William's Study (Diary Of A Hyperdreamer)
Tuesday 24th April 2007 -- 9:00 pm
Was it really as long ago as Februrary that I posted my previous diary entry? Almost the end of April now and the gaps between writing seem longer and longer.
Unfortunately, because of this, each subsequent entry contains a punishingly large amount of text. Unavoidable if I'm to allow the reader to catch up on what's been going on in my life, I suppose. But a less than desirable situation, I'm afraid.
Let me see if I can possibly limit this diary entry to essentials, even though I suspect that it's the less essential ramblings that provide my readers with the most revealing and entertaining experience. There's an element of voyourism involved in scanning these pages after all. (Isn't there?)
Perhaps there's also an element of exhibitionism involved in the writing of them.
So...a kind of symbiotic relationship.
Well, let's not worry unduly about that. Just accept it as one more aspect of the artist/audience dynamic. AIl part of the act.
Yesterday was emotionally difficult.
April 23rd marked the first year since my brother Ian passed away. It would also have been his 51st birthday. The fact that it feels like only yesterday that I first wrote about losing him in this diary is a testimony to the fact that I'm far from over it. It's exactly 12 months ago yesterday but still so vivid and fresh and shocking. So sharp it cuts to the heart.
Emi and I attended a memorial service for him at a church in Wakefield on Sunday the 22nd. Ian's wife Diane was there, along with Ian's daughter and two sons and several good friends of Ian's. My one-time painting tutor from my Wakefield Art-School days in the '60's, Peter Murray, was there too. He is better known, these days, as the founder and current director of the Yorkshire Sculpture Park where Ian worked happily for several years.
Also present was Ian's good friend and musical collaborator, John Nixon. John informed me that the cd album that he and Ian had been working on will very soon be available for purchase. He is awaiting an immanent delivery of stock from the manufacturers.
Of course, the memorial service poured salt into what is still an open wound for many of us. It was an emotional and at times uncomfortable event. Painful to get through.
Ian would probably not have been particularly enthusiastic about the idea, being very much 'anti-churchianity' and highly sceptical of anything to do with religion or for what passes as 'spirituality' these days.
His acid wit regarding such things would have turned holy water to dry dust.
In this respect he was very much like my late father who regarded any religious matter as a fair target for a thorough tongue-thrashing. Certainly, there were moments of what Ian would have interpreted as high absurdity. I could hear his voice, twisting the sermons and hymn lyrics around until they shrieked with Dadaist humour.The two of us, if we'd been standing side by side, would have had all on to contain ourselves, outraged one minute, reduced to giggles the next. Not nice for those sincere and devout people who find solace in this kind of thing. And, as the service was for several people who had lost loved ones, there were members of the congregation who, I'm sure, sincerely benefitted from the event. It's far easier to pour scorn than have faith, I guess.
Nevertheless, regardless of any religious cynicism, Ian is still around in the lives of those of us who love him. Whether this 'around' is created by supernatural means or by the heartbeat of personal memory depends on one's philosophical point of view.
His framed photograph hangs on my studio wall, just above and to the left of my keyboards, (as I've probably mentioned before in this diary). In the photograph he is blowing his saxophone with what, in the literature of my youth, would be referred to as 'gusto.'
And this was how he lived his life, with GUSTO, with abandon, with an appetite for the joyous, laughing moment. And, (it has to be said), sometimes without thought for his own health and well-being. How well I know and understand that temptation, being far from immune to self-abandonment myself. (Shhh...don't tell anyone.)
But we choose our personal path and follow it, regardless of the judgement or advice of others. We live our OWN lives our own way, for better or worse.
After the memorial service, we all, (family and friends), went to the cemetary and stood around Ian's grave, waiting for him to show up and make fun of us.
A big bouquet of flowers, sent by my cousin Ian, (after whom my brother is named), was laid on top of the grass in front of the grey marble headstone with its silver lettering and musical note motif. The trees that line the little avenue that leads through the cemetary to Ian's resting place were abundant with spring blossoms.
If our hearts could have charmed him to appearance, he would have been there amongst us in 3-D and technicolour. Actually, no doubt about it, for a moment, He WAS there..
("Fuck off," comes Ian's voice, "no bloody resurrections for Christ's sake!")
Then, my mother, Ian's three children, (Lucy, Louis and Julian), Emiko and I drove up to 'The Kings Arms' pub at Heath Common, on the edge of Wakefield.
I've written about this place before, how it was a haunt of my art-school years in the '60's, how it is 'woody' and 'stoney' and full of ghosts and gaslamp atmosphere...how I sometimes had a drink there with my brother in years gone by. Yes, I've written about it, I'm sure...
Anyway, we all ate a meal together in the modern conservatory built onto the rear of the pub. I much prefer the older part of the building with it's unspoilt, oak panelled, gaslit, low ceilinged dark, tobacco-stained rooms, but there were no available tables for us all to sit together so the conservatory had to do.
I felt that this provided a much needed opportunity to sit down and relax with my nephews and niece. They don't really know me quite as well as I'd like them to...not their fault, mine entirely, being so insular and pre-occupied with my music.
I guess I'm not the easiest person to get to know. Still, I hope that I can correct this shameful fault in some way, I hope that my nephews and niece can grow to understand their father even more from my own fond memories of the childhood years (and beyond), that Ian and I shared.
Ian's eldest son, Julian, is to be married in June of this year. Emi and I and Elle and Elliot are all invited and we're very much looking forward to attending the wedding. The Nelson family NEED something to look forward to at the moment, something connected with joy and hope for the future. There's been far too much sadness.
Another positive note: My stepfather George is now out of hospital and on the way to recovery. The major surgery he underwent has left him skinny and frail, but he's on the mend. The current priority is to fatten him up. All the foods he was once advised to avoid he's now been told to devour as often as possible, (the things we all love but fear are not good for us). Until he reaches a weight appropriate to good health that is.
My mother is much relieved to have him back at home and I'm relieved to see at least a little of her burden lifted. She worried terribly about him when he was in the hospital but, hopefully, things will improve for them both from here on.
I drove to Wakefield again yesterday, (Monday 23rd), to take my mother up to the cemetary once more, but this time to deliver personal bouquets and birthday cards to Ian.
Just mum and I there, in the light April rain and wind, cleaning and arranging flowers. What remains of the Wakefield skyline of my long lost childhood slipped in and out of my peripheral vision like a half-glimpsed ghost. I took a tissue, soaked it under the nearby water tap and used it to wipe clean some bird shit from Ian's headstone.
Strange that whenever we go there on this particular date, to remember both his coming and his going, (a shocking irony), it will always be spring and the trees will be heavy with blossom. Just as they were on Monday.
Nature continues to renew itself in the midst of our sadness, indifferent to the human condition and yet in perfect harmony with it. If I was a poet of any sort, perhaps I'd suggest that this was some kind of cruel but beautiful mystery.
But what has been stemming the flow of this diary? What negative magic has banished words from these pages for so long? Depression? A stupidly intense work schedule?
Well, yes, a lot of the latter and perhaps too much of the former. Dark night of the soul and all that.
It seems, despite all efforts to the contrary, that I can be as angst-ridden and self-pitying as the next man. (Maybe even more so, given a chance to conjure a little love from out of the void.)
A studio filled with brightly coloured toys does not neccesarily a Disney mentality make. Sometimes we're crippled by longings beyond easy articulation.
My Leeds University School Of Music concert is immanent, this coming Saturday in fact. (28th April.)
I've spent at least three months physically working on it, ('though I'm sure the actual performance won't reflect this mad effort).
Pointless or not, it's been non-stop: Long, long hours, every day, making new pieces of music, devising video backdrops to go with them, etc, etc. (11 new video pieces in total.)
The audience won't ever realise just how much hard work has gone into this. It will probably appear seamless and effortless, just another concert. But it has taken SO much out of me.
But why? And for what? Where's the point?
I really can't answer that one. I genuinely don't understand why I should apply so much energy for such a meagre result. It's really not a sensible thing to do at all. Some might say that it borders on obsessive behaviour and is extremely unheathy.
The latter point is clear to me: I've put on weight, sitting day after day in my little studio surrounded by buzzing electrical fields, getting no exercise, hunched over either a mixing desk or a computer keyboard. Absolutely crazy, stupid behaviour. Look...see? I'm still hunched here, tap tap tapping away.
Went to 'The Clothworker's Hall' in Leeds today...the venue that I'm performing in on Saturday at Leeds University School Of Music. The purpose of the visit was to allow John Spence the opportunity to see the space he will be mixing my live sound in. Paul Gilby met us there too. He will be projectionist for the concert. It's a beautiful environment...perhaps much more suited to an acoustic classical recital than the guitar/electronica I will be unleashing there. A careful manipulation of sound levels will be needed to get the best of the space, acoustically. Not too loud, I think.
The piano provided for my use sounds nice, a good action and a full size grand to boot. I won't be playing it a lot, but just a little. Same with the marimba...a hint of colour here and there. A tinkle and a twinkle, tap, tap, tappity tap.
The totally improvised piece I'm hoping to perform with Steve Cook on keyboards now has a proper title. It will be called 'Seance In Suburban-Semi.'
The title alludes to a seance I personally conducted at a suburban semi-detatched house in Stanley, on the edge of Wakefield at a Christmas party during the 1960's. I faked the 'results' of the seance to great effect. It scared the participants to the point where they ran shrieking from the house. The improvisation that Steve and I intend to embark upon on Saturday will have as much uncertainty and spookiness as that long ago party prank. Hopefully, the audience will remain in place, despite the uncertainty of the musicians.
Here is the set list for Saturday's concert, minus the encore section. (Hopefully, there will be one!)
Leeds University School Of Music Concert: April 28th 2007.
'Memories, Dreams And Gleaming Guitars.'
1: 'This Very Moment.'
2: 'Blue Amorini.'
3: 'Skylark's Rise.'
4: 'Beyond These Clouds,The Sweetest Dream.'
5: 'A Day To Remember.'
6: 'Fuzzy Dux.'
7: 'Only A Dream But Nevertheless.'
8: 'Steamboat In The Clouds.'
9: 'The Girl On The Fairground Waltzer.'
10: 'If I Were The Pilot Of Your Perfect Cloud.'
11: 'Neon Lights And Japanese Lanterns.'
12: 'Secret Club For Members Only.'
13: 'I Was A Junior Spaceman.'
14: 'Seance In Suburban-Semi.' (No backing track.) Loop piece.
15: 'A Dream For Ian.'
Now a brief run through of other things before closing. This has already become a longer entry than planned.
Spent a wonderful Easter weekend with my good friend Harold Budd and his family who were visiting Yorkshire. Went to Castle Howard, Harrogate and York...and a hidden village called Bolton Percy for Sunday lunch at 'The Crown' pub. Sam Smith's ales and Yorkshire pudding. All served in a tiny, unspoiled village pub with a tobacco-stained ceiling and hearty local chaps sporting natty waistcoats and World War Two Spitfire pilot's mustaches.
A welcome break from my work schedule and, to tell the truth, a much needed one.
Despite the guilt I felt at switching off my studio for a few days, the chance to sit and relax with Harold was such an easy joy.
Prior to that, I'd taken in David Lynch's new film, 'Inland Empire,' at the local art cinema. Loved the rabbits...(Tremendous sound design too.)
Blossoms out in our garden now, a riot of pink and white. Absolutely beautiful.
So much still to prepare for Saturday's concert during what remains of this week. The video creation has dominated the last couple of months to the exclusion of music. I have new videos, new backing tracks, but little knowledge of what I will play over them. Improvisation in the main.
I can't deny that I'm nervous. Performing live isn't one of my favourite things, yet the challenge taunts me.
It will be, as always in these situations, very much touch and go. Weather dependent, mood permitting, wind in the right direction and so on.
Unfortunately, it's not a simple matter of trotting out tried and tested, crowd-pleasing favourites. It's more like looking at a guitar for the first time in my life and thinking, 'what the heck am I supposed to do with this?'
Performing live is sometimes a frightening experience for me. No matter how much I succeed in giving the audience the impression that I'm in control, behind the facade, it's all hanging on a very slender thread.
The other day, my mother gave me a pencil. It was a magic pencil because it once belonged to my father. The pencil came from the 1950's and had been hidden away in a drawer for many, many years.
My dad had brought it home from the place where he worked, a radio and television shop in the Hunslet area of Leeds during the 'fifties.
On the pencil was the name of the shop that he managed back then: 'R. BROUGHTON AND SONS.' The shop stocked radios, tvs, washing machines, cycles, electrical goods and, (to my great delight as a young boy back then), toys, including Hornby Train sets, Dinky Toy model cars and Meccano.
This long lost, ancient promotional pencil not only bears the name of the shop my father managed but it's address of 40-42, Waterloo Road, (now long gone), and a list of its stock in trade.
It also bears my father's teeth marks where, after using it to mark out some measurement or other, he'd placed it in his mouth whilst sawing DIY wood in his garden shed, or maybe in the garage with me watching him.
It probably sounds nostalgic and overtly romantic to say this but, the recent rediscovery of that old pencil brought my father and I suddenly close together, even though he passed away in his seventies, in 1976.
It goes to show that even the most mudane of objects can become a modern-day holy relic, a bridge to another shore, given enough time to mature...
At a certain point in our lives, we each become a museum surrounded by weeping willows.
The photographs attached to this diary are:-
1: The river and railway viaduct at Knaresborough, North Yorkshire.
2: The Rose Gardens in Wakefield park.
3 and 4: My father's old pencil with the name and address of the shop where he worked printed on it.
5: Emiko's Buddha-flower-blossom arrangement.