in media res


Control
May 11, 2008, 1:51 pm
Filed under: cinema, film, music, Patrick, photography

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On Friday (9th May) I went to see Control at the Duke of York’s cinema in Brighton. I went with a keen movie-going friend of mine. My interest in the film was piqued by the fact that I’ve been impressed with some photography I’ve seen by the director Anton Corbijn. I’ve also seen one video by Anton Corbijn which I really liked. This was not a music video but rather an artistic video build around an interview with the alternative pop/rock icon Captain Beefheart. Anyway this was Anton Corbijn’s first feature film and is focussed on the short life of Ian Curtis, lead singer with the late seventies group Joy Division. Continue reading

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The Minotaur
April 22, 2008, 4:26 pm
Filed under: music, Patrick

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On Monday night Anne and I went to the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden to see Harrison Birtwistle’s new opera The Minotaur.

I greatly enjoyed it and Anne told me she did too. We were in the amphitheatre in the Royal Opera House and this was very high up, enough to give me a touch of vertigo, however I got used to it. I will go and see the production again when it next runs, which I’m sure it will, but then I will get a more expensive seat lower down in the balcony.

I don’t know the music at all for The Minotaur. Over the last year I have been listening to Birtwistle a lot, I have CDs of Punch and Judy and Theseus Game.

The music in The Minotaur has many very beautiful moments. There’s a lot of underlying dark mood stuff in the bass. Birtwistle constructs some marvellous things in his music. I’m looking forward to the CD when it comes out so that I can listen to it again.

The opera has a great deal of content. There’s lots there to think about methinks. It explores the darkest realms of human emotions.

As you probably have guessed despite all his goring the Minotaur (John Tomlinson) becomes quite a sympathetic character. His operatic howls are not so much of rage than of pain for his predicament. For me the Minotaur was reminiscent of the Elephant Man played by John Hurt in the film of that name. I felt sorry for the Minotaur and quite liked the idea of taking him home and adopting him as a pet. The Greek myth itself was always a bit undermined for me by the fact that bulls are vegetarians, however it is best to put such literal thoughts to one side and go with poetic licence.

The Minotaur has the power of speech in his dreams. I think it’s very clever really, the idea of being sentient only in dreams, but a beast when awake. The Minotaur also develops the power of speech at his point of death. This brings a new twist to the cliché of the opera character who, having been killed continues to sing away for twenty minutes or so. The Minotaur does this but as it is his first opportunity to speak outside of the dream state we happily give him licence to sing away.

The libretto (David Harsent) is a joy to hear and read. There are sur-titles and being in the amphitheatre I was staring right at them all night. I think that if the production goes to the US then some of the quality of the libretto won’t be understood as it does play very subtly on some quite specifically UK English usage. Many common expressions come up but they are given new depth and meaning. There are many very clever phrases and reconstructions of the way we say things, but now quite changed.

The set is minimalist but changes radically from one scene to another with just a bit of re-arrangement of the objects on stage, or at least it seems that way. There is highly imaginative use of lighting creating some very striking new environments for the action.

The opera contains many notable moments and scenes. Ariadne (Christine Rice) acts out her mother, Pasiphae giving birth to the Minotaur. There is almost nothing visual for this scene, Christine Rice simply sings and acts it out, the music and the libretto and her performance together are a hugely powerful combination. I think it is one of the most wholly monstrous things I’ve witnessed in any stage or film performance and yet it was achieved with apparently so little.

Another astonishing scene is when Ariadne visits the oracle. This is visually stunning. It does work but they took a massive risk because if it hadn’t worked it would have been fantastically camp. However at the point we come to this in the story we are totally spell-bound so we ‘go with’ this marvellous other-worldly experience.

Despite being relatively short, at a bit over two hours, the opera has left a very strong impression on me and I find myself frequently revisiting it in my imagination.



Spacing
February 26, 2008, 6:45 pm
Filed under: Patrick, space and everyday life | Tags: ,

With a title like “spacing” you might be expecting a deep considered piece, perhaps about the increasing atomisation of society or something.

Continue reading



A podcast
February 9, 2008, 12:15 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , ,

Today I have discovered podcasting. Okay, I have known it has existed for years but this is a personal discovery of the value of podcasting. It is not the same as if, for example, I’d discovered America.

It’s of value to me even though I am pod-less. Pod-lessness is becoming increasingly rare these days. So often now I see those little white earpieces worn by people on trains and buses. They are podded. “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” does rather spring to mind when I see them. In that movie of course people-like beings actually hatch out of pods.

Anyway, I have digressed. Although I’m pod-less I do have a computer with iTunes which means I can subscribe to podcasts and they will be automatically downloaded to my computer when they are released. On BBC Radio Three there is a great programme called “CD Review”. In that programme is a regular feature called “Building a Library” which goes out early on Saturday morning. Although I’m quite keen on building a library, taking, say the Jubilee library in Brighton as my model, I never get up early enough on Saturday morning to hear this feature.

Now they have started podcasting “Building a Library” and so today I’ve had it automatically downloaded to my computer. In preparation I’ve been sketching some drawings for my new library to be erected in my back garden. Rather surprisingly however the feature seems to consist of playing CDs and discussing their merits. I’m thinking perhaps this is because building a library is a substantial undertaking and maybe we need to be in the right mood for it before we begin.

Today we’ve had some extremely lovely Mozart chamber music and I think I’ll be getting the preferred CD. Something to listen to while sketching the plans for my library.