Friday, 11 July 2008

3. Short Stories

This weekend, I am setting my Dad the following tasks: To read Tobias Wolff's short story 'Bullet in the Brain' and to watch the short film of the same title. I remember watching the short late at night after a film marathon with my old friends Emily Williams and Dan Reynolds years ago, and our response was a protracted moment of silence, which rang with a sort of "yes". Last night I remembered this silence, and thought it might be a good connection to make.
Wonderfully, the text is available here as a downloadable.pdf, and the short is up on YouTube here, and there is also an mp3 of another author, called T. Coraghessan Boyle, reading it aloud here. can research-along with my father this weekend while you wait for the rain to stop. I'll add to this post with some of Dad's responses soon.
Happy reading, happy viewing.
K of E might well be on hold for 2 or 3 weeks, since I am off rehearsing with Hauser in Lancaster and then doing a 5-day Summer School with Cupola Bobber in Ulverston. But keep an eye on t-h-r-o-w-i-n-g, if you miss me, might be some posts up there.

Friday, 4 July 2008

2. All Time Top 5 from the olden days

I asked Dad to list his top 5 all-time favourite songs and, on the back of an envelope, he listed eight:

(Hey! You can right- click on the image, or whatever, to get it big and legible.)

The bottom one on the list you might note "Alexander's Ragtime Band", composed by Irving Berlin. If you go to the Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project and search for the track you can find a version recorded in 1911, performed by Billy Murray.

Doing a quick search I found that 'Alexander's Ragtime Band' is hardly ragtime at all, but lyrically, there's a lot of references to emerging African American Music.

I just listened to the track and there's a kind of percussive thump to the way he sings, belting it out. In the olden days before microphones you used to have to sing into a metal horn to record. Interestingly, Murray's career started to wane when microphones came in. On The Billy Murray Article at Wikipedia (yeah) it says, his '"hammering" style, as he called it, essentially yelling the song into the recording horn, did not work in the electronic era, and it took him some time to learn how to soften his voice'.

But the ragtime connection is a good one. The term is a corruption of 'Ragged time', referring to syncopation, the musical practice of playing off-beat. Ragtime might be one one of the last musical styles to emerge before the advent, or at least widespread use, of recording technology, although it was typical for ragtime compositions to be printed. But all this points towards something old-world.

I found some interesting modern guitar rags on the 'Crumb' soundtrack by Craig Ventresco, (he plays in quite a forthright style, really twanging the strings) but if you're don't know anything about ragtime but want to, then Scott Joplin, Jelly Roll Morton, are early(-ish) standard examples.

1. Note on the name & a thematic concern

I have been talking with my Dad about starting a company in which both he and I are principle devisers and performers. As of yesterday, we are agreed. And as of today, we have named ourselves...

"Kings of England".

We are currently writing up a pitch for some cash but in the meantime, we are modestly underway. A conversation we had a couple of weeks ago as I was researching 'Recent Falls', prompted him to quote me the following, from Alan Bennett's 'Writing Home':

...the dull distorting effects of time, in phrases which sound right but aren’t…He said: Oh, I don’t know, I don’t remember, then he says: one always forgets the most important things, it’s the things one can’t remember that stay with you (Bennett, 1998, p258)

Which, essentially, is what our first work will be about - the fictions that will have to stand in for fact, in the event of forgetting.