Thursday, 28 March 2013

William Turnbull

Watched a documentary recently about the Scottish artist, William Turnbull. It was spellbinding, I thought. It's not all online but there's a trailer and a few clips:

Beyond Time - William Turnbull Trailer - Newport Beach Film Festival 2012
The Influence of Flying
BEYOND TIME -New York 1950's

  Beyond Time- the 1952 Venice Biennale
The film included examples of the work of Turnbull's wife, the sculptor Kim Lim and an interview with his friend and fellow-artist, Richard Hamilton:
The Sculpture Of Kim Lim
  Richard Hamilton Interview-The Beatles "White Album"
And if that's not enough to be going on with, then there's always the website.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Invisible Graffiti

I found myself getting quite nostalgic about rock climbing the other day.  I haven't done any for years.  I threw out my rope and harness a while back: man-made fabrics, even the toughest, don't last for ever and both were well past their sell-by date.

I found myself remembering how, when it went well, a vertical, rocky environment was a wonderful place to escape to. Oddly, one can feel securely cocooned among the cracks, corners and bulges of a cliff. The surface is close to your face, it demands that you be aware of it, in a way we are rarely aware of the detail of the ground beneath our feet. Anyone who has climbed on a warm, Summer day will remember the smell of hot rock. Arranging one's protection -taking in ropes, paying them out, clipping and unclipping karibiners- one looses oneself in a relaxing, meditative way.

And then there are the routes.  I was never any good and so had to cultivate an interest in old, easy routes - routes that were difficult in the old days as "protection" was limited or non-existent but easy enough in these days of chocks, hexes and "friends" (spring loaded camming devices).  I didn't need a lot of encouragement to stay with these old routes. The history of climbing makes for great literature and, fortunately, the literature of climbing is prolific, from the Victorian Edward Whymper's Scrambles Amongst the Alps, through WH Murray's accounts of his Scottish climbs to more modern writers such as Joe Simpson, David Craig and Al Alvarez, to name but a few.

And then -and this is what set me off writing this post- there are the names climbers give to the routes they devise. Few people realise when they look up at a cliff that, to a climber who consults his or her guidebook, it will most likely be covered with a tracery of routes. And the names? They range from the boringly descriptive -such as "Central Chimney"- to the outright poetic. Often a name's significance derives from it's pre-existing neighbour. On Pic Tor in Derbyshire, Diagnosis runs up the crag next to Prognosis. Humour abounds. The late Arthur Dolphin (a climber active in the 1940s) named a route he'd climbed in the Lake District Kipling Groove. When asked why, he said "because it was ruddy 'ard." All the best route names tell a story, although usually we'll never know what it was. Sometimes it's obvious. On Kinder Scout there's a crag known as Chinese Wall - up one side there's a Communist Route, up the other a Nationalist Route.

To name but a few, picked at random from the pile of guidebooks I have beside me: Tranquillity, Hades, Gehenna, Cinderella's Twin, Cucumber Groove, Ulysses or Bust, Soyuz (next to Apollo), Soho Sally, The Flute of Hope, Tales of Yankee Power, The Mangler, Time Machine, Piranha Wall. Most are short. Some are longer: Float like a Butterfly, Land like a Tomato.

Although many great books have been written about climbing, some of the best mountain literature is out there, invisible to the naked eye, the rambling collaborative poems the lines of which are the names of the routes themselves, words composed by those who first climbed them. Although, in the days when I climbed, I never composed any  lines myself (in words or on rock) I enjoyed reading them.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Cobram Duo

On Friday night we went to a concert. The Cobram Guitar Duet were performing at a local village hall. There was a generous buffet laid on too and I have to say coffee, fairy cakes and live classical guitar music go together very well.

The first half of the concert was dedicated to transcriptions of early music. This began with a rare chance to hear (in a North Yorkshire village hall, at any rate) a Suite by William Lawes. Lawes had worked as "a musician in ordinary for lutes and voices" for Charles I and had the misfortune to be shot in the English Civil War. The Lawes was followed by works by Dowland, Frescobaldi, Praetorius and that most prolific of composers, Anon.

The second half was dedicated to more modern guitar music - from Tarrega's famous tremolo-marathon Recuerdos de la Alhambra and Albeniz' Asturias to a super-cool arrangement of Somewhere Over the Rainbow.

It was a magical evening. I found myself reflecting on how much more alive live music is compared with the recorded equivalent - and, particularly in the early pieces, what it must have been like in the days before mechanical recording when to hear a piece at all you had to either play it or have it played.

Although I'll certainly post it when they do, The Cobram Duo are yet to put any examples of their playing on Youtube, so I'll post some music I've been meaning to post instead. It's certainly related to what I've been writing about, though. Rather than early music transcribed for guitar, this is twentieth-century music played on lutes - some of Stockhausen's Zodiac pieces for musical boxes, Tierkreis. The first in this series is Leo, the lion, which is perhaps the most clearly characterised of the pieces and, as such, a good "way in". I always think Stockhausen's lion is vaguely reminiscent of Saint-Saens' portrayal in The Carnival of the Animals:

The gig we went to was - I think -  in aid of Gilling West Village Hall repair fund. If you're looking for ways of fundraising, the Cobram Duet are, I believe, looking for gigs! You can find out more about them at their website.