Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Fondation Hartung Bergman Poems 1

Half of the sequence of poems I wrote at juice's amazing residency in France with MaJiKer. If I wasn't writing music I was writing poems. Many of these reference Hans Hartung and Anna-Eva Bergmanthe artist couple who built, lived and worked at the incredible modernist residence.

everything that they needed is still here:
light that kicks on white stone
birds snipping diamonds out of the air
cloud-drift rasping over the pines,
which have an assuredness I’m envious of

olive trees, three hundred years old,
lean their elbows on the walls
of the pool, taking in the water
and its merry-making with light –
a paint-fight, happily spattered,
like those canvases which didn’t stop,
their arteries spraying out onto the
vast concrete walls

the canvas is stabbed like a heart,
the knife yanked back and it all comes
gushing out, a life-flash in paint:
the explosion of birth the hurt the love
the shouts of joy the mixing of languages
bodies juices the babble the tongues
the thousands of hands clamouring
the battles the shocks the rain
a race down the zip-line of memory
one long ululation towards death

and at night
when the winds are still
the pool becomes a dreamtime

unbreathing, you swim up to walls
which turn you and turn with you
showing their ancient, secret side
- Anna-Eva, dreaming of Miro:

her violet-black rooms and iridescent cave-shapes
of things you never thought possible
blueprints for mazes and animal kings
men who can fly, the shape of the sun’s eye
and otherworlds connected by shining threads

breathing and in the air again
the patterns of the pool dance
a fire-circle in your skull

and now it’s just me and the night
and the clouds that are like galaxies falling in

Hartung moves along the walls, spraying
orange tree-shadows on the stone

and I’m sure something will rise up out of the pool
or maybe the pool itself will lift, a slab of water
levitating above its grave, defying it

each star has a different plumage and way of hovering
and each is waiting to swoop and pluck out my tongue
we think the sky is arced
but it is us, leaning back on our heels
trying to pull the universe around us like cloak

The sky just


there’s lemon, and rosemary,
and pink petals lolling in hot water
daisy-fresh goat’s cheese
and tapenade black as rain-rich earth
anchovies, eggs seduced by butter
and tomatoes loosening in their skins
but I suck, stickylip, on the sun’s last fingers
its sugarcreamspongepuddingness, drip drip…

the pines’ rusting bars prong open
the shadows lean the other way
I inch my way along the wall, mugging
like a criminal in a silent comedy
trying to stay in the sun


the night is a wallflower finally chosen
each star-speck flicked onto shimmer-mode
as his trumpet picks them out, one by one

and that voice

the pool unstills, shivers as his vibrato
slinks in, playing with its light-ribbons

his phrases powdering into indigo breaths
which tinge the far hills


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

BBB-t-CL-t-doi-doi-doi (POP!)

Level of conviction in juice's/MaJiKer's genius: 10
Amount of creative activity achieved in last week: about A HUNDRED AND FIFTY
Reading / Listening: 'A Scattering' by Christopher Reid / Kevin Volans' string quartets by the Balanescu Quartet
Hair Day: Gently chlorinated (I have a season ticket to Brockwell Lido. Heaven)

I have just returned from one of the most gloriously fulfilling weeks of my life: juice were invited by songwriter/producer/vocal and body percussionist extraordinaire MaJiKer to work with him for a week at the Fondation Hartung Bergman, which is a wee bit inland from the Cote d'Azur.  A lovely cross-genre festival, Les Nuits Carrees, brings musicians to this incredible, white stone modernist house and studio, built by painter couple Hans Hartung and Anna-Eva Bergman, who lived and worked there from the '60s to the '80s. It was like living in a sort of big art-igloo surrounded by 300 year-old olive trees. Oh, and with a pool. YES!

Having a week in which to be solely focused on creating music for the four of us was sooo rudely invigorating, like having a quick scrub down with some rock salt after a freezing swim. Most of the week I was goddamn near crackling with creativity, brain gently buzzing like a sleepy bee as I went to bed, and whirring up again as soon as I opened my eyes in the morning. Between us we drummed up eighteen pieces, and I wrote fifteen poems too, having raced through Christopher Reid's A Scattering in my breaks, sitting by the pool with my customary rooiboos and vanilla tea. We would head down to the studio, with bright Hartungs splashing the walls up around us, and bring various scraps or finished pieces down to try out or improvise upon, all flattered by the chapel-like acoustic. The idea was to generate new material for the four of us, which we presented towards the end of the week - to an adoring Antibes audience no less; where do these people come from and why is not like this in the UK? The culture on the continent is sooo much more embracing and positive.
We covered so much ground in seven days. Working with MaJiKer was really fascinating; where juice might concentrate on getting the rhythms and pitches right first, he - with his producer's cap on - got us to focus much more on varying our tone and colour, celebrating the differences in our voices as well as the blend we mostly strive for, and stretching our ranges. juice concentrated chiefly on various love song covers to expand our already-commissioned set. Cue Erasure mash-ups turned into football chants, Dawn Penn into three-part sultry harmony, Kraftwerk synths on voices, Rihanna tunes in two stacks of fifths, Guns 'n' Roses with some hocketing and forest soundscapes, and some Mariah wails transformed into a load of weird electro mice. MaJiKer's work included being inspired by Georgian male voice choirs, Hebridean hymn singing, and a fiendish Bulgarian tune and body percussion riff, which meant that outside the studio we were were mostly slapping ourselves all over to try and get it right, like we were being plagued by a crowd of strangely rhythmic mozzies. We picked up some beatboxing and rain noise-making tips too. I loved the way material was reshaped through collaboration: juice wrote texts inspired by Hartung paintings, which MaJiKer then chopped up and re-arranged for some Georgian solos; and my Lullaby for the Witching Hour, already remixed for our (now AWARD-WINNING!!) album, has been processed a stage further into a 'live remix', or 'remix unmixed' for juice and electronics. Not only that but he did a lovely photoshopped job on my score to make it something new and graphic.
We were fed every day (bloody steaks, rabbit, copious plates of cheese, salads); if we weren't working, we took dips in the tepid pool - the French thought we were mad, insisting that the pool was freezing (they clearly haven't been to Brockwell Lido on an April afternoon) - or hung out in the lounge, surrounded by art books and listening to their impressive contemporary classical/jazz CD collection. Or we would just chat, about French and English politics, feminism, language, and test MaJiKer on his Mastermind-like Eurovision knowledge (he knows every winner! And can sing it!). It really was seven days of dreamlike existence... poems to follow!