VISUAL OF THE WEEK
The sound of a saxophone drifts over Drapers Field in Leyton as I head to the Olympic Park. I walk into the playground and sit down nearby as I realise it’s “Misty” that he’s working things out on, looking down at his iPad for the sheet music. After congratulating him I walk off, only for him to start “Danny Boy”, which I have had on a car playlist for the last week, as essayed by the wonderful Ben Webster. Spooky…
EMINEM’S BOX OF WORDS
“I’ve got letters that look like this, and they’re all from crazy people”, says Bill Maher to Eminem as he contemplates his crate full of notebooks in a fascinating interview. I like it when Em reads a sheet that Maher hands to him, and decides not to read it out, as he may “use that…”
EMERALD STREET FLAGS UP A MUSICAL MUST BUY
“It was meant as an insult. And she’s a theremin player! a friend once said, finishing her dismissal of another woman with venom. In the context of the rest of the speech this somewhat obscure swipe made sense: the theremin player was beautiful in a left-field way, frostily pretentious and given to sleeping with other people’s boyfriends. Her instrument of choice shared the first two traits. So, what is a theremin and what do they have to do with Us Conductors? A theremin is a musical instrument, where the sound is produced by moving your hands through an electric field. It sounds quavering, beautiful and faintly unearthly. Us Conductors by Sean Michaels is roughly based on the instrument’s creator, Lev Termen, a Russian engineer who, acting on the orders of Lenin’s government, took his invention to America in the 1920s. This timeline forms the first part of Us Conductors, remembered by Lev as he travels back to a gulag in his homeland. He addresses himself to Clara, a young American and his ‘one true love’. The American memories are full of starry parties with a Glenn Miller and George Gershwin soundtrack. (Michaels’ background as a music writer really comes through when describing concerts and improvisations.) They shimmer with early love and bootleg liquor, even as the Depression begins to bite. The second half of the novel is written in a simple and spare style, in keeping with its gulag setting. It’s harrowing and we are unsure if Lev’s love for Clara and for science will sustain him.”
THAT’S DOCTOR COOPER CLARKE TO YOU, SIR!
Great advert for the National Trust using a specially-commissioned poem by JCC, Nation’s Ode to the Coast. Listen to the bit where the “That’s where the sea comes in…” line repeats at the end, where he slips a wonderful drawled yeah… in the tiny crack of space between.
A big fat sky and a thousand shrieks / The tide arrives and the timber creaks
A world away from the working week / Ou est la vie nautique?
That’s where the sea comes in…
Dishevelled shells and shovelled sands, / Architecture all unplanned
A spade n bucket wonderland / A golden space, a Frisbee and
The kids and dogs can run and run / And not run in to anyone
Way out! Real gone! / That’s where the sea comes in
Impervious to human speech, idle time and tidal reach / Some memories you can’t impeach
That’s where the sea comes in / A nice cuppa splosh and a round of toast
A cursory glance at the morning post / A pointless walk along the coast
That’s what floats my boat the most / That’s where the sea comes in…
That’s where the sea comes in
ONE THING THAT SLIPPED THE NET
“She’s Got You”, by Rhiannon Giddens at Islington Assembly Hall, a couple of weeks ago. The great Patsy Cline classic, written by Hank Cochran, here stripped back to a choppy acoustic backing with added moaning cello, courtesy of Malcolm Parson. Giddens’ powerful voice is foregrounded, moving through a very straight and precise opening verse before gradually loosening it up. By the end, allowing a little vibrato and a little country sob to creep in, she turns bluesy and, tracked by the cello, brings the song home with a beautiful flourish.
SEEN IN COVENT GARDEN: SHOESIC?