01 June 2007

Roll over, Stockhausen

Though I am a compulsive producer of photographs, my short and low key career as a film maker was abandoned twenty five or thirty years ago. Not that film didn't interest me (it did, very much); just that passion for the still image was too all consuming, and won out in the competition for finite time which also had to accommodate the written and the symbolic ... not to mention real life.

Nevertheless, I remain fascinated by many aspects of film making. Some of them overlap with aspects of performance and installation, and with the directions taken in landscape art taken by David Long, Andy Goldsworthy, Martin Hill, and that fascinates me too.

Some years ago, having previously had no interest in Walkman tape players, I happened to win a very cheap one in a student charity raffle and so tried it out. It was a time when I was walking the same route, most mornings and most evenings, with a dog who had moved in with us, so I took a pocket full of tape cassettes along with me. I soon realised that I had been missing out on an aspect of experience which not only had much in common with film making but made no additional demands on time. As in a film, music alters visual perception. A walk through the park and along the sand dunes with Kate Bush's Cloudbusting in your ears is not at all the same thing as the same walk to, let's say, J S Bach's Mass in B minor. You can play with different "edits" of the same physical and visual experience.

Since then, moving through a couple of other tape players, a CD player, and finally an MP3 player, I have rung many changes on that same walk through the park and along the dunes. I've also explicitly sought out other circumstances: birdsong on the underground railway, sunset with a gazaal, storms to bouzouki dance, Amazonian flute on a long hill climb, and so on. Each time is a one off, never to be exactly repeated, performance for an audience of one.

Not, I hasten to add, that I moved permanently into Walkman land. My most frequent choice of sound track for park, dunes, sunset, storm or hillside is still the natural one provided by serendipity ... but occasional replacement with a recording, like occasional visits to a concert or opera, is an enriching addition to life.

Today, the influence moved in the opposite direction: the evironment influencing the music. I was listening to Al Stewart's Zero She Flies as I followed quiet suburban streets and crossed a quiet car park. It ended, replaced by Karlheinz Stockhausen's Helikopter-quartett (the next album , alphabetically by artist, on the player), just as I emerged from an alley connecting the car park with a busy highway. The sudden rush and throb of traffic, entering and merging with a piece of music already structured around the sounds of a helicopter's turbines running up, was a revelation.

Yet another whole world of new possibilities to explore.

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