Sunday, July 10, 2005

Holmbush Festival

Another friendly little festival yesterday - the Holmbush Festival out near Ide on the outskirts of the city. The weather was so perfect that I cycled out and met Simon and Keith there.

This was the first time in ages that the original Drone trio have played together and, appropriately, involved proper old-school 2001-style acoustic instrumentation. We'd been asked to play in the 'acoustic space', a half-bender construction, with a plastic sheet over a hazel frame (see below). We managed to get quite a nice sound together, despite the extreme proximity of the very noisy A30 (rumbling away behind us). Our tiny audience later claimed that our playing appeared to respond to the surges in the traffic sound, which is interesting. Unfortunately, after about ten minutes, the main sound system (not far in front of us) started playing heavy rock music...and then a large aircraft started to pass overhead. I joked that we only needed some seismic rumbling from below to be completely surrounded by disturbing noise. We cheerfuly gave up at that point, and went to enjoy the festival atmosphere.

Keith, me and Simon in the acoustic space

Simon played a brief set as Sufiboy a bit later, during which I provided guest "vocals", reading out the extraordinary list of ingredients from the Co-op "classic cheese and onion sandwich" he had bought from the little shop up the hill (and eaten!) about an hour earlier. I adopted a sort of sombre/disturbed Robert Calvert-type voice (a la "Sonic Attack"), which seemed appropriate, considering the text in question:

"Co-op Classic Cheese & Onion Sandwich

INGREDIENTS (greatest first): White Bread (56%) (wheat Flour, Water, Malted Wheat Flakes, Wheat Bran, Malted Wheat Flour, Yeast, Wheat Protein, Salt, Spirit Vinegar, Emulsifiers (Mono- and diacetyl tartaric acid esters of mon- and diglycerides of fatty acids - Vegetable, Mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids - Vegetable, Sodium stearoyl-2-lacylate - Vegetable), Potassium chloride, Vegetable Oil (Rapeseed, Palm), Flour Treatment Agent (Ascorbic Acid)), Medium Mature Cheddar Cheese (17%)*, Mayonnaise (16%) (Rapeseed Oil, Water, Egg Yolk (Free Range), Spirit Vinegar, White Wine Vinegar, Starch, Dijon Mustard (with Mustard Seeds), Salt, Sugar), Red Leicester Cheese (6%)* (with Colour (Annatto)), Onion (2%)

*Made using a vegetarian rennet derived from a genetically modified micro-organism

Contains Annatto which has been associated with food intolerance.
ALLERGY ADVICE: Contains Egg, Gluten, Milk
CAUTION: Not suitable for people on a low or restricted potassium diet
ORIGIN: Made in UK using EU Cheese and British or South American Onion for Co-op M60 4ES"

Meanwhile, Simon was playing an egg slicer, zither-style, through numerous electronic effects. For his second piece, he wired up a sausage to his 'PlantChant' device to create an ungodly warped-out thrash/techno monstrosity of a sound. This received an almost ecstatic reaction, with two members of the audience immediately rushing up and offering him another mini-festival slot, describing the performance as "the best thing EVER". So we're talking about expanding on the theme of collaborative electronic weirdness plus disturbing ingredient recitals as a neo-dadaist performance concept.

Listen Here

Simon (left) playing the same sausage at a Blender happening a couple of days ealier.

We stuck around for a while and witnessed an encouragingly eclectic range of music. My favourite was a couple of lovely, gentle folk musicians (guitar, voice and fiddle) who played a couple of Irish tunes, a desperately sad Scottish ballad called "Robin Rattle's Bastard" , a slow, lilting version of "Star of the County Down" and a Woody Guthrie song about a train crash.

folkie duo performing at Holmbush Festival

Also on offer was someone calling himself Will Fearless, playing mashed-up dance music via his laptop, another tall young man in shades with two drum-machine or sequencer-type devices awkwardly strapped around his body plus midified (it seemed) guitar, playing covers of obscure 80's Euro-trash disco-pop songs in a kind of post-post-ironic take on the current 80's retro-nonsense, and a punk band (pretty good, although the vocals could have done without the standard anguished American accent) who introduced each song with the tautological proposition "This is our next song.".

*     *     *

This morning I streamed last Sunday's Music Matters off the BBC Radio 3 website to listen carefully to the interview with virtuosic ninety year old pianist Earl Wild wherein he says some interesting things about improvisation and music in general. Here's a partial transcription:

Earl Wild - image from

[After mentioning that he was recently the head of a group of judges at the Rachmaninoff International Piano Competition in Los Angeles:]

EW: "I'm never going to go to another competition. All the fussing...and it's become a social event, and sometimes it's quite ugly."

Presenter: "You never did competitions yourself then?"

EW: "No. Why? I had to work in orchestras, I had to play for comedians when I first went to New York, and I had to do backgrounds from radio shows and then I moved into television and had to do backgrounds for television and then I learned to play gypsy music through a gypsy I knew, and I played in a gypsy orchestra. I did everything that you could possibly do. Many of the pianists of that time who had rather good names looked down upon me because of that, but in the long run, I feel it was worthwhile."


EW: "I had so many teachers in my life, I never stayed with one person very long. The man that I liked the most was Egon Petri, because he could improvise. One day, at a lesson, he improvised for me parts of Die Meistersinger with "Roll Out the Barrel", and it was wonderful! Sometimes I would improvise for him. It was just so congenial that I never thought of it as a lesson.

Improvisation is a strange thing. It requires the ear, the brain, and the last thing is the hands. Everybody thinks the hands are so important...It's not that at all. It's the ear and the brain which sends to the hands...tells them what to do. My hands at ninety are very flexible still, because any time anybody started to tell me that I had to tighten up when I played, I left."


Post a Comment

<< Home