July 16, 2012
Heads like a child’s drawing of bird heads,
huge beaks and feather manes, flopping,
last extant beat-poets, croaking of things
hep and cool. Man, you hit bedrock
on that arching drum, selecting the sticks
that give the deepest echo, sound playing
through tall wooden amplifier,
from dark roots to hazy blow of sky.
You contemplate the waving tops
of tropical trees, plumed angel-head,
stylish in your black daytime rhythm.
Inimitable pulsing punctuation,
beaky accent perched above
the forest’s bright green flow.
(The palm cockatoo is the only wild animal known to select, and possibly to store, sticks for use as musical instruments.)
I am fascinated by palm cockatoos, although I have never even seen one. They live in the far tropical north of Queensland. The tattoo comes from much closer Queanbeyan, just over the border in New South Wales.
So why would you get a tattoo of a bird you have never seen? A little reminder that there are more things in heaven and earth…an encouragement to discover new worlds and boldly go…a cheap and less seedy way of being a pirate?
I don’t know, but I think the tattoo artist did a good job. (Thank you Carbine.) I have posted a black and white photo as the colour one I have makes my skin look a rather alarming yellow: just below nuclear buttercup. I will try and obtain a better photo, as the detail is blurred in this one. But this is my cockatattoo forever looking for sticks. My skin is the drum. Watch your finger!
May 7, 2012
These greatest hits
unfurling themselves beige flags
four four drumming
and I download white noise
to erase familiar grate
So you’re out shopping, right? And out of each shop comes a different appalling noise, threatening to strangle you. You feel like running away and hiding. In the supermarket they have a pretend radio station broadcasting ads for the entire stock of that wondrous supermarket źbetween ultra-insipid whiter than beige music, scraping away at your ear-strings, subtle as an un-oiled trolley. The same over-enthusiastic voice extolling the wonders of detergent until you wonder if this is in fact hell, and the unseen she who is spruiking is in fact a cleaner, brighter Mephistopheles. Or proper commercial radio entertains you in the shop of your choosing, which in Canberra includes advertisements for brothels, sorry, Gentlemen’s Clubs… And you’re just trying to buy yourself some cosmetics…And you don’t want to be impaling yourself on thoughts of patriarchy, just finding exactly the right shade of lipstick.
And again and again it’s Flashdance or Elton John or Sheena Easton or chiselled Flame Trees, punctuated by McDonalds or Hungry Jacks or the local roof repair man who does his own ads (‘Call and ask for ME!’) and really shouldn’t. You try and tell yourself that it could be worse, that it could be Christmas with Rudolf and the long-horn gang, banging at your ears in American accents, but that’s only a theoretical worse; for the moment this is as bad as it gets. So you duck into the chemist (avoiding the vapid waft of Fleetwood Mac sprayed like a cheap perfume) and buy earplugs.
And when you get home you try and find white noise to download, but at least, at least, it occurs to you that with your iPod in, people won’t think you’re odd, even if you’re listening to nothing at all, not a single half-chewed byte, but just your own thoughts and the muffled beating of your calmer heart.
For poetic people with (hopefully) less rant, click on this feather:
August 12, 2011
14 September 1983 – 23 July 2011
A claret voice, thick liquid copper,
poured out of her skin, sweat honeyed,
hair bee-hived. No droning sweetness;
such a tangy longing. If only she’d lasted
a few more years, we say, as if she were
a bottle to be stored and turned, turned,
until she matured into something else,
ordinaried into age, lees less special.
She’s gone; jade asps of notes remain
to remind how beauty often stings.
May 6, 2011
I am about to embark on a fortnight’s total immersion in music. Sounds like acoustic water-boarding, but it’s a matter of choice. The Canberra International Music Festival runs between May 11th and 22nd, and I’ve splurged on a gold pass, which means I can attend all 34 concerts, should I so choose.
I find that the ‘jet-lag’ caused by embarking on the long-distance haul triggers connections in my brain that otherwise lie dormant. That’s once I get past the lurking feelings of inadequacy that great music always creates. Sometimes I feel that poetry is music’s poor relation, being tied too much to meaning. But then another vodka kicks me past this, and the synapses stimulated (or created) by the baptism in sound can be put to good use, emphasising the noise that words make, and twisting meanings into improvised forms.
Here’s a little poem about the feeling that others (or Others Unseen) are somehow more perfectly creative. (Interestingly, I searched Bigstock for an illustration combining music and snails to go with the poem, and found the image above. It’s comforting, in a way, to know that someone else’s mind has been where mine has!):
Peg loves looseness, envies river of sheet,
flowing down from plastic clench of beak.
Milk would carve itself into solidity, escape
sloppy white seascape into certainties of cheese.
Poet would be musician, shed sad bad husks of words,
sprout into airier art, so eary and so letterless.
Sliming through house-heavy dirt,
even snails may dream of wings.
Update 11th May
Just returned from sitting in an exposed position on concrete on a wet piece of rubber listening to William Barton and an organist play some interesting music. (Barton’s own composition and some Philip Glass.) But I really couldn’t concentrate or enjoy the experience, as it was just too cold. There’s no way that concerts should be staged in Canberra at 7am at the end of Autumn. There’s a real martyrdom for music attitude amongst some of the attendees at the Canberra International Music Festival. I simply had to leave early as I felt I might get hypothermia. I obviously don’t have the right attitude. And the event was very difficult to locate for those of us who got there early, which added to my general festive spirit.
Unbelievable comment from one fellow attendee when I commented that I hoped the performance was not cancelled due to possible rain damage to the instruments: ‘Oh no, it’s only a didjeridu’. 40,000 years of culture belittled. Hats off to you, Sir. (Although there’s no way I would have removed my hat due to possible frost-bite.)
Previously I saw William Barton as one of the musicians in a concert at the Fitters’ Workshop featuring Sculthorpe’s Requiem, another requiem by Tomas Luis de Victoria and a setting of ee cumming’s ‘I thank you God for most this amazing day’ by Eric Whitacre. I wasn’t too keen on the last one, perhaps because that poem is so near perfect that the music seemed, for once, to detract from its beauty.
The event was co-sponsored by the Spanish Embassy. A Spaniard (I think she was, anyway) pointed out that there were several red-backs nestling at the edge of the concrete of this old industrial building, including one enormous one. I agreed that it was better to leave them alone, rather than stir them up into possible vengeance (a pun about red-backs and bulls was stifled on my tongue). I found myself explaining how the really big ones are female. I hadn’t expected to become a junior David Attenborough at the concert, I must admit. No doubt she’ll have a story to tell back in Spain: (‘..and they have horrible spiders, even at musical venues…’)
There was a lot of talk at the concert about how this venue is the best acoustically in Canberra, if not Australia, and how it should be preserved for music. The ACT Government has decided to move the Megalo print-works there instead. This is, according to one speaker, a tragedy or a disaster (I know he said one of these, but I can’t recall which one. It may even have been catastrophe.)* No, what has happened in Japan or NZ or Queensland is a tragedy or a disaster. A print-works getting the building is not a tragedy. It just means that another art-form has won out in this case. I hate the misuse of words in this way; it really cheapens the points being made. We all do it in casual conversation, but this was a prepared statement. I am not, admittedly, qualified to speak about the acoustics, but I was alienated by the tone of the comments. There’s a bit of a campaign on, I see, to keep the venue for music, and some of the letters in The Canberra Times are rather snide (although I haven’t noticed the word ‘tragedy’ or ‘disaster’ yet).
I wonder how the spiders processed the music, or if they even register it at all? Probably it vibrates through their bodies, particularly the drums, organ and the didjeridu. I wonder if they’ll miss the noise, when the venue becomes a printery? Just tragic, really.
*Update 13th May
The word used by the speaker, Don Aitkin, was disaster. I checked in a written copy of the speech which was made available at a concert last night. The story has migrated to the front of The Canberra Times, although the article also deals fairly with the needs of the Megalo print-works. A point I have not seen made by anyone is how the building is flooded by light through enormous glass windows: as important an element to the visual arts, I would think, as acoustical quality is to music.
Update 2nd June
Looking back on the festival, I would not buy another ‘gold pass’ for nearly $500, despite some of the music being memorable. There was just too much talk before the concerts, much of it repetitive. And, after investing what was, for me, a considerable sum, I didn’t appreciate the frequent appeals for generosity in the form of sponsoring a performance.
Next year I’ll just attend one or two concerts that seem particularly interesting, and hope that that number of speeches proves (almost) tolerable.