Richard Warren

"Clearly I tap to you clearly along the plumbing of the world" (W S Graham)

Monthly Archives: May 2017

A Messiaenic gizmo

Flagging a bit on this blog lately, especially on the poetry front. Well, especially on every front. Apologies for the slacking. Meanwhile, three snaps taken after last night’s gobsmacking performance in Birmingham of Olivier Messiaen’s Turangalîla-Symphonie. (This was premiered the year I was born, though I’m afraid I can’t pretend it was the music I heard in the womb, which was more likely something from Workers’ Playtime.)

For the eighty minutes of multi-layered, modernist, breath-crunching crash-bang-wallop, alternating with fragile, stellar ecstasy, the BBC Symphony Orchestra was fronted by piano, celeste, keyboard glockenspiel, and, not least, the ondes Martenot, played for this occasion by Cynthia Millar, who very decently descended after the performance in her giant flowered frock, to give the small crowd who had gathered to stare at the vintage electronic instrument a mini-tutorial in its peculiarities. [Click images to enlarge.]

Among the mix of five speakers ranged across the stage, chief object of curiosity was the lyre-shaped diffuseur palme, whose twelve tuned strings resonate subtly with the electronic note. This piece of singing sculpture strikes me as an orphic-electronic device containing both classical past and SF future, embodying the present of its own invention while also managing to sit defiantly outside time itself – appropriately enough for a Messiaenic gizmo.

First half of the programme was the original orchestral setting of Messiaen’s L’Ascension. As the returning Christ floated up, up and away, heading for reunion with the Father, the strings somehow sounded as if they were playing in reversed time, like a tape run backwards, and in a mini-light bulb moment it occurred to me that the parable of the Prodigal Son is, in part, an image of the Ascension. The boy’s coming home.

Outside, in the foyer, two other boys, in blue and carrying light machine guns, were there to guard my insight from any untoward interruption. I tend to fight shy of any talk of spiritual warfare, but I guess it’s time to stake a claim to our understanding of the numinous.

Invasion of the car park people

When I was a kid, I always fancied becoming the person who put the squodgy white and yellow lines along the road with that great little machine on wheels. In that line of work the high moment of creative release must be to invent the little people who turn up on walkways in the best car parks.  (This would have been the ideal job for L S Lowry.) Though today’s regulation stencilled people are a bit of a cop-out, there are still wonderful freehand examples to be discovered. Here’s a quick collage of a few I’ve snapped recently. Don’t tell me I need to get out more often. I visit plenty of car parks.