Saturday, 28 July 2012

Clarinet Trio Revisited

I've been working on improving the computer generated sound file of this piece, correcting a couple of typos in the score I spotted and equalizing the sound. It's still merely computerised but I hope it's a slight improvement.

To save anyone scrolling up and down, I'll reiterate what I said before about the piece, with a few added thoughts:

The first movement is a rondo - a musical term for a multi-storey sandwich in which a tune acts as the slices of bread, in between which various different fillings are spread. Another way of describing it would be, using letters for musical passages, ABACA...etc. One could also think of it as a chaconne - roughly speaking, a classical term for a piece based on a repeating riff.

The third movement is dedicated to the memory of the poet, Barry MacSweeney. The Northumbrian smallpipe tune, Too Few Coals, Too Little Money figures prominently. At first its appearance is conventional. However, as the piece progresses, the performers play wild, atonal melodic lines against it until, at last, the tune vanishes altogether. A second tune, often treated canonically, is based on a fragment of the clarinet melody heard at the end of the first movement.

While I was composing the piece I came very much to associate the first movement with the spirit, the second with the mind and the third with the body. The first, I think, strives to transcend itself, the second is more ruminative and the third, as befits the body is more dancelike (the incorporated melody, too, alludes to the body and what it needs). That's just the way I see it.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Clarinet Trio

I've just finished writing a piece for clarinet, cello and piano. I was motivated to write it on hearing The Weaver of Grass, who plays the piano, accompanying a mutual friend who plays the clarinet. The possiblility of writing a piece in which I could join in (on the cello) occurred to me. I hate writing music in a vacuum and like to be able to imagine a performance of any music I write so, whether we get to perform it or not, the catalyst was there (I doubt we'll be able to do the first movement at the fair lick the computer keeps up). It's in three movements and last just under 8 minutes.


Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Withdrawl Symptoms

The Tour de France is over for another year. Every day for the next week now there will be moments when I'm not sure what to do with myself. I'll fidget, wondering what it is that I'm missing. Withdrawl. Watching Bradley Wiggins pedal up those mountains I was reminded, by his physique and style, of the figure of Miguel Indurain - and realising how many years it was since "Big Mig" won the Tour I realised how many years I've been watching it.

Cricket? Yawn. Wimbledon? For Wombles. The Tour de France is something else. It's the sort of thing you imagine they might get upto in Valhalla on Sports Day. For years, I think, a lot people have been put off watching it by the drug scandals that have rocked it for as long as anyone can remember. However, I suspect it's now cleaner than it ever has been. The Tour is now proving that it is bigger than its troubled past.

For me, there's nothing quite like it. The last four stages, thanks to Wiggins, Cavendish, Froome and the rest of the Sky team,  were particularly gripping - if the words "Arise, Sir Bradley" aren't heard soon then there's even less point to the honours system than I thought there was. Still, it would be a shame to forget all the other dramas that made up the 2012 Tour. What sticks in my mind is Stage 8: Thibaut Pinot, at 22 the youngest rider in the race and riding his first Tour, broke away and rode on to win the stage. His performance was almost upstaged by that of Marc Madiot, his team manager and former racer, leaning out of the team car behind him, yelling and waving his arms in -I presume,as my French is limited- encouragement. Unfortunately, Madiot's (potentially Oscar winning) performance has been cut down to a few seconds in ITV4's 3 minute stage highlights.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Ennerdale Outing

The opportunity arose the other day for Robert (aka The Solitary Walker) and I to climb some hills in Ennerdale in the Lake District.

Ennerdale lies on the Western side of the Lakes. This is -unless you happen to live close to the North West coast- more difficult to access than the Eastern side and, consequently, less frequented by tourists. The villages tend to be what people round here in the Dales refer to as "working villages" - places people live and work rather than places people visit for holidays. In the East it is easy to find yourself in a long, slow moving line of traffic snaking from one tourist hotspot to another - not so in the West (well, not so often).

We parked in a car park beside Ennerdale Water, under Bowness Knott. There were only a handful of cars there when we arrived. We grabbed our backpacks and set off along the forestry road that runs along the edge of the lake passing, as we did so, the only people we saw all day. Once we left the track and crossed the River Liza we had the valley to ourselves.

Our intention was to walk the ridge that runs from Haycock (797m) to Pillar (892m), crossing Scoat Fell (802m) in the process. From the lakeside we had only the evidence of the map to tell us where they were: an unbroken blanket of cloud hung in the sky at around the 550m level. All we could see of our first objective, Haycock, was a brown tongue of ground that rose up out of the pinewoods to the left of Silver Cove and disappeared into the cloud. We made our way cautiously through the woods - we had a bad feeling about the accuracy of our old map where the areas of forest were concerned. (This was well founded. I checked later and the Forestry Commission information on the map dated from 1981!). We followed a path by a stream through the trees to the foot of the tongue, crossed the Silvercove Beck by a footbridge and started the long slog up to the ridge of the mountain.

We stopped to eat half way up, enjoying the view over Ennerdale Water as we did so. We had to enjoy the view while we could: a short distance above us the hillside faded into the clouds. We set a bearing for future reference and, fed and watered, carried on up.

Soon the views vanished and we found ourselves envelloped in a white glow. It didn't take long to reach the ridge. A dry-stone wall runs along its length so route-finding was a simple matter of walking up to it and turning left. A few minutes' walk interrupted by a short easy scramble  over Little Gowder Crag led us to the summit of Haycock.

I don't really mind walking over mountains in cloud. Though they obscure spectacular views, clouds make up for it by contributing to the grandeur of the situation. And when the clouds are torn apart to reveal the view below, the view seems all the more spectacular for it. Not only that, but navigating by map and compass is a satisfying game best played in poor visibility.

Dry-stone walls, on the other hand, lull one into a false sense of security.  The one we were following  ran along much of the ridge, over Haycock and on to Scoat Fell. When it came to an end we were still envelloped in cloud. I was all set to go off in the wrong direction (I would have taken us on to another top, Steeple - not necessarily a bad thing). Robert spotted the ridge proper through a break in the cloud.

We soon found ourselves on Wind Gap, a narrow col that joins Scoat Fell to Pillar. Breaks in the cloud were becoming more frequent and we were treated to more spectacular views of the valleys either side of the mountain. We pushed on up the steep, loose rocky slope on the far side of the col. I wondered how long it would take us to reach the summit as there were a lot of contour lines on the map at this point, all very close together. We were pleasantly surprised, though, and soon found ourselves on Pillar Summit which Robert immediately recognised as he had climbed the hill before  (he had previously approached it from the opposite side). We sat in the stone shelter close to the trig point, consumed more sandwiches and set a bearing that would lead us through the cloud, down back into Ennerdale.

There was a "right of way" shown on the map. However, we found little trace of an actual path. There was precious little grass either: for most of the descent we were picking our way over huge natural rockeries or running down scree. The shortcomings of the map soon became apparent: the forest below looked significantly different to the one shown. A whole new area had been planted, had grown and been felled since the map had been drawn. We soon found ourselves picking away down beside a desolation of felled conifers, their bleached, skeletal remains simply left where they had fallen. We were slightly worried by this - we had both heard of initiatives to "re-wild" Ennerdale and remove some of the forest (it had been heavily forested during WWII as part of the war effort) and hoped the felling would be followed by a clean-up, to allow the land to recover. (Anyone interested can find out more at

As it turned out, the lack of a useable map made the walk more enjoyable, not less. It did momentarily cross my mind that we might find ourselves benighted in a huge conifer forest, but only momentarily. So long as we kept working our way downhill we would get back to the start, eventually. It doesn't get dark until quite late at the moment and we had plenty of glimpses of the hillsides through the trees to guide us. After a while we found ourselves on a magnificent path that wound down the hillside, through the trees, along the bank of a roaring, tumbling stream. This came out on a forestry track close to the valley-bottom. All we had to do was head West.

It had been a day of low cloud although, luckily for us, the rain had held off - until now.  Light mizzle suddenly turned  into large, saturating drops, thoroughly soaking us on the long, final trudge back to the car park. Who cares? It would take more than a bit of rain to spoil a walk as good as that.

Unfortunately, neither of us had a camera with us. Fortunately, plenty of other people have been snapping away up there so it's not the end of the world. Just click here.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

The Silent Accordion

I was just lamenting the fact that I had not got round to going to visiting two exhibitions while they were on -Edmund Burra in Chichester and Grayson Perry at the British Museum- and thinking that I needed to stir my stumps and get going when I felt the urge. And then I saw this, posted on the blog of the artist, Natalie D'Arbeloff. It's a short film based on an accordion book she's made, entitled Therefore I Am. Sometimes you need to get up and go to see art but sometimes it comes to you. Another accordion-folded book made by Natalie is currently part of an exhibition at the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth (see her blog for pictures and details).

Therefore I Am from Natalie d'Arbeloff on Vimeo.

Friday, 13 July 2012

The Naming of Plants

I saw the other day the The Weaver of Grass had written a post entitled The Naming of Plants. I immediately thought of the famous Henry Reed poem, Naming of Parts, which contrasts the poet's prosaic instruction in the art of killing during the Second World War with the goings on in the garden outside. I was disappointed to find that the post -interesting though it was- had nothing to do with the poem. What follows is just a bit of fun - but like many such things it acquired the hint of a dark side when it got going...

Naming of Plants

with apologies to Henry Reed

Today we have naming of plants. Yesterday,
We had weeding. And tomorrow morning,
We shall have what to do after planting. But today,
Today we have naming of plants. Though gunfire
Can be heard coming from the television,
Today we have naming of plants.

This is Galium Aparine, which is also known as Goose Grass,
The preponderance of which will become clear to you, once in the garden.
This is Epilobium Angustifolium, known as Rosebay Willowherb.
At last, on TV, the firing has stopped and sirens
Can be heard. As for what's going on beyond the borders,
Who knows? We can but wonder.

This is Urtica Dioica, the removal of which can be
Unpleasant without gloves. And please do not let me
See anyone attempt it in a short-sleeved shirt. One can do it
Quite easily, so long as no flesh is exposed. The blossoms
Are fragile and motionless, never letting anyone see them
(They are, surely, malevolent) until it's too late.

And this is Taraxacum Officinale. Its intention
Is to conquer the earth. All we can do is our best
To rid ourselves of it: we call this pulling up the dandelions.
We do it in Spring. And rapidly backwards and forwards
Men in uniforms can be seen running (on TV).
Someone said it was another kind of Spring.

And Spring is when the trouble starts: it is
Perfectly easy if you have strength in your fingers for the Goose Grass,
For the Willowherb, the Dandelions, and time to weed
(Which, in our case, we have not got). The guns
Remain silent. All will be well, perhaps, after all.
And today we have naming of plants.

(c) Dominic Rivron  2012

Urtica Dioica = common nettle.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Open Gardens 2012

Our village is holding an "open garden" day today. Everyone who wants to participate throws their garden open to the public for the day. People come for an afternoon out, buy a ticket and wander round the village soaking up the atmosphere of the gardens. There's also a scarecrow trail. K and her friend A made ours - he's a painter.

We are blessed (cursed?) with a large garden which leaves you with two choices: either get into gardening or concrete it over. K is a keen gardener. I get stuck in if I have to and enjoy it when I do. Anyway, open garden day means do the weeding and mow the lawn.

We finally got the garden straight late yesterday afternoon and I thought it would be a good idea to photograph it all. All sorts of bits and pieces have ended up in our garden over the years, as well as the plants. Look out for the stone coat of arms (inherited from my dad), the toilet (complete with aster), the hedgehog-box and the cups sinking in the sink (the carefully sliced cups came from a friend's old shop window display).

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

For scarecrows from past years, click here.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Three Unrelated Things

Firstly, I made another Wordle the other day (see below) - this time based on my own poetry. I created a page for it all (well, quite a lot of it) on this blog a while ago, here. I was intrigued to see what the wordle maker would make of it. It might even save people the trouble of reading the extended version.

Secondly, tonight, browsing Youtube, I discovered someone had posted one of my favourite Star Trek moments:

And thirdly? Apologies to anyone who has seen this on Facebook or elsewhere on the net. I saw it a while ago - and found it again this evening. (I'd like to credit it, but it seems to have "done the rounds"). Who said irony is dead? (Sorry about that. Cliché, at least, is clearly alive and kicking. Oh no! I've done it again!).