The vexed question of ‘titles for paintings?’ is a very old friend. The works I produce are, by their very nature, ambiguous and non-specific. They can sit happily with double identities or no identity at all. After all, they are paintings, not pictures. Self-contained worlds in other words. To complicate matters, no matter what they are called, the subliminal undercurrent that pervades them all, is music.
‘Music Box’ is a collection of works where these links are quite obvious and I have provided a brief note of a more direct connection with particular bits of music. The proud owner of one of these huge works said: ‘forget all that tosh, I love the marks and the colour, sod the rest’. Never mind.
This is tricky territory; the Art Bollocks Cultural Police are always on the lookout for this sort of thing, and quite right too.
This ballet/ burlesque was composed by Stravinsky in 1910/11. It tells the story of three puppets who are brought to life. They are Petrushka, the Ballerina and the Moor.
Petrushka loves the Ballerina but she rejects him in favour of the Moor.
Petrushka challenges the Moor but dies in the attempt to vanquish him.
As night falls Petrushka’s ghost rises above the theatre before collapsing in a second death.
The ballet is a rich tapestry of wonderful music, dance and design. It’s popularity remains undimmed, as does the attraction of this tragic figure.
Mumbles lobbed into M/Claire land. It was a kind of Late ECO/ early Mother Earth kiddie…loads of hay bales, p.c. Tractor tyres, bunches of sweet smelling plants, peace be with you exhortations and the tea was as herbal as herbal could be. Mumbles had been here the first time around. Never mind.
She gave Mumbles the once over. Seemed impressed. It was rather like an Elysian nymphette gazing at Mount Rushmore. She moved quickly on. ‘Do you need this, that or the other? No?’
‘OK. You do your stuff after the interval. Be half as good as when I heard you and you will slay this lot …don’t screw it up.’ Mumbles gave her the old Clint Eastwood lantern jawed green -eyed gaze… She backed off.
The first few sets gave Mumbles one over-riding feeling… that of calm confidence.
They were OK, but listening to them was rather like wading through freshly laid concrete, which slowly begins to set. Tofu and nuts and raw veg. followed.
An almighty chord on the big guitar announced the new kid on the block. He roared straight into ‘The Fair Dinkum Drongo’ Unexpurgated. Boy, did he pin their ears back.
Mumbles, totally given to his work, did not spot Paul who had slipped in at the back.
The bit about Banjo mistaking a Tassie Devil for a domestic cat and tickling the same had the audience begging for more. Howls of delight. He finished off with some sublime cadenza – like improvisations of all that had gone before… twisting, turning, and, 20 minutes later, resolved on a D major chord that produced a wondrous stunned silence.
The applause was deafening. Encore? You bet.
Paul wanted to catch the last episode of ‘The Stirling Moss story’ so set off, but he WAS impressed.
Mumbles, knackered, left soon after. His progress was slowed by a collision with a mountain of marshmallows. ‘God,’ the marshmallows whispered in unison as their grip became vice-like, ‘you were sensational!!’ Holy ****! It was Mrs. Crusher!! She read Mumbles mind.
‘Stay loose’, she said, He is off on a tractor tyre throwing competition… me tent is bigger than yours, fancy a nightcap?’
The snide remarks about my sad tennis footwear got to me. Even a whip-round was suggested to deal with this. I would fix.
Whilst playing this wonderful game, I often ruminated on the very close and frequent Schoenberg/ Gershwin tennis matches. I imagined their tennis styles would mirror that of their wonderfully disparate musical genres. Schoenberg would be full of cool, perfectly calculated and cerebral ground strokes, not much spin, Gershwin loads of flourishes, rich slicing and topspin and theatrical volleying. How delightful.
Anyway …thinks, I must support the local High Street, none of this online stuff, as a way of getting my footwear. Putting on my old shoes (in the porch), an hour or so passed before I got to the shoe shop, this involved driving, visits to the Supermarket, and about a kilometre uphill stroll.
Shoes were produced, tried one on, and the sales assistant said I should do both feet. Really? I took of my left shoe. The salesman recoiled in a state of utter incredulity.
Verrucas? Smelly socks? NO! He had seen a bloody great toad right in the middle of that shoe.
Toad was very alive and very well and, one wonders, looking at him, do toads ever become the exact embodiment of being pissed off?
Was he ever!
The assistant became unglued. If I had said ‘look, if you can spare a box of tennis balls and a shirt or two, as a freebie, I will sort this problem and get the hell out of here,’ I bet he would have gone for that deal.
Cooler heads prevailed. ‘Leave him where he is’, I suggested. I will wear my new shoes home, and he can go in the bag in his shoe.
The following morning, our neighbour wondered why on earth there was an old empty tennis shoe planted in the middle of our garden.
By now I was getting used to the funny ways of my little cabin. Basic, yes, but also slightly problematic. When I first arrived, I noticed that immediately beyond the cabin bulkhead, the steel walls seemed to converge somewhat. The purpose of this marine architecture soon became apparent once we got underway. The sound of the waves slapping against the bow was a bit disconcerting at 3 in the morning.
I guess the likelihood of colliding with some unexploded ordnance or the odd ice-berg would be pretty remote in these latitudes. Accordingly, I took out some medicinal insurance (in 75 cl. bottles) to keep me warm in case I had to swim across the Tasman Sea.
My suit hung forlornly in a makeshift wardrobe. I was musing upon this apparent purchasing miscalculation when an invitation fluttered through the door.
The captains cocktail party no less! My mind fancy flew. Again.
AAAAHHH….The moonlight rippling across the gentle water, the air filled with the saccharine strings of Mantovani’s band …and… and… a young couple holding hands and gazing wistfully out to sea.
A Hollywood hologram no less.
Sod all that.
The reception area for the party was in an architectural style known as ‘EARLY GYMNASIUM’. Retsina and Ouzo seems mercifully absent from the drinks list. There were loads of olives and feta and all things Greek. The calamari was not a million miles away from a bicycle inner- tube. And, of course English and Greek are not the happiest linguistic bedfellows. Although glamour and chic had not caught this bus, it was agreeable enough.
Unhappily, my suit seemed to be a huge hit with the First Officer. Oh Dear.
At some point during the proceedings somebody picked up the communal boredom baton and indicated, inter alia, the good news that our ship had a table tennis table.
My ears pricked up at this. I was pretty hot stuff at this kiddie. The following day a group of us gathered for a few games. I felt like kicking off by handing out a good old fashioned thrashing.
So the score rattled along. 6-2, 8-3, 12,5 16-8, 20-12, 21-13, GAME OVER,
JOB DONE, THRASHED!
Paul bought Mumbles up to speed on his visitor and her proposal. Mumbles hesitated. ‘I know you have a terrific DVD lined up tonight… I think it was the history of in the shock absorber, but the idea of a paying gig sounds good… not to mention little Marie whatsit… I’ll get togged up and pop down to see her. She sounds a hell of a lot prettier than you.’
Paul twitched a bit. Old Mumbles was ok but not mentally terribly agile. Tended to speak first and get whacked later. There were ominous sounds coming from his tent. No, not booze, more the rustling of a profound costume change. Later, Paul looked up from his ‘Michelin Moments’ mag to be greeted by an incredible metamorphosis. OK, it could have been an oven- ready Crocodile Dundee, but this sight was impressive nonetheless.
Paul had seen the hard bitten cow hands in West Texas and West Queensland. The sweat stained hat, flayed jeans, filigree decorated boots (plus Spurs) leather jacket and a belt that would hold up Santa’s pants ….AND the guitar AND …he smelled so sweet!
‘Right,’ said Mumbles, ‘ready to roll.’
Paul was enjoying a cold beer from his well- stocked fridge. ‘Fancy a beer before you go?, he suggested. The look on Mumbles face was one of utter incredulity. ‘A BEER?’!
‘That stuff or any kind of stuff is a big no-no! Kiss of death. I have to work. Give all that rubbish the flick. Got any filtered water?’ Paul’s mouth opened and shut like a goldfish on speed. You learn something every day, he mused.
‘I’ll see you down there’, said Paul, I think Drop Dead Darling wants you to strut your stuff on the second half …’I hope she won’t be disappointed.’
‘Not bloody likely’, came the confident reply.
The lopsided passenger ratio on our luxury liner was accounted for by the high percentage of the sons of European emigre’s (mostly Greek and Italian) returning for a visit to their ancestral homelands. The gunwales were almost awash with these handsome lads, AND they oozed charisma to boot. Gloom. I had a couple of contingency plans up my sleeve, but I had not counted on being outflanked by this lot of Latin lovelies.
For some inexplicable reason (and one never to be repeated) I had kitted myself up with a suit! Not any old suit but a nice little pale linen number. The ensemble was given added glamour by the addition of a matching tie and classy suede shoes. When would I get to play this card? If at all?
Another such irresistible lure (or so I thought) was my genuine interest in the current vogue of existential philosophy. It wasn’t so much the goings on of Jean -Paul and Simone and their writings, but reading the novels of Albert Camus.
‘The stranger’ was impressive. When things were becoming unglued, I loved his concept of ‘the glorious indifference of the universe’. (my translation, others call it benign) [Editor: or “the tender indifference of the world” if you’re a Guardian reader!]
Hmmmm… Perhaps a bit heavy for a chat -up line. Of course, this combination of couture/ culture could backfire. Perhaps I might be approached by a woman of a certain age, of academic appearance, and clutching the complete oeuvre of Immanuel Kant’s metaphysics. These books would choke a horse.
She would be thrilled at the prospect of intellectual exploration and exchange of ideas that our relationship would provide for the next 30 days. I went to the library and got out a copy of ‘The Cruel Sea’.
Back to life on the ocean wave. The good ship Ellinis only stopped at five ports on this mammoth journey. They were Auckland, Panama City, Curacao, Tahiti, and Southampton. The happenings at one of them had fairly lengthy implications, to say the least…