Thursday, 28 May 2020


N.N. not no-one never naïve notes.
Somebody not just anybody please.
Poor Tom-like his mantelpiece of keys.
Whatever floats your boat your overcoat
Toy soldier marching down up down upstairs
Engineer of origins, tradesman of space
Once upon once upon once upon thrice
Hammering hardware, his waltz on a chair.
Was it ever gods treading ivory paths
Golden age pieces from the Attic attic
Where sunlight unloosed long staccato laughs,
Or only just Monsieur with one umbrella
Cool boulevardier, flaneur of static,
Paris where rain taps and fingers turn yeller?

Wednesday, 27 May 2020


9.     John Cage. Sometime in my forties I became strangely aware of a strong reaction against Romantic Music, i.e. the enormous heritage of 19th century composition that filled the concert halls and living rooms of my childhood and youth. I had become habituated to its predictable heave-hoes and slower passages and more heave-ho. The discovery of Early Music pre-Mozart was fresh air, as was this amiable composer, who represents for me the end of old Romanticism. There’s a lot of hoo-ha and slower passages and more hoo-ha about Cage. I prefer hearing his music. A. Etudes Australes, played by Greta Sultan on piano. You want ambient? Cage took charts of the southern night sky and annotated the stars onto music paper. Over two hours of twinkle twinkle at unpredictable distances apart musically and astronomically, ideal for long road trips, or even just down the Geelong Road. B. Ensemble Modern and Ingo Metzmacher play Sixteen Dances for Soloist and Company of 3. I quote from the website of the Merce Cunningham Trust: “John Cage’s music was for piano and small orchestra, with a set of 64 sounds for the first dance; for each pair of dances eight sounds were replaced by eight others, so that by the end there was a completely new set of sounds. The colors of the costumes followed a similar sequence, from dark to light.” C. Roaratorio, an Irish Circus on Finnegans Wake, the 1979 recording for Cologne Radio, is how James Joyce should be reinterpreted, complete with tape loops of natural and artificial sounds and Cage reading the polyglot words over the polyphonic flow using his invented mesostic metre. This extended piece of spoken word radio art has the stunning effect of making you feel like you’re in Dublin on one of those big blustery days, complete with hilltop dog barks and nattering in the pub snug. D. The Seasons, and other pieces performed by Margaret Leng Ten on prepared piano and toy piano, with the American Composers Orchestra. Winter through Fall, as Americans say, is the progression for this radical classic of modern ballet, first performed in New York in 1947. Again, the history itself is fascinating but the music makes all things new.

Photograph of John Cage in ‘Images of Music’ by Erich Auerbach, published by Könemann of Cologne, 1996, pages 34-35.

Saturday, 23 May 2020


8.     Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu. This album is the result of an inspired collaboration between Michael Hohnen, Eekki Veltheim and Dr G. Yunupingu. The discoveries of contemporary minimalism are used to support, drive, and colour traditional manikay of Yolngu music of north east Arnhem Land. The more I listen to this particular album the more I am made aware of how the spoken voice of any locality forms and informs the singing voice, and so the composition of music itself. There is inspiration, imitation, improvisation, and so the whole play of voice and sound continues through time. The composers have listened attentively to the tone and inflection, the rhythm and style of Gurrumul’s lyrical singing before setting to with the instrumentation. They are creation songs, singing up the world of crow, scrubfowl, tuna, octopus, and crocodile, and everything that gives them and us life: air, light, fresh water. My mother never gives music CDs as presents, we’re likely to have them already, but she gave each of us each a copy of this album for Christmas.

The CD is pictured on a two-page detail illustration of a work called ‘Distant glimpses of the great floodplain seen through a veil of trees and hanging vines’ by John Wolseley, in the magnificent book ‘Midawarr Harvest : the art of Mulkun Wirrpanda and John Wolseley’  (National Museum of Australia, 2018)