Tuesday, 21 February 2012


Last week we went to Lindisfarne with a group of friends. We go there now and again I've posted about it before, so I won't reinvent the wheel here; I'll confine myself to posting a picture of the recently-added (well, 2004) statue of St Cuthbert by Fenwick Lawson.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

The Fall

to my surprise
I had time
to wonder at
the light
at the end
of the tunnel
how it turned
from a sun
into a star
that got smaller
and smaller
in a night sky
I had all
to myself
and I waited
for it to go
out altogether
as sometime it must
I thought
one way or another
rock or water
but no
it just seemed
to go on
and on
I never thought
I'd have time
to finish a

(c) Dominic Rivron 2012

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Onwards and Upwards

At Christmas, the band I've been playing in and I went our seperate ways. Playing with Trio Gitan was a wonderful musical experience and, had we simply intended to continue what we were doing, I'd still be doing it. However, as a glance at a roadmap of Britain will show, the North Eastern edge of the Yorkshire Dales isn't exactly the centre of the musical universe. If the few roads that snake over that part of the world were veins and arteries running through a carcass, then that part of the carcass would be suffering serious circulation problems. For the band to be financially viable long term meant travelling long distances and staying away over night. I didn't like the idea of that -teaching all week and disappearing at the weekend- so, with a heavy heart, I left it. It seemed the right time: we had no gigs until March and leaving when I did would give Andy and Jack (the other two-thirds of the band) time to find a replacement.

At least I've not had the problem of wondering what to do instead. Taking the band away has simply made room in my life for all the things it was pushing out - all of it stuff I do, given the chance, for the sheer joy of it. Spending time with K, watching telly, chilling out, running, blogging, writing a bit of poetry now and again, amateur radioing.

If I get involved in playing music again outside my teaching work I think it's going to be simply because I want to, and not because I'm being paid to. That'll probably mean playing free improv (see video, below) and there's not much chance  of running into anyone who's into that round here, although you never know.

I also feel strongly that music should be part of life and not just something that's done in halls full of seats. In pre-TV days people used to play the piano and sing to it. In Elizabethan times people would gather around the table and sing madrigals (the parts were often printed facing "North South East and West" to facilitate this). Being able to make your own music was considered an essential skill, like being able to use a remote control today.

Not entirely unrelated, there was an item on The Culture Show last night (BBC 2 - it was a cracking episode all round, I thought - it can be found here for a few days) about artists giving away art for free. You make a picture and leave it in the street with a "free" price tag on it. Sooner or later somebody takes it. I was reminded of IPYPIASM.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Doing it

Yesterday I bought an old transistor radio for three quid that didn't work. It took me back. It had a dark, close-fitting leather bag with a strap on the top. I never did like listening to pop music as a background drone, but there is something nostalgic about the sound of an old transistor radio. I'm able to say this because when I got the thing home I disembowled it, tweaked it, poked about with my soldering iron and got it going - well, on medium wave, at least. It didn't take a lot of doing: to get technical for a moment, I just wiggled everything until I found what made the horrible noise it was making worse and replaced it with something that looked the same from a box of bits. You don't know what you can do until you try. I think of building or fiddling with radios as almost a form of meditation. You have to take your time, go step by step, prepare your ground, make fine movements. First you need a bright light and  box to put all the screws in as they come out so that they don't roll onto the floor. Then one of those alligator clips on sticks things that will act as an extra pair of hands - and blutack. Blutack is brilliant for holding screwheads on screwdrivers when you have to push them into fiddly places. You can stick screws on long thin sausages of blutack too, if they're going into really awkward places. And then there's the soldering iron. One false move and make a right mess of things. The cheap ones are nasty and frustrating because they never get hot enough. Slightly dearer ones  get really hot and - zap! The job's done. No messing.

It strikes me, as this stream of consciousness rolls along, that one of the things I love about electronics (and radio in particular) is that try as I might, I don't understand it!  I come at it as a tinkerer. As a musician I know my tonics from my dominants, my sharps and flats and why thing are the way they are more or less, but the facts that lie behind electronic engineering have to be dinged into my brain to have any hope of staying there and fall out as soon as I start moving about. I love the poetry of it. The box with no moving parts and a voice coming out of it - not to mention the unworldly sound-world that goes on between the stations.

It makes a change and it's good to tinker, to find one's way - to find out by experience, to work on aquiring a working knowledge rather than developing a trained knowledge, for a change (although the boundaries between the two, obviously, are not hard a fast).

And what shall I do with the radio, now it works? I'm not sure. Now it works, I can feel myself losing interest, moving on. I might tinker with it some more. Or I could just put it in the bathroom and listen to it.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

What is Music?

Researching my previous post, I came upon this short humorous verse which appeared as an introduction to the tunes collected in The William Vickers Manuscript - a collection of popular tunes which dates from the early 1770s. I'm sure one or two other readers who are also musicians will have a chuckle at this and think it's a case of "the more things change, the more they stay the same":

Musicks a Crotchet the Sober thinks it Vain
The Fiddles a Wooding Projection
Tunes are but Flights of a Whimsical Brain
Which the Bottle brings best to Parfection
Musisians are half witted mery and madd
And Those are the same that admire Them
Theyr fools if they Pley unless their Well Paid
And the Others are Blockheads to Hire them.