Sunday, 25 September 2011

A Day full of Music

It's late... Just gone 1am. I've just got back from a day of gigging that started at 11am and finished at 10pm. How any of us have any fingers left I'll never know.

It began at a local business, who employ us now and again to play at their promotional events. We played there (with breaks) until 4pm, when we had to pack up and head off to Glusburn Institute -its a community and arts centre in -where else- the Yorkshire village of Glusburn, half way between Skipton and Keighley. It's a good example of North of England 19th century civic architecture, complete with dome and public clock. The hall there boasts an impressive stage. We'd driven 50 miles to get there so it was good to discover that the audience, though small, was truly enthusiastic.

On the way back, in complete contrast to the Gypsy jazz we'd been playing, we found ourselves listening to Trevor Wishart's Globalalia on Radio 3. It's a multi-channel electronic piece which uses syllables taken from 26 languages from around the world to create music based on the sounds of language itself. One of the great things about his music is that, at its best, it has the capacity to captivate and enthrall people who do not think themselves as fans of "difficult" music. Unfortunately, none of his most exciting work is available on Youtube, but here's a short documentary about a smaller but similar project he undertook in Madrid:

Saturday, 24 September 2011

The Poetry of Margery Clute (4)

Poem, 1867

What lies between my Ears?
So many things remembered,
Set aside lest I Forget -
My hopes, my Fears - although
The Image fades with Time
To shades of Grey.

Margery Clute (1824-76)

The Cuckoo

The Cuckoo pecked
At the Portal of my Mind
Hoping, no doubt,
A Little Seed to find.

O Cuckoo, Sing!
Cuckoo, cuckoo, cuckoo.
Your Fluting Song of Spring
Is not unkind.

Margery Clute (1824-76)

If you missed the first installment, which provided some background information regarding Margery Clute's poetry, you can read it here.

Monday, 19 September 2011


"Imagine we're all characters in a novel," said B.
"OK," said a man he didn't know by name but could imagine sat, like himself, in front of a glowing computer screen, killing time, escaping from 101 things that needed to be done... "So - what we think of as real life is actually just a book?"
"Exactly. Everything we say is the stuff that gets squeezed between the inverted commas", said B.
"I'm with you", the shadowy figure replied.
"So who writes all the stuff in between? Who's the narrator? Who writes all those paragraphs where no-one actually says anything?"
"Dunno," said the shadowly figure. "Isn't that taking the idea a bit far?"
"Humour me," said B.
"OK. I don't know. Who does write all the stuff in between?" said the shadowy figure.
"The artists," said B. "The painters, the writers, the sculptors, the composers, the poets, and so on."
There was a pause. A box popped up on B's screen telling him an update was available for a programme he'd never heard of. He cancelled it.
"I see what you mean," said the shadowy figure.
It's a shame, thought B: it's getting late. It would soon be time to go to work. He'd have to log off. Just when things were getting interesting.
"What if the novel's all dialogue?" said the shadowy figure. What a clever shadowy figure, thought B. He had to think fast.
"Then the characters have to work harder to say what they mean," he said. It was the best he could do.
"It's an interesting idea," said Mr Shadow.
"It is. The more I think about it, the more it makes sense of things. I mean, the meaning or purpose of the arts. It explains why they're more than entertainment. It cuts across boundaries. You don't have to take sides (not that you ever did). I mean, you don't have to choose between Tracy Emin and the Stuckists. Elgar and John Cage. If something someone makes is a meaningful part of the narrative then great."
"Music - now that's interesting. Are you saying that when we listen to music we should ask ourselves: what is this piece of music a soundtrack to?"
"Yes, I suppose I am," said B.
"And poetry... It means it might rhyme and go dumdidumdidum or be all irregular lines with funny punctuation but that doesn't matter at all, what's important is the part it plays in the narrative?"
"Exactly," said B.
"If you're right then the arts are pretty important," said Mr Shadow.
"Indeed," said B. "Invaluable." It was 7.55. If he stayed online longer he'd be pushing it...

Saturday, 17 September 2011

The Poetry of Margery Clute (3)

On Baildon Moor

On Baildon Moor the howling wind
Is not unkind.
‘Tis city life –not moorland air-
That makes us blind.

The dingy streets confound our souls
And burden us with unnatural care!
One can see the world so clearly here.
Not so, down there.

And, I must say, I feel bereft
When I desert this mossy cleft –
As if here is all the light that’s left
In this dark world;

Even as if this wild, wide expanse
So calculated to entrance
Was (it could be worse)
The Centre of the Universe.

Margery Clute (1824-76)

The Fly

I saw a Fly.
It made me sigh.
Poor Fly!

Doomed to buzz
From Wall to Wall
Oblivious to the Rise and Fall
Of Humankind.

It doesn't mind
At all.

Margery Clute (1824-76)

If you missed the first installment, which provided some background information regarding Margery Clute's poetry, you can read it here.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

The Poetry of Margery Clute (2)

If you missed the first installment, which provided some background information regarding Margery Clute's poetry, you can read it here.

The Trees in Spring

The Trees in Spring
Adorn their twigs
With a multitude
Of verdant Sprigs

- And all the while the Birds
Sing out their Hearts
To Hill and Vale
In many Parts.

Margery Clute (1824-76)

The indents employed by Clute in the next poem made impossible to publish as text on blogger, so I've had to present it as an image:

Monday, 5 September 2011

So that was Friday...

Pen Hill from Zebra Hill

Last Friday I went for run over Pen Hill. It's a long time since I was out running on the fells. For the last couple of years, when I've been out running, it's usually been on the road. Walking parts of Hadrian's Wall, climbing Helvellyn and -on a more sedentary note- seeing some great photos of running in the Dark Peak (and cake) recently over at Tea & Cake had really got me itching to get up a hill with my running shoes on again.

I started from a roadside layby half way up - a cheat I felt, in a way, as it's more satisfying to start from the bottom. I'd not done any hill work for ages though, so rather than wear myself out I thought I'd ease myself in gradually - a wise decision, I decided, as I struggled up the slope to the beacon that stands on the Eastern end of summit-plateau.

It was great to be running through flowering heather again, along the plateau's Southern edge with it's superb view of a distant Great Whernside, and the sky. Along that side the path fades into a network of faint desire-lines. Some lead nowhere, others join up at eroded nexus-points, from which other lines lead off. Sometimes the heather hides a treacherous surface of tumbled rocks which slows you down to a walk. I chose the lines which took me to my first objective - a miniature rocky outcrop, strung out along the Southern edge. I touched the rocks in greeting -it had been a long time since I'd been there- without stopping. I've run on Pen Hill a great deal in the past -it's the "local hill", just down the road from here- so I was quite surprised to find a  path I'd not explored before. I took it, glad for a break from the awkward terrain.

The path took me down to a Land Rover-track that cuts up from the valley and across the middle of the plateau. As I've got out the habit of hill-running, the reascent seemed quite hard work. Then, all of a sudden, I realised that my field of vision -ahead, left, right- contained nothing but the moor immediately around me, skyline and sky. It was an exhilarating feeling. A minute later and I was looking down into Wensleydale - the valley on the Northern side. From there, it was a short run along the tops of the Northern cliffs, past the Iron Age chieftan's grave, to the beacon. I could see the car from there and after a steep descent it was no more than a jog across a couple of fields to the end of the first fell-run in ages.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

The Poetry of Margery Clute (1)

Margery Clute, from the frontespiece of Fallen Leaves

This is the first of an series of posts I'll be posting on Saturdays to promote the poetry of Margery Clute.

Margery Clute was born in the village of Baildon, on the outskirts of Bradford, in 1824 - less than 20 miles from her more well-known contemporaries, the Bronte sisters.

By the time of her birth, Bradford was an important centre for the textile trade, with over 200 factory chimneys belching black smoke. Cholera and typhoid were rife, and the average life expectancy of a Bradford-dweller was a mere 18 years.

Living in Baildon, close to the Moor, the tension between the rural and the industrial would have been part of Margery's day-to-day experience. It is hardly surprising to find this tension reflected in her work - for example, in the short lyric My Fevered Brain (1846).

Astute readers will detect a kinship with the American poetry of Emily Dickinson - a delicately observed metaphysical take on the world that opens the eyes of the reader to the previously invisible. There are also overtones of Blake, in theme and simplicity and, of course, the Lakeland poets.

Her poetry was always alert to contemporary developments: take for example her account of the arrival of the railway in Bradford - On the Opening of the Leeds and Bradford Railway, 1846.

Very little of Margery's poetry was published in her lifetime, and none since. On the Opening of the Leeds and Bradford Railway was published in a local Bradford newspaper. However, she did arrange to have a volume of her poems -entitled Fallen Leaves- privately printed and she deposited the result at Bradford Central Library. It was borrowed only rarely, although when I was living in West Yorkshire in the 1980s I was lucky enough to come across across it by accident in the poetry section. I was quite interested in her at the time: I made photocopies of quite a lot of it. I was reminded of it all when I came across them in a cardboard box the other day when I was cleaning out the attic. Hopefully, thanks to the internet, it will now be possible to give her the readership she deserves. I intend to publish a number of her poems in a series of occasional posts.

Daughter of a local mill-owner, Margery was always comfortably off. Her life, however, was not untouched by troubles: she had three sisters and two brothers - all but one of whom were carried off by the cholera epidemic in 1848.
In 1876, Margery herself died, as she had lived, in obscurity. She was buried in Undercliffe Cemetery in the Clute family vault.

The Moon

The moon cries out in anguish -
His silver face so sad!
His silent song disturbs my heart -
I wish he’d smile instead

And look down on the world below
With an optimistic eye
When he comes out to say hello
Or sinks, to say goodbye.

Margery Clute (1824-76)

Written on a Foggy Day

If you could see what I can see
You'd wonder where you are.
I'm not that sure myself
As I can't see very far.

All around 'tis milky white
I could be anywhere!
Atop a crag, beside a hole -
To venture out, who'd dare?

Such dreadful visions crowd the brain!
None but the intrepid soul
Would venture out and take the risk
Of falling down a hole.

Margery Clute (1824-76)

On the Opening of the Leeds and
Bradford Railway, 1846

I had not seen a 'train' before -
It took me by Surprise.
An Iron House on wheels, belching
Smoke, and such a size!

With a noise like Drummers Drumming,
The massive Wheels turned -
While in the creature's Belly
A Hellish Fire burned.

And how I longed to jump aboard,
To go off on a Spree!
To travel through the countryside
Past Field, and Hill, and Tree!

Margery Clute (1824-76)

My Fevered Brain

My Fevered Brain
Unhinged by Moorland Stream
Propelled me forth
Like a Demented Sunbeam
Unto a Second Birth.

No more, the Smoking Mills!
The Drudge of Darkened Days!
No more the back
Bent to the Loom of Time!

Margery Clute (1824-76)