Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Phoenix happening/Syd Barrett tribute

Syd Barrett's recent death was announced yesterday. There will be enough written about this elsewhere, but here's a picture.

Syd Barrett
Syd Barrett, late 60's

When I saw the headline yesterday, my immediate feeling was not so much of sorrow but of relief that he'd been released from something. Apparently he died peacefully.

It was just over a year ago that the Waters-Gilmour-Wright-Mason Pink Floyd line-up reunited for the Hyde Park Live8 gig, with Roger Waters dedicating part of the (rather magnificient) performance to Syd. There was something very satisfying about seeing some kind of conflict resolution between the four who were on stage. Then, a few days ago, Nick Mason chose to sit in with Roger Waters for another gig in Hyde Park, further cementing whatever goodwill was there. I just heard, too, that David Gilmour told an Italian magazine that Pink Floyd will be put to rest - he's 60, and it's just too big to take any further. He sounded content with his life, and it seemed a good decision to me. So the whole Pink Floyd thing, which really burst forth from the extraordinary imagination of Syd Barrett, seems to have come to a unexpectedly peaceful, appropriate-feeling conclusion all at once.

It's important to remember that Syd (who returned to being Roger Barrett, his given name) really didn't want to remember the Pink Floyd years for the bulk of the last thirty years. It was nice to read (on Wikipedia) that he was an avid gardener, as well as the fact he got back into painting, which I'd heard. I also found this:

"However, he did go to his sister's house in 2002 to watch the BBC Omnibus documentary made about him – reportedly he found some of it "too noisy", though he's said to have enjoyed hearing "See Emily Play" again."

and this rather curious clip to accompany aforementioned song, filmed by a strangely familiar-looking motorway bridge in Belgium, 1968.

I just watched that clip, and it's funny, because the first thing I did after I heard about his death was to get my instruments and other stuff together to take down to The Phoenix for a Children of the Drone performance which had been arranged some weeks ago as part of the Exeter Summer Fringe Festival (apparently). Part of this involved me pulling people's names randomly out of a bag and "switching them on and off" (getting them to start playing if they weren't, and stop if they were). I did this once before a collaborative thing we did with Melski's Bristol collective at St. Stephens. On that occasion I went around touching people on the head to signal the switch. This time, the stage was too crowded for walking around, so I just had to point. If you watch the 1968 film clip, you see Richard Wright walking around doing something similar with the other three, except he pretends to hit them, rather than touching their heads or pointing!

We started with the original COTD trio - Simon, Keith and I, gradually adding the other six players in the order they got involved with the collective: Henry, Melski, James T, Richard, Brian, Mick. This was a really nice way to warm up and gradually build something. Most of the rest of the (two hour plus) set involved various elements of randomness and conduction to keep things interesting and changing.

James, Keith, me, Henry, Simon
left to right: James, Keith, me, Henry, Simon

We dedicated the set to Syd. At the end of the first piece I played a little bit of a distorted microcassette of him singing "Dark Globe" through my vocal mic. "Wouldn't you miss me at all?" It would be nice to think that he would have approved of what we were doing. The creative spirit of Syd Barrett was there in places, I think, although the later Roger Barrett would probably have found some of it "too noisy".

Brian, Henry, Richard, me
left to right: Brian, Henry, Richard, me

We attempted to do something a bit more interesting than a straightforward 'performance'; the audience were supplied with paper, crayons, coloured pencils and felt tip pens, and encouraged to create art in response to the music we were improvising. Examples of their work can be seen here. Thanks to Claire Evans for her 'facilitation' efforts.

James T, Melski, Richard
left to right: James T, Melski, Richard

Paul Bull, who did an extraordinarily good job on the mixing desk, despite never having met us or heard our music, deserves to be listed as part of the ensemble on this occasion.

Listen Here

A short video clip by Simon is here (he admits to having got a bit carried away with the psychedelic visual effects). A short clip taken by Vicky is here (thanks to Thomas for the editing), also should be embedded below:


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