Sunday, April 15, 2012


As mentioned in my Book of Next Things post I have found working on the webpages for 'Books in Sound and Light' very useful in thinking-through ideas and strategies.

Initially, my plan was to use the BiSaL site as a showcase for new digital bookworks but as I considered the menu items (the content) for this site it became clear that it might be useful as a means of showing my online note books (Chameleon Lectra Sketchbook area and the one for SoGG) plus earlier works, including 'A Book of Evaporation' (1994) and 'Kiss Cuts' (1995), as well as 'Collages' (1995), '82 Scores' (1996) and 'A Book of Hoverpoems' (2000).

This, in turn, led me to think about re-releasing my Alembic catalogue in printed book form (although some such as '82 Scores' also have an interactive version). Alembic Books was a small imprint I began shortly after graduating in 1990. There were several in the series, each with its own ISBN number and represented my first contact with Apple computers and desktop publishing (and stapling copious sheets of folded A4 paper!).

I will blog more about Alembic in a separate entry but the point here is that have begun to explore ways of making them available again (perhaps via and adding more books to the series: the unpublished 'Khartoun' (begun in 1991) featuring drawings by Geoff Stocker and a new title called 'mourHu'.

The advent of self publishing on the net and the rise of eBooks, iPads etc. means that I can finally marshal my forces; it feels as if the technology has caught up with my ambitions.

So, books, books, books.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Rising of the Titanic

There has been lots of coverage recently, especially on TV, of the story of the sinking of the Titanic - today being taken as the 100th 'anniversary' of the disaster (the iceberg was struck at 11.40pm on the 14th and the ship had sunk by around 2.20am of the 15th).

This has reminded me of one of the seminal influences on my artistic life. After reading a review that fascinated me in Melody Maker I was delighted to find a copy of Gavin Bryars' 'The Sinking of the Titanic' when visiting my friend Robin Watts in Southampton (not realising how appropriate this was at the time). This would have been around late 1980, when Robin and I, along with Geoff Stocker and Shane Jarvis were active in the band PGRS.

I recommend this record - the first on Brian Eno's Obscure Records label (a large inspiration for me in itself) - both for the title track and the piece 'on the other side': 'Jesus Blood Never Failed Me Yet'. I remember listening to this with Robin while we both tried to manfully hold back the tears - try it, it's a very moving experience. At its heart is the looped fragment of a recording of an 'old tramp' (as described in the liner notes of the LP) singing the eponymous hymn; gradually Bryars' orchestral accompaniment fades in over each circuit of the loop, so that the old man's singing becomes an elegaic triumph of faith over the ravages of time.

It is the first side however, 'The Sinking of the Titanic', that really captured my imagination though the description of the conceptual underpinnings of the piece - a 'score' of sheer beauty.

What really struck me was the rich combination of using Marconi's postulation 'sounds once generated never die' with the overlapping, sometimes contradictory accounts of the music played by the heroic band and an actual recording by one of the survivors: 'Miss Eva Hart'. Bryars has combined these to form an ambiguous, 'open' work which reconstructs, via the imagination, music washing around in the Atlantic as a continuous, watery requiem.

Strings: The Cockpit Ensemble
(directors Howard Rees and Howard Davidson)
With John Nash, violin and Sandra Hill, double bass.
Conducted by Gavin Bryars.
Additional tapes using music played by the strings
of the New Music Ensemble of San Francisco Conservatory
of Music directed by John Adams, prepared at the studio
of the Department of Physics, University College, Cardiff,
with technical assistance of Keith Winter and Graham Naylor.
Gavin Bryars, piano; Angela Bryars, music box;
Miss Eva Hart, Spoken voice.

Side Two
Orchestra consisting of The Cockpit Ensemble
(directors Howard Rees and Howard Davidson);
Derek Bailey, guitar; Michael Nyman, organ;
John Nash, violin; John White, tuba; Sandra
Hill, double bass. Conducted by Gavin Bryars.

Liner illustrations by Angela Bryars
Produced by Brian Eno
OBSCURE OBS 01 - 1975

Bryars has re-recorded these pieces but following the rule of First Things (q.v.) it's the originals that I prefer.

The packaging for the Touch release (2007) is very well appointed though...

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Book of Next Things

My my. A year to the day.

Over the past few weeks I've been feeling unwell and consequently reflecting on the amount I have achieved and what it is I want to give my energies to next. Thankfully, one of the things I have been able to do - in between bouts of tiredness and muscle-ache - is to revisit some of my earlier works and pick up on some of the threads found therein.

My next plans for SoGG (more of which later) involve another round of gtr recordings but I'll have to wait for my physical health to return before I can do this. Also as I have been concentrating on this for a few months now, I have felt a break from it would be useful.

So, to cut a long story short, I began a new web area, modelled on the SoGG one, called 'Books In Sound And Light' (a title I have had in mind for some time). The purpose of this new site* is to allow me to think through ideas for bookworks and how to present them.

In turn, this has led to the development of the following over the past couple of weeks:

'A Book of Hot Coals' from a planned set of online books, based on some improvisations I did in Adobe Director after after 'Kiss Cuts'.

'mourHu' - a book for print, in the spirit of Alembic Books, my imprint in the 1990s

'PR's Album' - A printed version of this blog, 2004-11 (via Blog2print)

It has been the preparation of the latter and subsequent the re-reading of parts of this blog that has persuaded me to continue here. I had been wondering whether to begin afresh, to give the opportunity for a new kind of authorial voice, now that this blog has been running for several years; I delayed the decision which has amounted to indecision (and no entries). Another reason for the blank pages has been my focus on SoGG and its attendant interactive notebook.

However I do feel I've kind of set up camp here so that a change doesn't feel right at this time, especially as this blog has generated a new bookwork ;-)

So (once again, on this Friday 13th - a lucky day for me):
More Soon!

* Currently BiSaL is an area within but I am considering making it a separate site.
Add to Technorati Favorites