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Thursday, 30 May 2013

Report from Beverley Early Music Festival – Chapel and Tavern with Vivien Ellis and The Carnival Band

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30 May

As a fellow festival-goer agreed, we had not seen the attraction of the option of the venue of ‘the tavern’ (Beverley’s The Angel) first – and also that, if matters had ended with just the Chapel (though it had, again, been open to book just that venue’s part of the evening), it would have been a fairly sombre end to things, despite Charles Wesley’s fervent hopes.

For little that was sung was not setting Wesley’s texts, and he was not born until 1707 (and died when he was 80). So the first promised century or more of music from 1616 onwards – the year of Shakespeare’s death – was left to be represented by Thomas Butts’ reworking of Henry Purcell for ‘Love divine, all loves excelling’, and a traditional English tune for Bunyan’s ‘Who would true valour see’, which had apparently been collected by Vaughan Williams. (There was also a text early on of Isaac Watts, ‘Rejoice, ye shining worlds’. Settings of Wesley after his death accounted for extending the scope to the beginning of the Victorian era.)

The thinking may have been that Toll Gavel, as a United Reformed Church, suited this music better than music from the Anglican orthodoxy – and I have no notion whether former Methodist chapels were converted to use by that denomination, although it seems not unlikely.

In any case, though we had been urged to join in, if we knew the words, the hymn-books contained many of these Wesleyan ones, and there might have been greater participation, if this had been pointed out. I suspect that those books would have gone quite outside the chapel tradition, and therefore that the impression of music that we gained was not one that reflected the non-conformist tradition in which we were silently being asked to locate ourselves.

The performers arrived looking a little footweary (they had already done a tavern slot), but donned less brightly coloured garb, including a complete change for Vivien Ellis into a stretchy black number – and, when she re-emerged, the redness of her nose and mouth made me consider the possibility that she had had need to resort to a menthol remedy. (The others all had black jackets, with a stylish double-breasted top-jacket for Jub Davis (on double bass).) However, it may have worked – or I may have been mistaken – for there was no sign that her voice was lacking in power, and, when the men sang as well (in one case, with (I think) ‘Come all ye mourning pilgrims’, on their own), there were some agreeable harmonies.

When those of us watching did sing, as a quiet background to the performance, it added to the experience, but it was rather hard to be sure what that was : we knew that these were not concert-pieces, but also that this was not worship (and, as I have suggested, that this was a deliberate limitation to ‘chapel-type’ music), and, for me, that meant that I did not know where I felt myself to be. That said, there was an enthusiasm, even a fervour, that made this not simply performance.

Interspersed in the proceedings, Vivien Ellis nicely read a Thomas Hardy poem, ‘A Church Romance’, about how his parents allegedly met as the result of a glance exchanged in church, and Steve Banks ‘a sermon’ in the form of admonitions and exhortations of Wesley regarding sacred music, many of which parishioners would well heed : for example, not singingly too slowly, and trying to sing together.

I believe that we showed that his urging had had an effect on us as we joined in Bunyan’s hymn, and so closed ‘the first part’ – since it seemed a good idea, my companion pilgrim and I were out quickly and on foot to the tavern, not so much in the spirit of Till in heaven we take our place, as in the roofed-over beer-garden.

Getting there for a seat under the influence of a patio-heater was a distinct bonus (possible evidence that the troupe had been chilled earlier – along with the fact that, in this half, Vivien Ellis mainly kept a body-warmer on over her dress), as also was being able to join a short queue at the bar.

Here, the sound was amplified, and, in addition to the bag-pipes (played by Andy Watts), we were treated to rounds, some topical, and two from the seventeeth century. Here is my one of them that I liked best :

Beverley ale !
Where, where, where ?
In the blacksmith’s house.
I would I were there.

Also fun was :

A boat, a boat, haste to the ferry !
For we’ll go over to be merry
And laugh and sing and drink old sherry.

We also had a spirited rendition of O that I had but a fine man by Pelham Humfrey, in which Vivien Ellis took delight both in finding in the audience ‘a spicy one’, and showing how If I die, I die, in the true guise of an operatic diva.

Elsewhere, two more sensitive numbers in ‘An thou were my ain thing’ and, in ‘A blacksmith courted me’, one of her oft-performed ones.

We ended with two numbers from the volume Wit and Mirth or Pills to Purge Melancholy, a suitable title for this music, which, concentrating on ‘Old Simon the King’. All in all, a good and lively collection of tunes to round off the evening !

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Report from Cheltenham Jazz Festival - Double bill with Roller Trio and Polar Bear

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23 May

I have tried to write this up before my recollections fade further... they have faded far enough...

Roller Trio comprises tenor sax, electric bass and drums, and they play with an assurance that cannot just come from knowing their material, but also from the unshowy musicality that seems to be the group’s ethos. Not that one will not be impressed by James Mainwaring’s riffs or the funky depths that Luke Wynter conjures up, but it is all of a piece from three guys (the third being drummer Luke Reddin-Williams), whose main aim clearly is to make music, rather than deliver solos.

In a way, we were spoilt to have a fifty-minute set from the trio and then one from quintet Polar Bear, but it did mean that certain things had to be left unexplored, and that neither band, knowing that they had to wind down early, could get into a seventy-five-minute groove.

Not that that came over in the trio's playing, but it probably limited their ambitions for what they could share - which is where I come back to saying that one had to regard this as a good chance to hear both bands. And I know that Roller Trio took the opportunity to do just that with Polar Bear, and then, because they were staying in the same hotel, had a chance to talk later.

It was the right way around to have Roller Trio first, as their sassy and less-extended numbers made an interesting contrast with the electro-acoustic sound-world that followed, of drawn-out and flexible sections, and with the thrill of two tenor saxes (Mark Lockheart, Pete Wareham) playing off each other.

Seb Rochford, drummer and the band’s almost self-deletingly frontman, introduced the three pieces that they had time for with a highly tentative wish that the audience ‘might feel something’. In my case, I had the sense of free navigation around structures that allowed saxes, electronics (Leafcutter John), bass (Tom Herbert) and drums to fit into their place and move around in them.

I am left hoping to see the bands again, maybe hear them on the radio before then, and to look into some of their recordings...

Both have web-sites, which are linked to Roller Trio (@RollerTrio) and Polar Bear (@polarbear_uk) for you

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Report from Beverley Early Music Festival - Trevor Pinnock

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25 May

Trevor Pinnock gave a solo harpsichord recital this lunchtime, which he clearly enjoyed immensely, and which led up to Bach's great Partita No. 4 in D Major, BWV 828, and even - unusually for the festival - two encores.

The programme had been constructed around the loose idea of the composers whom Spaniard Antonio de Cabezón would have encountered in his travels with his royal employer, in Britain and on the continent, and his own compositions were represented by the enchanting short variations Differencias sobre el canto del Caballero, with the notes on the pieces speculating that meeting de Cabezón, and learning about his music, may have inspired Tallis and Byrd to use variation form.

Byrd's The Bells, which we know from The Fitzwilliam Virginal Book, was masterfully delivered by Pinnock, and the very occasional off note could not take away from the expressiveness and energy of his performance. He played it as a group with pieces by Tallis and John Bull (also from the Fitzwilliam collection) : the text which 'O ye tender babes' sets is not known, but it was very tender, and the third piece combined inventiveness with a variety of moods and impulses, which Pinnock brought out beautifully.

Further connections are these : Bull knew Sweelinck, who was the forerunner in the North German school of organ to its great son Bach, and Bach had the score of Frescobaldi's Fiori musicali in his library, whose Balletti I and II (from another collection) Pinnock played his next. He said that, to general amusement, that although no one knows what a balletto, this is definitely one. He also described the movements as sometimes just being seconds of music (which should have put me in mind of Webern), and they combined melodic variation with very different styles of music, which derive from dance-forms.

Playing from scores, Pinnock nevertheless showed in the subtlety of his interpretation that he knew them very, very well. It was clear that he had an intimate sense of how, musically, the movements belonged together and informed each other, particularly in the Partita, whose Ouverture he not only engaged with at the level of its structure and what was to follow, but also in the detail of phrasing, the interplay of the voices, and of sound quality and texture.

The delicacy of the Aria was heartfelt, because Pinnock grounded his playing in it and its tender emotions, and its feeling nourished the unfolding of the remaining movements, especially the towering Gigue with which the Partita concludes. The audience's applause was unceasing, and kept bringing the harpsichordist back onto the stage.

Closing with a piece by Henry Purcell (a keyboard miniature of an aria from King Arthur ?) and Scarlatti's Sonata in E Major, K. 380, we had, in mircrocosm again, the deft command over the rhythmic and emotional detail that had been the essence of Pinnock's playing. A delightful concert that left many a warm smile behind.

Friday, 17 May 2013

The mome-rath sings

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17 May

It may be evident to outsiders that I follow Lucy Sixsmith's blog, Mome Raths and Mended Rhymes.

Very modestly, in a recent posting and the present one (Not Being A Poet (Again) : Not NaPoWriMo), Lucy has suggested that she was unsuccessful with the suggestion to write a poem in each of April's thirty days for National Poetry Writing Month.

However, I very much like the (sequence of ?) eight resultant poems, and how they evoke what I understand to have been a time in the last year or so in Moscow, and will read them again at a more leisurely pace - but, as I have commented, they do draw one in !

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Why we should listen to Cloud Atlas (2012)…

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16 May

I begin with some Tweets :

@theagentapsley I'm good, but tired. But I'm now somewhat scared by the meat eating piggies!

Maybe, @barackobama, but Asimov and others wrote about The Greenhouse Effect DECADES ago - was it just OK on other Planets ?! #Ostriches

Thesis : Any good ‘literature’, something that – in the broadest sense – we can just read, or choose to read deeply in, yields understanding.

It could be Measure for Measure, about which Peter Brook spoke last night (in conversation with @DrMatthewSweet on @bbcNightWaves). Brook’s right about its depths, of course : it’s a play that I haven’t thought about in a long time, but, with its shady Duke, shadier Angelo, dubious Friar, and its Isabella, who wrestles with accepting how the world is to save her brother Claudio, it has heaps to tell us about our own time(s) !

Significant interjection Stuff the people who, intellectually*, reject the term ‘emotional intelligence’ – being truly understanding about the emotional life of ourselves and of this world is a form of intelligence, that some scorn to own, lack, or haven’t learnt to use !

They are the ones who fail to employ the patent wisdom of Pascal’s wager, because they wrongly think it only relevant to belief in God through Jesus Christ : such is not just emotional ignorance, but intellectual suicide through philistinism. At school, geography (and my reading in Asimov and the like) told me all about The Population Explosion and The Greenhouse Effect.

Years later, how can politicians** tell us that this has become a problem, when (for example) US Presidents have quite deliberately ignored the truth for years : the truth being, not whether climate change is or is not a reality, but that – in accordance with the wager – one has to act / believe, because, if one doesn’t, it will be too late by the time that one’s scepticism is proved wrong.

Why didn’t those Presidents act ? Sheer political self-interest in the face of the car lobby, i.e. the manufacturers, drivers, gasoline merchants, petrochemical industries, geologists, and all those who propel the resistant forces against change or invest (financially, emotionally or intellectually) in the status quo. With four-year Presidential terms, who was going to screw their hopes or those of their party ?

You’re gonna miss that train, if you don’t leave now. Who speculates on the possibility of supraluminal travel to get him or her to the station as the train is parting ? Who except abusers, crudely put, fuck their children’s and other generations’ future by selfish inaction to retain power ?

The message of Cloud Atlas, of (at the heart of the film) Sonmi-451, played beautifully and with great inner sensitivity by Doona Bae, opposes such greed, such mean-spiritedness, such lack of human-kindness. We need cultural messages such as this one to overcome our base, venial and mean-minded inclinations and to look to the interests of others – whoever they may be, seen or unseen…


* And do so on the level of Intellectual Intelligence, i.e. little better than Mental Masturbation, the game that we can all play with reality : good sex is an escape from how terrifying life can be, in my view, and masturbation (when only bad or no sex presents itself) is, as Woody Allen’s script for Annie Hall (1977) has it, ‘sex with the person I love [most / best].

And, people who knocked To Rome with Love (2012), is the failure and condemnation of the Nazi-styled opera vindication of his lovely parody in the guy who can only sing well in the shower ?!

** Arguably, rooted only in getting re-elected, not frightening the frail and frightenable electorate with awkward truths that might have them do things differently, which they don’t want, of course.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Me and Theresa May

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15 May

Here is a response to part of what Theresa May is reported as having said (in @guardian) :


15 May 2013 3:51pm


I believe all these proposals will make a real difference to police officers on the ground. But ultimately police officers need the assurance that vulnerable people with mental health problems will be dealt with by health and social care services, not the police.

Not for the first time, a Secretary of State not knowing what he or she is talking about :

If a person is 'liable to be detained' (i.e. before formally taken to a psychiatric unit, or having 'absconded'), or someone enters premises under s. 135 Mental Health Act 1983, the police have the specific job of, in some cases, of 'conveying' the person liable to be detained to the unit, but anyway of bringing back absconders and breaking into premises.

In fact, the police are all over the 1983 Act - talking about s. 136 is just the usual knee-jerk, ill-thought-out rash promise of change in the hope of not doing anything (much) before the General Election, and just because of having to in the light of the Adebowale report.

An average of 11 deaths per year just for The Met is shocking. However, does anyone care about the routine level of deaths on in-patient units ? :

It would be helpful to have some figures cited for this rate of mortality, if collated figures exist (Care Quality Commission ?), before assuming that (a) this is simply a problem of the police (with s. 136) having to do what they shouldn't do, or (b) is less mismanaged by 'health and social services', or that those services' practices are any better than those of The Met...

The efficacy of what are called Community Treatment Orders (CTOs) - The Agent comments

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15 May

I added this comment the other day to this, a report on the @Mental_Elf web-site (by Kathryn Walsh) called Community treatment orders fail to reduce psychiatric readmissions for people with psychosis :

One of the criteria for the trial is said to be ‘capacity to give consent’.

I wonder whether this is ‘a red herring’, if the seeming legal niceties of ‘putting someone’ (as it is often put) on a Community Treatment Order (CTO) are not actually observed.

From professional experience*, I believe that the legal opinion has been expressed that it is possible under Mental Health Act 1983 (as amended), and without a patient ‘applying for’ it, for him or her to be given section 17 leave to, say, a care home or a non-NHS specialist unit. (I am thinking of someone on s. 3.)

In theory, if hospital authorities needed to, ‘reasonable force’ could be used to oblige him or her to go. Forget how ‘untherapeutic’ that is, because the general regime of psychiatric units (e.g. locked wards, compulsion as to ‘treatment’ under the Act – usually an injection, and the dehumanizing environment and attitudes) can hardly be conceived of as therapeutic – or, when it is not that, it is cajoling, coercing, wheedling and blackmailing to seek (a form of) compliance.

Almost certainly, someone whose consideration for a CTO is ‘triggered’ by the Act (e.g. by application or referral to a First-Tier Tribunal, or at the time of contemplating s. 17 leave) will have been plenty depersonalized and demoralized by all of this already, before one even gets in sniffing distance of a formal meeting ‘to consider’ the Order.

Where the Principle of Least Restraint then (not least if no one cannot work out whether it is the CTO regime or that of s. 17, including the example that I gave above, that amounts to least restraint) ?

Patients who have already been brutalized by a place such as I describe (and will typically lack self-confidence and self-esteem), even if formally given the choice to consent to an Order [I understand that they aren't actually 'Orders', and the question of consent is more honoured 'in the breach', I gather], have no obvious reason to say No, when it means that they can go home.

(I believe that anyone would snatch at going home, whatever they are asked to agree to, because he or she (wrongly, I think, because not informed) assumes that it is that, or staying put.)

No reason obvious to the patients, then. If they were properly and independently advised as to (a) being able to say No, and (b) What, if they did say No, would be the Responsible Clinician’s (RC’s) options then, the position might be different :

If the RC cannot secure agreement from the patient to meet the conditions that are sought and / or the Approved Mental Health Professional (AMHP) won’t countermand the Order, there is still a position to fall back onto, i.e. s. 17 leave, or even discharge (since there no longer is supervised discharge).

But how many patients oppose a CTO ? How many think – more relevantly, are told – what happens, if they state openly that they will not comply with the conditions, rendering the notion of putting them on an Order ‘dead in the water’ ?

The RC has beds ‘to unblock’, considering a CTO is forced by certain events, but, if the patient is patently saying No, what will the RC do ?

So an Order is effectively dangled, and capacity to consent is really falsified : the patient is not allowed to weigh up whether to agree to the conditions for a CTO in compliance with the test under the Mental Capacity Act 2005 (as amended) simply because he or she is almost certainly not given the full information, which, if he or she had, could be understood and applied.

In truth, I think that the real scenario of a CTO coming about is having huge debts, but being marched down to a bank and told that you need a personal loan from that specific bank.

So not told any safeguards, e.g. that :

(a) the bank can advise only on its own products, and there may be other products

(b) even if the borrower won the Lotto that night and could pay back the loan, interest is charged up front;

(c) there are arrangement fees;

(d) the Bank of Mum and Dad is only too willing to help out, etc., etc.

Such a transaction, if challenged, wouldn’t stand up to the Financial Services Authority (FSA). For me, the way that CTOs are ‘secured’ is no better, but there is no adequate FSA, and patients affected are unlikely to have recourse to one, because they just ‘wanted to go home’.


* There is a little more about that experience here in relation to mental health advocacy.

Experience, though noon auctoritee

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15 May (Posted at Paddington Station)

So Geoffrey Chaucer had the Wife of Bath say. Chaucer was a poet, but also a civil servant, diplomat, ambassador (Ambassador, you’re spoiling us !), and knew a bit about life, and Boccaccio, French dream-poetry, Latinate Christian philosophy…

His Boke of the Duchess, so magical, mysterious, moving – this persona he developed of a slow-witted dreamer, a little resembling Dante’s of himself in the Comedia, but less knowing, more innocent, and so stumbling across the man whom we suppose to be the inconsolable John of Gaunt (a nearby golf-club is named after John), weeping over the death of Blaunche.

Does Chaucer tells us, in the guise of the Wife of Bath, that we keep making the same ‘mistakes’, falling in love with the same woman, with a dream of a woman, the scent (or ghost) of a woman* ? Probably, as he has so much to say that I don’t know why people don’t seem to read him more – how about Brush up your Chaucer – start quoting him now !, and, if I weren’t drawn to that story about the man in black, I’d go to his House of Fame :

We think, in this emotionally, mentally and financially impoverished world, that we know it all, with our smartphones, Internet**, and high-frequency trading. I suspect that Chaucer knew more in the fourteenth century, if we just hear what the poet has to say about spin, smear, slander – forget The Prince, for this man really knew what power and repute / reputation are, and how they are won, lost, granted and revoked.

So, in what remains of May, I’m going back to these works, to witness Chaucer - as wordsmith - wrestle with sleep, meet a goddess all in white, overhear the birds pairing up, and, if I’m finally up to it, let him tell me how to use an astrolabe***…


* Only a dirty-minded woman (such as one with whom I once worked…) would think that an obscenely crude film-title.

** I knew someone else who aspirated it – is it really, though, the Hindernet (the technological equivalent of Hindemith), full of Blind Alleys, Red Herrings, Love-on-a-Stick ?

*** The woman in the first end-note should heed : if you don’t know what an astrolabe is, don’t make up some coarse idea !

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Report from Cheltenham Jazz Festival - Was that really two duos ?

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12 May

Don't get me wrong...

If the set had been broadcast, and so you couldn't see Neil Yates on stage and unable to make / find an opening in what Marius Neset was doing, maybe you'd not have noticed his absence from the texture - or assumed that he smoked and had wandered off for a roll-up, etc., etc.

Don't get me wrong also...

What Neset (with or without Dave Stapleton) and fellow Norwegian Daniel Herskedal were doing / playing was just fine, but, for stretches that felt awkward for me, it did make Yates' being there redundant.

(Herskedal's solo number on tuba with pedal-invoked multi-tracking was great, but, as I suggest, all too symptomatic of the Brito-Norwegian divide between audience left and right.)

Don't get me wrong finally...

Of course, a quartet doesn't have to be playing on all four cylinders at once, but if a member (or two) of the personnel might as well be down the pub... Maybe Neset thought that the photo from the Cheltenham Jazz Festival web-site gave him licence 'to take charge', as if it were a replication of his own quartet :

Overall, whatever the curatorship of @fionatalkington hoped for and strong sax apart, more like the Cheltenham Double than the Edition Quartet ?


On her blog, @maryleamington had this reaction to Neset and the quartet :

But on Saturday night we saw another Marius (last glimpsed in Flight by Dave Stapleton at St George’s Brandon Hill last year), unexpectedly fragile, human, reflective. Just as a Michelangelo sculpture moves us as its strength appears out of simple form (I am thinking of his unfinished Slaves here), so Marius has the same effect on me. The Edition Quartet is a perfect ensemble – Dave Stapleton on piano, Neil Yates on trumpet, Daniel Herskedal on tuba and Marius on saxophones.

Leamington, rightly impressed by Neset in himself, calls the Edition Quartet perfect - however, I thought of the track Secret World from Peter Gabriel's album US (which is where I started) :

Divided in two
Like Adam and Eve

The Agent Apsley on depression

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12 May

To open* :

Since I Tweeted this, I shall say more (to @stephenfry, or - as he may not - anyone who cares to listen) :

What did this refer to ? :

Depression isn't a straightforward response to a bad situation, depression just is, like the weather.

Where I saw it, it wasn't properly punctuated (unlike here), and no source was given (true elsewhere) :

Excuse the poor quality of another's reproduction of his letter, but it seems that he wrote something similar, just at more length, to someone called Crystal seven years ago (10 April 2006**), shown at

But is Fry right, or do such analogies hamper us 'getting to grips with' the negative thinking, patterns of self-depreciation, and modes of cataclysmic reaction, which might make life better, in time ?

If I'm wrong - and Fry's right - then people like Wilhelm Reich with his cloud-busting*** just has no place in a world where a crap day is a crap day, but it will pass... Forget Reich, but, as some will also know, clouds can be seeded - and so, in this respect, we can manipulate when (and so where) rain will fall.

That doesn't destroy Fry's analogy : it's the message, though, of sheer helplessness that he seems to convey in :

In the same way that one has to accept the weather, so one has to accept how one feels about life sometimes.

You'd think that no one (who can afford to) spends the winter in (what they hope will be) warmer climes - or even just (with a car) drives out of the rain (or into it, for that matter).

Staying with this powerlessness of just waiting for things to get better, or just feeling myself going low and allowing it to happen, is not what I spent a dozen or so sessions with a psychologist for, or why I read parts of Paul Gilbert's book Overcoming Depression, about compassion, self-hatred, and the like. 

No, I believe that @stephenfry's message is a negative and unhelpful one for anyone and everyone to hear - I have experienced being able to seed (or bust) those clouds, and I want to escape from this meteorological notion of the inevitably of depressions and cold fronts, which is, as far as I am concerned, not 'reality', as Fry claims, but barometric.


* Quoting the spirit of Words and Music, one of Beckettt's plays for radio.

** He seems to favour the ever-encroaching US format for dates... He also writes (about the weather) It isn't under one's control as to when the some [sic] comes out, but come out it will. One day.

*** An experience that Kate Bush alludes to in 'Running up that hill' (from the album Hounds of Love), probably drawing on Peter Reich's (Reich's son') book.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Report from Cheltenham Jazz Festival – Troyk-estra and Talk II

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11 May

That review (on 29 June 2009) (of the opening Troyka album by Martin Longley, which I talked about before) goes like this (with my added numbering in parenthesis - so that I can add facetious comments...) :

A transgressive sound, full of bent notes and shiny contortions

Troyka are yet another young London combo who are inhabiting (1) the increas-ingly (2) vibrant scene that's devoted to the uninhibited collision between jazz, rock, free improvisation and funky jamming. They're beaming off into a completely different direc-tion when compared to the work of keyboardist Kit Downes' previous band, Empirical. Downes has so far (3) been heard as an acoustic pianist, but in this setting (4) he concentrates on the organ, cranked up to its grittiest settings (5).

Troyka's other two members are not so familiar (6) on the jazz scene, but they're certainly empowered to excite (7). Guitarist Chris Montague and drummer Joshua Blackmore add to the forceful jazz-rock judder, with spiny constructions and shifty beats, as Downes jams (8)out on his electro-warbled keys. It's a transgressive sound, full of bent notes and shiny contortions (9), erupting with powerchords (10) and prog rock organ bursts, and even featuring the odd dose of bluesy bottleneck slide guitar.

The opening pair of tracks are so profoundly excessive in their pursuit of leaden riffage (11) that, for a while, subsequent (12) pieces can't help but feel restfully in-active by comparison. Tax Return contorts around an organ susurrus, with guitar that's by turns prickly and overloaded. It's not surprising that New Yorker Wayne Krantz is cited by the band as a heavy influence. The Frenchman Marc Ducret could be another contender as a guitaring forefather. Blackmore's drum patterns are highly detailed, the Troyka combination ending up as being at once avant (13) and visceral. The chunky organ flamboyance can't help but remind the listener of Soft Machine's Mike Ratledge. Even mightier, Clint must surely be dedicated to Mister Eastwood in Dirty Harry guise, with its extremely weighty powerchords (14) and bassy overhang (15).

The itchy time signatures continue (16), but most of the heavy artillery is reserved now until the album's closing tracks. A sinister bass padding dominates Bear, then Cajoch gets into some fidgety clenching (17). Twelve rains organ droplets, with a guitar that arcs up from vibrato-ed pings to the return of that earlier scalding sensation (18). The granite riffing (19) is sustained during Born In The 80s (20), but it's now alternating with a glowing sensitivity (21). With Noonian Song, Montague is getting into Krantz via the arcane tunings of composer Harry Partch, or maybe even the bendy tonalities of Fred Frith's table-top guitars.

The Agent's facetious comments

(1) Can one 'inhabit [... a] scene' ?

(2) Is the word 'increasingly' increasingly used when someone wants to claim some-thing is happening more - without telling you how much ?

(3) Is it obvious that this phrase is meant to mean when Downes was playing with Empirical ?

(4) Isn't 'setting' a word more used to describe a venue (or a venue's features) than a 'combo' ?

(5) Clumsy repetition of 'setting' ?

(6) Does this mean (a) 'less familiar', or (b) 'less familiar than Downes' ?

(7) Authorized to titillate ? Licensed to kill ?

(8) Overused (also in the first paragraph) ?

(9) We may know what a duck-billed platypus is, but what are 'shiny contortions' ?

(10) Whatever they may be - heavy note-clusters ?

(11) Is Leaden Riffage a village in Kent (a twin to Granite Riffing - please see (21), below) ?

(12) Posh way of saying 'later pieces' ?

(13) Posh way of saying 'before' ?

(14) Does repeating the 'word' (please see (10), above) help ?

(15) Huh ? A medical condition ?

(16) Whatever their itchiness may comprise, did I know that they'd started ?

(17) Couldn't they get some ointment for it ?!

(18) Which 'earlier scalding sensation' was that ?

(19) Eh ?!

(20) It may be intentional to confuse verbiage with the names of tracks (e.g. 'A sinis-ter bass padding dominates Bear, then Cajoch gets into some fidgety clenching'), but why does the track listing render this one as 'Born in the 80's' (apostrophe and fewer capitals) ?

(21) Is (a) the way in which the 'granite riffing' alternates glowingly sensitive, or (b) are some sections 'granite riffing' and alternating ones 'a glowing sensitivity'... ?

All in all, that panel in the talk on Music journalism in the 21st century might lead one to believe that a piece published by the BBC wouldn't be open to any such criticism - as I say, are they just protecting their backs, but not seeing the onslaught of those who write appreciations of live or recorded music in a different way from a traditional review ?

Report from Cheltenham Jazz Festival – Troyk-estra and Talk I

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11 May

Work in progress… - beware of a bumpy landing !

I have just read a review of Troyka’s debut album in 2009, which maybe I can import into this blog – it appears on the BBC web-site, and was written by Martin Longley.

If I can, I hope to draw on it to make some comments about the panel discussion (plus Q&A) that took place under the title ‘Music journalism in the 21st century’. It comprised four male contributors, amongst them the jazz critic of The Times (broadcaster Alyn Shipton (@AlynShipton), who also chaired the session), The Financial Times*, and the deputy editor of Jazzwise.

The fourth (who had written for The Birmingham Post) was the only one prominently introduced as blogging (and, yet, who talked fairly little about his blog, other than the freedom that it gave him to write about what he wanted, when not earning a living) :

All wanted to peddle a message of ‘If it was good enough for me…’ and ‘I had to work my way up’, littered with boasts of their writing and editorial skills and like kudos. In a way, of course, the typical defensive speech of those occupying posts that they don’t intend – wish, maybe ? – to vacate : Don’t bother to climb the greasy pole – if you do, I’m the resident bear at the top, so mind your neck !

Therefore predictable, and predictable that they would ‘take a pop at’ those whose blog postings extend beyond, as the case might be, the 375-, 500- or 1,000-word limits to which they have to work, or whose content (they believe = opinion ?) is not a review, but opinion.

It’s as if they (wildly ?) assume that the bloggers couldn’t do what they do – and write a 500-word review to deadline – to save their lives, just because the bloggers choose to do something else, for whatever reason – and, if people read what bloggers right instead, who is to say that they are wrong (except that it might endanger further the position of those paid to pen tight, tidy, and possibly tired traditional accounts of gigs or releases).

So much for the chaff. The grains were the usual ‘tips of the trade’ of Someone I’d once met said… or They asked me if I’d stand in when X was sick, and I’m still there 300 years later, the positive face of the negative slant previously given :

They approached me because they knew me, they only knew me because I do this sort of thing, and I only survive doing this sort of thing because I’m brilliant, which they wisely recognized.

I laugh, but it’s just like Hollywood stars (whether in their own eyes or not) who tell an audience :

I met Tom Hanks two years before, and then we were out of contact, but he rang me out of the blue when I’d just finished in The Cherry Orchard off Broadway and said he wanted me for the part of Scrooge

[Hanks did not happen to mention that he had not got Mel Gibson or Hugh Grant to take the part, or that Hanks’ agent had suggested approaching The Star because (if it genuinely was Hanks’ ‘shout’), at least, of industry-driven Factors a, b and c - more likely, The Star knew all of this, and this is the agreed concoction for the PR world that is ‘celebrity’ interview…]

Continued… (not in this posting, maybe in order not to offend the critics’ tender sensibilities !)


* Or was it The Sunday Times ? (I didn’t take notes, and I forget which.)

Friday, 10 May 2013

Mind what's going on ?

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10 May

Not sure what was going on there, as it was the Adebowale report on the Met and mental-health patients...

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Stephen Fry on depression

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10 May

It all started with this Tweet :

It sparked off :

And :

And - am I being quite reasonable ? - then :

Perhaps because I have lately disputed the common claim that mental ill-health isn't like a broken leg, which people can see - in my posting Mental ill-health is exactly like a broken leg !

Any thoughts, anyone ? Stephen Fry has (apparently)...

@theagentapsley Well I was speaking for/patronising myself actually.

Well, after Tony and Control, there's always that get-out, @stephenfry...

More here now...

Report from Cheltenham Jazz Festival - Claire Martin

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9 May

I never tire of Claire Martin's (@CMartinJazz's) gigs : the quality is consistently very high, the energy and love of jazz evident (along with appreciation of her fellow musicians, applause for whose solos she always encourages), and Claire is a very worthy holder of an OBE for services to this music, not least as a regular broadcaster on Radio 3's (@BBCRadio3's) Jazz Line-Up.

I was going to say that Gareth Williams is her unfailing pianist, forgetting for a moment that she did some duo performances with the much-loved and recently departed Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, one of which I caught at Concerts at King's in Cambridge. Gareth was, however, in her quartet, along with another regular, Laurence Cottle (on electric bass), and Mark Skelton (until now, I hadn't managed to find his surname, or identify him via Google®).

Perversely, when there is something that I love, I can be a bit D. H. Lawrence and find myself looking and hearing with an unconverted companion's eyes and ears, but there was absolutely nothing to disappoint, and, unlike what I felt about a jazz Clare whose gig I left after the first set, nothing stagey or false in Claire Martin. When she referred to Sir Richard, I could sense that she was welling up, and it was poignant to be reminded that he had died on Christmas Eve, and to learn how strange it felt that the CD of Irving Berlin that they had recorded was just about to come out.

It must be a good few years ago that I was joshing around with Claire and Gareth after they played at Anglia Ruskin University's Mumford Theatre (something about my being the only person with a pen when others, too, wanted a signed CD, and I also wanted to get Gareth to buy the CD of his that I had bought), and I know that how she is on stage is how she is - as some would say, no front.

So this was a lovely set from Claire, and no matter that I knew much of the content as the repertoire from her long list of CDs on the Linn label - not utterly in the same way that I can listen without tiring to Bach's great Mass in B Minor (BWV 232) or the great Handel arias, but it did not hurt to have heard Claire sing 'Love is a necessary evil' or 'Cheek to cheek' (her tribute to Sir Richard) before, or to learn that a song or two was by James Van Heusen*.

With someone who loves the songs that she sings in the way that one knows that Claire does (one feels it tangibly), and who can swing them this way or that as fits the occasion, a gig is a chance to meet old friends, be it the amazing finger-quickness of Gareth or of her other unfailing choices of collaborators, or the songs themselves, which, as she picks them as well, are full of goodness and freshness.

I see that Claire is doing a tour with a quartet of cellos, the Montpellier Quartet from Brighton, and I am just sad that I cannot be back in time to catch that particular date near me...


* I recall now that, not for the first time, Claire mentioned the singing of Julie London - must have a look at the content of the link that I've just put there...

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Anything you can do...

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8 May

In some places, like The Barbican, they have those stylized figures that tell you where you need to be - if you are lucky, and manage to decipher the trail of almost Belisha-like beacons that bear them.

In other places, foreign languages, other figures (faces in Café Rouge, as I recall), and sometimes still 'Ladies' and 'Gentlemen'. For no very obvious reason, elsewhere it is the claim that the toilet itself is 'male' or 'female'.

All very well in itself, but this labelling of segregated facilities (plus there are disabled* ones, which tend not to differentiate as to which sex may use them) makes one wonder whether labelling a toy as for boys means very much - after all, we will surely all have experience of desperation at a huge queue having women entering 'the male toilet', and no one is yet baulking at clothes being in sections for 'ladies' fashions' or 'gents' clothing'.

What gain, then, in not telling a three-year-old girl that she should simply ignore societal notions, if she wants to play with something whose marketing targets it at boys ? Will she not already have learnt to face this world of inequality, where the make-up and perfume department of Boots and of department stores makes it abundantly clear that these products are for her sex ? - can a boy justly infer that, although there are now products that are called male perfumes, essentially his choice is limited to a tiny range of 'aftershaves' ?

Some would have us believe that not labelling, say, a bead art set as 'for girls' would not only have the boys who don't already ignore such tosh (and play with what they want) flocking to do likewise, and they would then go on to do the jobs thought of as feminine, and vice versa : Read the debate on the blog of someone claiming to be Sam Candour, and see what you think...


* 'Disabled parking', to me, always sounds like somewhere that would be a parking space, but it has been shut off, i.e. the adjective seems to denote the status of the parking itself (versus 'enabled').

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

A word about legacies, cultural, scientific or otherwise

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7 May (revised, 2 October 2020)

A legacy, for all that people like to use the word when someone famous dies, just means a type of gift – specifically, a gift made on death, i.e. by will, and, unlike a devise (q.v.), typically money (if not an item of personal property).

To that extent, it is right to think of a legacy as a gift that relates to a person’s death, but it would only, say, be a true legacy if Richard Attenborough died, and he had decided to leave millions to fund the future of The Royal Court (a general legacy), or some valuable artwork, which it hangs (or stands) in its foyer (a specific legacy (or specific bequest)).

As it is, with the death of Ray Harryhausen, we are being urged to remember – if we ever knew that he had anything to do with it – his work on Star Wars, for example, but calling that a legacy cannot be even a figurative way of talking about what he did in his life :

1. Self-evidently, Harryhausen made that contribution decades ago,

2. Equally self-evidently, people built on it in the following months and years, and

3. Harryhausen's death did not make a gift of this and all the other things that he did for cinema, but, rather, it is a tribute or a memorial to him for people to be made aware of them

And why else do I question talking about a legacy per se ? Well, unlike a person who is free to refuse to accept a legacy or to give it to someone else, the contribution made by this director is more or less in the past – we can restore his or her films and hold retrospectives to re-evaluate them, but we can even do so when that person is alive (e.g. Tony Garnett at the @BFI), without waiting for death.

That embodies another reason that X’s legacy is the wrong way to think about it. If X leaves a gift, X specifies what the gift is, for it to go to A, and what A receives is – bad will-drafting apart – what X intended. So-called legacies in cultural, scientific, artistic worlds aren’t like that, because A. A. Milne and Tove Jansson did not choose to be remembered for their work for children, and that is more like treasuring some contributions and forgetting others.

In summary, Harryhausen probably did not try to choose what will be remembered, and film buffs urging this or that on us is more like a bossy treasuring, a curatorship of his life and (perceived) achievements, rather than a legacy.