Iain Cameron's Diary
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2004-04-24 - 8:00 a.m.

Have a look at Paul Wheeler’s new album Red Blues – on the Making Music page on Music for the Highveld.

A meeting first thing yesterday on the Bootcamp and then a drive to Victoria through the sunny landscape. I am now so provincial I didn’t know they have changed the way busses work. Despite that I got a bus to Trafalgar Square and met up with Nick D to explain my marketing ideas for the Lullabies concert. Trish joined us later battling some recurrent grot that seems to affect her whenever she goes to South Africa. She has just got back from another visit.

Trish is setting up a very interesting project that will enable people in the UK and maybe elsewhere to pay for ARV treatment for an individual for a year in South Africa. The price will be around £100 which strikes me as a marketable ticket. Although it isn’t practicable or indeed ethical to discover the identity of “your person” I still think the person to person aspect of this is very strong. With the right push you might accelerate quite significantly the rate at which the medicines get applied – partly because the current rate is so slow. Also it is a tractable, affordable, comprehensible way for people to “do something”. The delivery end has to be rock solid of course.

Trish mentioned some new research on some cultural aspects of successful HIV reduction programmes via the ABC method. Luckily someone has just sent me the papers and they are up on the Music for the Highveld News section – button at the top of this page – today’s date.

This is of course good news. The more worrying news is that after the big successes in Thailand and Uganda and a few other countries there has been an absence of significant success at the population level in curtailing the spread of the virus.

I notice the UK has started to run posters again – this makes good sense not least with the enlargement of the EC and a possible vector from Russia to Eastern Europe and then further West. Trish was saying that currently AIDS-HIV is quite salient in the US popular consciousness. Let me say again how extraordinary it was that the Thatcher campaign worked in this country given prevailing values and subsequent system failures like BSE and Foot n Mouth.

Trish also said that she thought the gender dimension was secondary to the poverty dimension – as long as people are poor they will sell sex to eat. And the market is inevitably between older men and younger women.

Anyway the strategy says that all this technical stuff is not the way to sell the Lullabies event. We have to lead with core attributes of the concept behind the works themselves – safety, capability, warmth, security, enclosure etc. Lurking in the background is the childseye perspective of fear of the dark – and that in itself does sufficient unconscious darkside work in terms of communication values.

The next immediate step besides writing up the strategy in a Word Doc is to get the half page core description sorted. We decided that a pitch at the nation’s most visible (and powerfully radical) ISB fan was very much in order.

I got an email this week from Dorris Henderson’s producer relaying her greetings. Dorris sang with John Renbourn before the formation of Pentangle. Somehow she got mixed up with Tintagel – the Goldsmiths based acid rock band I joined when I was 18 – and it was through her that I got briefly to meet Sandy Denny and play at Cousins and the Horeshoe – oh yes and at the Albert Hall with Harper Stewart etc.

Her late 60s album with John R has been re-released – I don’t have it at the moment. She is working on a new album and this is scheduled for release in the Summer. It has got God Bless the Child on it – a Billie Holiday song – so there is an avenue there which looks quite potent.

Dorris went on to sing in Eclection - an unjustly neglected band compared with Fairports and Fotheringay. I think Trevor Lucas may have been in Fotheringay.

Andrew Duncan’s book on poetry in Britain from 1950 has arrived. Andre has agreed that I can use his pinko site as a link off the Making Music page on Music for the Highveld. I am very excited by this - but it needs careful handling.

I talked to Paul Bell about this yesterday. He confirmed that he had lived in the same house as both Nick Totton and Denise Riley – the author of the hawking poem. And that Denise and Nick got married. He says I know Denise but I really don’t think that’s right. Anyway the basic connection is that Denise in Nick and Denise is the person who gets written about a lot in surveys of poetry.

Reading Nick’s poetry brings this all more into focus. The stuff we worked on circa 76 is published in his 1983 volume. Two of elements from that survive – one is in the harmonies that I used in the Fire Sermon. When Cathy got the Exhibition to Caius it emerged that she could sing pretty well any note in any sequence in the absence of tonal logic.

I decided I would pull some of the lines that I liked out of that section of the Wasteland and write a musical line over the harmonies that used pitches in the same way a bebop soloist would – just the harmony not the tempo. The result was the piece which is now on Serious Music under that title – the harmonies are just a simple ground – with a coda – but the line takes a different path through each time round. And indeed Cathy could sing it.

In the 1983 collection there’s a prose poem called Three Dreams from the Sex War that is very familiar – maybe it even took those Fire Sermon harmonies for one of the dreams.

We also had a piece that was built around the Swinging Blue Jeans hit You’re No Good. My aim was to do to that song what the cubists did to pictures – break it down into facets – and then jumble and repeat the facets. I’ve always liked that idea – I guess it would be really easy to do it in Wavelab now. Perhaps that went with the poem called “A Sleeper in the Twentieth Century.” And of course there’s the Careless Love poem – Nick has some words I don’t remember for that:

Love o love o careless love

I’d give my eyes to see the light

I’d give you the time

For the full filling of time

They are the refrain between more abstract bits (Prynne-ish?)

I started writing songs again around 1996 and one of them is a setting of one of the poems from this set – Lights in the Sky – which again took one of the ideas we worked – and then took it on some steps. It would be nice to get that recorded – somewhere there’s a MIDI file and a head.

At some point – like around two decades later I sent Nick four interpretations of Careless Love as a guitar piece – I suppose I was just getting into seriality.

Anyway I foolishly left “Press When Illuminated” in Gfd last week – but now I have it. See www.saltpublishing.com

On the back cover John James says:

“In the glut of babble and turbulent mendacity I read Nick Totton, such unassuming brilliance is scarcity indeed.”

Need to find out more about James from the Duncan book.

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