The best thing about playing a pre-1980 set…

Last Friday it was a pleasure to be part of the launch of Leo Abrahams and Oliver Coates’ wonderful new album from Slip Discs Crystals Are Always Forming. I decided to play a short set of all pre-1980 and almost all electronic music.

I feel inclined to share my favourite discovery of the evening – that Brian Eno’s Ambient 1: Music for Airports 1/1 and Bernard Parmegiani’s Accidents – Harmoniques from De Natura Sonorum work extremely well when played simultaneously. Skeptical? – listen to a short extract below.


Woody Guthrie on Cage

A couple of months ago I gave a lecture as part of the COMA Summer Festival called Cage the melodist, harmonist and American traditionalist. This slightly contrary title was supposed to provide an introduction to a talk on the more apparently traditionally composed works of Cage and his connection with traditional American music of various kinds. At some point I’ll write the lecture up. I was delighted to find, when researching it, a letter from Woody Guthrie to the record company that released records of Cage’s prepared piano music. Tom Service has written about this in his excellent series on contemporary music in the Guardian. You can read that here. He’s kind enough to mention that I made him aware of this (when it might have been more representative to point out that I drunkly rambled on about it for ages instead – although his link certainly affected my blog traffic for a week or so though).

I particularly like the section of the letter when Guthrie describes his own piano experiments:

I remember when I was a kid, I used my grandma’s piano, a Price & Deeple, upright, to storm myself up all kinds of wars, fogs, storms, battles, courtings, growings, and love affairs.

Sounds like this could provide track titles for album.

You can read the article with this letter in the Stool Pigeon here.

The lecture was also partly inspired by a recording that intersperses the Cage 1950 Melodies for Violin and Keyboard Instrument and a 13 Harmonies for Violin and Keyboard Instrument which is a Cage endorsed 1985 Roger Zahab arrangement of 5 of  the Harmonies from Apartment House 1976 (1976) and eight of the Hymns and Variations (1979). Although not to everyone’s taste I love this recording for the beautiful playing, inevitable glitches from close mic-ing and the sound of the Fender Rhodes. It’s performed by Annelie Gahl and Klaus Lang and you can read more about it at Discogs here.

Flight of sounds – a few images

Flights of sound was great fun and was an intimate close to the Tatton Biennial. It was a pleasure to have such committed performances from Tom McKinney and Jane Chapman and I was particularly please to hear A Fire-Island Sky at its extremely delayed premiere played twice in two beautiful Tatton Rooms. I don’t have any images of that but I do have some others including Aura’s spectacular graphic score which provided the backbone to Jane’s improvisation. It was lowered and raised by means of a bespoke cast iron hand-wound contraption and was an affecting contrast with Tatton’s splendour, faded or otherwise.

Supporting Mark Fell on 27th June for slip discs

Going to be performing for slip discs later this month alongside Points of Light and others all supporting Mark Fell. This should be a great night out. I’m putting together a new set which I’m hoping to be entirely different from my concert music and the house of bedlam. Planning for this to be a very flexible lineup but on the 27 June I’ll be joined by Oliver Coates and Harry Percy. Expect some originals and new music incorporating snippets of David Bowie, Cat Stevens, Frédéric Chopin and others. You can buy tickets here. You can see Mark Fell play live for £5. Why wouldn’t you?