"Art is not a mirror with which to reflect the world; it is a hammer with which to shape it"

Saturday, 9 February 2008

Channel Zero #4

My last week seems to have been marked by a combination of listless apathy and insomnia… I suspect the two might just be related. There really hasn’t been much of any of import or excitement this week. What a wonderfully dull life I live!

Bizarre incident of the week: all of a sudden the village my Dad was born and brought up in appeared in both television and print news because they are reintroducing donkeys to take shopping up the steep hill. The house he lived in used to have three family dwellings but has since been knocked through into just one large, very expensive house… it’s good to know we have such an abundance of housing that this is possible. He has expressed interest in the past of moving back to the area but its long since been annexed by the fabulously wealthy urban weekend set… not least the air-thief Damien Hirst.

Music of the week: two great discs courtesy of those lovely folk on eBay. Firstly, a disc of assorted 20th Century Eastern European orchestral works. I bought this primarily for the recording of Gorecki’s Piano Concerto with the conductor’s daughter as soloist. Henryk Górecki, if you haven’t heard of him, is primarily famous in the West for one work, his Third Symphony ‘Symphony Of Sorrowful Songs’ which is not as bleak as the title suggests (although each movement is marked ‘lento’). While this symphony is an epic magisterial piece it is not entirely representative of the composer’s fifty-plus year career and has led to the misconception that he is of the Minimalist tendency along with Arvo Pärt. Of course, the lack of a large body of Minimalist works has made it a little difficult for the record labels to package and so the bulk of his works have rather languished in obscurity with more than half his works left unrecorded. The two works on this disc, the Piano Concerto and the Thee Pieces In Olden Style come from opposite ends of his career but both are rooted in native regional folk tunes. The Piano Concerto itself is a transcription of the Harpsichord Concerto; both have their relative merits and the harpsichord’s timbre brings a sharpness and clarity which the piano cannot deliver but the piano brings dynamics that the other instrument cannot. There is devilish swirling fury and energy to the piece and it barely seems to fit the perceived definition of a concerto. The solo line is so resolutely embedded within the whole that it seems less like a dialogue and more and wild ride to some strange oblivion. The only real glitch to this performance is a recording preference as I feel that the piano is a little too prominent with the accompaniment recessed and at times overpowered by the soloist. However, the use of the piano (a transcription I’d not heard before) did allow the revelation of textures and sonorities, particularly some first movement dissonances that had previously remained unheard by me. Now, if you’re still bothering to read I’ll point you in the direction of some other damn fine pieces by this unjustly over-looked composer: the brutal then sublime and muscular Second Symphony coupled with the similar Beatus Vir; the Third Symphony; the folk inflected String Quartets.

…and the other great thing about this CD is that being a compilation of the other 4 composers represented there are two that I don’t know the music of: Bacewicz and Kilar, the man who composed the excellent Bram Stoker's Dracula score.

From the sublime to the ridiculous: the other disc to arrive this week was the American Sisters Of Mercy CD Promo ‘Tour Thing’. This is pure indulgent completism (of which profligacy I am thoroughly ashamed) and I’ve waited a very long time for a cheap copy to turn up and now it has. And I’ve snaffled it. I believe this was produced to promote the abortive Sisters Of Mercy-Public Enemy US tour which went… a bit wrong. In other words, various towns became worried of Black-versus-White violence and the tour was ultimately cancelled.

So, what television did we get last week… some good, some bad and I should do the ‘Ashes to Ashes post’… so I probably will. Just don’t hold your breath! With the highlight of the week being Attenborough’s Life In Cold Blood. So, now there’s 4 series I’m watching a week.

Mystery televisual artefacts that might be worth your attention (which hopefully I’ll have a chance to catch) include but are not confined to…

BBC2: 3.25 am: Eloge de l’Amour: one of Goddard’s most recent films… for insomniacs as an aid to sleep!

C4: 7.00 pm: Inside Hamas: a documentary about Hamas’ running of Gaza.

BBC1: 11.20 pm: Last Orders: a brilliant moving film drama (from a novel I haven’t read by Graham Swift) about a group of old men on a journey to scatter their friend’s ashes at Margate during which they remember their shared past. Brilliant. Also has a simply marvellous cast boasting the talents of Michael Caine, Bob Hoskins, Tom Courtenay, David Hemmings, Ray Winstone and Helen Mirren… deftly and discreetly directed by Fred Schepisi. By the way, did I mention it was brilliant?

BBC1: 9.00 pm: Life In Cold Blood: watch it or the lizards will get you… he’s got them trained, you know.

BBC2: 11.20 pm: Watching The Russians: Stella Rimmington presented documentary on the way Britain has viewed and interacted with Russia.

BBC2: 11.00 am: My Favorite Brunette: fun Bob Hope film noir spy spoof, sequel to My Favorite Blonde…

BBC2: 9.00 pm: Horizon: How To Make Better Decisions: a documentary telling us what prompts us to make the decisions we do and presumably will tell us how not to be too easily influenced… but will it tell me whether to kill the annoying sidekick?

BBC1: 9.00 pm: Attila The Hun: drama documentary inexplicably scheduled against Torchwood. Tricky things drama-documentaries: so hard to go right, so easy to go wrong.

C4: 1.15 pm: Paths Of Glory: Kubrick’s first important movie and damned good.

BBC1: 9.00 pm: Ashes To Ashes.

BBC2: 11.00 am: Son Of Paleface: another amusing Bob Hope sequel (this time to The Paleface) but why didn’t someone think to show the progenitors in the same week?


Rach said...

I can recommend the novel "Last Orders" too. Read it before seeing the film and, though the book things to a deeper level, enjoyed both.

Rach said...

Ok "TAKES thing to a deeper level". Half asleep when I commented. Sorry.

Rach said...

Hi Jon

I just got memed and thought I'd pass it on. Unless someone got you first. It's a list of screenwriting books you've found useful.

I'd be interested to see your list.

Elinor said...

Hope you get some sleep soon, Jon.

Jon Peacey said...

Rach- watching the film gazumped reading the book... I think I've now seen the film about 4 times. I think it's that good!

I was wondering (and hoping) when the next was going to hit the streets... I fear you'll be deeply disappointed!

Elinor- So do I, so do I... I've started sleeping in front of the TV which is a plus... the next stage is to remember where my bed is! Things reached an interesting new point on Monday when the pile of CD's on top of the stereo (one of those old-fashioned 12x12 topped versions) seemed to turn into a melted plastic waterfall that flowed down the front... this is why I don't do drugs! Life on them might become very normal...