England mini-tour, Spring 2017

I’m doing a little self-described tour – definitely not grandiose – over the next few days. Would be good to see listeners, watchers, friends at the following three events. I’ll be reading from my Art Talk Notes poems, among other things (including a guest pop-up in Nottingham from Leiza McLeod!)

1) Nottingham

Reading at Five Leaves Bookshop on Wednesday 29 March, 7pm. Entry £3. With mon ami Colin Herd, as well as Vicky Sparrow. Thanks to Lila Matsumoto for organising this one.

2) Bristol

Back at my old haunt Arnolfini contributing to a reading series called Anathema for Moot, Hesterglock and Sad Presses. Friday 31 March, 6.30-9pm. Entry by donation. Co-readers are Redell Olsen, nick-e melville, Anne Laure Coxam, Sally-Shakti Willow & Joe Evans

3) Manchester

Not actually reading here, but attending the launch of this year’s Other Room anthology, which I’m in. Wednesday 5 April, 7.30pm. Free event. Seemed to me like a great excuse to catch up with friends there as well as hear readings fromErkembode, Juxtavoices and William Rowe.

 

p.s. This is all great and all, although I am sad to be missing CA Conrad and Sophie Robinson with home-girl Jane Goldman in Edinburgh. If you’re in Edinburgh, go to this! Embassy Gallery, 6pm, looks free.

Paris has burnt

I’m sharing a couple of pictures from mine and Leiza McLeod’s Paris Is Burning performance in Bristol last week, as Cheap Glam, which I blogged about in my previous post.

I should say, this activity is definitely at the more hysterical end of my creative spectrum …and what fun we had! Mind you, when the process involved sending videos of each other ‘s dance routines back and forth from Edinburgh to Bristol, there was always room for things to get a little wacked.

For example, here’s me posing with virtual me in Leiza’s living room.

Iain Morrison posing with virtual Iain Morrison

 

And here, are a few pics from our final performance at the Beacons, Icons and Dykons night itself.

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Tom Marshman was a wonderful, wonderful host. We loved meeting Harold Offeh too. He gave good face. And it was a treat to see so many friends in the sell-out crowd at Bristol’s Cube. If anyone fancies  contributing to Cube’s campaign to fundraise enough to buy its building, please think about donating here. It’s such a fantastic resource for Bristol’s creative scene and I hope it continues to see many more out-there nights lurching across its estimable stage.

Thanks to Jeremy Horwood for the pictures and to Auntie Pam Tait for the costumery.

Till the next time!

 

 

The canon: what happens to new classical music compared to what happens to new poetry

I’m wondering tonight,  comparing what happens to new classical music compositions (which I used to write a lot of) and new poems (which I currently write more of) after their creation.

I was reading in the cd notes for a recording of Benjamin Britten’s Piano Concerto that when it was written, even though people thought it was a bit showy and lacking in substance (I paraphrase) it was still a ‘welcome addition to the repertoire of 20th century piano concertos by British composers’.

Has anyone ever said anything similar about poems, that I can remember? Nothing springs totally to mind. Maybe the closest is someone saying something like ‘The Four Quartets was a welcome extended post-war statement by one of our major poets’. But that’s not quite the same thing. It’s close, but it doesn’t quite convey the sense of the utility of the artwork in terms of providing something that will ‘do’ to keep the tradition and its machinery going. I got the sense that the Britten concerto was seen as a not particularly successful bit of cooking that nonetheless filled the gap for now. Young pianists still had something contemporary to make their name with etc.

I think if the comparison between people talking about Eliot and people talking about Britten didn’t ring quite true, it’s partly to do with the differing circumstances that surround a new work in either form. With classical music, I think it’s more common perhaps for a performance to be lined up before the work is written. With poetry, there isn’t necessarily ANY performer ever involved, just the hope that there might be some readers engaged in a bit of one-on-one reception.

Is publication comparable to performance, I wonder? That’s another question.

I wonder if I’m too complacent about my poetry finding readers because I have some sort of assumption from my musical background that things that are written find an outlet? And are useful, for that matter?

What would things be like if there were figures whose profession it was to publicly read new poetry, in performances, or theatres or something? I think it’d be different to the scenario of poets just reading their work out, for example. Me, I quite like the idea of putting on a reading of other people’s poems that I thought made a nice programme, in the way that a concert programmer might with music.

As I write this, I know that there are some near examples of what I’m talking about, like I think there was a Bloodaxe tour a few years back which had a couple of actors performing contemporary poems. I like that idea. Maybe Live Literature in general is doing this a bit. The show I did as half of The Glamourous about women Beat Generation poets did this, but it also did a lot of other things simultaneously. I’m not thinking of poetry as theatre or performance poetry.

One thing I suspect is that the ratio of new classical music composed to new classical music performed is MORE EQUAL than the ratio of new poetry written to new poetry read/published.  Many reasons of course, if this is even true. Classical music’s ‘canon’ seems to be put together differently  to poetry’s ‘canon’.

This is a really unresolved thought. I want to start thinking about anthologies and whether they’re somehow implicated. I mean, they must be. They are. Will go off and ponder.

Note (trying to be) concerning the name of the blog

The new toilet rolls my parents brought round (long story) have a bubble on them saying ‘longer length’. I thought poets didn’t work in marketing?

 

Anyway, anyway, anyway, I thought I’d have a stab at explaining why I called this blog permanent positions. So I’m listening to Louis Andriessen‘s ‘Hout’ as I write this. The link there is to a piece called ‘Worker’s Union’. And this is all pertinent because? Because for one, I trained as a composer – did a music degree at Cambridge graduating 2001. One of the things I want to do in the blog is understand how my journeys through different art-forms have been probably heading in the same direction (the direction of developing cultural thought?), though at different speeds. I wanted to show the (im)permanency of any (im)positions.

I remember being introduced to Andriessen’s music on a summer school for teenage composers back in, like, ’96, by a composer called Steve Martland. I remember getting a kick out of the driving energy of Andriessen, but not necessarily loving it overall. The politics certainly passed me by. I seem to have spent a lot of time avoiding explicit political expressions.

I read a poem to my collaborator Leiza McLeod yesterday and she said it sounded like the most political thing she’d heard me write. She made the comment in the context that I used to try to prevent the songs our band in Bristol (Cheap Bent Electrode) did from being too political because I wasn’t comfortable with it. She’s right though, what I’ve just written is a bit political – it even had ‘manifesto’ in the title. I think I’m starting to get a sense of my political compass, finally, and funnily enough, I’ve probably found it through poetry, which I might at one point naively have thought was less prone to politics. (Believe me, I don’t think that now – there are so many Marxist poets in my world!)

Of course, I’m now understanding that the politics might have been embedded in the music I was listening to back in 1996. Was I deaf to them? I think I was a bit. I probably thought of the Andriessen piece as a bit like a noisy crowd of football fans passing me in the street (I might be back-projecting). Well, I probably thought of it as ‘other’, just filtering it out. If someone asked me to pick out a piece of music I’d composed at uni, I’d probably say the best things were delicate little trio pieces with the ghost of a folk tradition in them. There are so many ways that I can now relate that to how I might have been understanding my own personal perspective at the time, though I suspect I really didn’t half understand what I was communicating.

Now that I’m perhaps more savvy on political implications of creative output, I’m interested to see how I take that knowledge back into my process/intentions.

 

 

The end of The Anthologist did itself proud by the way. The plot gave me what I needed remarkably neatly. I think Joe Dunthorne in his review in Psychologies got Louise Gluck mixed up with Louise Bogan, because Gluck wasn’t in it. There’s a Bogan line quoted in the book which goes:

At midnight tears

Run into your ears.

and that was me, happily, and well past midnight, as I read the last chapters. It’s a great book. And I take back what I said about Stephen Fry a bit, because this book doesn’t necessarily agree with the perspective of its narrator, and you can empathise with the character without needing to agree (which I don’t much) with his theories on poetry.