Wednesday, 1 April 2020

Self Isolation Pods

Recent collage whilst pressing nose against window and making mooing noise at infrequent passers by.

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Friday, 28 February 2020

Down The Time Tunnel

From the collage archives.

In Search of the English Folk Song



Made in 1997 -  many years before the resurgence of interest in British traditional music among the hipsterati - Ken Russell's take on folk is a peculiar one. No ancient footage from mid-Sixties folk cellars like Les Cousins and Bunjie's, no Communist Party singalongs from the Fifties... instead it's the performers today  (well, '97, but you catch my drift)... June Tabor doing a wonderfully haunting unaccompanied story-song "The King of Rome" in the grounds of a stately home, the Albion Band marred a bit by some nasty modern keyboards, Carthy/Waterson harmonising in a graveyard, Donovan singing "Nirvana", Fairport Convention cavorting around a thatched cottage, the Cropedy Festival....

But more interesting is the large amount of stuff that doesn't fit any kind of commonly understood definition of folk or folk-rock:

- a really strange calypso-folk/circus-carnival type outfit called Edward II at Glastonbury

- an Englishman obsessed with Native American folkways

- a Greenham Common veteran singing a suggestive ditty full of horseriding/fornication double-entendres

- scenes at Greenham, the military base now derelict and Ballardian, with former protestors singing the tunes that kept their spirits up around the camp fires

-  a minstrel called Bob Appleyard singing with bizarre and oddly affecting intensity a song about "The Fawley Flame" (a plume of fire that lights up the night sky from the Southampton Water refinery)

- a hard raunching metallic rock group with a flame-haired firebrand of a female singer

- various other performers who basically seem to be friends of Ken's or people who live in his village...


Right at the start of the film is something that gave me a real tingle....  Ken whips through a stack of 78 rpm records and stops at one by Joseph Taylor, "Died Of Love" b/w "Brig Fair", originally recorded in 1908 by the composer and song-collector Percy Grainger, on a cylinder. "Bought this at Cecil Sharp House," says Ken, adding that Taylor was "around eighty when they recorded him". A ghostly flutter of voice comes through the shellac's hiss and crackle.

Equally ghostly is the tiny bit in the doc of pre-First World War film  - shot on a Kinora machine - of folklorists Cecil Sharp and George Butterworth dancing in a circle with "two ravers" (as Ken put it, in his archly chauvinist way) in an English country garden.


Joseph Taylor is the same Joseph Taylor - of Saxby-All-Saints, Lincolnshire - sampled on the amazing "Caermaen" by Belbury Poly



Percy Grainger was a big admirer of Taylor's highly individual but untutored style of singing. In an 1908 essay, “The Impress of Personality in Traditional Singing”, he praises the complexity of folk forms in terms of rhythm, dynamics and scales, and emphasizes the artistry of singers like Taylor whose idiosyncratic ornaments (“twiddles” as Grainger liked to call them) were incredibly difficult to capture in notation, because so riddled with “short stabs and gushes of quickly contrasted, twittering, pattering and coughing sounds…   rhythmical irregularities of every kind”.



This is a recording of Taylor made by Grainger, which he then made the basis of this composition.


Tuesday, 25 February 2020

National Instructional Television Center - "Signs of the Times" (1971)



(via The Hauntological Society)

At first, this seemed too good to be true - like it actually might be an incredibly well-made contemporary artifact.

But it appears to hail from American 1970s public television.

See also

https://archive.org/details/devilsmonstersanddragons

https://archive.org/details/SpacestoLiveIn

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLDMe17La2Vj4xTk7Uja1hl8pZbuhrjJyk

Never heard before of "instructional television" as a genre