectic in my headspace. It relates to the item above in that Strindberg was one of the biggest influences on Shaw’s work. For me it’s not one of his great plays but there again I’ve never seen it staged so can’t properly assess it. Nice fence this isn’t it?

Great Works of Jewish Fantasy,   Ed. Joachim Neugroschel (II)

This is the Picador edition which I bought pretty much when it came out in 1978. I have therefore put this down as a re-read. The story is that actually I lost the book and that was probably before I’d finished reading it – I think I may have left it on a train.

The King of the Pirates,     Daniel Defoe

Another Gutenberg download – this is a fairly authentic (in my opinion) imagination of the real life of a pirate in the 17th century. Defoe defies definition.

Beefheart: Through The Eyes of Magic,     John French

John (Drumbo) French is not a great writer and he often comes over as naive not just when he was in his early 20s but also later when he was writing the book, but this is well worth reading if you’re interested in creativity, the act of creation etc. You have to know a bit about the music and its place in the history of music. After reading it I wrote a song which I called ‘fore done because I thought if ever I needed a pun it was then.

Excavating Kafka,      James Hawes

I cannot recommend this book which I read as part of a lengthy delve into the world of Franz Kafka. Strindberg’s novel & Neugroschel’s Great Works of Jewish Fantasy both were read in relation to or inspired by Kafka’s Diaries which I actually started to read last year but in effect they took up much of 2012. Similarly with the Kropotkin, the Goethe and the Canetti below.

The Hole,    NF Simpson
A Resounding Tinkle,   NF Simpson
The Form,   NF Simpson

3 short plays I read for another of my Nonsense category posts.

Pullman Car Hiawatha,   Thornton Wilder
The Long Christmas Dinner,   Thornton Wilder
The Happy Journey,   Thornton Wilder

Having found the short plays section in the library I also read these 3. I think maybe 2013 will be a The Eighth Day re-reading year. I hope so.

Memoirs of a Revolutionist,    Peter Kropotkin

See here for more about this.

Angelica Lost And Found,   Russell Hoban

The last book of the great writer who died last year. You can club together the last 8 or 9 of his novels together (sometimes known as the London novels) and while they are not necessarily of the calibre to be called great literature I find them engaging and inspiring as a blueprint for creating a work of art which is also a reflection of a life.

To The Wedding,   John Berger

My first introduction to John Berger was in 1972 when his tv series ways of seeing changed the way I thought about things. But for some reason this is the 1st novel of his that I’ve read. It’s short, very powerful and the last few pages are incredibly moving. And yet still I have not rushed out to seek more of his novels – strange?

The Marlboroughs,   Christopher Hibbert

I bought this 2nd hand as something to take away on a journey. I’ve already read Hibbert’s life of Samuel Johnson so I knew he could write a decent book. It’s a pretty interesting story. As a practitioner of war, Marlborough was probably no worse than Alexander the Great when you take into account the challenges of the age. Julius Caesar would enjoy the sordid details of how you finance, equip and keep motivated an army in the late 17th early 18th centuries.

Agents and Patients,    Anthony Powell (II)

Another 2nd hand purchase that I couldn’t resist because of its classic design and evocative Osbert Lancaster cover.

Thomas Mann – A Life,    Donald Prater

Covered here.

Wilhelm Meister,    Johann Wolfgang Goethe

Actually I’ve only read about 10 chapters of this and then there has been a hiatus of several months, but I do intend to read it and will probably have to begin again at the beginning, or at least skip through it as a reminder.

Memoirs of Hadrian,    Marguerite Yourcenar

Wow. I think I just found this in a 2nd hand bookshop and it completely bouleversed me. It’s brilliant. Now I want to visit Mount Desert Island in Maine.

The Razor’s Edge ,   W. Somerset Maugham (II)

I approached this with trepidation because it was a life-changing book for me back in 1968 or 1969 when I first read it. I believe my mother bought it for me as she knew I enjoyed all the short stories in The World Over collection. Recently reading the Isherwood Diaries I have been reminded of the book again. Maugham consulted Isherwood and probably Heard and Huxley as well to get some of the material he used in writing the book.

Alfred the Great ,  Asser et al (II)

Actually this is on the list but I think I basically got the book down from the shelf and had some brilliant idea about something I was going to do related to it but I can’t remember now what on earth that was. I’m definitely going to re-read it soon though.

Coltrane – the story of a sound,    Ben Ratliff

I’d love to read a full, well-written biography of Coltrane. Probably something like that exists, but this is not it. Nevertheless it’s a decent read and provides much healthy food for thought.

Last Journals,    David Livingstone

As recommended by Sun Ra.

The Sacred & Profane Love Machine,     Iris Murdoch (II)

Iris published 26 novels. I have read most of them twice and some more than that. I don’t rate this as one of her best. Ok so you want to know which ones do I think are her best? Fair enough. Under The Net;A Severed Head;The Unicorn;The Black Prince;The Sea, The Sea;The Good Apprentice and The Message To The Planet. I may be prepared to add more to that list on further re-readings.

Kafka’s Other Trial,    Elias Canetti

Funny that Iris Murdoch should end up next to Elias Canetti. This is a very short book but is probably one of the highlights of the vast domain of Kafka criticism. Maybe best to just stick to this one and the 2 Walter Benjamin essays.

Catlin’s Indians,    George Catlin

I was excited about finding this book in the Oxfam shop at the top of Park Street in Bristol and paid £8.99 for it. One of the things that really interests me is the clash between primitive societies and more developed ones. The writing isn’t brilliant and I’m not sure about the art, but it’s still a fascinating document.

Travelling Light,     Tove Jansson

Awww, she’s so great! I just want to put her on a pedestal.

Liberation (Diaries 70-83),    Christopher Isherwood

How to live. How to die. Above all – how to write.

Stuart England,    JP Kenyon

I haven’t finished this one yet. I’m just past the disastrous campaign against the Scots and heading pell-mell towards Rebellion, Civil War and Regicide. This is part of the Pelican History of England series – a recent 5th addition I have of the series of 9. Only about a 3rd of the way through – it’s an interesting age, but this is assuredly not one of the best volumes of the series. Ok so you want to know which ones do I think are the best? Well tough I’m not going to say right now.

Voices of Time, Eduardo Galeano

The only living creative writer (he’s 72) I really care about. For me he’s an all time great, I love his work. I’ve just started this so can’t really comment. I don’t think I’ll be disappointed.


Hunting etcetera

Here is a short prose piece I wrote in about 1979. It is a poor imitation of a writer who I last mentioned here on the 3rd November 2011. So this can be an introduction to whatever I deliver as before promised.

A fabled beast, Scurzione by name, once withheld the advances of a pack of noble hunters. Noble, that is, in that they were of the nobility; not at all in any other sense. Indeed they were thoroughly petty individuals with their peevish rivalries and pompous airs. They were not without skill, however, in the practice of hunting. In short, Scurzione was hard stretched to evade their sharply pointed lances. Usually he never needed to exert himself in foiling clumsy attempts by groups of hunters on foot – always noisy and very often smelly. (This fabulous beast had a highly acute sense of both hearing and smell). But, on this occasion, he found himself having to run for his life, which seemed to him to be a tremendous loss of dignity – he set himself high standards. He was aware of his unique position as a legendary byword, a living example of the fantastic.

Still, he withheld their advances – what more need be said.

The distasteful young hunters eventually turned from this illustrious quarry and settled for a couple of roe deer and what seemed to be a giant mole – about three feet long, an outsize rodent with strong front feet (or paws if you prefer). It had put up virtually no opposition whatever to their brutal lance-thrusts, but its feet and nostrils twitched as it was carried along skewered victoriously on a blood-stained lance.

Let us pray that that will never be the end of Scurzione, that worthy quadruped of the inquisitive scaly snout and of the relaxed and indolently doleful eyes. Rather should he perish by his own impulse. No longer able to evade hunters on his old legs, weary and ready to die, he might fling himself into a fast-flowing river – abandoning his failing body to the swift current.

But to return to the present let us see Scurzione regain his breath, see him admit to himself that he had come close to death for a moment. He reached the top of an exposed rockface in the hillside. From this vantage point he could look down over the forest of beech and oak trees. In the distance rose the smoke of the human habitations which he had learnt to avoid. He had seen enough of these humans to know that they were true scoundrels who would kill (and probably eat) one without the slightest compunction. He had come to despise these landed gentry types most of all. They seemed to consider all types of life as provided for their benefit and amusement. When would their tyrannical arrogance ever be punished? When indeed.

But he felt superior to their violent ruthlessness – their stubborn selfishness. No doubt to feel himself superior was a mistake but he could not help it. He hurt nobody. He created a little beauty and mystery in the lives of those that perceived him – drinking at night in a sweet forest pool or just a flashing shadow seen at distance, through oak and holly trees. And he lived true to his own idea of beauty.

How he would have hated it if he had known that to the other creatures of the area – the deer and the pigs and the small antelope – he was nothing less than a ridiculous freak, a bizarre outsider with unfathomable habits whose existence meant nothing to them.

Thus can a fabled beast be greatly mistaken in his interpretation of the world he sees. Thus can the fable end – in disillusionment, always in disillusionment.

film fire literature trees

Archive Footage

Over the last little while or thereabouts I have been posting archive bbc footage on my youtube channel. This all comes from a programme I recorded on vhs back probably in the late eighties. I think I first bought a vhs recorder sometime after 1985 and most likely early on after that I recorded a compendium of bbc recordings which were generally from the late 60s. It was introduced by George Melly and for the first time in the most recent clip (Pasolini & Callas – see below) there is a fragment of his commentary added to the original fragment. In the past I have always managed to decently edit out any of his contributions (apart from the Heinz Edelmann clip where he is central, as a younger self). Not that I’ve got anything against the guy, but because I wanted to be true as possible to the original recordings. But this comment is right in the middle of the clip and trying to edit it out would be a real pain. I think he must have felt that as a singer he was allowed to comment about Callas but sadly I must regret that he felt it was necessary to add anything as Maria is so beautiful and so poignant in her words that there scarcely is need of aught else. Ah well, such is life, you can always edit the film yourself. Download it from youtube, it’s not that difficult, and edit it. But sadly you can’t bring her back to life. Anyway as I usually say, here’s the youtube clip

And just to show what I was talking about earlier on here are the other youtube clips from the programme that I have already posted. Sometimes I wonder if the bbc has lost the original footage that these clips were taken from. I would be happy to take this stuff down if I felt that it was available somehow commercially, but until that happens I will carry on posting it for the world to see. And if sometimes I feel like Kafka‘s Warden of the Tomb maybe that’s my destiny. There are some gems still to be unearthed. In the mean time here are the other segments…

literature music

Epistle from Patera

Once upon a time if I wrote a new song I would fairly quickly record a demo of it, but for the last year or so I haven’t been bothered. I’m not sure why that is, probably to a certain degree some sort of boredom with the recording process. I think the only new song I’ve recorded is one I recorded live (vocals overdubbed), little crusader

What spurred me to actually record one of them was the idea of giving Tom (Ranby) some mp3s of new songs because when we played together I wanted to add some of the new songs to the repertoire rather than just play the stuff we already know. Well the first recording’s done now and it wasn’t that bad. It was mostly done a couple of weeks ago but I finished it off yesterday by recording the cameo flute part. I didn’t practise playing flute much over the 2 weeks, there was probably 10 minutes of playing in total, in short 30-60 second bursts – in fact I could have worked at it a bit harder and done it all on the same day. Thanks to my sister, Helen, for giving me the flute some many years ago.

The song I chose to record was written about a year ago and it’s called die andere seite. I think that’s the 2nd song I’ve got with a German title. The 1st one was called sonntag but all I have for that is the words, maybe the slight remnant of a tune in my head. Die Andere Seite is the title of a book by the man better known as an artist than writer, Alfred Kubin. Obviously I’ve provided a link but to put it simply for those of you who can’t be bothered to spend a few minutes perusing the biography works influence bibliography external links of an interesting 20th century character, he was an artist, a member of the Blaue Reiter group who became principally known for his work as an illustrator. Apparently at some point he found it impossible to do any drawing and so, over a 12 week period, he wrote his novel. It sorted of demanded to be written in effect. It was published in 1905.

It could be said to predate Kafka, but pretty much they were both writing at the same time, it’s just that a lot of Kafka’s stuff wasn’t published until after his death. Kafka and Kubin knew each other and in a diary entry of 1911 Kafka describes him

Kubin himself: very strong, but somewhat monotonous facial expression, he describes the most varied things with the same movement of muscles. Looks different in age, size, and strength according to whether he is sitting, standing,wearing just a suit, or an overcoat.

and in the same entry for September 26th Kafka relates

He met Hamsun at Langen. He (Hamsun) grins mockingly for no reason. During the conversation, without interrupting it, he put one foot on his neck, took a large pair of paper-shears from the table, and trimmed the frayed edges of his trousers. Shabbily dressed, with one, or so rather expensive details, his tie, for example.

I was unaware of this until I started researching to write this, but funnily enough Knut Hamsun is also referenced in this song. Do I want to throw any more revolutionary (I don’t mean in a political way) writers of the late 19th early 20th century into the mix? Actually yes, though this is one that I didn’t realise as I wrote the song. Can that be possible? Well I must think so or I wouldn’t be writing about it. In an earlier post I touched on the significance of the French writer, Alfred Jarry and the research I did towards writing that persuaded me to buy a copy of Exploits & Opinions of Dr. Faustroll, Pataphysician, which I had never read.
It is in this work that the concept of ‘Pataphysics is introduced. In Roger Shattuck‘s excellent introduction to the Exact Change edition of the work he tries to encapsulate the concept thus

Beneath the double talk and ellipsis, its formal definition seems to mean that the virtual or imaginary nature of things as glimpsed by the heightened vision of poetry or science or love can be seized and lived as real. This is the ultimate form of “authentic enactment”.

I will try to write further on this later. It needs more distillation right now.

Well that’s the words sorted out, as for the music, it’s got a bit of bluesy, swampy feel but as usual I’ve used (or possibly misused) reggae drum loops which disguise that to a certain extent. It’s a very simple ABABABABAB format where the 4th AB is instrumental and the 5th is a repeat of the 1st (lyrically that is). I could have stuck a C on the end for the coda but that is too short to warrant it. The Bs are in effect choruses but they have no vocals. They’re just trademark flattened interval chords thrown in to show who I am.

And finally…

the other side


Little Song Films & Why Firegiver

If you look on whois domain name search it will tell you that was created in 2008. That’s bollocks. It was first registered in 2000. 2008 is the most recent renewal date. Back around the turn of the century I was mulling over setting up a website. I had the idea of creating some sort of arts channel and back then spent a lot of effort preparing content. I needed a domain name and every name that I felt suitable was already taken. I don’t know how many searches I made but it was a lot. Eventually firegiver occurred to me as an option and miraculously it wasn’t already taken. I bagged it and continued developing the concept I had. At the moment I can’t be bothered to explain exactly why firegiver was appropriate. But in the words of Franz Kafka

There are four legends concerning Prometheus.

According to the first he was clamped to a rock in the Caucasus for betraying the secrets of the gods to men, and the gods sent eagles to feed on his liver, which was perpetually renewed.

According to the second Prometheus, goaded by the pain of the tearing beaks, pressed himself deeper and deeper into the rock until he became one with it.

According to the third his treachery was forgotten in the course of thousands of years, forgotten by the gods, the eagles, forgotten by himself.

According to the fourth everyone grew weary of the meaningless affair. The gods grew weary, the eagles grew weary, the wound closed wearily.

There remained the inexplicable mountain of rock. The legend tried to explain the inexplicable. As it came out of a substratum of truth it had in turn to end in the inexplicable.

A little while afterwards, I met Roger Thorp at a dinner party and we got to talk about films and things. He told me of his website idea which he had a name for, Little Song Films. Later we pinned down the essence of the site as being dedicated to the poetics of the moving image. Roger and I got on well and his concept seemed to be much more achievable than the rather broad and vague aims of my proposed website, plus it’s easier to do things in collaboration than by yourself, so I dropped my Firegiver efforts and we registered the Little Song Films domain and produced a first version of this in 2001.

Ten years or so later Little Song Films is in a state of hibernation. It got to the point where we needed to rethink and redevelop the website. We had a few discussions with ideas of how this could be done, but further progress also meant further commitment of time and money which neither of us felt capable of providing. The website still exists as an archive and gets over 100 visits a day, though what proportion of those are genuine individuals watching films as opposed to miscellaneous robotic search engine activity I couldn’t say. Actually when I think about it, it wouldn’t be too hard to find out, but I would have to search through logs for .mov files and look at each one to be sure that it actually had been watched. Another time maybe.

Although was not used for its original purpose I retained the domain name and in 2004 I started to use it for a rudimentary blog which consisted of short films that I made with accompanying music and some explanatory text. They are all still there although nothing links to them so the only way they can be found is via a search engine, so some of them are still accessed from time to time.

I will write a bit more about Little Song Films now and again, but for now here’s one of the first films that we got from a major videoartist, Éder Santos who we fortunately met in Amsterdam in 2003. It’s something he did as a video for the American singer/songwriter, Mark Mulcahy, which was never used. It’s a beautiful song and Éder’s video is brilliant. Thanks to Mezzotint Records for letting us screen the track.

The Way She Really Is

By the way, translation of Kafka’s Prometheus by the mighty Willa & Edwin Muir.


quotations 2

Between us and the animals there is a great gulf fixed. The most important thing about man is that he is NOT an animal. He is different, and in this difference lies his ultimate hope and promise. A miracle happened to man when he was an animal. That miracle was the BIRTH OF LANGUAGE. This has made his life incomparable with any animal. We are not concerned merely with the difference to him which this miraculous event has made in the ordering of his life. It is the difference in him that is crucial. For this was the sign of the birth of consciousness. Not of intelligence, but of consciousness. Something broke in on man. It may have evolved, but it is not strictly a question of evolution. It is something outside evolution.

John Stewart Collis

He may not deny his bestial relationship with animals, the invocation of which revolts him: he must make himself its master.

Walter Benjamin

there is no folly of the beasts of the earth which is not infinitely outdone by the madness of men.

Hermann Melville

Animals are closer to us than human beings. That’s where our prison bars are.

Franz Kafka