A boy walked down the street in front of me, trailing a parka upon which was scrawled Nothing Changes, writing askew.
Inside the flat, I saw on the front page of the Guardian website a photograph of the following graffito: Change Is The Only Constant.•
As I prepared for bed, waylaid by online digressions, I came across the pianist Reinbert de Leeuw. He plays Satie's Gymnopédies very slowly. The sound falls between the notes, or the meaning of the sound does, anyway. The anticipation is drawn out, almost excruciating, almost comical; familiarity is disrupted by a pulley of tension and relief.
I left Reinbert de Leeuw playing and went to sleep. Some hours later I woke to the sound of someone on the street blaring descending scales on trumpet. There was jovial, encouraging banter as if the player was being taught by a friend. It was so loud, the brass finding a cathedral-like clarity as it bounced off the brick walls of these buildings. The acoustics through this estate are something else. You never quite know where the yelling is coming from. Then I heard my downstairs neighbour, the large woman with the small dog, shout out the window: Get lost. And take your trumpet with ya. I was shocked someone would blast trumpet in the middle of the night near windows inside of which people were sleeping. I thought, trumpet is both a noun and a verb.•
On Sunday morning we were in Wivenhoe with Mark Deal. Each of his names is both noun and verb. We talked about slow disco, or "lo-NRG". Mark played "Mutant Man" from Mind Warp by Patrick Cowley as an example. He pointed out the way the snare drum lags like in certain Joy Division songs. The way it segues into the triumphant gospel of the next song is epic: "Goin Home", now that's hi-NRG. We sat enraptured. It was just then that Jamie trotted off upstairs. He missed it! I cried. This song needs to come from the last. You have to deserve it. Mark agreed. You need that slow build. Jamie descended the stairs lightly and proclaimed, I heard it, I heard it, so good! Next we listened to the original version of "West End Girls". It's not as good as the edit, I averred. Jamie liked the cowbell but we had to concede its fundamental awkwardness. It sounds nervous, Mark pointed out. Not the polished ennui of the version that would be released a year later, that would one day be voted the best pop song of the decade, a masterful delivery of archness, a wry investigation of urban traversal, with its laconic citations of T.S. Eliot and Lenin, a song like a train journey, both fettered and free.
Earlier, on a flat walk under a surprising sun in Pin Mill, we'd heard the crazy birdsong of the Sedge Warbler. Mark related how Ella had likened its persistent call to a rave.
Rave. A word that takes flight with its feet on the ground. Raven with out the definitive ending consonant; the bird without the blackness. A summer state of being. Don't you want to dance.•
Annie Clark in the most recent issue of Wire: "I can be a little bit like a meth head with a toaster in terms of music. I want to know how it works."•
At home: "Lonnie's Lament" by John Coltrane. "I'll Live Yesterdays" by Lee Hazlewood. "Seagull" by Bill Callahan. "She Belongs to Me" by Bob Dylan. "The Apple Stretching" by Grace Jones. "At Sea" by Electrelane.
The light-fingered composers at their pianos in the Chelsea Hotel, as featured in the Arena programme from 1981. It's currently available on BBC iPlayer. You've got to see it. Andy Warhol saying "more more more" to William Burroughs and Viva's daughter watching video footage of herself being birthed and the dancer who adopts the form of a snake by writhing on the floor wrapped in his curtain still hung from the window.
"You Can Have it All" by Yo La Tengo. Repetition, that endless evening. I think of that story: a guy I knew who claimed his first orgasm happened spontaneously in the backseat of a car when "I Feel Love" was on the stereo. Who can blame him.
I put on Miles Davis' score to Ascenseur pour l'échafaud and took out the recycling. Three floors down on the pavement, I could hear its plaintive hornblowing through the balmy air. I thought, that means people can hear it when I play Robyn.• Last week I stood in the kitchen doing dishes et cetera and the radio was on. I was stopped from all activity by the curious, almost timid sounding strings of what I soon learned was the Emerson Quartet performing the fifteenth and final Shostakovich string quartet, in E flat minor. At the time, the composer was consumed by his own demise. Song is a place where melancholy belongs. You don't need to know much about music to tell that E flat minor is going to be a darker place. I've had these moments of radio-induced serendipity — real, epiphanic ones — a few times. Their rarity makes them special. The live transmission is an intoxicating currency. It's a good message from space to beam into the home. I stood silently and listened to four wooden instruments yield a vibration expressing some kind of regret or sense of loss. I was alone and I felt comfortable in that.
I thought back to the night before. We had attended the private view of the MFA exhibition at Goldsmiths. I had high hopes. A young man in a backpack near the bar began ranting and everyone surrounded him. Performance! People watched obligingly and finally I said to Jamie, let's move on, this is doing nothing for me. He agreed. Maybe it's not even art, I said. Maybe he's having a fit and nobody is helping, said Jamie. Room after room seemed a rushed gallimaufry of art world trends. Pastel shades, airbrush, tiny portraits and plants were all present. There was no signposting of intent and no suggestion of something more subtle. There was a lot of slapdash autobiography, identity politics in neon scrawl like a teenager on her bedroom wall, puerile sexual references, and so on. Camille Henrot seemed to be a reference point and although I find pleasure in her work, it seems she all of a sudden has a lot to answer for — liberating these art students to think their own random collage is worthwhile. Because if it doesn't matter, nothing does, right. The internet nihilism that pervades current discourse is boring. The tutors at Goldsmiths should be ashamed. Their apathy was apparent. (By contrast, the sculpture show at the RCA a few weeks earlier showed elements of surprise and thoughtful refinement; it was a mixed bag but there was a general feeling that these students were being challenged — were becoming, after all, Masters. Importantly, they utilised their space.) On each floor at Goldsmiths, Jamie and I raced to the windows to inspect the strangely remote city views. We glanced increasingly briefly at art that made us turn away with embarrassment. It all felt like so much shouting. I left the show thinking, those Goldsmiths students must really like to drink.
And in the kitchen listening to Shostakovich's fifteenth, I thought about the previous night's disappointment and the revelation come next afternoon, and the fact that you can't predict these things. Of course not.
Like a disco producer, you've got to surprise to keep people on their feet. You've got to build to keep dancers energised. You've got to hold back before you release. Fine, everything is futile, but then the joy is in the lie. "You can have it all," I'm ok with that empty promise. Giving the impression of moving forward is an infinitely engaging game.