Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Paul Bright's Third Day

At the end of their reconstruction of Paul Bright's Confessions of a Justified Sinner, Untitled Projects repeat the familiar myth of Bright's disappearance. The story goes that Bright walked out on the final production of the series, leaving his ambitious project incomplete and his legacy to be erased, gradually, from the annals of Scottish performance. While George Anton, who performed as Bright's 'sinner' (as well as being his close friend), director Stewart Laing and playwright Pamela Carter give him a heart-warming memorial, it doesn't replace the fact that this tidy obituary is simply not true.
Far from freaking out, as most people assume, or even disappearing into some hinterland of mental ill-health, Bright's sabotage of the last performance was premeditated and deliberate. Bright was not just the angry young punk that the archive footage captured, or the man driven by his love of Hogg's seminal Scottish novel. He was also an artist who destroyed the thin line between creation and life. Having shattered the fourth wall by staging the fourth performance as a rave, the finale leapt beyond mere drama and provoked a mystery that was so far beyond the aesthetics of the late 1980s that the theatre community punished it by consigning it to oblivion.

Throughout the monologue, George mentions Bright's disgust at the theatre establishment, and his passion for a 'real' immersive performance. It's no accident that Bright's later years were spent in Belgium - the energy he sought has mostly been found in the theatre coming from Ghent during the past twenty years - but his disgust with Scottish theatre was only intensified by his dalliance with success. Having been given a slot in the Edinburgh International Theatre, he recognised the audience's refusal to grapple with serious issues. When he walked away from Confessions, he consigned himself to the margins because he was not willing to join in the middle-class jamboree of 1990's City of Culture.

It is perhaps the ultimate irony that Bright would have found Untitled's tribute to him repulsive. Intelligent, well structured and moving, it is performed in a venue that Bright would have been the perfect director to inhabit, Tramway. George is compelling in retelling the stories and myths that surround Bright, and Laing's curation of the limited archive is eloquent.

Bright's distaste for the immaculate order that makes the reconstruction so evocative was reflected in both the stagings of the Confessions and the series of pamphlets that he produced in the 1990s. Whether Untitled deliberately ignored these publications, or never came across them is moot - since they were hand distributed and published pseudonymously, they are even more occult than the original plays. Bright turned his back on theatre, and followed the precedent of his hero Hogg. He became a satirist, churning out brief essays on apparently unconnected subjects.

Bright's afterlife would have been more recognisable had it begun in the 2000s - he was effectively a blogger before the internet took hold. Yet unlike the contemporary blogger, his writings held a consistent tone, an agenda. He spent ten years in a form of internal exile, attacking the commodification of culture.

Although I don't have a complete set of his pamphlets - I discovered five of them when I spent some time sorting through Tramway's archive, without realising their importance - three of them directly address his reasons for abandoning theatre. He never explicitly mentions his productions and it is only through watching the reconstruction that I realised how directly he was critiquing his own work.

The first paragraph of the first pamphlet sets out his position immediately, before he makes a series of eerily accurate predictions about the future of Scottish culture. By the second pamphlet that I possess - dated six months later, but possibly not the second publication, he makes a bold rejection of Confessions, the novel.

When I was a child, I saw things as a child. The tempestuous battle between good and evil, and evil's facility for the corruption of the good towards its own ends. I believed it was possible for the symbolic representation of these forces to be shown,that their earthly dominions could be made visible through the blowing of smoke over their invisible forms. The hog's eye view of the world, Satan walking abroad and blocking the divine light, the actors in this cosmic drama... the theology of ages past held good enough if not to lead Men towards the Righteous Dwelling but to retain some sacred meaning.

The portentous tone gradually gave way to more mundane, but incisive criticisms. Having seen a production of Marlowe's Faustus, he would observe the ridiculousness of contemporary theatre trying to use an outdated 'cosmic architecture' to explore modern morality. 'I can even sense Marlowe's own atheism in the burlesque of God and Devil,' he commented. 'Why on earth would an intelligent modern director imagine that this could shed light on the evils of today?'

Across these first two pamphlets, Bright bemoans the shift in contemporary thought that 'so readily abandons the past. The shared beliefs of nations are now reduced to an embarrassed archaeology. Confessions is being taught in schools, but to what end? It provides no moral instruction. The book is about the corruption caused by self-righteous Christianity, hardly a topic unfamiliar to those within and without the kirk. Elevated to the status of natural treasure, it is stripped of its revolutionary power.'

In later pamphlets, Bright points to a new literary hero: the Argentinean short story writer Borges. Following on from his dismissal of Hogg's theology as 'a historical curiosity,' it's unsurprising that he shifted his allegiance to a writer who indulges such curiosities. The third pamphlet (dated five years after the second) begins with what appears to be Bright's enthusiasm for a return to theatre.

In Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius I can see the outline of the ultimate performance,' he notes, before describing something that sounds suspiciously like the immersive events of You Me Bum Bum Train. Having already tinkered with blurring the line between actor and performer during Confessions, his ideal was 'to make the audience question whether they were, in fact, reciting lines already written.

By the end of the pamphlet, he has rejected the concept. 'The great rewriting of the world described in the story has already been done,' he complains. 'The creative community of Scotland has never realised that the real creative minds joined the Conservative Party and we are all actors in their drama now. It's a shame that their ambition was so petty.'

The fifth pamphlet is the most incendiary - undated, but referring back to 'previous missives' - and addresses the arts community in a language familiar from the prophet Jeremiah. A series of apparently disconnected paragraphs (most of them beginning with the phrase 'woe to the...'), it is a litany of complaints. He attacks the idea of arts funding ('woe to the artist paid by the state, for their work shall be propaganda'), the critical establishment ('woe to the reviewers, for their words shall be consigned to the rear of the newspaper... removed from the news and an idle entertainment for those who are more sophisticated than intelligent'), science ('woe to the scientist, for their ideas will be spoken by those who understand them not') and the church ('woe to the choir for they are having gay sex and the pastor who abuses women... there had better not be any real believers who would walk with those in trouble, regardless of their sexual orientation or state of intoxication.')

This pamphlet connects most obviously to Bright's attitudes recounted by Anton: the resistance to tame theatre, that hides its colonialist arrogance behind a mock spirituality. It also reveals some degree of humour, and an author happy in his new role. The lines about the church are, in fact, rewritings of a rap song, translated from African American vernacular into something more formal. Bright's rosary of objects are laced together with a delicious irony,and he clearly revels in his prophetic persona. 

This brief survey of Bright's continued work in the 1990s acts as a sort of post-show discussion on Untitled's reconstruction. Although it challenges the conclusions of Laing - the final show is a sort of crucifixion of the artist, and his pamphlets suggest he rose on the third day. It also leads me into a very difficult confession of my own.

Having found these documents, I know that Bright's death in 2010, as described in the play and providing the impetus for Laing's sterling archive investigations, is another fiction. Whether Bright manufactured this is not clear: he hasn't told me. And there's the confession - not only can I claim that Bright is alive, he is a regular reader of my blog. I know that he is reading these words, because he regularly emails me to point out gaps in my understanding of Scottish theatre history.

This opens up another question. While Laing has gone a long way to remind Scotland of this lost genius, there is a danger that so engaging a production will convert Bright's awkwardness into another aspect of Scotland the Brand. In particular, Glasgow has a habit of polishing rough edges into smooth consumer objects, enjoying the edginess but taming them into something safe for the picture frame. If Bright is championed again, he could become another version of No Mean City, supposedly authentic and tough but as dangerous as a Hollywood rebel. 

Bright knows what he wants his legacy to be. He's clear: 'a theatre that is about now. That is not the property of a liberal class, who are entertained by hard ideas but never let them touch them. Don't get the joke. Don't be an insider unless everyone is an insider.'

The Horror, The Horror

For a critic who prides himself on being a champion of the avant-garde, I seem to have written a great deal about The Rocky Horror Show. I interviewed writer Richard O'Brien before he set sail for his
'retirement' in New Zealand - he was completely charming and intriguing. I reviewed the previous production, and heard all sorts of stories about how the fans identified with the performers. Back when I was at school, there was a cult around the show, based mostly on doing the Timewarp in the common room. 

I'm probably old enough to realise that it was still subversive back then. 

I'll admit to a fondness for the production: in the light of Simon Reynold's Retromania, it reads as an early blast of 'nostalgia for the future': O'Brien designed it from the detritus of 1950s' science fiction and rock'n'roll's great ambitions. In the interview I did with him for The Skinny, he suggested that the anti-hero, Frank, represents a demonic figure, and the plot is basically a rip-off of that bit out of Genesis with the snake and and apple.

It sits between those juke-box musicals I hate - the songs are hits, but not stolen from a popular artist - and the more adventurous musicals like Avenue Q that don't fear a spot of subversion. Why, only last night the writer of Cannibal Women from Mars admitted its influence.

To be honest, I don't need to say much about it - it's coming back to the KIng's Theatre, Glasgow. Press release, finish my work....

Following the huge success of T 40th Anniversary Production at the King’s Theatre Glasgow in February and March 2013, the production is triumphantly returning between 6 – 10 August 2013 as part of its year-long run. Dani Harmer, finalist of Strictly Come Dancing 2012 and star of Tracy Beaker, will play the role of Janet. Ben Forster, who won the ITV1 series Superstar and then went on to play the lead in Jesus Christ Superstar, will star alongside Dani in the role of Brad. West End actor Oliver Thornton, follows in the footsteps of Tim Curry starring as the lead character of Frank ‘n’ Furter. Christopher Luscombe, who is the director of The Rocky Horror Show 40th Anniversary production, will play the role of the Narrator in his first acting role for over a decade.

Since its first appearance at the Royal Court Theatre in June 1973, Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show has become the world’s favourite Rock N’ Roll musical. It has been performed worldwide for nearly 40 years in over 30 countries in every continent and has been translated into more than 20 languages. To celebrate the 40th anniversary, Christopher Luscombe has created a new production for a year-long UK tour.

The Rocky Horror Show tells the story of Brad and his fiancée Janet, two squeaky clean college kids who meet Dr Frank ’n’ Furter by chance when their car breaks down outside his house, whilst on their way to visit their former college professor. It is an adventure they’ll never forget, with fun, frolics, frocks, and frivolity, bursting with timeless songs and outrageous outfits. Directed by Christopher Luscombe, The Rocky Horror Show is a guaranteed party, which famously combines science-fiction, horror, comedy and music and encourages audience participation meaning, of course, getting dressed in your most outrageous fancy dress.

The Rocky Horror Show was first performed on 19 June 1973 at the Royal Court Theatre. It was an immediate success, transferring to three London theatres. It was transformed into a film in 1974 called ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’. This film adaptation took over $135 million at the Box Office and is still shown in cinemas around the world 38 years after its premiere, making it the longest running theatrical release in film history.

The Rocky Horror Show
Tue 6th – Sat 10 Aug
Tue – Thu eves , 8pm
Wed, Fri & Sat 5.30pm & 8.30pm

Monday, 24 June 2013

Man of Steel, Woman of Bugs

From another production of the same play
My venerable colleague in criticism, Mr Michael Cox, took me to see Man of Steel. While I do not like to complain about anything that attended with a friend, I spent quite a bit of the film wondering whether Zack Snyder realises quite how many phallic symbols he includes in his movies. I mean, there are bound to be a few, but encasing general Zod inside a flying dildo is pushing it.

When I had finished shouting after the film, Michael and I fell into familiar conversations about theatre. At one point, he asked me how many plays I could name by Tennessee Williams. This is not some sort of macho challenge game that critics play ('I'll see your twenty Aeschylus plays and raise you a trilogy') but part of a discussion about the relative hit rates of 'great artists.'

I managed to name about five.  He did a few more than that. The point being, even the Big Names of theatre had more duds than scores.

This makes it easy enough to discover a Williams play that has not been done before. 3Bugs, coming straight out of Birmingham, have got a short one, The Pink Bedroom, which is part of their season at the Fringe.

Although Cox makes a good point about the hit rate of the average successful writer, I still wish the Fringe had more of this kind of programming: rare plays by people I think I know. Admittedly, The Pink Bedroom  has got a little bit of that old Williams heat about it. Pairing it with Wuthering Heights makes it clear: let's get into some of that nasty passion.

Last year, 3Bugs did The Bloody Chamber - they like some hardcore action. Bring it on, Fringe 2013...


Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2013

The Morning After Season: Wuthering Heights & The Pink Bedroom

The Morning After Season: two shows marked by carelessness, affected by loss and sobered by the morning after.
Wuthering Heights ‘I am Heathcliff! He's always ... in my mind: Not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself, but as my own being.’ (Catherine, Wuthering Heights)

Set amongst the heath and harebells, Brontë's novel tells the tale of the enduring, passionate and ultimately destructive love of Heathcliff and Catherine. Presented with a modern twist, 3BUGS presents a version of Wuthering Heights, which re-situates this classic story to the unfulfilled generation of the 1980s.

‘Heathcliff and Catherine truly embodied the idea that existence isn’t pure or idealised, but wild, passionate, cruel, and powerful.’ Redbrick

The Pink Bedroom ‘The Pink Bedroom ... worse than drink or drugs.’ (Tennessee Williams)

Following its UK premiere in 2008, 3BUGS presents the rarely performed, one-act Tennessee Williams play that explores the declining relationship between a man and a woman who are reduced by desire to nothing other than a 'lump of flesh' and a cloying pink bedroom. This leaves her confronted with the question: can a mistress ever be entitled to as much as a wife?

theSpace on the Mile
2-24 August (not 4, 11, 18). Previews 2 & 3 August
Performed in alteration. Wuthering Heights 5 August, The Pink Bedroom 6 August

WE will be FREE

Playwright and actor Neil Gore is no fool. Realising how busy most critics will be, he moved beyond the typical press release and sent out a series of questions and answer sessions. I am impressed by the way he did it: the questions he answered are precisely the ones that I would have asked about his production We Will Be Free!

Apart from the ones I would have asked to get him to say how lovely Dorset is, and how Marxism has blighted the leftist revolutionary tradition, of course.

Set in 1834, WE WILL BE FREE! follows the extraordinary story of George and Betsy Loveless. He was a Methodist minister and the leader of the six Dorset farm labourers who were tried, convicted and condemned to harsh transportation by an oppressive Government for having the temerity to swear a secret oath and form a secret union to fight against a succession of wage cuts inflicted by the local landowner.

As this fast and furious story that defined the emergence of Trades Unionism and Chartism unravels, we see how the arch tyrant-in-chief James Frampton, local squire and magistrate springs the trap, how Lord Melbourne, Home Secretary delights in ordering dodgy legal proceedings, how labourer Edward Legg betrays the Martyrs and how the judiciary revel in the use of his evidence to condemn the Martyrs to imprisonment and transportation to Australia. 

We see too the anguish of their families and the subsequent howl of protest and the battle for their reprieve. Through it all we see how events affected the lives and relationship of George and Betsy and how it strengthened their religious and political resolve. Through following Betsy in particular, we see how the world is opened up to her and how she becomes politicised by the events and how she joins the fight to bring back her husband from transportation and participates in the beginnings of the fledgling Labour movement.

WHY STAGE THE PLAY AS A TWO-HANDER?Turning the epic story of the Tolpuddle Martyrs into a successful play for two has been immensely challenging and very rewarding. Like our first production of THE RAGGED TROUSERED PHILANTHROPISTS, it’s a bright combination of action and storytelling, using as many different theatrical devices as possible to surprise and keep the audience on their toes.

It being a two-hander has given us the adaptability and flexibility to enable us to reach a huge audience cross-section by playing vastly different venues, from major Regional Main-house Theatres or their Studio spaces, to Arts Centres or Village Halls and Community Centres, as well as Labour and Working Men's Clubs.

In a way, making the show a two-hander means that many restrictions are actually lifted. By its very nature the production becomes altogether a more theatrical event. It can’t be a version of the story that includes every character and incident around the Martyrs' story, so we have focused on the main characters of George and Betsy Loveless, the main protagonists and the major incidents of the story - so corners are not so much cut, as embellished in a theatrical way. 

 It means too that our resourses are channelled into making the production values of our work as good as possible so that the theatrical experience for the audience is all-round: acting, set, lighting, theatrical trickery and design and music all contribute to a 'Good Night Out.'

WHAT CAN AN AUDIENCE EXPECT FROM THE PRODUCTION? Building on Towns End Productions' entertaining theatrical style, packed with surprises, that was developed through our first production, The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, we will tell this vitally important story using live music, powerful songs of the time with political cartoon, animation and puppetry. The actors will play all the characters and perform at break-neck pace to present this story that resonates with modern relevance, raising questions about present day political issues through the experiences of the past.

HOW RELEVANT IS THE PLAY FOR TODAY?The play serves as a reminder of the key issues faced by workers and people of the country today: increased casualisation of the workforce, diminishing rights at work, individual contracts that ignore pensions and overtime, frozen or reduced wages, cuts to public services, wilful destruction of the welfare system and the hopelessness of poverty. 

The union Unite are at the forefront of raising awareness of these issues using education and theatre as a means of stirring people into action and challenging the inequalities that workers face, particularly agricultural workers now that the Agricultural Workers Board, that monitored and set wages and working conditions for farm workers, has recently been abolished by the ConDem Coalition Government.

The play serves as a reminder of times when people joining together to argue their cause for equality and justice had a tremendous impact despite not having the ability to vote in a democratic election. It reveals the beginnings of a politicisation of the mass of working people, rights that were fought for, and that we should make sure we do not lose.

HOW INVOLVED HAVE THE UNIONS BEEN IN THE PRODUCTION? The Tolpuddle Martyrs' story is the most important for the Trade Union movement and most of the unions have been extremely supportive of the production and have offered their support through small donations to enable us to build the set, get the costumes and so on and also tour and promote the show around the country. We will perform the show at some union conferences and at the TUC Conference this year and the prestigious Tolpuddle Festival.

WHO IS THE PLAY AIMED AT? The play is aimed really at anybody who likes the book, or is interested in politics or social history, or anybody who loves theatre, as it is a very theatrical storytelling experience. We have tried to make the show as accessible as possible to all, so really there is something in it for everyone.

WE WILL BE FREE LISTING DETAILSThe Ballroom, Assembly Rooms, 54 George Street, Edinburgh
Time: 12.30pm Running Time: 80mins
Dates: 02-25 August. Previews: 2-3 August. No show Sun 12 August.
Tickets: 2-3 Aug £14 (£11 concessions/ £5.00 unwaged), 4-25 Aug £15(£12 concessions £5 unwaged)

City Moves Great Big Dance Show: RSNO Assistant Conductor

Great Big Dance Show

Saturday 6 July, 7.30pm
His Majesty's Theatre

The Great Big Dance Show Aberdeen brings together dancers from across Aberdeen and the North east to perform on stage at His Majesty’s Theatre in a showcase and celebration of the huge amount of dance talent here in the North East.
 Last year’s show was described by the Press & Journal as“the largest and most impressive dance fest I think I’ve seen at HMT.” This year’s show promises to be even more impressive, with dancers from Aberdeen, Inverurie, Portlethen, Stonehaven and Fraserburgh, representing a range of styles from Ballet and Jazz to Indian and Scottish, as well as Citymoves Community Company, who have been working with guest choreographer Rhiana Laws.

Tickets £5 – £15, from www.boxofficeaberdeen.com

RSNO appoints new Assistant Conductor
Jean-Claude Picard joins Scotland’s national orchestra for globally sought-after conductorship programme.

French-Canadian conductor Jean-Claude Picard, currently based in Switzerland, has been appointed as the Royal Scottish National Orchestra’s (RSNO) new Assistant Conductor, following a recruitment process which attracted applicants worldwide. Jean-Claude Picard succeeds Christian Kluxen, who concluded his tenure as Assistant Conductor with a gala performance at the Caird Hall, Dundee earlier this month.

The RSNO Assistant Conductorship is now a two-year post, and benefits from the continued support of the John Mather Charitable Trust. The scheme is a rare opportunity for conductors keen to develop their talent and experience, and previous post-holders have found their time with a major symphony orchestra significantly improved their career prospects. This month Christian Kluxen has been signed to major international artistic agency Hazard Chase. Another former Assistant Conductor, Austrian David Danzmayr, has recently been appointed Music Director of Ohio’s ProMusica Chamber Orchestra and has just completed a successful first season as Music Director of the Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra.
As RSNO Assistant Conductor, Jean-Claude Picard will conduct a variety of the Orchestra’s concerts, and will also play an active role in engaging audiences and communities throughout Scotland. In addition to many conducting opportunities, a key aspect of the RSNO’s Assistant Conductor role is to provide a supportive mentoring and learning environment, through ongoing professional evaluation and guidance from RSNO Music Director Peter Oundjian and player-mentors in the Orchestra. Furthermore, Jean-Claude will have the opportunity to work with many guest conductors, and develop the multi-faceted leadership, organisational and public address skills required of modern conductors.

RSNO Music Director Peter Oundjian: “We received applications from many talented individuals but Jean-Claude shone through as the clear winner. He is already an accomplished musician, having gained experience as a flautist with several ensembles as well as garnering significant exposure on the podium. It is a pleasure to welcome him to the RSNO family. In the coming years he will come to play a vital and rewarding role in the musical life of Scotland, particularly as we prepare to move into our new home.”

New RSNO Assistant Conductor Jean-Claude Picard: “I am pleased to be joining the Royal Scottish
Couldn't resist this
National Orchestra and look forward to working with Peter Oundjian, Thomas Søndergård, guest conductors, and the orchestra’s fine musicians. I am excited to be moving to Scotland and getting to better know its people and culture.”

Jean-Claude Picard has been a professional musician since 2003, principally a flautist, most recently appearing with the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande and Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra. He has been conducting professionally since 2007, has worked alongside experts in the field, such as RSNO Conductor Laureate Neeme Järvi, Kurt Masur, and Jorma Panula. Jean-Claude has been invited to conduct the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in October 2013.


This month's caption competition

I have been a bit cheeky about the UNESCO City of Music project in the recent past: it gets a pass because Sven Brown is involved, and he doesn't have to prove himself after his curation of the Minimal festivals (over the past two years, they've taken me from wishing I could see the great names of contemporary classical to being blase about them doing a gig in the City Halls).

The last UNESCO project, despite being conceptually brilliant (a live feed to the Finnieston Crane) was ruined because no-one thought to check whether there would be a massive demolition across the road from GOMA, effectively drowning the symphony of creaks and cracks. However, I received a press release in my inbox today that ought to be seen as a direct challenge to programmers who want to be down with the new music.

Cut'n'paste begins here.

Sound Four is excited to announce the first ever London Contemporary Music Festival (LCMF 2013)Adventurous and all-embracing, LCMF 2013 will take place in partnership with the capital’s most talked about new arts venue, Bold Tendencies, situated on the top four floors of Peckham multi-storey car park, and will be the only music festival in Britain dedicated to commissioning and staging the best new music the world has to offer regardless of genre – and all for FREE

Free? In a car park? A good start: and the line-up includes plenty of work that Arika would have presented back in the day, before they started throwing shapes in the ballroom. 

  • UK PREMIERE and the FIRST VISIT by Glenn Branca and the Glenn Branca Ensemble to the UK for nearly a decade
  • LIVE SETS from SND, Raime, Russell Haswell, Jem Finer, Steve Noble and Anthony Pateras
  • Charlemagne Palestine performing his SEMINAL work for solo piano Strumming Music
  • A performance of the near-complete solo piano works by Germany’s greatest living composer, HELMUT LACHENMANN, alongside an unlikely companion, Lachenmann’s favourite composer and Hollywood favourite, ENNIO MORRICONE
  • 8 HOURS OF CONTINUOUS PERFOMANCES charting the evolution of drone music from its minimalist beginnings to its sound art and dance music present
  • A rare outing for Philip Corner’s INFAMOUS Piano Activities, in which the pianist will destroy a grand piano

  • The suggestion that the festival has been started 'in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the riot at the Rite,' doesn't convince me - I can't see anything that is especially inspired by The Rite of Spring, even the electronic recomposition of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. That said. here's some more action.

    • the RETURN of Kate Whitley and Chris Stark’s The Orchestra Project, whose car park performance of The Rite of Spring two years ago was described as “the most exciting development in classical music in decades, if not centuries” (The Times)
    • acclaimed soprano Allison Bell takes the central role in the WORLD PREMIERE staging of Gerald Barry’s opera La Plus Forte
    • performances by Allison Bell, SND, Steve Noble, Ed Atkins, Jennifer Walshe, Glenn Branca, Raime, Russell Haswell, Tony Conrad, Jem Finer, Mark Knoop, Lore Lixenberg, Aisha Orazbayeva, Lucy Railton, Max Baillie, David Massey, Roderick Chadwick, Anthony Pateras, Leon Michener and Jane Chapman
    • a mixture of classic and rare work by Helmut Lachenmann, Bernard Parmegiani, Ennio Morricone, Michael Finnissy, Philip Corner, Brian Ferneyhough, Laurie Anderson, Eliane Radigue, Philip Glass, Gyorgy Kurtag, Brian Eno, Jennifer Walshe, Aaron Cassidy, Frederic Rzewski, Kurt Schwitters, Steve Reich, Iannis Xenakis, Alvin Lucier, Terry Riley, Gyorgy Ligeti, Louis Andriessen and La Monte Young.
    • several new or recently created works by young composers, artists, choreographers and theatre-makers from Britain and abroad, including Kate Whitley, Ed Atkins, Alexander Zeldin, Lauren Redhead, Aisha Orazbayeva, Sam Underwood, Ambrose Seddon and Melanie Lomoff
    Over 50 works - over half of them premieres or pieces created since 2000 - by over 40 different composers and artists.

    The gauntlet has been thrown down. Can UNESCO rise to the challenge? Does Glasgow have a car park that can serve as a venue? How badly will eight hours of drone impact on the consciousness of the listeners? Game on. 

    Why O Why (Trumpets and East Kilbride)

    My enthusiasm for Cyptic might come from their history - I identify them as one of the key companies who emerged from the aftermath of 1990s' City of Culture - or their restless experimentation. They've got a couple of entries in the Fringe this year - Sven Werner and Robbie Thomson reprising their shows from Sonica - but are slipping in one Cryptic Night before August.

    I am not sure whether Why Scotland, Why East Kilbride is a general cry of despair or merely a cheeky reference back to composer  J. Simon van der Walt's inspiration (a film selling the virtues of the New Town back in the 1970s).  Either way, van der Walt is digging deep into his past, reviving both memories of a glorious age that hasn't stood the test of time and a character who first appeared in another Cryptic action, Ted The Trumpet.

    Ted the Trumpet is a sadly neglected pioneer of that quintessential 1970s sound, light music electronica. Combining the old fashioned taste for something stylish (unable to handle the complexity of jazz and finding the post-hippy mellow rock not soothing) and science fiction instrumentation (it requires a fixation on the future for a decade to allow Tangerine Dream to flourish), LME heralded the arrival of intelligent techno and ambient (made for people too mashed to make it to the rave in the late 1980s). 

    J. Simon van der Walt takes up the story. 

    Why Scotland, Why East Kilbride started life as a dream. This happens to me a lot: I’m a musician, after all, and I have dreams where I hear a piece of music. Quite often when I wake up I can remember at least some of it: I rush to write it down or even just sing it into my phone before it goes.
    The piece I heard on this occasion – it was the morning of the 3 June 2012 – seemed to be for a rock band? Plus a section of orchestral French horns?'

    'Made some notes, forgot about it. Couple of days later, aimlessly surfing around as you do, I stumbled upon this 1972 public information film about East Kilbride. Suddenly a whole chunk of memory descended upon me. I remembered the two different times in my life when I lived in East Kilbride, particularly a period in the eary 80s where I was busy dropping out of an ill-advised science degree at university, listening to a lot of Hawkwind, and teaching myself to play guitar. Suddenly, the dream made sense: I knew what I was listening to, I knew what it was all about.'

    'And the Ted Edwards stuff? A misdirection, perhaps. Edward ‘Teddy’ Edwards is a fictional alter ego of mine. He’s the person I would have liked to have been if I’d been born forty years earlier: he’s Raymond Scott, he’s Daphne Oram, he’s my dad’s golfing buddy who owned a radio shop, he’s Erik Satie. Or maybe he’s a complete unknown: he’s Ziggy Elman, he’s the guy who first came up with the npn-pnp astable multivibrator circuit, he’s some guy who’s into birdwatching.'

    'He’s a useful vehicle: someone I can have in my show, someone who might have been in East Kilbride in 1972, might have played in a rock band, might have had a day job as a chemist at the National Engineering Laboratory. Someone who might, after all, be a composer. Kind of.'

    CCA, Thu 4  2013  £5 

    Monday, 17 June 2013

    Economics and Apologies and That

    My previous pondering on matters economic did not deserve the generous response they received: I begun with my usual attempt to grapple with serious ideas, only to surrender and retreat into a mystical parable. That I have readers who are willing to pay attention to my rambles – and I must give a special tip o’ the hat to my erstwhile ally on Avengers Alliance Kenneth Davidson for his willingness to suggest further reading – is a blessing. Anytime that I become nihilistic, their grace reminds me that the world is not hopeless, and that my circle includes spirits of tremendous generosity.

    However, I am shamed enough by their kindness to make some kind of apology for my attitude towards Marxist theory. Given how often I make use of it, and how it provides a far more coherent analysis than anything I can find in right wing descriptions of what is and what ought to be, it is time I admitted my debt to the tradition.

    Like an inversion of the usual Christian injunction to “love the sinner but hate the sin,” my attitude towards Marxism has been to fall back on particular disappointments inflicted on me by Marxists and abuse the system for the failure of functionaries. I could appeal to the egregious examples of history – Soviet Russia didn’t look that great, even taking into account the USA’s propaganda that informed the journalism of my childhood, and I have never subscribed to the enthusiasm for Castro’s Cuba (it might have had its amazing properties, but there were more than a few issues with the State’s attitude to dissidents and homosexuals).

    But I think it is more likely that I was scarred by the failure of the SSP to develop a mature parliamentary presence. Watching I Tommy some time ago, I was taken aback by how personal the drama felt. The caricature of Sheridan on stage was barely recognizable from the firebrand who had inspired me during the Govanhill Pool Occupation: the history he lived through, however, had been part of my life.

    There have been incidents in my own political past where I have felt Marxists have been more concerned with the dream of their utopia than the care of their fellow protestors: my retreat from active engagement in demonstrations comes from a worry that some people would happily betray each other if they felt it served their agenda. Adding that I find the chanting boorish is trivial, and exactly what would be expected from an aesthetic dilettante, which is what I am.

    Every time I complain about “the opportunistic left,” this is what I am talking about.   More than that, I can’t do anything other than express admiration for those groups who are keeping alive the protests against ATOS. I share their frustration and disgust at the behaviour of a Conservative government, which maintains the ruthlessness of Thatcher, yet lacks the moral convictions that drove her.

    I don’t want to be another apologist for Thatcher, although I don’t like the misogynistic language that surrounded her death. And I can see that she believed in something – something I don’t support, but it meant that it was possible to resist. When Cameron makes a half-hearted statement like “we are all Thatcherites now,” he is simply trying to avoid committing to any belief at all, and implicating everyone in his vicious dismantling of the common institutions that are what held Britain together.
    In a time when actual belief is a rare commodity (and this extends beyond the decline of religion – belief and faith are associating with a lack of reasoning), Marxists make an easy target for my ignorant rants. There are plenty of articulate expressions of Marxist thought, and they give me a basis to work against. Compare this to my attempts to get hold of the ideas behind the culture minister’s speech about arts’ need to be useful. Maria Miller’s words are a bizarre mixture of dominant preening and unfounded assertions.

    There are specifics in contemporary Marxist thought that I cannot accept – for example, the nature of the demanded boycott of all art and culture from Israel. But it is time that I started to show as much respect for the movement as it has shown to me.