Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Fin de Siecle

I’ve just finished the first draft of my Ebor Vox Anthem. After writing my blog last night, whist Nathan snoozed, I had a bit of a brainwave, and whipped the piece into shape. All that now remains is for me to put it away for a few days, and come at it with a fresh pair of ears to make minor adjustments, check that all of the internal parts make musical sense and format it so that everything looks pretty. There’s still a lot more to be done on the rest of the composition; various break-out sections and the processional, which the choirs will sing as they wind through the streets of York, but it feels a great relief to have written something I’m pleased with, so early into the writing stage.

I took myself to my regular cafe this morning, and chatted to the girl behind the counter about the no plugs rule; “you’re a regular” she said, “you can do what you like.” I rather liked being called a regular. There is so little regularity and routine in my life that any sense of it makes me feel a little warm inside. My innate inner loyal Leo begins to purr.

This afternoon I went to meet producer PK in a cafe in Camden and we talked about the Requiem and many other things. I love talking to PK. He’s got a unique take on life and a heap of extraordinary tales to tell, many from his days at Mute records, where he regularly worked with Erasure and Depeche Mode, and luminaries like Miranda Sex Garden and the Balanescu String Quartet. I learnt today that, as a 14 year old boy, in 1969, he went to see The Stones playing in Hyde Park. He said there was an over-whelming sense of optimism floating in the air; almost as though everyone in the audience felt anything was possible.
It’ funny, I’m beginning to wonder if a similar sense of optimism isn’t floating into 2012. They say recession is really good for the arts. We’re all being forced to rip up the rule books and start all over again. The fat cats in the Arts Industry are dying out; their last hurrah will be the ridiculous Olympics. Their manufactured, expensive art is struggling to find a mass audience and they’re squabbling over an increasingly small piece of the pie. Very soon they’ll be forced into retirement. Everywhere, little pockets of resistance are forming; like the small, but increasingly robust clan of musical theatre writers, and the increasing number of film makers and recording artists who find themselves creating art for themselves rather than doffing their caps to the talentless execs (who are all losing their jobs). Maybe I’m mistaking my own sense of optimism for something greater, but I genuinely sense renaissance is on the way. Historically, this would be bang on. The Fin De Siecle wafts into memory with all its backward-looking derivative art – and like the Dadaists, and Futurists in the 1910s, a new school emerges. All we need now is the war... No, wait... Let’s not wish for war.... although war is also good for art.

But back we sail to the 1660s, the greatest period of political change, and possibly optimism in recorded history. March 14th 1662 was a Friday, and Pepys spent the day in the office.

In the afternoon came the German Dr. Kuffler to discourse with us about his engine to blow up ships. We doubted not the matter of fact, it being tried in Cromwell’s time, but the safety of carrying them in ships; but he do tell us, that when he comes to tell the King his secret (for none but the Kings, successively, and their heirs must know it), it will appear to be of no danger at all. We concluded nothing; but shall discourse with the Duke of York to-morrow about it

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