William's Study (Diary Of A Hyperdreamer)
Thursday 31st December 2009 -- 6:00 pm
New Year's Eve, 2009.
Let me see if I can get this entry written and posted before the clock ticks its inevitable tick-tock steps across the border between 2009 and 2010. I'll try to keep it short and to the point. No images, just words.
It's cold still. The snow that fell before Christmas only now just gone, but more is promised, apparently.
It's been white and icy for a week at least...very dangerous in the backyard, and on the dark lane outside our house.
The main roads have not been too bad but it has certainly felt like an old-fashioned winter around these parts. Colder and more bleak than previous years and only lacking in horse-drawn coaches and post-horns. A Dickensian Christmas card come to life.
Christmas Day was spent with our good friends, Steve and Julia, who live down the lane. I brought my mother over from Wakefield to spend the day with us and them...and to stay over for boxing day when Elle and Elliot came to visit.
Lights twinkling on the tree, Christmas cards suspended from the wooden beams in the living room, electric icicles and neon sparkles hung in the trees in our snow covered garden, candles and incense and the sensation of mellow, melancholy but benevolent ghosts of Christmases past, hovering and humming in the frosty air. Hornby Dublo train sets, Meccano and Dinky Toys glowing in the living room of memory. Magic hour!
I was given some nice gifts, for birthday and Christmas, as always:
Emiko had bought me an Andy Warhol wristwatch whilst she was in Tokyo. Made by Seiko for the Warhol Museum, it's a little beauty...(just like my lovely Emi!)
Lots of books given too, which suits me just fine. My home is like a library.
Got the following from Emiko:
''Perfecting Sound Forever - The Story Of Recorded Music' by Greg Milner.
'Orson Welles At Work.' (A thick, lavishly illustrated coffee table book published by Phaidon.)
'The Art Of Osamu Tezuka' by Helen McCarthy.'
And from My friend Paul Gilby I received:
'Shop America. Mid Century Storefront Design-1938 to 1950.'
''Architecture Of The Air - The Sound And Light Environments Of Christopher Janney.'
(Ironically, I also bought the same 'Shop America' book as my Christmas gift to Paul!
Well, great minds think alike, etc...)
Elliot and Elle bought me:
'John Barry - The Man With The Midas Touch' by Geoff Leonard, Pete Walker and Gareth Bramley. (Nicely illustrated, this one.)
My friends Steve and Julia bought me 'This Is The Way To The Moon' (A reproduction of the children's classic by M. Sasek, beautifully illustrated.)
And just before Christmas, I treat myself to a book or two:
'Phallic Frenzy, Ken Russell And His Films' by Joseph Lanza.
'All Is Change, The Two-Thousand Year Journey Of Buddhism To The West' by Lawrence Sutin.
'Prophet John Wroe, Virgins, Scandals And Visions' by Edward Green.
'The Barnum Museum' by Steven Millhauser.
'Death On A Branch Line'
'The Last Train To Scarborough'
(Both titles by Andrew Martin, part of his 'Jim Stringer, Steam Detective' series and the latter book signed by the author himself.)
Other gifts included a quirky old Russian Nomo 'Cosmic Symbol' camera bought for me from the internet by my youngest daughter Elle, a very stylish neck-tie bought for me by Emiko from Tokyo, a box set of George Formby DVD's, (also from Emiko). A bottle of Chanel 'Egoiste' cologne, (Emiko again), and lots of light-hearted, fun, stocking-fillers.
One of the most generous gifts that Emi and I received came from Steve and Julia: two tickets to Rufus Wainwright's upcoming concert at Sheffield City Hall in April of 2010. A totally unexpected treat and VERY much appreciated by both of us. As readers of this diary already know, Emi and myself are big fans of Rufus' work and we're both looking forward to seeing him perform in April.
'Borders' book store closed just before Christmas. (Did I already mention this in an earlier diary entry? Maybe not.) Browsing the York store was almost a daily ritual for me, part of my afternoon escape from the confines of my recording room.
It was from Borders that I purchased American magazines that were not easily found in UK stores: 'Guitar Player', ' Vintage Guitar Magazine', ' Downbeat' jazz magazine, the now defuct '20th Century Guitar' magazine and many other imported titles, including the magnificent 'Fretboard Journal' magazine, a publication that only recently appeared on Borders' shelves here in the UK.
When Borders first opened in England, it seemed like a breath of fresh air: it featured specialist sections dealing in left-field books, periodicals, CDs and DVDs, items that appealed to those of us who sought out the more unusual, less mainstream aspects of contemporary culture. Borders recognised that there was a need to cater to those whose tastes ranged beyond the populist staples..
Unfortunately, the last two or three years of the store's life has seen an erosion of such provision. The once broad-based CD racks became much diminished, not only in size but also in the quality of their contents.
The jazz, folk, country, world music and classical sections all but vanished...then the rock and pop music sections began to dwindle too and have now, along with everything else the store contained, gone forever...
The store closed its doors just before Christmas Eve for the very last time, never to re-open again. Another victim of the internet's ruthless undercutting of high street retail store values.
I was there at the York store's closing, but walked out just five minutes before the final bell when the last customer left and the doors were locked for the last time.
On that final day, Borders offered a 90% discount on previous prices, but the place looked like a jumble sale with books piled up on tables and none of them of any interest to me.
Now, I have no real place to browse for my American music magazines and contemporary art periodicals on my daily, routine, stroll around town.
W.H.Smith somehow doesn't have the same vibe, (or stock the same titles), nor does Waterstones, although it is now the main bookseller on the high street.
A great shame I think. And even more of a shame: the helpful and once enthusiastic staff who, sadly, have been made redundant.
Thankfully, York does have several small independent, antiquarian and second hand bookshops. They will, I'm sure, provide me with some unforseen discoveries, not to mention the tactile shopping experience denied to me by the internet retailers.
But it's not just Borders that has suffered...so many others businesses are still floundering too, both big and small. The fashion retailer 'Ghost' has just vanished from the city after a closing down clearance sale.
Far too many shops, large and small, emptied and abandoned, their leases not taken up. For all of York's boastful tourism, many traders are struggling for economic survival. The much-touted 'recovery' seems to be little more than hot air.
And it seems that It may remain so for some time yet.
As for music. I can definitely see the negative effect that illegal internet torrent sites and unauthorised downloading is having on the recording industry in general, including my own tiny cottage industry and others in the same modest position as myself.
Whilst the internet has provided small volume, specialist artists with a new outlet for our non-mainstream work, it is also clear that it has had a negative effect on our situation. An awful lot of damage has been afflicted on the entire industry too. But, whilst the major artists and record companies are equipped to weather the storm, those of us depending on small-volume sales are gradually being swept away, never to return.
We really are at the mercy of consumers and need, more than ever, an audience who value our contribution and recognise that they, as individuals, are an important component of our survival. And of the survival of music that exists beyond the corporate net.Those who buy direct from the artist are not just consumers but, more importantly, patrons and co-conspiritors, fellow collaborators, preservers of ideals. It all seems to be coming down to a choice between mediocrity or marvelousness. Will the future be blatantly banal or benevolently beautiful?
And, with that thought, I wish all readers of this Hyperdreamer's diary, a healthy, peaceful and enlightened 2010.
Much love from Bill and Emiko. xxx