Friday, April 26, 2013

Last free Free Range for a while

25th April 2013
Veg Box Cafe, Canterbury

The very last Free Range event of the season is actually next week, but that's a £40 "edible sound" happening involving a celebrity chef, local forager and specially composed music to accompany the food. I won't be at that one. But last night's event was great — more films from Ben Rowley and Andy Birtwistle (colleagues of organiser Sam Bailey from Christchurch. It was billed as "Public Information Night" and involved existing films presented with musical accompaniment as well as specially made films (also with scored music). There were quite a few musicians involved — Robert Stillman and some of the Christchurch music students' Scratch Orchestra. Most memorable was an old (late-40's?) Post Office film about the production of London telephone directories. Sam hammered out urgent piano lines to accompany the images of printing presses, etc. while pages were torn out of phone books and circulated to the audience so everyone could join Mr. Birtwistle in reading them aloud, which gradually crescendoed to a marvellous cacophony. There are a couple of bits of video here and here.

The week before (April 18th) centred on the poetry of Kelvin Corcoran. He read some of his work, and then we got musical interpretations of other pieces. Liam Magill from Syd Arthur had set lines from Corcoran's Apokriatika to music, played acoustic guitar and sung beautifully (the poetry draws heavily on ancient Greek imagery, so lyrics about stopping in Corinth, orange groves, etc. were quite in keeping with the sort of the Liam tends to sing about. Jack Hues presented some song settings of Corcorcan's poems after that, but I had to run and so missed them.

Two weeks before (April 11th) was meant to be local sax legend Tony Coe (he played the original sax line for the original Pink Panther theme (!) as well as playing with Caravan, Richard Sinclair, Nucleus, Derek Bailey, Stan Getz, Dizzy Gillespie adn on John Martyn's Solid Air). Unfortunately he was unwell (he's now 79) so had to cancel, and we got instead some music from Sam (piano), Tom Jackson (bass clarinet) and Jack Hues (guitar, voice). Jack (who teaches songwriting) sang a few songs he's been experimenting with, and the trio unravelled them admirably into exploratory musical spaces: David Crosby's "Almost Cut My Hair", a Little Feat song (not the sort of thing you expect to hear at Free Range) and Robert Wyatt's "Sea Song". I'm not sure what I think about other people singing the "Sea Song", it's so personal. But the arrangement they came up with (involving piano-and-whalelike-bass-clarinet freakout:

Three weeks before (April 4th) was Robert Mitchell, a (two-handed) pianist played some impressive one-handed works he's written for left hand. He's left-handed, incidentally. We learned a few interesting facts about left-handedness too.

In the weeks before that there was another Dada night (pretty faithful 'performances' of Tristan Tzara Dada manifestos, etc. — see video here), very entertaining (it's not exactly shocking a century on, but then what is?), and an extraordinary event involving artist Tim Long and his "Drawing Machine". This was basically an easel-like thing with embedded contact mics. He taped sheets of paper onto it, then drew (with pencil, charcoal, etc.) or painted, triggering impulses which sound artist Matt Wright was receiving via his laptop setup and using as the basis for crazy soundscapes. The motion of the pencil/charcoal/brush generated rhythms, textures, samples... The artwork-in-progress was being filmed and projected onto the ceiling, and at a certain point, the artist would stop, the sound would stop, he'd take the paper off the easel and show us the (often surprisingly well developed) work which had been informed by the sound it was creating. Here are some clips:


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