Monday, 17 August 2009

Sliding Floors

Steeleye Span

Thursday 23rd July. Recording, Preston.

Late in the day; this would accurately describe the way today’s recording session was arranged; arranged, more than anything else, on the back of the band’s performance, due this coming Saturday in Doncaster.

Doncaster is probably a good hundred miles from here (Preston), but to many southerners, what’s most relevant is that it lies beyond a town in Hertfordshire, UK; a town that’s situated 19 miles north-west of central London - yes, Watford.
Everything beyond is, of course, the north of England, which just so happens to mean that in this region there is no distance, to speak of, between any two locations.

For some reason I can hear my Mother saying to me, "sarcasm is the lowest form of wit", - a phrase that used to be delivered with profound regularity (well, certainly during my teen years). 

I’d often hear these words, and wonder as to the criteria, or the research used to determine such a conclusion. Not necessarily convinced, I’d often think to myself, ‘Surely there must be a lower form of wit somewhere out there?’. I had learnt though that it was best at these times to not over-complicate things.

OK, I admit it is unreasonable to tar all southerners with the same brush; not completely
 unreasonable, but unreasonable nevertheless. 

Speaking of which, I just recalled a golfing partner the other day who told me, ‘I hate Pakistanis’! My reaction was to enquire as to how he’d ever found the time to get to know them all?

Then I half-jokingly suggested that the only Pakistani that worried me was one who belonged to the Taliban or maybe Al-Qaeda. His reply was, ‘yes, but these days there’s no way you can tell the difference’!

I personally have never felt qualified to make such generalised assessments of race, colour or nationality, although I do admit to often having a strong feeling of incredulity and dismay by the apparent human propensity towards the holding of certain beliefs - and certainly towards the words or practices of 'some' of those that hold them.
However, many of these ‘some’ are as likely to live next door or round the corner from me than in an Islamic state thousands of miles from here.

But yes, back to the recording; a session that was sprung on me, as I said - ‘late in the day’ 
The one thing we hadn’t spent much time on down in Cornwall was backing vocals. Without exception it seems to be one of the very last touches in the recording process. I’m sure there are others who approach things differently, but this has always been my experience. My studio is well equipped for these finishing touches; it’s equipped for much more really, but it’s a little compromised when it comes to space. I have recorded bands in there, even two albums with the Albion Band, but it’s not exactly ideal for that kind of thing.

It just so happens that I had spent the first three days of this week putting a new laminate (floating) floor into the vocal room of the studio; this was more through necessity than anything else, having discovered a damp problem the previous week. Although the resulting acoustic properties of the room were not a major concern of mine, I was curious as to how the hard laminate surface and its reflective quality would effect the sound of anything recorded in there.

So, early afternoon, and Pete, Maddy and Rick arrived; we set about getting these BVs done. As the day progressed it became obvious we’d need more time to complete things, more time than was available today, and anyway, we were all tired. So at 7:30 / 8 p.m. we called it a day agreeing to continue tomorrow morning before the trip to Doncaster. After I’d recommended a first class Indian take-away (The Shapla, Watery Lane, Preston) to the two of them, Rick and Pete went to their hotel; Maddy stayed here with Carol and I, and the three of us had dinner.

Steeleye Span

Friday 24th July. Recording, Preston / rehearsals, Doncaster.

One thing leads to another - a timeless truth, and one that’s particularly noticeable given the virtual impromptu character of recent events.
As illustrated in yesterday’s writing, it certainly seems to be the nature of how so much has taken place of late.

Certainly, one set of circumstances has to develop in order to present the next set; every single thing is an offshoot of something else. In this regard, I see ‘us’, mortal spirits, call us what you will, as the designers of our own destiny; the utilisers and the creators of possibility and probability, yet–other than in our own minds–not ultimately the masters as we might like to believe. This could be where ‘destiny’ and ‘freewill’ are seen to coexist.

There is that which we can do absolutely nothing about, and that which we can. 
Although it was Daniel Defoe who originally made the inference (The Political History of the Devil, 1726); the ‘immortal’ phrase: ‘In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes’, is generally attributed to Benjamin Franklin.
Death is, of course, inevitable, but it appears that we can exercise ‘some’ influence over how and when it occurs. This leads me to consider the possibility of less visible inevitabilities - whether they be laid down, as some think, by an invisible governing force, or are an inevitable outcome of past action - the culmination of a sequence of events.

I loved the film Sliding Doors (and not just because Gwyneth Paltrow was in it, as has been implied by some). The story illustrates perfectly how events, although seen as profoundly important by the mortal eye, can also be regarded as transient and circumstantial in that they twist and turn depending on fleeting decisions, or timing - as in the film.
A difference of a few seconds between whether a train is boarded or not can potentially result in one’s life dramatically changing course.

However, as with the inevitability of death, the story also implies that there are specific people one is bound or destined to meet, maybe children to be had - and perhaps other life changing scenarios that have to take place at some time, in some way - whether you like it or not!. 
These might constitute the core reasons for your life - your purpose here. And these core reasons take place regardless of things like one’s career or financial standing, etc.

It’s always possible that in our quest to find meaning in life we dream up such ‘divine’ ideas as these, but then to write them off is also possibly part of a quest, a quest to find meaninglessness in life; and if we are the creators of possibility, then I can’t think of a better reason than to choose the divine. 

Whatever the specific details are, whether the subject be matters of purposefulness or pointlessness, mortality or immortality, the sheer fact that we can conceive, let alone debate such issues is an indication of our unique position on this planet. And by this, I am not inferring that it’s a position of superiority; all living things have their uniqueness, but ours is set apart by our ability to create, build, discuss; and the coup de grâce - the ability to be aware of one’s consciousness and existence.

As humans we are very adept in the art of self-delusion; contrary to popular belief, I would state that this is an indication of an evolved state; if fact, I’d go as far as to say that to label the art of self-delusion as anything other than creative brilliance is self-delusionary.
Still, familiarity does breed contempt, and unless one makes a real point of reminding oneself of ‘the miracle of it all’, the miracle falls easily and comfortably back into the ordinariness of day to day life.

Apart from all these ‘developed’ attributes (or some might say ‘hindrances’) that are characteristic of humanness, we are still, of course, animals; speaking of which, I do sympathise with the–not insubstantial–numbers of people (and I know some of them) who see other members of the animal kingdom in two distinct ways: 1. That they, the other animals, know something ‘we’ don’t - as though they actually have a higher level of intelligence; and 2. That they understand the English language - oh, and can mind read.

The reason for my sympathy is that I too, effortlessly, am inclined to see them in the very same way (especially my cat), until, that is, I catch myself doing it. 
Of course, there’s a lot of what I’d call ‘projection’ going on here; maybe those with a background in psychology might be familiar with this, and would use the term - transference. 
If ‘transference’ is a term you’re unfamiliar with, it is when someone unconsciously turns the person or object they are relating to into someone or something other than who or what they actually are. 

Another good description I’ve found might be: "the redirection of feelings and desires, and especially of those unconsciously retained from childhood toward a new object.”

Now tell me, what more evidence would better illustrate the brilliant complexity of the human condition?

And so back to another phenomenon of the human condition - Steeleye Span; we finished our recording at midday. The rehearsal room in Doncaster was booked from 5 p.m. onwards. 
It took me something like three hours to travel from Preston to my destination in South Yorkshire, and on arrival was told that Liam’s plane from Italy was delayed coming into Stansted, so the rest of us went through the set as a four piece.

Steeleye Span

Saturday 25th July. The Dome, Doncaster.

Called ‘Doncaster Rocks’ this is a day long ‘folk’, ‘folk-rock’ spectacular.
Fortunately the rehearsal studio, the one that Liam couldn’t get to yesterday was available again this morning, so we ran the set once more, this time as a five piece.

After rehearsal, there was probably a good four or five hours to kill before our scheduled spot at 6:30 p.m. - enough time for me to buy two pairs of shoes, locate the stage door at The Dome, unload the guitars and amp, then to hang out and relax a while before the show.

I have to say these are the gigs I like - the bigger ones, where you just get on stage, crank the amp up, and away you go.
Today’s line-up, in order of appearance was:

Julie Felix

The Popes

The (Acoustic) Strawbs

Steeleye Span

Jethro Tull

The Lancashire Hotpots

What impressed me?
I didn’t get to see a lot, but the Strawbs–a name I do know well, yet a band who’s music I’ve never been familiar with–sounded mighty, and that was with just three acoustic guitars.
Their main singer, Dave Cousins - most likely ‘the name’ people associate with the group, sang with real power. We all know the art of singing can become increasingly difficult as age catches up with us, yet Dave told of how he feels that his voice has become stronger with time.

What else impressed?
The standard of musicianship in Jethro Tull.

And what was the down side of the event?
I opened a bottle of sparkling mineral water in the dressing room, and in the process a small amount of water fizzed out onto the table. Just before going on stage I placed my mobile phone onto the same table; by the time I got back when the show was finished, I could see there was a small channel of water that had worked its way along the table towards my phone, and it had collected underneath it. That was it - no phone; it wouldn’t work (it took a week to dry out before working again).

Have you ever interviewed yourself before?
I’ve always been unavailable in the past, so no, have never interviewed myself before; I quite like it though, and might well do it again soon.

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