Thursday, June 02, 2005

St Stephens Drone

Another Drone last night, this time one of our monthly sessions at St. Stephen's Church in Exeter High Street.


This was the smallest assemblage of Droners for quite some time, certainly the smallest at St. Stephens - just Keith, James T and I.

When I arrived, I was mildly alarmed to find a group of
Exeter City Council workmen replacing the paving slabs directly in front of the main entrance. There's been various work going on in the High Street on Wednesday evenings for months, sometimes involving pneumatic drills, which adds an interesting, if unwanted sonic element to the proceedings. (The only other group I'm aware of to have made use of pneumatic drills was Einst├╝rzende Neubauten!) This time, they were just using some kind of grinding machine, so we ended up making a sort of unintentional 'industrial-acoustic' music. We also had a couple of young women wander in looking for a performance of 'Mexican Jazz' - we were unable to help either direct them to the correct venue, or provide any Mexican Jazz.

Keith and I took turns playing acoustic bass, with him otherwise playing mandola or electric guitar, and me playing saz. James did a couple of his poems, but mostly played piano. As Henry couldn't make it (dental infection) there was no overtly percussive element throughout most of what we did. This allowed a sort of rhythmic 'breathing' to occur more than usual, and James' piano playing worked particularly well in this context.

Listen Here

One very strange footnote to this session: At the end of the last piece, Keith pointed out that one of the overhead heating lamps (a long electric element enclosed by a half-cylinder of reflective metal, and hanging by two chains, a couple of metres each, quite high above us) was swinging, very noticeably, for no obvious reason. There was no possibility of airflow being involved. The adjacent lamp was completely stationary. He had noticed this was happening several minutes earlier, and as we packed up, it gradually stopped. The only causal explanation I can come up with was that the workmen's grinding machine had set up some kind of vibrational resonance in the building to which the lamp happened to respond, by some freak of physics. But the idea of musical psychokinesis seems somehow more appealing...

I also found an interesting pamphlet from the Small Pilgrim Places Network in the church's literature rack. Seems like a very good idea, what they're trying to get together. My immediate thought was of some future collaborative project involving a musical pilgrimage around Britain, travelling on foot, recording sessions in various chapels and small churches along the way. I noticed that the Network's pilot project revolved around St. Tecwyn's church near Llandecwyn in N. Wales. Back in the summer of 1997 I spent a couple of weeks camped in a field near there. Zymbii the mule had lost a shoe, and we were waiting for a farrier to come out and re-shoe him, sharing the field with a llama and a Jacob's sheep. Inge, Andy, Peter and I recorded a concert for some local people and friends of Lizzie (whose field it was) one night, some of which I managed to record. Despite playing huge amounts of music during that summer, this was one of the few bits that got committed to tape, so I will get round to archiving it here very soon.


leaving Llandecwyn - photo by Lizzie Slater

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