Tra la Tralee

Fresh from a daytrip to Tralee for music exams this week and a Saturday morning stomp up the hill behind Ruscombe with the dog, listening to electric Miles Davis at Fillmore 1970 – this week we welcomed Gilad Atzmon and his Orient House Ensemble to Stroud, he promised a talk on his own individual “Road to Bop” before the gig, but naturally was keener to discuss geopolitical issues, the dominance of the cognitive elite, the oppression of political correctness, illustrated with diagrams of a Freudian bell curve (also reminiscent of Dopey’s hat in Snow White). He was disappointed that the audience were not more provoked or offended by his diagnoses – the freethinking jazzlovers of Stroud were probably rather more disturbed when he began the gig by strapping on an accordion. I expected his diatribe to be more focussed – it felt somewhat woolly, confused, from the top down, rather than building an argument that would draw people in, on the nature of early-C21st capitalism and global inequality. I watched the film Elysium the other day and that was at least as thought-provoking. Could we make an argument for universal global democracy, one person one vote, no borders? 

The band was impressively tight, the drummer Chris Higginbotham standing out – Gilad’s saxophone playing is very traditional, nostalgic, rhapsodic, joyous, a populist stream of expression (channelling Coltrane on the soprano, Charlie Parker on the alto). The encore was Louis Armstrong’s Wonderful World – as also featured by Andy Sheppard’s Pushy Doctors just before Xmas. These sax players are such romantics.

Reading matter for my trip to Ireland – Don Paterson’s Rain (that’ll be poetry, then). He’s very dry and Scottish (and occasionally a bit romantic too), and a guitarist on the side – one of my favourites is his Song for Natalie ‘Tusja’ Beridze, in praise of an obscure Georgian musician, shoehorning in all sorts of abstruse references beloved by readers and writers of The Wire magazine. And rhyming too (but not scanning). I heard him read in Cheltenham last year – you can get away with anything with a dry Scots accent.

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Three weeks.

Good intentions, but it’s taken me three weeks to renew the weekly blog. There has been much travelling, and much music, listening and playing. I’ve been carrying three books with me. Event by Slavoj Zizek – he is always provocative, if not always comprehensible. Apparently Margaret Thatcher, when asked what was her greatest success/legacy was, replied “Tony Blair”. Over the last thirty years, everything that in my youth was provided publicly, by nominally democratic bodies, has been privatised – and we now eagerly privatise ourselves, our work, our lives – this blog is an example of that, promoting brand Pete. If fifty of my friends/acquaintances/colleagues were writing a weekly blog, would I be reading them all? Unlikely.

Second book – Stephen Grosz An Examined Life – psychoanalyst writing up little case studies – I found much of it quite shallow, bite-sized chunks in a Readers Digest style, leaving me wanting more depth – but towards the end there were a few more interesting ones (and I’ve read it twice so it must have hooked me somehow). Not only might we be aware of how the past lives on unpredictably into the present, but also of how the future (imagined, projected) affects the present, our plans and fantasies of what might be next, where we are going and who with – and whether those around us are carrying the same future projections, spoken or unspoken.

Third book – John Gray The Silence Of Animals – he’s not a cheerful writer (Zizek feels cheerful even when deeply pessimistic or offensive) – humans are animals, flawed, progress is a myth, we are damaged by the unrealistic expectation that things will eventually get better. Reading him is quite masochistic.

Next time I’ll write about music.

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