My Grandad’s Awl – the power of objects

September 6, 2019 § 1 Comment

We have had quite strong winds these last few weeks in Huahin and the blackboard sign we have outside the cafe has been blown around a bit. Not being of the highest quality, it has suffered some damage and so I had occasion to fix it this morning and put a couple of screws in the legs.

The first requirement – make a couple of pilot holes for the screws – so I brought my grandad’s old awl from my toolbox.

My grandad was a carpenter in and around the village of Dore in Derbyshire, England. I have a few of his tools which came to me when my father died, as they came to him when my grandad died. Some of them may even possibly have come from my great grandad although sadly I have no knowledge of him.

My father used these tools and cherished them all his life. As well as being an aeronautical engineer, he was also a very skilled carpenter and maintained the family home to the highest standards using his fathers tools, as well as his own, and the ones he also made himself.

I am not a carpenter but occasionally I do work in wood and when I happen to pick up one of these precious things it always stops me in my tracks and I connect down through the years to my family.

When you examine the qualities of such an object… the evidence of its use over possibly 100 years, the patina of the wood, the wear and tear, it opens up the past.

A truly beautiful object.

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Live Improvisation

June 2, 2019 § Leave a comment

It’s nice to get back to my #clarinet and #livelooping set up. I’ve been away for a couple of weeks.

Here’s a link to tonight’s fb live:-

Live clarinet improvisation

Make it sweet

May 29, 2019 § Leave a comment

Over the last week I have spent a difficult time with a family member who has just lost his battle with liver cancer. A very sad time. To be with someone, at the moment of their death, is a profound experience and also an honour and a privilege.

I am not a religious man in terms of having any code of ritual and behaviour to follow, and being a foreign guest in another very different culture from my own also puts me in some state of bewilderment – even for seemingly obvious aspects of everyday life. But I am no worse for any of that – on the contrary, difficult experiences are always opportunities to learn and grow.

This death has not been unexpected and in recent weeks very much in my thoughts. How do we deal with this inevitable enemy we have all learned to fear? I won’t even attempt to answer that question because we will all find our own way.

What I do know, is that looking death squarely in the face and knowing it, is an intensely powerful motivator to life.

I was having a jam with a friend recently – we were playing around with the final lines from the movie American Beauty. These are the thoughts of a man who has just been shot and is reflecting on life, and they are profound and simple. We produced some intense music that night and afterwards we were laughing and wondering how it would go down with people in a bar who had only come in for a beer. I joked that ‘you should confront people with their mortality, it’s good for them’.

Humour is one of our keenest weapons in this fight.

There’s a time and place for everything of course, but we shouldnt look away or we miss the message.

From that jam session with Gary Hall I have come to produce two short pieces of work of which I am very proud. I am very new to making music and there are a few notes in these improvisations that I wish were better, but they are what they are. I am proud of these pieces because they are real – super real in their emotion and intention.

The first is almost untouched in it’s production… a little attempt at noise reduction, but that’s it… It was totally unrehearsed and came out of nowhere. I put this together with a bit of video I shot from the night train from Nong Khai in Thailand. A train arrives in a station as the one we are on leaves… the landscape becomes darker and darker and all that is left is the twinkling light of the stars.

An Ocean of Time

The second I made the other day in a state of limbo… after the death and awaiting the funeral which happens today. I have read a little about the ‘bardo’ states of Tibetan Buddhism .. the inbetween spaces between this life and the next.. and that it is good to prepare oneself for whatever new adventure awaits us.
I have had no instrument in this time and so I worked with what I had.

Bardo

Life is certainly short – make it sweet.

Lightning

May 6, 2018 § Leave a comment

 

As a young man I avidly read all the works of Hermann Hesse…Steppenwolf, Demian, Narziss und Goldmund etc etc but my favourite of all his stories is the short novella Klingsor’s Last Summer. It shimmers with life and colour. On my way out tonight I filmed this short burst of video and this quotation came to mind:-

Life passes like a flash of lightning
Whose blaze barely lasts long enough to see.
While the earth and the sky stand still forever
How swiftly changing time flies across man’s face.
O you who sit over your full cup and do not drink,
Tell me whom are you still waiting for?
~ from Klingsor’s Last Summer by Hermann Hesse (1877–1962)

 

Maybe 40 years has passed since I read that story for the first time. I am now 58.

Keep your eyes wide open and catch all those colours as they flash in front of your eyes.

Duet for Bird and Clarinet

February 1, 2018 § Leave a comment

A little live improvisation in the garden at baan3ongs on the outskirts of Bangkok

Watch “Improvisation.. Clarinet And Harmonium” on YouTube

January 19, 2018 § Leave a comment

You might not know… I started playing clarinet a couple if months ago and recently started coupling it with harmonium. Have a listen.

Watch “Cuckoo” on YouTube

July 21, 2017 § Leave a comment

A new shakuhachi improvisation recorded today

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