Friday, October 21, 2011

Mists and Mellow Artfulness

Amount of creative activity achieved in last 24 hours: 2
Listening/Reading: New Bjork, James Blake and Camille stuff / Roger Deakin's very lovely 'Waterlog', to fuel my new love of cold-water swimming
Hair Day: sliced and diced; I now look like a 1950s greaser. YES!
What I can see from my window no. 18: the Shard, becoming humungous

'Tis an autumn season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, or in my case, wurlitzers, pop-up theatres and feminist arttalks, ah ha ha ha...

Sarah-juicette and I went to our Nonclassical labelmates The Elysian Quartet's 10th birthday celebrations, which took the form of an all-day experimental music festival in a new fringe theatre, The Yard, up in Hackney Wick. The 'Wick's rather unsalubrious vibe may have sent a few shivers down the spines of some South Londoners, but brought happy tears of joy form me, ensconced back in a land of pub-turned-squats, industrial wastelands and canals. The Yard is a most fabulous new space run by young director Jay Miller, tucked in a square amongst a range of businesses so eclectic I can't believe that Channel 4 hasn't filmed a documentary here yet: vegetable peelers, an evangelical church, mechanics, female mud-wrestlers and a swingers' club (we saw an unhealthy-looking couple - he sweaty and overweight, she haggard and wearing a mere notion of a dress - going furtively into a door marked only with a homemade sign saying 'FUNTIME'. Erk!).

The Elysians had programmed a whole world of leftfield wondrousness: we just caught the end of  multi-media percussionist Joby Burgess' set with a Max De Wardener piece, and then enjoyed the lilting, off-kilter loveliness of Seamus Fogarty's folkish electronica. Quartet members performed some of their splinter projects, with Laura doing her 'cello/voice art-pop thing, and Vince and Emma soaring through their strings/loops/noisy drums shizzle as Geese. The guys move in excellently arty circles, and some of their more high-profile musician-mates also made it along, with folktronica dude Adem delivering a gorgeous solo set just with him and this wonderful contraption that was a bit like a musical etch-a-sketch. I want one! Simon Fisher Turner, renegade grizzled chap whom I know best for writing an a cappella soundtrack to Derek Jarman's film 'Blue' (the most high-art film I have ever seen!), showcased some new electronica and then improvised with the Elysians in a beautiful film made up of stills taken around Hackney.

The quartet has been around 10 years for a reason: notwithstanding their propensity for throwing themselves into mad cool cross-arts projects, their ensemble is just fabulously instinctive and their sound soooo together. They played some Meredith Monk pieces, semi-improvised in my favourite piece of the day to a film of Swedish cranes (the birds! not the construction vehicles!) from Kathy Hinde, whizzed through a brilliant jerky soundtrack from chiptune chap Gameshow Outpatient which he had arranged for them (do you know any other quartets who perform acoustic versions of chiptune?) to a hilarious short animation of a houseproud vole, and finished it off with a live soundtrack to Tony Comley's cute film about a world-saving panda. It was all brilliant, made more marvellous by its setting and the wedges of rosewater and raspberry cake... juice should start planning their 10th anniversary party, scheduled for 2013!

I've been enjoying curating my Composer in Residence season at Handel House, where Claudia Molitor and Sarah Nicholls installed all sorts of interactive, thought-provoking pieces for a mostly arty crowd (barring the American couple who thought they had booked tickets for a Baroque concert and instead found Sarah slowly attemnpting to play the harpsichord with bundles of pound coins for half an hour, ah ha ha! They had faces like THUNDER!); last night Leon Michener tinkered with harpischord, wurlitzer and e-bows on a clavichord, improvising with bassist olie Brice and quite wonderful singer Seaming To, who I really hope to see again soon. She was clad in a stunning high-fashion take on gothic Victoriana, and manipulated Leon's homemade magic lantern music box to project creepy cut-out's onto Handel's shutters. Excellent! Elsewhere this week, I've also crammed in part of a feminist art talk (disappointing, mostly about being a mother, yawn) up in my old hood and gone to the Amersham Arms' newish jazz night, run by the SE Jazz Collective. Check it out if you're in the South, as the Camberwell Crypt has now died a death...

Very happy to see the final part of my Art on the Underground project snaking down the escalators at Bethnal Green, completely free of adverts. Here's a snap!

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