Thursday, 22 January 2009

Improvisation, Bristol (17/1/09) *

Gaza was 'happening', in the lies of the world's media. Israel did use phosphorous, tanks and universities or mosques were in no way immune. It was for the people's own good, it was action against Hamas rather than the Palestinian people, hence the desire to blow up their dwellings, cut off their supplies, leave children with the dead corpses of their relatives. How could an art react, and what would be the use of an art that reacted to this outrage. By not seeing it as an abberation but a part of the whole, the continuing fabric and texture of our woven existence, tapestry of death and suffering, injustice. By making music that is intimately connected with this, by making sound that is nothing less than the sound of living, and thus the sound of dying. And death I think is no paranthesis. Death is the sentence, the shadow falls on white-washed walls from which the blood has lately been cleaned.

Two musicians in a cabin, musty and pouring dirt from its cracks. Outside the streets, the cars, the shops close their doors with the clinking sound of a cash register. A rumble exists in the city, under everything, under one's feet. The sounds emerge in the space of the cabin, fifteen minutes for this piece, synthesizer, 'objects' and saxophone. The music taps into something very deep. Dive down to the bottom of the pool, then find you can't swim and swim anyway. I don't want to sound like this is coming out of some 'pseudness', 'pretending' to discover 'truths' just as a means of sounding clever, it is not that and it is precisely because it is so hard to express in words that it has to be done in music, or that it has been done in music.

It arises of course from the surface level of that absolute electronic melancholia, drones and quasi-drones, held notes and lightly-spaced pops and clicks over heavy machine-heart. Fragments of texts, those names 'Israel' and 'Gaza', even when not spoken, as the hovering talismans that strike dread in the heart maybe more so in this context than in the whitewashed 'sanity'/sanitisation of BBC news-speak. "22 days 1203 Palestinians killed by Israel including 368 children .... Add Your Comment BBC NEWS | Israel Declares Ceasefire in Gaza. Recent News and Articles on the Keywords: cease -fire + palestinian + gaza Related to ... BBC News, UK."

I think it arises from the randomness as much as anything - the way a certain word on the radio catches in context a whole new meaning/set of meanings, the chill of recognition creating a new level of conviction, of listener/performer being convinced that what is being done is right. Of course there is still guilt, and that is maybe what this music wrestles with most, the guilt that permeates its pores, that it too is an infected discourse, but perhaps it could be infected with love and real sorrow, genuine sorrow - not "oh isn't it awful why can't they just get along" but the lament that contains within itself the conditions of the possibility of a world without the need for that lament. The 'ground-work', if you will. The music realising itself not as the solution, if a solution was posed it would dissolve in that other sense of the word, the solution that permeates everything, as watery spread.

Industrial low-edged harshsounds on synthesizer. It's not to say that this is 'mimetic' of Israeli tanks or electric drills or the piping system nightmare of Terry Gilliam's 'Brazil', or the industrial nightmare visions of 'Eraserhead' or 'Tetsuo the Iron Man.' It contains the sounds before, the sounds present, the sounds after, the sounds surrounding. Is its own text and context at once.

There is something very sombre and chilling about the voice. I listened to a poem reading today** which almost disappeared into itself by the end, and this has that same absolute fall-back to almost nothing. The resourt to song even, the singing of the utterly deserted when there is no more to do but give voice though one knows it will do no good, and in that it does good. The space beyond tears, shell-shocked but conscious. Numbed but fighting through it to sound emotion.


* Improvisation at 'The Cabin', Bristol, by 'Bristol Improvisers Zariba' - on this occasion, Mark Anthony Whiteford and Richard Soup. Listen to the piece at:
** J.H. Prynne reading John Wieners' 'Cocaine' at 'Archive of the Now' (


m said...

thanks for this david
i had been on demos that day
in bristol
carrying leaflets and boxes
of dolls representing
palestinian babies
wrapped in bloodstained cloth

so these feelings were with me
in the cabin

there is little we can do
but the little we can do
is what we do i hope

it's amazing to me
that whilst the western world
apparently condemns
the violent actions of certain
states are condoned and sanctioned

by the time i'd reached the cabin
i was beyond the anger
i'd been feeling earlier

and more reflective i guess

what can we do?
boycott israeli goods/foods
keep in TOUCH with the wound
and KNOW it is there
feel it
do not commit more violence
by demanding that the wound
cover itself

[these ideas are copied loosely
from sara ahmed
'the cultural politics of emotion'

the entire set of songs
from that same evening
in the cabin are here

i dont know where the other musicans
had been that day
or what was on their minds
re gazza
but i brought my reality to meet theirs

i think
free improvisation
is an important state to be in
during these times of violence
and dogma and certainty and 'rightness'

whilst on the streets
handing out leaflets
i touched hands with many
passing strangers
many of them clutching their bags
of consumer items
and wearing their clothing
of consumerism ism ism
and i recieved and gave smiles
and people wanted to know
what this all was
even from within the enclave
of thier own particular prisons

someone came up and said
'what is gazza'

i remembered myself as a youth
walking about in broadmead
shopping area
wondering what else was out there
smothered in brut
trying to survive long enough
till the road out from here appeared

i remember the krishna people
back in broadmead in them days

on friday we shut lloyds bank
with our protest against
them blocking aid money
going out to gazza

a man arrived fraught
that he had to pay his mortgage
what incredible parralel
worlds we inhabit on this same planet

mark anthony whiteford

mark anthony whiteford said...

i dont see how you can call this a 'war'
it's a holocaust

hamas is the democratically elected governent

but the west though keen to use its
"democracy is the one true way
and we reserve the right to blast you off the face of the earth if you wont do democracy"
yet is also very undemocratic
when it comes to who should rule
the territories it holds dear
so will again reserve the right "to blast you off the face of the earth
should you elect people we dont like" whereas whoever wishes to do so
can rule by whatever means it cares to pursue
in certain areas of the world which 'dont really contain humans as such' and yes
i'd much rather be associated with hamas supporters
than with the state of israel thanks very much