Sunday 19 October 2014

I visited the Distil residential in New Lanark yesterday to talk about the Bass Culture project, but as should always happen with any artistic enterprise, it ended up being about a whole lot of other things as well. It's great that Distil is still thriving and creative after 10 years on the go.

The first question they asked me about my appearance wasn't about what I was going to say or what equipment I needed, but whether I would be having lunch. This is a good sign. I took a wind-up gramophone (my Gran's HMV 102 portable, just like this one), an iPad and a melodica, and we explored some examples of early fiddle sources, playing some tunes and basslines. I was asked some extremely intelligent and pertinent questions, much more searching and relevant than the questions I'd generally be asked in a university, and it was all really very useful indeed, to me anyway. Often you only find out what you know about something when someone asks you the right question, and I'd never really thought before about there being a continuum or spectrum in Scottish fiddle sources between the actual documentation of musical practice and the idealisation and transformation of it for other purposes.
Anyway, after all this interaction, David Francis asked me 'Can you stay on and take part in our afternoon creative exercise?' OK. I wasn't really expecting to stage a wedding on a boat, try to save a drowning drunk with my hat, or get eaten by a shark. And the level of musical talent being put to completely childish purposes was very impressive: Raymond MacDonald was officiating at the wedding on behalf of the Church of John Coltrane, and Gráinne Brady was the shark, for example, and the whole thing was just a bit silly ... but the process of negotiating the details of a performance in a very short space of time with a new group of people is something we all have to do as musicians now and again. And we laughed a lot. I also met Callum Armstrong for the first time, and we found we had quite a lot to talk about (and not just that he has a green HMV 102) ... more another time I'm sure.
Sunday 28 September 2014

Here’s the Stodart square piano in its current state. Do you think it’ll be ready for Friday’s gig in Kilmardinny House? We do have a backup plan just in case it isn’t, but I hope it is …

square piano in bits

Adrianne just sent me this closeup of my harmonium (alright pedants, reed organ) in action from two weeks ago.


And I may just have succeeded in negotiating to be paid some forthcoming recording session fees in Octomore.

Friday 19 September 2014

It’s the morning after the referendum vote, and Scotland appears to have a democracy hangover. Let’s hope that the right-wing parties in Westminster don’t exact too terrible a revenge for Scotland having the audacity to hold democratic power, even if it was only for 15 hours yesterday. We can be proud of our 84.6% turnout, and I’m especially proud of our young people (including my own children) who engaged wholeheartedly in the process and voted overwhelmingly to hang on to that power of self-determination. It was nothing to do with being Scottish: it was about returning power from an elite to the population. We’ll get there eventually.

On Monday night I was in the great company of Adrianne Greenbaum, Michael Alpert and Lev Atlas doing this.

Sunday 31 August 2014

I’ve just had the Estey reed organ out of the cellar to prepare it for active service with Adrianne Greenbaum in a couple of weeks. I’ll be playing the Dundee, Glasgow, Ayr and Giffnock (!) gigs of this tour (despite not being even slightly Jewish, as far as I know). And hooray, some ConCal gigs are coming up in a few weeks, and next summer, so I’m getting myself into music planning mode, which I’d pretty much forgotten how to do. I’m hoping that the Stodart square piano will be ready for its first outing by October 3: fingers crossed.

Given the political news this week, perhaps it’s time for the Yes campaign to start its own Project Fear. Fear of living in a country where Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage are taken seriously as agents of change. Fear of the UK opting out of European human rights legislation, or even of Europe altogether. Fear of further restrictions on civil liberties and on justice as a result of a faraway terrorist threat. That’s all pretty scary. And that’s before we even start on the NHS, inequality, restrictions on immigration, or any of the rest. A Yes vote would make another future possible.

Oh, and we have CD copies of Spring Any Day Now (click on ‘next’) back in stock. It’s quite good, you know …