Thursday, July 07, 2005

"Come Ye Yourselves Apart"

"Come Ye Yourselves Apart and Rest A While" - incription over entrance to St. Stephens

Another session at St. Stephens church last night: James S (with newly-acquired, and gleefully-employed, effects module), James T, Henry (without his kit, just playing hand percussion), Keith (gone acoustic for the evening), Melski (who arrived for the second half) and I.

It was quite an odd one, felt rather disjointed to me at the time. Perhaps the dark moon had something to do with it. The first half felt like a bit of a struggle (although as I'm listening back to the minidisc right now, it doesn't sound that way), but after our obligatory tea break, the second half felt much more relaxed. I'd somehow managed to accept the relative sense of disunity, and decided to get into it, to try to make it work. While playing, it occured to me what a good metaphor group musical improvisation is for life itself. Sometimes it all just flows along beautifully, but there are going to be times when it's a real struggle, and you just have to try to make the best of it.

We even had an audience, briefly. Three people (one couple, one woman on her own) wandered in off the High Street. I have no idea what they made of it. As some of us were wandering around the church as we played, probing the acoustic, Melski was exploring the percussive possibilities of a cardboard box, and the two James's were experimenting with the sonic possibilities of a bucket of water, it may have come across like a group music therapy session in a mental institution. The inscription "Come Ye Yourselves Apart..." over the door sometimes seems to describe the collective psychic state we achieve in some of our further-out musical moments.

Listen Here

When I got back to Oblique House, I switched on the TV and was pleasantly surprised to find a woman with "interesting hair" playing and talking about Bach's Goldberg Variations on BBC1. Melski arrived shortly thereafter and identified her as Joanna MacGregor. The name rang a bell, and after a few seconds I recalled that I'd heard her extraordinarily radical arrangement of Bach's The Art of Fugue on Radio 3's broadcast from the London Jazz Festival a couple of years ago (with tablas, free jazz improvisation, etc.). Fortunately, I'd recorded that off the radio, sensing from the introductory discussion that something remarkable was about to occur (and I was right). That tape was dug out, and made an excellent accompaniment to this morning's breakfast.

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