March 2019: Input & Output

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We’re halfway through the month and already my cup runneth over in terms of input and output. I’m currently in the middle of a Family Band tour which is just a glory – it’s a chance for us to bed in a whole load of new material ahead of going into the studio to record our second album. We’ve had some really wonderful audiences and a few gigs in particular have felt like a profound shared experience between musician and audience.

What’s been very useful is the chance to build different set lists each night, experimenting with what flows well together and how to balance each set and the gig as a whole. Also, supreme thanks to the Manchester audience member who provided us with the best description of the band we’ve had to date –

Post-Apocalypse Anarcho-Bop

Here’s a video that Kyran Matthews took during our Manchester gig – it begins with the second half of Tom’s tune Life’s Work and then morphs into my newest piece, We May As Well Be Brilliant – https://www.facebook.com/kyran.matthews.9/videos/10161381825190005/

 

**********************LIVE**********************

It’s been a good month for attending arts events. Last week started with a trip to the theatre to see Home, I’m Darling. Featuring two of my favourites, Katherine Parkinson and Richard Harrington, the play was salve for the soul – nothing too taxing and not one to leave you emotionally bereft, there was a lot of really wonderful attention to detail and the set design was beautiful. (Bonus – a giant goblet of gin which was almost as big as my head and the company of my best friend in the whole world. )

I closed that week with a trip to the RA to see the Bill Viola/Michelangelo exhibition – Birth. Death. Rebirth. It was one of the most striking, immersive and intense exhibitions I’ve attended in a long time. It felt almost like an audience-specific theatre piece; with enormous scenes and more or less pitch-black rooms, there was no talking and there was a sense of intense focus and presence.

Bill Viola’s attraction to water and to the fluidity of fire meant I left the space feeling completely serene but inspired. I’d recommend a visit – it has 10 days left.

If I had to pick a favourite, it would be a tie-breaker between Fire Woman and The Messenger.

After leaving the RA, we popped down the street to see Christan Marclay’s new solo show at the White Cube Gallery and I fell deeply in love with his piece Subtitled. Exquisitely, painstakingly crafted it invites almost infinite re-watching, with each viewing a chase to catch new detail and to appreciate both the micro and the macro impact.

 

**********************BOOKS**********************

I finally finished Michael Peppiatt’s Francis Bacon In Your Blood. I say finally not because it was an arduous read but because I loved it so much I’d read it in little snippets to prolong the experience and because I didn’t want it to end. It’s a beautiful read, a snapshot into an amazing time in the art world and of the vibrancy and debauchery of both London and Paris. It’s also a fascinating glimpse into a complex and enduring friendship between Bacon and Peppiatt and that friendship is a truly authentic lens through which to view the two men and their lives.

I picked up the beautifully illustrated How I Resist: Activism and Hope for a New Generation the other day and it’s just full of energy and fire and determination and joy and optimism. It’s a large collection of writings, poetry, song and comic strips from people who resist and are activists in myriad ways. It’s completely empowering and a real call to use one’s voice and whatever resources and platforms we have to make the world a better place. Jonny Sun’s essay on the use of media is totally on-point and relevant to us all.

This morning I started Dana Thomas’s Gods and Kings, a book about John Galliano and Alexander McQueen. I adore McQueen beyond words and I was drawn to this book in particular because it examines a period in fashion and in the world of UK culture that is endlessly interesting to me.

It took me a long time to get into punk; as I grew more politically aware and grew into the activist I am now, punk made sense and I adore it and its culture impact. Falling in love with Vivienne Westwood also helped in that sense. But what came after punk is something I’ve held dear since I was very young. The New Romantic period feels inextricably linked to my life; my mum was a huge fan of the music and I grew up adoring the sound and the look and the attitude of people like Boy George, Soft Cell, Adam and the Ants, Spandau Ballet, all of those seminal bands. What I loved but was unable to vocalise was the bold and brazen self-expression through clothes and the rejection of gender roles. So I was delighted to find Gods and Kings delving into that period, and into things like the Blitz Club and Taboo and Steve Strange.

I think there’s a bit of controversy surrounding this book in particular and I anticipate that’s connected to the coverage of Galliano and McQueen’s ‘fall from grace’; people always love to see successful people fail and break down. But that kind of thing isn’t what I’m interested in and I’m hoping there’s enough else in the book to wipe that ‘disaster porn’ element away.

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EFG London Jazz Festival: Visualising Music, November 10th

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This week, the full programme of the EFG London Jazz Festival was launched and I’m incredibly excited to be invited to take part in a collaboration between EFG LJF and the Royal Academy of Arts.

Something Resembling Truth is a major retrospective of the work of Jasper Johns which will feature over 150 paintings, drawings and sculptures that spans six decades.

Visualising Music is an event that will explore the graphic score, and the relationship Johns had with composer John Cage. I’m one of two improviser/composers taking part, the other being the gloriously talented Raymond MacDonald. We’ll be joined by a group of musicians from Club Inegales. There will be live music as well as discussion.

Next week is the private opening of the exhibition and it’s the first chance I’ll have to see all of the works. Then, I’ll start work on developing some new graphic scores in response to the works as well as footage, interviews and literature about Johns and Cage.

When something is new to us, we treat it as an experience. We feel that our senses are awake and clear. We are alive.

In addition to this, I’m also part of the 25 for 25 commissioning project, generating 25 new works in celebration of 25 years of the jazz festival.

I’ll be using this site to document the progress of the project so stay tuned…

EFG London Jazz Festival 2017

Something Resembling Truth: Jasper Johns at Royal Academy of Arts