Week 24 – Ben Judd – June 15-21 – “Apart, we are together”

A story in verse inspired by Week 24 of fig-2. As the days pass he is losing his sight, going blind, alone. At night in his dreams she and he are together but when he wakes he can’t remember her. As the days and nights pass they grow together, apart. I hope that you will find it beautiful. Original artwork “Sleepwalker” by Tess Cunningham.

Apart, we are together

“Goodnight Irene, Goodnight Irene,
I’ll see you in my dreams…”

First day (Monday, January) – The hospital
First night (Monday-Tuesday, February) – The ballroom and the masque

Second day (Tuesday, March) – The funeral
Second night (Tuesday-Wednesday, April) – The mountains and the sea and the sky

Third day (Wednesday, May) – The city
Third night (Wednesday-Thursday, June) – The magic lantern cinema

Fourth day (Thursday, July) – Summers
Fourth night (Thursday-Friday, August) – Dream within dream

Fifth day (Friday, September) – Pain
Fifth night (Friday-Saturday, October) – The marriage in the moonlight

Sixth day (Saturday, November) – Home
Sixth night (Sunday, December) –  Dream without dream

Sleepwalker (Tess Cunningham)

First day (Monday, January) – The hospital

I’m going blind.
Like my father and his
I’m going to go blind.

In the bright morning
with birdsong
I was happy as an egg;

then the auld tune,
      I’ll see you in my dreams

Just the TV, mute flickering
in the corner of the kitchen;
lonely night in spring —
tapes of old shipping forecasts,
     occasional rain.

I’m scared that when I lose my sight
I’ll lose my memories too —
it’s irrational — or I’ll have nothing
but memory to live in, a haunted
house full of ghosts
    and noone living to remember.

Then the screen
    goes white —                   

                — you are dreaming

First night (Monday-Tuesday, February) – The ballroom and the masque

you are dreaming – in the dream we are lovers.
we have always been lovers.

we waltz in the blue ballroom, a masque dance
of faces without faces and figures
without form.
the chandelier is made of rain,
sparrows and ravens.
when the music stops
we lose each other and you don’t remember me —

remember these words

“apart, we are together”

then you would remember everything
    and the day would be night
        and the night would be day

the masks lift from our eyes
and rise as black birds into the sky —
the eyes of a black bird,
a blue dog yelps, chases in a tight circle
the flailing thing,
chase and flail, the jaws champ,
growl and banter, bark, tramp
and jump, jump and bite.

remember me

i will carry you
the waters will bear you
 to sleep

if you could only remember the words
when you wake up from the dream

“apart, we are together”

our faces were unknown. we met, but not —

dreaming a sky
       a raven
               at nightfall

in the first night of the dream
you will dream of me,
but we will never meet:
each morning you will wake;
i will have gone from you
and you from me.

apart, we are together —
the lightning blast and the world off its blood axis. begging,
hungry for a dream. together
in the dream we are apart,
apart, we are together.

remember these words

Second day (Tuesday, March) – The funeral

“Lilies, the flowers
of sorrow,” she said, long ago.
And today, lilies.

My father and grandfather
died blind, and both for a time
lived blind.

Grandad was a poacher turned gamekeeper,
literally. He used to hunt on Croydon Common
and make ‘rook pie’.

                                       “No-one makes rook pie,
do they any more?” said my grandmother.
I’ve never heard of rook pie before or since.

My father’s funeral.
The night before they slapped his body
down to dust:

    radio static
    crackling; my mother singing
    to herself nearby.

Two black horses
leading the hearse
to the house of the dead.

My poor father and his emerald knife
scratching and squinting his eyes away
chipping away into the night for pennies.
Sometimes the money wouldn’t come,
he wasn’t the sort to question things;
gleaming white plates, a bit of gravy,
roast and duck fat,
the slave and the bones in chains.

Il pape, not the pope, it’s what we used to call him –
Ill pappay – the fathering flower of a Tuscan vine.
At least it wasn’t Il Duce, Dad – the dome of your head,
richly tanned, it looked more boiled, a kipper
pumped with hot Neapolitan air and microwaved.

He squinted away his eyes,
those bulging applejohns on summer stalks –
winter hospital glass, the breath condensing,
I traced his face with my pinkie —
one of my first memories and the whiteness
of the wild as the snow fell at the end
of a cold decade. They buried the debts and lots,
filled every bed, holes in the light,
blank spots, blank stoppages,
every patch and face
blurring and peeling into smoke. The drake’s lantern:
cold sympathy served as warmed through
remains of a wastrel day –
a terminus, bus-light, trapped agents.

The clock stopped at 12.09,
the moment at which, it is said, he died.

Maybe the two men are actually ghosts in the graveyard.
The gravestone looks white
when you break it open,
like coconut ice.

What I haven’t said that I wanted to say — Dad
wanted to say, said he should have written a book,
but where was the book under the pram wheels,
the paycheque and rent demands,
so where was the book – he lived as he lived  
and he died, blind –

he gave away his time
and in time he gave away
his health – his body
falling apart as his mind
crumbled – the body follows —

When I’m old, before I die
The colour will flood back into my eyes
and the skies will fill up with tears
raining back as colours
to brighten my death.

Second night (Tuesday-Wednesday, April) – The mountains and the sea and the sky

in the second dream, the second night,
when you can’t see a metre in front of you
you make up stories about things you can’t see

the rock shook
and the mouse swallowed the mountain.
the mountain gives birth to a mouse:
an unseen promise – promise of a promise:
it’s not the silence of your blindness

river of ghosts
    water lanterns
              printed on the wind

i was looking for you
before i found you
in my dream. you were my dream
then one day i woke
and you were still there
lying beside me.

i kissed you, lightly,
so as not to wake you.

Third day (Wednesday, May) – The city

I remember this one.

She served me a shot glass of carrot soup and I pretended it was delicious.
We went into a salty backroom and did monkey impressions together
and I licked the sweat off the back of her shoulders.

Spermbank alley
a wishbone noose
         & red flashes
“this machine charges”

Sleep without dreams
night without stars
darling come back to me

I walked home in the rain
past what’s her name
and why did I never ask,
she’s there in a blanket
with a tin cup for money,
smoking a roll-up.

She ‘says’ with her hands
like hailing a cab to nowhere,
“No man is a traffic island.”
Her laugh
                     like a magnet
                                                 to a magnet.

The city’s cancer – this,
in the light of lost things
the list of never agains,
never anothers,
I get a cab to the edge of the city
and ride in obnoxious frippery
one last time.

In the morning,
     a wineglass full of rainwater.

The list of things I’ll miss seeing
when I can’t see:

              dropped where a conker
cleaves beneath my boot, an old
           yellow tennis ball.

I’ve kicked at the pricks
with their selfie sticks,
the white peal of a rock drill
burrowing into the hard ground
at Hoxton tea-lights,
that bloody squealing,
the screeching opera harpy, heavy machinery
creeching, mechanical lurch
of an Anglican brooch,
a junk gaberdine,
so much, the links’ punch
in the morning, the dread thump,
clump and me, grinch, and then

a tin
     can
         clatters
                 down
                      the steps
                                      it
                                          hits the tracks
                                                            & becomes a train

Third night (Wednesday-Thursday, June) – The magic lantern cinema

i want to tell you, if I could tell you,
all that you forget when you wake, all
your body remembers, the night’s
enchantment and the day’s rough course.

my love is death to you
my love for you is death
it will choke and smother you
wrap you and leach
the air from your lungs
the love from your heart
the sight from your eyes
and I will hold you as a dead doll
and you will be mine

i watch you while you sleep;
i know every curve of your body,
the childish perfection
of your skin,
the crown of your soft
angry eyebrows and your
hollowed eyes.
i know every mole
and turn of muscle
but you remain mysterious.

my love is you
my love is death
my love is you, death
my love is death

Fourth day (Thursday, July) – Summers

It was summer and her hair was spring
buds and hollyhocks
and yellow straw.
We loved in the lengthless day
and held each other in the evening,
red light for cherry lips
and sticky finger tips,
blood heat and beautiful
pumpkinseed and snowdrop.
She fell in the summer
and the apples in the orchard
withered overnight and all
fell rotten among the rows
in which we’d run.
She fell and the sun
never rose again.

                                  You are dreaming.

Vision of something I’ll never see again.
List the things I’ll never see,

  a chill in the air —
  the imprint of a body
  in the empty bed.

In the light of lost things,
the list of never agains
and never anothers:

      the rain,
the baby boy held in the lad’s arms
and the leaves’ rich green.

The bugsplat on the windshield:
“Why don’t you bloody clean it” she said.
“Clean what.”
“It’s filthy!”
“Looks all right to me,” I said.
It looked all right to me.

The sun is only setting
but it feels like 4am.

The list of things I’ll miss seeing
when I can’t see:

                   the puddle i jump into
                        & the splash it makes
                             twenty years before.

How perfect to live
at this moment – at dusk,
with the light fading.

I’m trying to make myself sad –
to make myself the saddest I can be, the saddest anyone
has ever been. So sad that finally
when I rise panting from the plunge,
starved for breath and gasping, when the sadness breaks
all over me and splashes back into itself in blue,
I’ll be less sad, even happy.
Sad happy or happy sad. I will stare into my life
and make myself the saddest I can ever be,
because finally
when I am the saddest anyone has ever been
I will be happy.

It isn’t black, blindness —
I don’t see black
but live a miasma of colour,
yellow, blue, green. I see
not red, not black. It’s like
swimming in a dream.

Fourth night (Thursday-Friday, August) – Dream within dream

i dreamed you were dying, i
dreamed you’d died
alone, at night, without me
and i was a ghost beside you,
absent and there, and you
cried out but i wasn’t there.

then i dreamed you were dying
in a bed below me
and my love couldn’t save you.

i did nothing, didn’t help, watched, held
your skin as the sickness emptied itself out,
the violence of the choked air rocked by screaming,
the shaking apart of the soul in anguish,
molt of angelwing, flake and fleck of bile, blood —
i did nothing.

you held me then in the morning
but I couldn’t tell you.

and dreams are real.

i dreamed in the dream you’d died.
you were blind and passed at night
from the unseeing to unseen shades —

blindness is a truer kind of vision.

as we pass into the unseen,

the sleepwalker
at the edge of the cliff
 leaps out of the dream.

Fifth day (Friday, September) – Pain

Dream of falling
blossoms — I wake
clutching a flower;

it reminds me of something i can’t remember
but know I’ve forgotten.
If I could not touch it
it would come back to me.

Outside in that weird light,
the last whistle of the guard —
the season’s snapped and it seems later than it is.
Everyone’s knocked off early.

They turned off the lights,
those fifties brights on brutalism,
halls, halls and halls and halls. Maybe I have dementia.
I bruised my knee. Crack, it caught on the corner –
more bloody painful than the old, you-know,
sight thing.

The slowness of the end,
how the spine seems like a cross
                      on which to hang flesh.

“I will drop you like an egg,” she said.
“You did,” I said.

Just the TV, mute flickering
in the corner of the kitchen;
the sun is only setting
but it feels like 4am.

Pain. That pain.
Pain of loss, pain of losing.
Pain of this, pain of choosing you,
Pain of drawing the moon down and burning up its flame to this
charred remnant, char
and smoking petrichor.

Pain of these eyes, these fading eyes,
the world dissolving into grey
and blue lights, a flood and cloud
of shimmering snailtracks and spiderdances.

The photograph is blurring, like film caught in the projector tearing into flame, black and yellow – the image of you in my mind is burning away, resolving into flames, into ashes, into night and nothing.

Pain of these joints, robot bolts
rusted with brown scars and tight spasms,
bend and warp.
Pain of you – I never meant for this.

Pain of the sunset when the paint has peeled off,
Pain of the dream that flies at morning —
I open my eyes
in the remnant of their light
and stare back at myself,
blank, finished, forgotten.
I am hollow. What remains
of a man when what makes him
has collapsed – a shrunken thing,
a beast, a ghost, sightless and sorry.

What is there left to want?
The ostrich flew.
Rook pie.

My head hurts. My eyes,
blood pressure, bad stories and failed
resolutions. There’s nothing inside me
but broken organs playing the wrong notes of forgotten tunes
tunelessly, voicelessly, in resounding silence,
as if nothing were not beautiful
     as empty as fullness
      as full as emptiness.

Pain of the laboured breath, rasp and pant;
Pain of the pint’s last third I can’t finish, I’m too weak to drink;
Pain of the empty table
stretching in front of me
as I drink alone.

Loss
Desire
Despair

Pain of that autumn morning
white with winter snow
Pain of

Pain and waste
Waste of

Fifth night (Friday-Saturday, October) – The marriage in the moonlight

what does midnight taste like?
a kiss without lips. you were sleeping.
do you remember our wedding,
when we were married in moonlight?

tender me
laid as carved in
lies on a cold slab of stone
shaken awake and peeling off skin
finger by finger
pretty white fingers
from my throat.

only love can end these tears
only death can open these eyes,
only blind —
these fragments
and movements
will perish
and fly from us
and become
what never was.

our love is not like love.
remember, we met in the dream,
two souls, unalike
in ways, the fracture of one mirror.

we shared our souls. what is the soul
if not desire? you are
my soul. what else could that be?

form the words. form the words
at the apex of the palette,
say the words, please, the sleep
still crumbly and crinkly in your eyes
before you remember you are yourself,
before you open your eyes to whatever’s left,
remember the words, say them,
say eternity, say
together, say
“apart, we are together”
and we will never be apart.

but when you wake
i know you won’t remember.

Sixth day (Saturday, November) – Home

Radio static
Crackling. My mother singing
To herself nearby.

Alone. Utterly alone.

I’m scared that when I lose my sight
I’ll lose my memories too —
It’s irrational — or I’ll have nothing
but memory to live in, a haunted
house full of ghosts
and noone living to remember.

The fable of the man who remembered,
the man who couldn’t forget —

  skating on Lake Empty;
the darkness is coming in
       the dark is inside.

Funny, memory. The torturer
and the laughing blade,
hacking away the happy evenings,
twisting the screwblade
of black nights spent staring
blankly, blackly into bleachblack
despair, death at your fingertips
but denied that mercy.

        Haunting the ghosts,
   the last guest —
          Hotel Amnesia:

Memory Palace —
   a deposed King
       haunting the ghosts.

The house has grown cold
   and soon there will be no one
       left for ghosts to haunt.

                     I close the door.

I spent years trying to write a musical setting of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116. My grandmother had recited it to me while she was going blind.

I could never finish the music. I started to believe that if I ever finished the setting she would die, so I didn’t.

She died very alone and very scared, and I never finished the music.

I guess I never will.

It isn’t black, blindness —
I don’t see black
but live a miasma of colour,
yellow, blue, green, I see,
not red, not black. It’s like
swimming in a dream.

Sixth night (Sunday, December) –  Dream without dream

i will carry you
the waters will bear you
 to sleep

two worlds in time

you are declining
you will move into and become the night
and embrace that dark world in your depths.
you will bridle the moon and ride on the stars
away into peace, the peacefulness
of last things, the silence that ends the sentence.

i’m standing on the egde of you,
ready to dive with you, into you.

you are not blind.
without sight
we see the whatness of things,
trembling — the terror
of the real, when the lights blaze
at the words
at the tip of the tongue
and the end of every judgement —
the night’s judgement.

moths flit and dazzle.
life is short and art
so long to learn. love astounds,
then it slips away.

my love is death to you.
my love for you is death.
it will choke and smother you
wrap you and leach
the air from your lungs
and the love from your heart
and i will hold you like a doll
and you will be mine

your love establishes the death in me,
the life and death in things,
the wreck of all
the shame and hope
of ending and beginning.

in the lights’ sparkle
i dreamed i held you.
our father in emerald.

please don’t lose
the best thing that’s inside you,
don’t give away
the biggest thing that drives you.

as we pass into the unseen,

           the sleepwalker
on the edge of the cliff
 leaps out of the dream —

FullSizeRender_3_1

Week 18 – Kathryn Elkin – 4-11 May – The Elephants In The Room

  • First Movement: Trauermarsch (The Elkin in the Room)
  • Second Movement: Stürmisch bewegt, mit größter Vehemenz (Mahler The Elephant)
  • Third Movement: Scherzo (Beethoven’s Elephant)
  • Fourth Movement: Adagietto (Okkyung Lee: Improvisation and Composition)
  • Fifth Movement: Rondo-Finale (Bernstein: Killing An Elephant)

Death is love’s final form. The sexual climax, la petite mort, is the rehearsal. To die for love, what could be more beautiful? Silence, please.

  • First Movement: Trauermarsch (The Elkin in the Room)

The fig-2 project is generating a huge amount of new work. Most of its weekly shows have been created specifically for fig-2 by the commissioned artists. For Week 18/50 Kathryn Elkin presented “The Elephants in the Room” documenting her collaboration with cellist Okkyung Lee. They spent a day in the studio working through the Adagietto from Mahler’s Fifth Symphony. The 22-minute film audio contained one complete solo cello take extemporised from the Mahler material, with the video taken from the conversations and experiments leading up to the take. In the fig-2 studio space the film was augmented by two performances entitled Mud, in which the artist and three volunteers read Elkin’s transcriptions of things she had said during the collaborative process: cringey, halting, nascent, funny moments.

11181329_812865015451159_167912332738088120_n

A style of modernistic fragmentation is often used and abused to represent cognition in action, and there’s plenty of sub-Beckett around as a result. Until I listened to her interview with fig-2 curator Fatoş Üstek I didn’t realize the words were a transcription. It feels better to know that it was verbatim, but I didn’t realize it at the time. Perhaps I missed this because I’d been volunteered to be the third reader on the Sunday performance, so I was probably trying not to trip over the furniture, so to speak. The words have a music of their own that correlates with the deconstructive, reconstructive, improvisatory opacities of the music itself:

10351658_813880422016285_101759427499973172_nWell what I ummmmmmm
well what I propose
at this piece of music
together and
I thought that it would be tooooooooo

To explain what I think her title “The Elephants In The Room” means, we are going to have to go on a musical journey through Mahler’s Fifth and Beethoven’s Sixth, try to solve the mystery of the “Immortal Beloved”, think about the difference between composition and improvisation, and finally consider Bernstein’s lectures on ‘musical semantics’ and what happens when we listen to and think about music.

11107184_811855472218780_7375112481512390413_n

  • Second Movement: Stürmisch bewegt, mit größter Vehemenz (Mahler The Elephant)

Mahler’s Fifth Symphony has five movements. The fourth, the Adagietto, is famous as the theme to Visconti’s 1971 film Death in Venice, as well as for having been conducted by Leonard Bernstein during a memorial to John F. Kennedy. These associations can make it seem all about death and mourning, but really it about love, written for his wife Alma Schindler, who claimed that Mahler left a small poem that may be understood to be the ‘words’ to this “love song without words”:

Mahler-5AdagiettoGIFbijgesneden“Wie ich dich liebe, Du meine Sonne,
ich kann mit Worten Dir’s nicht sagen.
Nur meine Sehnsucht kann ich Dir klagen und meine Liebe.”

(How much I love you, you my sun,
I cannot tell you that with words.
I can only lament to you my longing and love.)

Mahler’s Fifth is the first of the central trilogy of works that abandon the use of voices and poetic texts, which were an important part of the previous four symphonies, whereas the fifth, sixth, and seventh, are thought of as ‘pure’ orchestral works. But how pure? Kelly Dean Hansen argues that it has “an inner programme” even if this programme is not explicit. The fifth in particular might be considered ‘transitional’ if we were to infer that the vocal elements of the earlier four might have existed in some sketch way before being transformed or cut – making the fifth less of a ‘pure orchestral work’ at least at the stage of composition. The existence of the poem to Alma and the fact that scholars have ‘reconstructed’ the song (see image) makes a strong case for but its absence from the symphony calls into question how much we can say that its attached resonances relating to Alma make it ‘about love’, just as how much as the listener’s associations of it with Death in Venice and John F. Kennedy make it ‘about death’.

In a nod to Beethoven’s ninth Mahler’s fifth has been called the “Funeral March to Joy” – it opens with a funeral march trumpet call followed by the orchestra’s opening which uses the same rhythmic motif from the start of Beethoven’s fifth. If Mahler’s fifth could therefore be said to be haunted by Beethoven’s, pity him the ninth. The ‘curse of the ninth’ is a common superstition among symphonic composers, because Beethoven never started a tenth. It affected Mahler to the extent that after his eighth his next three major symphonic works were each unperformed when he died. There’s an eighth-and-a-halfth Das Lied Von Den Erde which is a symphony disguised as a song cycle, then the actual Ninth and then a Tenth. Though perhaps he was right about the curse of the ninth – this tenth was thought incomplete until 1960 when the complete short score was discovered.

It’s understandable. From 1907 Mahler had been living under the shadow of death from a heart ailment, which did in turn lead to his death from a blood infection in May 1911, just eight months after conducting the first performance of his eighth. The Moebius strip of associated meanings is completed by our knowledge that the character of Aschenbach in Thomas Mann’s Death In Venice was actually based on Mahler. Mann’s Aschenbach was a writer, but when Visconti adapted the novella for the screen, he made Aschenbach a composer, who not only looks like Mahler but whose death is soundtracked by the Mahler Adagietto.

Beethovens-letters-to-his-Immortal-Beloved

  • Third Movement: Scherzo (Beethoven’s Elephant)

While Kathryn Elkin was researching Mahler and Visconti her neighbour was playing Beethoven until 2am every night. The music was affecting her and fed into her thoughts about extra-musical meaning and musical semantics surrounding the Adagietto and Death In Venice.

Just as Mahler’s poem to Alma might be considered an extra-musical layer of meaning, there is similar speculation in Beethoven’s oeuvre. We’ll discuss the programmatic elements of his Sixth Symphony later, but let’s take a little scherzo into the matter of the “Immortal Beloved”.

Countess Josephine von Brunsvik might be considered the most important woman in Beethoven’s life. There’s little evidence of his having loved any other, and he wrote at least fifteen letters to her in which he called her his “only beloved” . She died in 1821, aged 42. During this year, Beethoven composed his very last Piano Sonatas Op. 110 and Op. 111, which are like requiems, with discernible reminiscences to the earlier Andante favori Josephine’s Theme“.

In Teplitz on 6/7 July 1812 Beethoven wrote a love letter that he didn’t send. The location and date of the letter were only established by scholars in the 1950s and it is addressed to an unknown recipient whom he refers to as “Immortal Beloved”.

Beethoven scholarship has a puzzling resistance to the most logical theories, and knowledge about Beethoven and his “Only Beloved” Justine was somehow suppressed for 150 years. There is still stuff coming out. In cases of cover-ups, there’s usually an elephant in the room, and so we find. Justine and he had separated two years before but it is possible that they met again at the time of the “Immortal Beloved” letters; the suppression of the Justine theory may be because almost exactly nine months later she gave birth to her seventh child.

According to her diary entries in June 1812 Josephine intended to go to Prague. At this stage, however, her and her sister Therese’s diaries end abruptly and do not continue until about two months later. Meanwhile, Beethoven traveled to Teplitz via Prague, where, on 3 July 1812, he must have met a woman he subsequently called his Immortal Beloved.

Steblin writes in 2007 “All of the puzzling aspects about Beethoven’s affair with the ‘Immortal Beloved,’ including his various cryptic comments, can be explained in terms of his one known beloved – Josephine. Why do we doubt his word that there was only one woman who had captured his heart?” The most recent decade of European scholarship seems to have been ignored in America, and the mystery remains unsolved.

11193358_811858318885162_7654964190347898098_n

  • Fourth Movement: Adagietto (Okkyung Lee: Improvisation and Composition)

Okkyung Lee’s music was developed through improvisation with loose instructions from Kathryn Elkin and the impetus of the Mahler score. The video doesn’t show her playing the ‘final’ take, which we hear, and we only see them working toward it. It’s somehow both improvised and composed. What is the difference? Chris Dobrian’s essay “Thoughts on Composition and Improvisation” draws the following conclusions:

  1. Composition is written. Improvisation is not.
  2. Improvisation takes place in real time. Composition does not.
  3. Improvisation is often a group activity. Composition is rarely a group activity.

The act of making a recording in a studio produces a ‘final form’ – so you could argue that the improvising musician is a composer as much as the traditional composer putting black notes down on paper. But improvisation isn’t quite the same as composition. It foregrounds the circumstances of creation at the expense of composition in a more formal sense.

By including the discussions she had with Okkyung, Elkins makes the video’s accompanying performance piece ‘Mud’ centrally about itself, about the process of creating and transforming meanings. Ordinarily we would not be party to all the thoughts or discussions that went into the creation of a work, but here they are presented as part of the work itself. These are transcribed, so in a sense the work is as much documentary as artistic, though the art comes with the selection and chopping and reordering of these thoughts, leading up to Elkin’s explanation of why the work is going to be called ‘Mud’. Just as Proust’s A la recherche du temps perdu concludes with the author, another Aschenbach type character in both life and art, just setting off on the writing of A la recherche du temps perdu.

  • Fifth Movement: Rondo-Finale (Bernstein: Killing An Elephant)

Elkin’s fig-2 show was crucially informed by Leonard Bernstein’s lectures on musical semantics, in which he frames musical meaning-making in the context of Chomskian structural linguistics. Bernstein argues that “music has intrinsic meanings of its own which are not to be confused with specific feelings or moods, and certainly not with pictorial impressions or stories. These intrinsic meanings are generated by a constant stream of metaphors which are all forms of poetic transformations.”

Artistotle puts metaphor mid-way between the unintelligible and the commonplace – it is metaphor which most produces knowledge. In metaphor an imaginative leap occurs in which ‘this’ is said to be ‘that’. Bernstein gives the example of “Juliet is the sun” We know she isn’t literally, but we understand that something has been expressed that might be inexpressible. This is how music conveys meaning and enables us to experience ‘this’ and/as ‘that’ at once like no other art form does. When music expresses something by recourse to individual feeling we feel “passion, glory, misty, something”. But we can’t report our precise feelings in scientific forms, only subjectively. Our descriptions of music vary wildly. One listener hears a sunset, another a bird. Similarly, Rossini’s William Tell Overture is the Lone Ranger Theme to several generations of listeners, just as the Mahler Adagietto is the theme from Visconti’s Death In Venice.

Regarding this associative personal dimension, Bernstein asks if there a transference of affect from the composer to the notes to the listener? “Did Beethoven feel like that or did I make it up? Or had the feelings been transferred? We’ll never know. The probability is that both are true.” This gives music a beautiful semantic ambiguity. It possesses the power of an expressivity that we can respond to, but it is a metalanguage that can “name the unnameable and communicate the unknowable”.

Bernstein demonstrates the ways in which music communicates specifically musical meaning by analogy to metaphor, demonstrating rhetorical tropes, figures of speech, that he can find in music that are transformed in the Chomskyan sense to produce meaning. Anaphora, the repeating a sequence of words at the beginnings of neighboring clauses, he finds right there in Mahler’s Fifth. (He even explores chiasmus, which I wrote about at some length in Week 17). Music is constantly transformative of material and it is here rather than in our subjectivity that he challenges us to find the  the ‘meanings of music’.

To illustrate this, Bernstein takes us in some detail through Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony, which bears a great deal of ‘extra-musical’ material. It is subtitled ‘Pastorale’ and each movement has yet another title. This is distracting enough if you’re trying to concentrate on the music as music, but Beethoven even adds bird calls and village bands and lightning and thunder, making the work as close to program music as he ever came. Bernstein asks if it’s possible to clarify between intrinsic and extrinsic metaphors. Is it possible to listen to it as pure music?

Beethoven’s subtitles are perhaps “suggestions” with the music not meant to be interpreted as “tone painting” but those extra-musical references are there and are hard to ignore, just as it’s hard to forget about Aschenbach or William Tell or the Immortal Beloved. They form a visual curtain of nonmusical ideas that interposes between the music and the listener. Bernstein at the conclusion of his lecture presents us with the challenge of ridding ourselves of all this rustic ‘Pastorale’ material and hearing the music as music. The Sixth is an extraordinary catalogue of variations of transformed elements of the first four bars, which are a simple bass motif in the chords F and C which forms a motto of whole symphony, just as the immortal opening bars of the Fifth underpin it and are similarly transformed throughout.

10846196_813547002049627_3720868295181635872_nThis explanation that the meaningfulness of music lies in its musical transformations chimes with Okkyung Lee’s development of the Mahler material and her radically transforming it. The experimental cellist’s use of improvisation and fractured syntax and modernistic harmonies and language takes it away from the familiar world of Death In Venice but it is not methodologically differently in what Beethoven does, or what Mahler has already done in the original Adagietto in transforming the basic material in the course of the piece. Those are mahler’s transformations, these are Okkyung Lee’s, not to mention Kathryn Elkin’s as a de facto co-composer, with the listener’s own semantic contribution by recourse to our subjective listening act.

“While I count to five, try not to think of an elephant” says Bernstein at the end of the lecture. It’s a classic thought paradox: as soon as you try not to think about something you are necessarily thinking about it. He asks that we abandon all extra-musical material (the programmatic elements) and just listen to music as transformations.

Katryn_Elkin_Fig2_17_50_-11The title of Kathryn Elkin’s week at Fig-2 “The Elephants In The Room” is nowhere explained, which might make it itself another ‘elephant in the room’ in addition to those I’ve outlined. I take it that the title comes from Bernstein’s lectures, and have used it to try and explore the presences and absences that go into how we find and transmit meaning through music (and indeed any art form). Bernstein concedes “I doubt that anyone succeeded in avoiding the elephant”. But next time you hear Mahler’s Adagietto, the one from Death In Venice, try Bernstein’s experiment: see if you can avoid the elephant.

FullSizeRender (2)

Bernstein lectures on musical semantics, different ways of translating musical ideas in terms of linguistics etc: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Unanswered_Question_%28lecture_series%29

Musical phonology https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ntmTQ8J7m5Y
Musical syntax https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TlaeEJ6ASJw
Musical semantics https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V82aqyG1k5M
The Delights & Dangers of Ambiguity https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gw7nVMx7zrk
The Xxth Crisishttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cAuDrnkN080
The Poetry of Earth https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=034GXOyVbjg

Week 10 – Annika Ström – 9-15 March – Six Lovely People

SIX LOVELY PEOPLE

In the Silent Disco Diner, someone is murdering the six individuals from the Match.com adverts, one by one. Who has the means, motive, and opportunity? And can Labby, the amateur labrador detective, solve the mystery in time?

SIXLOVELYPEOPLE

My God, it’s full of twats.

The Silent Disco Diner was heaving with bodies.  On the mezzanine hipsters bopped silently, while in the annexe the diners conversed uncomfortably. Annie, returning to her seat, hooked her bag under the table, and loud-whispered to her dinner date, “The toilets here, they’re not very clean.”

Lou smirked, and in a loudly ironic voice quipped, “You should try the food.” They lol’d together. “No it’s excellent. I love how they do the prices: 9.5, or 13.5. No pound signs, it’s so digi-modern.”

The 5-minute notification flashed up on their iPhones, and they put down their cutlery. Time to dance.

The silent disco is the worst fucking most unimaginably fucking dreadful and awful cuntnosed place in the entire cunting universe. Impossible to imagine a more solipsistic form of socializing. The cunts who come here pay a fucking fortune and look so smug in their mutual loathing they’re constantly coming in their pants. Twats, they’re twats. Someone should petrol-bomb their silent disco and block the fire exits then set off a silent fucking fire alarm.

As she stood up, Annie gasped, and steadied herself, “It’s so busy I can’t breathe!”

Lou smirked knowingly, “Yes, that’s how you know it’s good. The more unpleasant and packed it is, the better it is.”

The Silent Disco Diner is the hottest and best new joint in the hipsterhood. How it works is like chess-boxing. In chess-boxing, which is a great new sport that mixes the visceral combat of boxing with the intellectual sparring of chess, the combatants alternate a round of boxing with five minutes of chess. In the Silent Disco Diner the diners alternate five minutes of dining with five minutes of silent disco.

This has proven tremendously popular because it gives the diners plenty of time to think of something to say to each other. Conversational longeurs need no longer be attributed to angels passing or the terrible service (and the service is terrible). They are built into the dining experience. It is no wonder that the Silent Disco Diner is the go-to place for match dot com couples, as well as those who have married badly or have just been going out too long to be able to stand talking to each other for longer than 300 seconds. It’s more expensive than having a TV or children, but the food is excellent, and the disco music is bad enough to enhance the dining experience immeasurably either because after 300 seconds of the music you’re desperate to return to your kangaroo flatbread or because it gives both of you something to mutually loathe that isn’t each other.

Meeting people is a piece of piss. You go on the internet, swipe some cunt’s jpeg and tell them to meet you in a pig’s arse tuesday week to have a fucking smug off about who’s the bigger liver-faced cunt. There’s one now on the mezzanine, fucking dancing.

— You dance like a cunt, love!

— Sorry, what? I can’t hear you: silent disco!   

— I said: you dance like a cunt!

— Thanks!   

— You’re welcome!

She didn’t bite. That was a fucking waste of time. Probably a fucking shit-farmer. I’ll keep working the room.

It’s hard to meet people. Thirtysomethings, haunted by the time before the internet, find online dating impossibly contrived, and only approach it out of total desperation, having admitted defeat at life. Whereas to the yoof it’s completely normal. Their experience is noticeably healthier and more successful, unwracked by the thirtysomething’s sense that they might have regressed to a new period of arranged marriages and paying for sex.

The management team behind the Silent Disco Diner know this, and in the Silent Disco Diner, dating couples are encouraged to be completely frank and honest. All of the subtexts of ordinary straitened dating conversations rise to the surface. Sexual, behavioural, and mental problems that usually have to be inferred from a visual interpretation of body language, these are all strenuously in your face.

The encouragement of frankness and honesty is gamely facilitated by one of the more popular cocktails, the Autistic Spectrum. It’s especially popular because it is free, and it is a condition of entry that every diner and dancer has to drink enough of them to make them practically tourette’s. This is great for those diners who lack any imagination or charm and have nothing to say, because it gives them access to all the thoughts that would never arise in  banal smalltalk. In the silent disco diner everyone explains every detail of their mind with a pure sense of complete happiness and entitlement. It’s like being Kanye West.

I’m closing in. Those are the six cunts, in three pairs. You’ve seen them in the adverts for match dinner. Six arseholes in search of a fucking enema. I hate them more than it’s possible to hate anything in the universe, yet still they deserve more. Their little mooncups of cuntishness runneth over perpetually until the last albino fart of the cosmos is sodomized with the last spectral ballet shoe made of human cum.

— I love cooking!

— Oh fuck off.

While Annie and Lou were dancing silently on the mezzanine, over on the annexe, Tralee and Angharad had just run out of things to say. Angharad had all evening referred to match dot com as match doh com. She was from Barnet, which is a desirable French-speaking borough in Londres Nords.

Tralee asked “How did you get into match doh com?”

Angharad sipped her cocktail. “Looking for something to get my ex out of my head. I get so depressed. Dating is less depressing. When I think of her I get sad, and when I get sad I think of her.”

Tralee put her glass down. “Maybe what you need isn’t dating but counselling.”

“I’ve tried that. But I just couldn’t get laid. There was one counsellor who I thought I was definitely in with, but she said something about ‘professional standards’ and ‘duty of care’ – complete bullshit.”

Tralee nodded with diligent sympathy. ““Just not that into you” I guess. I hate that phrase. Everyone said that when I was telling them about this person I was dating. He’s just not that into you. I left him voicemails and sent text messages like all the time, and I know he was reading them cos it tells you. He was just too busy to reply, and a bastard. We had such an intense thing, really it was too intense for him.” She paused, then added, “Noone ever has a second pint of strawberry beer.”

Angharad, emboldened by Tralee’s frankness, continued “Sometimes, on week nights and some weekends, I sit outside my ex’s flat. I know they can see me. She’s watching TV but I know she’s glancing outside. They don’t close the curtains until it gets really dark, which is how I know she wants me to see her.”

“We’re buying a house together. Then everything will be fine. Everything will be brilliant.”

“I’m just going to the bathroom,” said Angharad.

“It’s not very clean.” said Tralee.

The first couple is fucking laughing, the cunts. It’s all so fucking hilarious, except while their faces are bent in half with shit-straining at amusement, their eyes are dead and cold, with nothing within their empty holes except sheer desperation. Life has destroyed these people. They have nothing to laugh about. They’re death, just sheer death.

Thelma and Girolamo were absorbed in their conversation, having found a good stretch of solipsism to mine. Thelma drained another cocktail, and exhaled lengthily. “I’m so depressed. I just don’t have the time or resources to run my own campaign. I need expert marketing help such as is offered by constantbumtact.com.”

Girolamo nodded. “Well, you’ve got marketing needs, and they’ve got marketing experts, after all.”

“Yes, they can connect me with a marketing expert in my area!”

“You sure seem like you’ve got the head screwed on. Oh, Thelma, you are a dream!” He narrowed his eyes. “There is some family history of diabetes, dementia, Huntingdon’s Chorea, or schizophrenia?”

“No, just folk dancing!”

They lol’d. Girolamo realized she wasn’t joking. Thelma sat up in her chair. “My parents were hippies before they became investment bankers. They were interested in free love and self-determination for all peoples, but then they had me because when they were having tantric sex during the Thatcher election they forgot to close the door and all the excitement about the creation of the nascent neo-liberal economic project made them pregnant, as well as extremely averse to taxation and human feeling. I plopped out and they decided to form a hedge fund.”

Girolamo felt the sharp slap of recognition. “Si! That happen a lot! My parents were given our Hampstead Mansion and Manors just for having a child during the early days of the Thatcher administration. They become hippies later, but by time I’m a teenager everyone else in the Prep College is enthralled with our “Mummies and Daddies”” — he laughed — “It fitted right into my, what you say, counter-cultural cachet: I make them my BFFs. They’re still very close but they live inside a volcano in an island off the coast of Croatia. They spend most of their time writing letters about what cunts the Serbians are, even though most of their friends are Serbian.”

Thelma felt rhapsodic. “That’s so amazing! They sound great. I love my parents so much but when because when I was born they started a hedge fund it means all I have to my name is six thousand miles of boundary-separating hedges in rural Hertfordshire while loads of my friends in squats have got their blonde dreadlocks to fall back on. They’re literally all on thirty K a year.”

“Oh,” Girolamo’s face fell. “So… you… you don’t have… money?”

“Just six hundred thousand miles of boundary-separating hedges in Hertfordshire.”

“Mamma mia.”

He pushed the last remnants of his Irn-Bru squash salad across his plate, so that, with the icing-sugar spinach, it seemed to form a sadface. His own face too had gone sadface. That was because he had turned his head sideways, in an attempt to address whether the bosoms of his dinner companion warranted the pursuance of this date in the light of the lack of family money. The realization dawned on him, like a winky smiley after a lacerating comment on a YouTube comments thread. Gazing into the dimness of the annexe, he noticed a leather bag. Squinting at it, he realized it had Brian Cox’s face.

Annie is a ginger twat and Lou is a nobhead douche. They’re somehow managing to out-cunt each other right now. Even the way they hold their forks is abysmal. They hold them the way Charlie Watts holds his drumsticks, and he’s a cunt too. Fuck, they’ve made the simple act of holding a fork pretentious. Twats.

— I fucking love food.   

— I fucking love food too.

— Oh my god we have so fucking much in common.

— What food do you like?

— Just all fucking food.   

— Me too!

— Fuck!   

— I like shit fucking food in a fucking brioche that smells of cuntjuice and dickcheese.    

— I like really fucking gross fucking shit food made of death and farts.

— Oh, I love that too.

— You should go to Cunt-hole, they do a fucking horrible fucking pulled chicken.

— I’ve heard of that. Is that where they pull the chicken at your table?

— Yeah they pull its head through its cunt and whack it against its arsehole until it tastes like acne and measles, and then they fucking slather it in applesauce and charge you twenty quid to lick it.

— I’m so glad they pull everything. If they didn’t I would literally die.

— This wine’s piss isn’t it?

— Yeah, it was seven quid a glass.

— We are so awesome.

— Imagine our kids.

Fifteen minutes passed, and Angharad had not returned from the Silent Disco Diner’s edgily not-very-clean lavatories. The 5-minute notifications had come and gone, and Tralee had waited. Had Angharad ducked out on the bill? She looked round at the dancers dancing silently in the Silent Disco Diner. She noticed that the leather bag at the next table looked like someone, but she couldn’t remember who.

— Didn’t you love the Olympics?

— To be honest, I spent the whole time masturbating quite heavily.

— Omygod I do that all the time!

— Me too! Do you think about Tony Soprano?

— No.

“Have you ever tried to kill yourself?” asked Lou.

Annie froze. “Three times since September. Four times.”

“What stopped you?”

“The thought I might fuck it up.”

“You’re still here.”

“Yes, I fucked it up.”

Lou looked pensive. “I never thought I’d get to this age. I never thought I’d pay off my student loan. I’ll never pay off my student loan, but you know what I mean. I thought that someone would smuggle a bottle of Evian through customs and then throw it in my eyes on the plane, and I’d literally die.”

Annie resumed, “First time I tried to kill myself by… I didn’t wash my hands after going to the toilet.”

“Fucking hell. And you lived?”

“I scraped through. I was in hospital for weeks. My heart stopped and when they found me passed out on the manky tiles they could only restart it by pouring a whole bottle of hand sanitiser down my throat. It was the toilet attendant that found me. I’d tried to duck out without buying any perfume or lollipops. I was crazy. It was a cry for help really.”

Lou chugged his cocktail, and spluttered, “And the second time?”

“I left facebook. Within hours I was clinically dead. I literally died. I only lived cos my twitter feed was still active, and the push notifications started coming asking me why I’d left facebook. There were hundreds of them. I’d just forgotten to switch them off, and I guess it saved my life.”

“Shit. What was the third time?”

“I ate some pork.”

“So what?”

“It hadn’t been pulled,” Annie gulped.

“Holy shit, if I had pork that hadn’t been pulled I would literally die.” Lou’s fork clattered onto his plate. “Wait. Oh my God. Don’t move.”

“Where are you going?”

“Stay right there.” Lou was on his feet. “Help! Someone, help! Porknotpulled! PorknotPULLED! Her pork – it hasn’t been pulled!”

Annie looked down at her plate. Lou was right. There was the pork, gleaming and unadulterated in slender discs in a mild jus. Unpulled, not pulled or shredded in any way, nor drenched in a fruits-of-the-forest frisson. Tender, and, crucially, partially eaten.

“Oh my God.” Panic rose in her. “Someone hasn’t pulled this pork. I’m -”

Her head slammed down onto the plate.

Lou raved. “Somebody do something! Does anyone have any pork boustrophons?”

The other diners carried on dancing.

“Someone must have some pork boustrophons! Please, help her!”

Then he noticed. His avocado sorrell hadn’t been smashed, as an avocado sorrell in all civilisation should be. He knew at that moment that this was not just some random culinary accident. This was deliberate. Both of their artisanal dinners had been proletarianised. This—

Lou was dead before his body even hit the floor. The beads of light from the mirror ball swept across his prostrate form. In the silent disco, silence fell, the silence of the dead, and of not speaking.

The thing about match.com is that if it actually worked, the business would be fucked. If you actually meet anyone suitable it’s game over for your fucking subscription, so they build into their business model algorithms that most of the ‘matches’ are unsuitable cunts so you have to go back – not so unsuitable that you stop in disgust, but just enough. It knows what you really want but if it gave you that magic person with the fucking unicorn horn and the gold-plated vagina it wouldn’t be able to take the money off you.

The silence was immaculate. Angharad had still not returned, and Tralee was pretty sure her date had done one. As she contemplated making a dash for it herself, an ear-splitting scream split through the immaculate ear of the silent disco, followed by the crash of cutlery being dropped onto the square plates of the diners. A moment of incomprehension, then the door to the not-very-clean unisex toilets cracked off its hinges under the pressure of the distressed Toilet Guy. SHE’S DEAD, he said. DEAD. IT WAS THE TOILET SEAT. THE TOILET SEAT HAD AIDS.

A wave of ‘there but for the grace of god’ wept through the silent disco. Everyone has chanced it at some point or other, but you take the risk sometimes. She, though. A filthy AIDS-ridden toilet seat. In a corner, a silent dancer wept, silently. Only hours before she had… but… At such points the unfairness and contingency of life crystallises into clarity, and you realize just how close you are to an imminent, immanent, and undesired demise. Poor Angharad.

Everything is in place now. I think I’ll have a drink, if they serve anything here that isn’t piss that’s been through a human centipede. This cunt in front of me has got his spectacles on the wrong way round. Twat. The fuck’s he saying.

— Do you not have any real ales or craft beers? I can’t believe this.

— Sir, we have Privilege.

— Thank fuck. Give me four pints of Privilege, wait, do you have any of that… what is it…

— Entitlement.

— Eight pints of that.

“WAIT”, boomed the labrador. Having heard the sounds of commotion with his enhanced canine sense of hearing and having smelled fear and trembling at some distance thanks to his superior canine sense of smell, Labby the amateur labrador detective had bounced into the Silent Disco Diner, and, having been briskly appraised of the situation, was about to take charge of the proceedings. “WAIT”, he reiterated.

Sufficient waiting having been waited, he continued.

“Very murder! So death. Yes. Profounds, is mystery! Yes. Wow!”

— Hey! So, I just sent you the link!

— Oh great! Is it shit?

— It’s fucking shit mate.

— Fucking THE shit mate.

— Fucking right mate.

— Nice one.

While Labby, the crime-solving labrador, had been ruminating on the case, noone had noticed that on the back table of annexe below the mezzanine of the silent disco, Giralomo had gone silent. One might say, deadly silent.

“Everyone! There’s been another murder! Look!”

The shock of mortality resonated through the room like a massive bell. At length, Labby drew himself up, and moved over to the distended form under the back table. It was Girolamo, dead. “He’s dead,” observed Labby.

A gasp swept through the otherwise silent disco.

“Yes. Many smothered. All the while we were concerned with the tragic death of a beautiful girl from dirty toilet seat, someone fulfilling deathly compulsion. Don’t look! Very horror! Many smothered, smothered by a leather bag made of Brian Cox’s face!”

The dancers stopped dancing and held still, aghast. A leather bag made of Brian Cox’s face!?!?! There was protestation. Brian Cox is a beautiful eyebrow made of spacetime. Brian Cox is a delicious talking forehead. Brian Cox is a sea-cow. Is what they said.

“Look, doge,” said noone, “Who on earth would want to murder the delightful match dot com couples?

“Very mysteries,” said Labby. “So unknow. Listen to me! Thinks! Who is make bag with Brian Cox’s face. Very answer! So mystery! Wow!”

The silent disco diner resounded with the ineffable and profound silence that can only be born of not speaking, a not speaking born of not knowing. As per. Some of the diners tried to resume their dancing. Labby the amateur labrador detective rose on his hind paws. “Nobody must leave! Bar the doors. Many mystery, much solution!”

— What is it you do?

— I’m an artist.

— Oh really what kind of art do you practice?

— Recently I made yogurt from the bacteria in my vagina.

— That sounds interesting.

— It’s not.

— Cool.

— Kinda wish I’d washed my minge this morning.

— I wouldn’t have licked you out anyway.

— I can tell. Your beard would probably have lice babies with my bush anyway.

Another fifteen minutes passed, while Labby the amateur labrador detective continued his investigation. The management had asked the dancers to keep on dancing, to ‘be normal’, and the dancers were quite tired now. Their skin-tight jeans resembled baggy chav sportswear. The boys’ man-buns were unravelling into bad bed hair, and the girls’ bright lippy had spilled down their chins giving them the look of Siberian cannibals mid-feast.

Labby, the crime-solving labrador, brushed with a dry paw his immaculate fringe, and cried out “I have been very fool! Many stupid. Now I see! Such look.” Labby became expansive, “I notice from outset, so profound connection between the victims. Is my business — wow! — is aware of details others overlook. Central fact of the case is this: in the mind of the murderer, the three dead couples were the six — much forgive — six “cunts” from the match dot com adverts.”

The crowd protested. Who on earth would want to murder the six delightful individuals from the match dot com adverts?

Labby waved at the protesting dancers to be silent. “You see, you are missing the central piquant detail of the match dot com dinner advertising posters. The match dot com “cunts” have got to be the worst cunts because it is this that disinhibits you from dating. If it was your Beyoncé or your Puffy on the poster nobody sign up. Perhaps you are a spotty disaster case with all the appeal of the back end of Tracey Emin, or the front end of Tracey Emin. Very cunts on the match dot com posters must be worst examples of humanity, is make you think very hope getting laid.”

There was a long pause.

A really long pause.

A bit too long really.

The gathered fathoms of the silent disco entourage looked toward the forceful amateur labrador detective for some sign. The inscrutable canine was nonchalant as ever.

“But are we safe?” they cried, as it were.

Labby, the inestimable crime-solving labrador, rose to his full height, and, stretching his ears to their full erectitude, intoned “You need not worry now, you are quite safe. Murderer making one crucial, fatal, mistake. In his sanctimonious vitriol against the match dot com couples, so poison himself with hatred. Wow! So hatred! Within the hour, he will be quite dead.”

Labby took up his pipe, and smiled enigmatically with a mixture of pleasure and satisfaction. At that moment the final surviving one of the six individuals from the match dot com advert, Thelma, emerged from the establishedly not very clean unisex toilets.

“Wow! Very survive!” said Labby with joy, “I thought you had been murdered!”

Thelma shivered, and pointed to her legs. “I escaped! I got toxic shock from wearing my knickers for a second day running. I was unconscious for the past hour, then the noise must have… I tore off the pants, and…” Noticing the chaos, she squeaked “What the hell happened?”

Labby chuckled knowingly. “Yes,” he said, “Many yes. Is Doge.”

Love is dead. And you can all fuck off as well.

photo (15)

6people

photo(2)

Week 4 – Simon Welsh – January 26-February 1 – 4/4 – Banana in the mirror (30 Jan)

The fig-2 project shares with the original fig-1 project a sense of freedom from conventional notions of art practice and curation, where it is more about using the available space for a creative purpose, what ever that might be in whatever discipline.

In week four, the poet, environmental activist and public speaker Simon Welsh, delivered a series of forty-two minute lectures. I’m not going to offer critical commentary on what he said, just to try to share with you what I took from his words, with apologies for omissions and distortions. “The worst tragedy for a poet is to be admired through being misunderstood” (Cocteau). Simon’s vision is abundantly positive, with mythic Blakean resonances and a kind of panpsychical holism centred on the empowerment of the individual for the greater good of all.

simonwelsh-26jan

4/4 – Banana in the mirror (30 Jan)

We are obsessed with how we appear. Social media widens the gap between the Projection and the Actual Self (as much as we can be said to possess such a thing). When you look in the mirror, there’s a streak of toothpaste on your face. You wipe it away. From the mirror, rather than your face. You know it’s not your ‘real’ face, but it’s social media and you have mistaken the mirror you for the real you. What if you suddenly see a banana in the mirror? It can’t be there with you, but it’s there in the mirror. What then?

Simon Welsh was in email marketing. A crisis befell a company. The comparison was with Domino’s Pizza, when some videos went viral exposing some saboteurs putting pubes in the pizzas. Do you then pay a bunch of people to direct the online conversation toward positive spin? This is what alcohol, tobacco, and arms companies do. This is like wiping the mirror instead of your face. And in this instance, the banana in the mirror is real.

Motivational speakers remind us that the Chinese word for ‘crisis’ comprises the characters for ‘danger’ and ‘opportunity’. Simon advised the company to use their crisis as an opportunity: we have a side we aren’t proud of, and we are working to change it. A more positive use of social media. To learn to apologise.

A real apology begins “Sorry that I . . . “

If you start with “Sorry that you . . . “ this isn’t a real apology. “Sorry you were upset” disconnects it from your emotional state; how can you apologise about what you can’t experience?

“Sorry if . . . “ is worse yet: the apology is conditional. “Sorry if I offended you” . .  and what if you didn’t offend them? Does that mean you’re not sorry? People communicate differently to each other in person than online. “Sorry if . . . “ has become normalized.

This is one way social media has impacted on us, but social responsibility is growing. Welsh cited the Miley/Thicke twerking moral panic about an incident that might have been a tacit admission on our part that the media has been sexualising young girls in a troubling way. A better role model is New Zealand songwriter Lorde, who is more of a reflection of who we are when we are ourselves rather than projected in the distortions of the mirror.

The media is powerful. In Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-four the printing presses on one side declare that “peace is certain if there is no war” and the other side that “war is certain if there is no peace.” Profound stuff. More seriously, the head of ISIS does not exist; he was invented by the CIA to focus energy, somewhat like the “five minute hate.” Films demonize this head of ISIS to reify the myth of his existence.

The human race is an entity, a superorganism, of individuals. The mirror can be held to account, because when you move the people, the money will follow it. Simon Welsh invites us to reunite with who you are on the inside. The new study of “Reputation Management” encourages us to paint a pretty picture of ourselves on social media. It is alarming that this is being taught. Instead we have to be empowered by our apologies. It is madness to repeat the same experiment expecting different results.

Expand out. Be willingly vulnerable. Take your clothes off in the street and wait for a police officer to ask “Can I help you?” then say “Yes, I’m cold.”

photo 3_14/50

Week 4 – Simon Welsh – January 26-February 1 – 1/4 – Listening the world into existence (26 Jan)

The fig-2 project shares with the original fig-1 project a sense of freedom from conventional notions of art practice and curation, where it is more about using the available space for a creative purpose, what ever that might be in whatever discipline.

In week four, the poet, environmental activist and public speaker Simon Welsh, delivered a series of forty-two minute lectures. I’m not going to offer critical commentary on what he said, just to try to share with you what I took from his words, with apologies for omissions and distortions. “The worst tragedy for a poet is to be admired through being misunderstood” (Cocteau). Simon’s vision is abundantly positive, with mythic Blakean resonances and a kind of panpsychical holism centred on the empowerment of the individual for the greater good of all.

simonwelsh-26jan

1/4 – Listening the world into existence (26 Jan)

We listen the world into existence, and then we speak it into being.

Simon Welsh has been writing for twenty years. He is speaking tonight for just forty-two minutes. The theme is vibration and sound, the light and colour at the start of the universe. When we first try to engineer our own destiny, sound comes first. We listen the world into existence. Following the big bang, there are dips, but we hope that each dip is smaller than the up.

Let’s set the stage for a kind of listening with open hearts and open ears, dropping at the door your defence mechanisms. These are, more broadly, causing death and war. No, not you. Yes, you. We have a spectacular task ahead of us as humanity.

Humans, uniquely, have to pay to live. Nestlé has declared that water is not a human right.

Simon chooses to use rhyme because rhyming couplets cause brainwave patterns akin to those in dreaming. These patterns allow you to experience the dream as if it were real life. Alpha waves cause you to nod.

You are worthy of love. To love yourself you have to listen yourself into existence. Adyanshanti tells of Agape, the form of love that is an outpouring, inspired by anything. You want to give, and then everyone wants to give to you. This is the start of a global consciousness, at once global but involving each of us operating as individuals.

This is a vulnerable position. Brené Brown’s TED talk The power of vulnerability recounts a ten year study into how whole-heartedness is to be vulnerable. Self exposure can lead to breakdown. The bullied person can snap and stop caring. So listen.

In the same way that magnets can manipulate matter – iron filings form patterns on a sheet of paper, without apparent physical manipulation – sound can inform the space in an invisible fashion. In Nassim Haramein’s new science a baby is created from everything, within and without woman. From zero points. Magnetism brings baby together from a vibration. Listening yourself into existence.

Demons are angels waiting to be born. We can transmute negative expressions into creative force, done with the love that makes other people naturally curious, and want to be involved. Ask someone a question they’re likely to reply yes to, and ask a few more, and when you ask them the question you really want to ask, they’re more likely to say yes. An old sales trick, applied. Simon Welsh’s poems are an attempt to move you from a position of ‘No’ to ‘Yes’.

photo 3_14/50