2020 will probably be the adjective of choice for some years to come. “How’s it going?” “2020 mate.” Bedded down between the bouts of anxiety and hypochondria, the Nest Collective produced once of the most beautiful online experiences of lockdown. Singing With Nightingales (created by the wonderful Sam Lee) went fully digital, with a host of talented musicians and poets responding to the complexity and purity of the Nightingale’s song, streamed live from a thicket somewhere in Sussex. The result was a contemplative act of sheer beauty, something to be dipped into again and again when the soul needs respite from the stresses of daily life.
Shukhov, Kandinsky and blue satin drag queens, Bleak urban landscapes and old 80s has-beens, Ballet and Bartók and synthesised strings, These are a few of my favourite things.
2019 was 50 years since my Dad dragged me out of bed to watch the moon landing and I’ve been celebrating that extraordinary event in style. The mighty Margaret Atwood delivered the keynote speech at the Greenwich Moon Festival (she also sang ‘It’s only a Paper Moon’ to us) and then I got to see these guys performing a late night Prom, complete with glitterball Sputnik and dancing astronauts. I haven’t come back down to Earth yet.
I attended the amazing Folk Prom at the Royal Albert Hall in 2018 and the finale included this beautiful song. Unfortunately, the BBC removed the video from online but I’ve just found this version, with stunning performances from Julie Fowlis and The Unthanks, who were an integral part of that Prom. This makes me so happy!
I really hate the sea of phones at concerts, but in the absence of official footage, a reasonably good recording can sometimes be a lovely reminder of a wonderful experience. The press has run out of superlatives for David Byrne’s American Utopia tour, so I shan’t add too much other than to say I’m the luckiest human alive to have been gifted a once-in-a-lifetime ticket for the New Theatre, Oxford, to see what was probably the best concert of my life!
I experienced my first ever Burn in 2017, and it blew me (and almost everything else there) away. Brian Doherty’s book on the birth, development and future of this extraordinary arts event is an excellent complement to the experience. I was particularly drawn to this paragraph, which references the first time Burners from San Francisco encountered the Black Rock desert: ***The notion of the “Cacophony Zone Trip” was derived from Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker, a beloved art-school film that features a mysterious Zone that looks like the rest of the world but in which bizarre, inexplicable things occur … They all got out of their cars. Michael Michael drew a line in the playa surface, and the Cacophonists walked over it. They were in a different place now. Reality had mutated because they willed it thus. They had crossed into the Zone.***
Talking of the Zone, it’s one of my favourite films.
Lovely podcast here (featuring my hero John Foxx) celebrating what would have been Delia Derbyshire’s 80th birthday. She was an electronic music pioneer who worked for the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, and famous for creating the Doctor Who theme. Her other work, often dark and transcendent, is well worth exploring.
I worked with Dani Lam while living in rural France, and contributed vocals (singing, cursing, screaming) to a few tracks on this album.
In 2015 I got to share a stage with the inimitable David Byrne, as part of the Atomic Bomb choir at Meltdown. It was one of the most joyous, high-octane experiences of my life! RIP William Onyeabor, who died in January 2017.