Iain Cameron's Diary
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2004-01-03 - 10:32 a.m.

The trailers at the cinema the other night included one about Vermeer, another about Sylvia Plath, another about pranks in Tokyo. Hard to avoid being drawn into the SP vortex – Andrew’s quote is just one more tempter.

I have set only one of her poems – Night Dances – I still feel OK about this. Its on Serious Music. Cathy had some reservations about the vocal performance but its not an issue for me. I can remember writing the line in St Ives and at a café near Fenchurch Station. The accompaniment is a mixture of Min and Boismoitier. In the final analysis it’s the depth, complexity and relevance of the imagery that counts but its hard to extricate the work from the biographical context – a poem about her young son sleeping written months before her death. The biographical context merges with the imagistic context – a harsh world of orbiting planets. His movements in the cot echo the macrocosmic pattern.

Various ideas float around about how to develop the Making Music page. I like the way that Derek’s pictures are introduced on that page in relation to Pop Art and the British documentary tradition. I have given Peter some material about verbal imagery and music – not via lyrics - but how music might provoke abstract verbal imagery. I wonder if I can push this further – maybe to look at different approaches to writing about music – and what someone making music can gain from studying such works..

Maybe the cyclic chord sequence that I have been busking round has come to earth in a potential piece – about major/minor relations in keys a tritone apart. For example:

Cmaj7 Bb13 Cm7 Db13 // Gbmaj7 E13 F#maj7 G13

Then maybe

Am7 Bb13 Ebmaj7 Db13 // Ebm7 E13 Amaj7 G13

Anyway I enjoy playing this on the piano – chords on the left – exploring possible melodies on the right. I also put in some time on an antecedent piece and on one of Dhorn tracks that’s in the Making Music section on the KK site. Its my gesture in the direction of the way the 2nd great 5tet wrote.

One of my NYRs is about trying to be more systematic with this stuff – maybe through some sort of diary. I listened to quite a long piece with the working title of WORDS and thought it might do. Other days I don’t think this is true. Then there’s something called 1912 which might even be finished – that’s the kind of thought I could record in a more systematic way.

A did a bit more on the forthcoming presentation – I found some useful research from the New York Federal Reserve – about the link between ICT investment and productivity growth in the US in the 1990s. I am still at the stage of sketching links and structure on bits of blank A4.

A highpoint was the Matthew Collings’ C4 programme about Velasquez – not an artist I’d thought much about. Collings’ came to fame with a new style of art criticism which he applied to contemporary art in New York and London. Now he is looking at the Old Masters in a similar way. I have not been able to watch any of the programmes up until this one. Collings analysed V’s work in terms of how the artist presents himself as an adept within a social system.

V is a technical master of representation and is able to construct formal puzzles using representational techniques like reflection and framing. His skill means that he is taken up by the Spanish court and he gradually works his way up the hierarchy. V wants the kind of recognition that artists got in Italy but the system is against him – and these tensions enter his court portraits in subtle ways contributing to their richness and depth. Eventually V gets his knighthood but the burdens of his duties are so great that he dies within months. Interesting link to the Holst point Andrew has just made.

I was just captivated by this stuff – I like Collings and I think he is getting to the point where he is underrated in the UK. He is practising artist and able to comment from the inside about different artist’s self conception and its expression in portraiture and other ways. I loved the point he made about Castiglione – he wrote a handbook which was essentially a guide on how to be “noble”. In painting nobility is expressed not in ballsaching detail but in a deftness which conveys the impression without the appearance of labour. V is a master of these painterly effects.

There are mystery paintings – like his Venus – a complete wild card at a time when representation was embedded in clerical bureaucracy. Such a painting would be a secret pleasure for the most powerful people in society who could afford to defy privately the Inquisition.

In Bath Ruth showed me a catalogue of an artist she had met locally who seems to be on the same track as V – she paints interiors – often large formal spaces – like Westminster Hall - in oils – placing individuals in that traditional frame. I told her I thought she was onto something. It’s a kind of neo-classicism but reverting to the mystical allusiveness oils.

Vita took some photographs of my hand for a part of her coursework. She excels at designing and making sometimes getting all the marks available for something she has produced - a felt handbag was the latest triumph. Pure representation doesn’t seem to be her thing quite so much although she works hard at that. She is also doing a graphics project on a cosmetic brand intended for older teenagers and young professionals. She really enjoys magazines like Vogue and I brought her some Italian equivalents back from Milan.

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