It’s Sunday!

churchbellToday, for the most part, I was grumbling about the thought of having to go shopping. A tussle between opposing wills – you HAVE to go, no I don’t WANT to go – which got quite heated. Until, that is, I realized it was a Sunday and not a Saturday. Working so hard on finishing the score of my new piece I had lost a day. (Well that’s nothing – I also discovered an entire meal that I thawed out yesterday in the microwave but forgot to eat…….). Of course, now I have one day less for finalizing everything, but that loss is more than compensated for by the delicious fact, thanks to the Christian religion, of not being able to go shopping. The sun is shining, yes, but I think I will just IMAGINE a walk. And with all this lack of exercise I have been having lately, I am rapidly losing weight – another compensation………..

I am very pleased with à la mémoire for vibraphone and piano. It was written for Miguel Bernat and Ananda Sukarlan who will give the première in July, in Spain. The piece was almost complete even before I discussed the possibility of a performance, so this time I am spared all that anxiety about “writing something suitable”. Though of course I am deeply concerned about communicating with the common man etc.

The title (which floated into my head as I was reclining on the couch in the room above, where I compose) is a reference to a work by my former teacher Giuseppe Sinopoli. I remember him talking about his Souvenirs à la mémoire many years ago in Venice. I am just not sure whether I ever actually HEARD the piece.

I had been thinking about the ethos of my new work and fiddling around with various titles in my mind. I could appreciate that it was quite somber, yet, also gently wistful. I thought of the word lament and then all of a sudden the French title just, as I say, floated into my mind. It seemed appropriate.
Of course, I should add that I believe absolutely in Stravinsky’s views about music and expression…..

“For I consider that music is, by its very nature, essentially powerless to express anything at all, whether a feeling, an attitude of mind, a psychological mood, a phenomenon of nature, etc….”

Oh my goodness, yes, how true this is. In reality, music is not expressive at all. It is no more expressive than athletics. Does anybody care whether a discus thrower is expressing himself? We want to know how far he can fling that thing, that’s all. And we want to know if a pianist can get to the top of the keyboard without any lumps in his scales. Double thirds all round. Chromatic ones if you like. Personally I think of a dominant 7th as a sort of lapsed triad – a loose 4th finger could easily account for that F if we are in C, or that Bb if we are in F.

Music is sound. And painting is paint. Poetry is words and religion is sore knees. The world itself is sods of earth gummed together by green stuff we call grass. It’s all very simple if you think about it.

A sleepy bumblebee

bumblebeeOn the way to the glass disposal container round the corner, with some empty wine bottles (yes I drink a lot), I passed a very sleepy, or possibly dying, bumblebee. It was motionless there on the ground, and covered with tiny raindrops. Fortunately no child had discovered it, so I was able to save it from being playfully squashed. I nudged it on to the back of a tram ticket, which I found distasteful, as it overturned and wriggled big black legs (like those of a swift house spider). But I persevered and gently tipped the groggy little thing amongst some bushes that grow alongside the street. I suppose it will be eaten………… Oh well, I did what I could.

Since I am nearing the end of my days I seem to have developed a little more reverence for life. I hate for example the way people set house plants out by the rubbish. Are they bored with them? The cactii which live so happily in my front window – it gets the afternoon sun – are growing like crazy and they are my friends. I wouldn’t dream of dumping them out by the rubbish. Now there is an orchid on the windowsill as well. It is currently budding, having been quiet for a long time. It was given to me by a horrible person – a “Judas of character” – and I really didn’t want to keep it. But the orchid is not to blame. No, in this instance, I am to blame, for having such a poor choice when it comes to friends. That person has disappeared now and all that is left of him is a few emails and the orchid……heh-heh. Perhaps that’s all that will be left of me when I am gone. Hahaha.

I have decided, by the way, to get a cat (as I’m talking of critters)…………

Hamish reacts….

Hi Geoff,
Your piece seems fine – if a trifle glum. Your prose poem on a dying bee reminds me of a typical piece of Hamish useless fact-rummaging. Bees love the nectar of the familiar lime tree (or linden in the US). One popular variety, however, the Silver pendant lime (Tilia petiolaris) produces its flowers later in the season (summer) and has a very strong, beautiful scent, which we humans appreciate – but proves deliciously narcotic to bees, many of whom can be seen “drunk” or knocked out at the base of that tree in summer, driven to sweet unconsciousness by the delicious fumes they have imbibed. Some of the bees recover and sober up – but others never wake up again….

Are you really going to get a cat? Who’ll look after puss when you’re on your hols?

All greased up

Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon

Hamish and I almost ran out of stories to tell each other (we are friends since 1984) and he finds it ridiculous how I start to tell him something that he’s heard three or four times already. For my part, I find some of his interests – military uniforms, orders of chivalry, royal palaces, etc. – fairly tedious. He does go on about these things. Conversely, as I fill in the fine detail of my artistic, religious and psychological preoccupations (they can be quite dark) I occasionally catch him drifting off to sleep. If I speak sharply to him, he quickly clicks back into consciousness.

To add to the boredom of our friendship (we’re starting to sit in silence like an old married couple), Hamish just cooks pasta. I don’t wish to misrepresent his culinary skills – we did have stir-fry once or twice – but you can only eat so much pasta before starting to long for something more traditional. Amongst all the ludicrous snobberies that we have to endure, the one about English food is high up on my list of irritations. Why are meat and two veg. so risible? And would my cultivated friends die if they were obliged to eat a plate of sausage, chips and baked beans with a bit of HP sauce on the side? And a slice of white bread? And a cup of milky tea? This is the stuff you eat in “greasy spoons”. Good fun. If I’m with my friend Michael Bonaventure, he’ll light up a cigarette when he’s finished. We can sit there for hours on end like that. But Michael is a total diamond. He agrees with me that you need a well done sausage in your mouth now and again.

Anyway, back to Hamish’s visit. We got in some nice walks, albeit coughing all the way (we both had ‘flu). We went first to Erasmuspark and then, finally, when we felt a bit stronger, to Rembrandtpark as well. I enjoy Rembrandtpark, even though it’s ugly. It has stupid modern bridges, and only a single nice wooden one. (H. photographed me standing there). We enjoyed some of the tall modern apartment blocks adjacent to the park. Nice feeling. Probably Rembrandtpark is quite cruisy at night…..I imagine. Why wouldn’t it be? Well, I’ll not be going there to find out, so, whatever. But this is a topic – the behaviour of gay men – that crops up frequently in our discussions. That whole Hampstead Heath thing, and my view that in some ancient societies (ancient Greece for example) orgiastic behaviour was integrated into religious practice. But we like our purity and innocence, don’t we. Oh we do, we do. Now I remind myself of my most hated hymn at school……

All things bright and beautiful, All creatures great and small, All things wise and wonderful: The Lord God made them all. Each little flower that opens, Each little bird that sings, He made their glowing colors, He made their tiny wings. The rich man in his castle, The poor man at his gate, He made them, high or lowly, And ordered their estate. The purple headed mountains, The river running by, The sunset and the morning That brightens up the sky. The cold wind in the winter, The pleasant summer sun, The ripe fruits in the garden, He made them every one. The tall trees in the greenwood, The meadows where we play, The rushes by the water, To gather every day. He gave us eyes to see them, And lips that we might tell How great is God Almighty, Who has made all things well.

Even as a child, being stuck in an assembly hall full of kids singing. All things bright and beautiful was murder. And as I always say, children have all of the feelings and none of the words. So I didn’t know how to say who are you fucking kidding?

And there, in the greenwood, someone wearing nothing but a leather jacket and a pair of army boots is bent over by a tree getting fucked by a row of men. Each little flower that opens………… tra la la.