Iain Cameron's Diary
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2004-07-12 - 11:00 a.m.

Rather a problem working out what is happening in what order. Friday night I thought I was going to Hastings on Saturday. But fortunately I discovered that I wasn’t just in time – but that left me at a bit of a loose end. Would I be in London on Monday morning ? To manage Monday I needed to talk to Trish who was flying in from South Africa any second. Anyway I rang Stefan about the first couple of days next week – he was looking at diesel engines on the north Norfolk coast and we had a word about how majestic Deltics can be.

I caught the Richard Thompson film and jolly good it was too. Lots of Linda T, a bit of him doing Reno, Martin Carthy explaining Meet On the Ledge. Richard Williams also commented. The film made it sound as if the shift from contemporary song to retrofolk was caused by the van crash. There was all the drama of R&L Thompson and then the shift to LA – which I hadn’t really been aware of, including his family life. Right at the end I thought I saw that the second guitar in his band was using a Danelectro U2.

Sometime on Friday I managed to fit in a visit to the Ikon – a Japanese photographer of sparse strange places and situations and a conceptual photographer from the US who made kites and then photographed himself from the air. I got some artbooks for Yvonne’s birthday including a Tate review of Tacita Dean and I also picked up an excellent book by Amy Newman on the US art magazine Artforum.

The idea behind this book is that the “art world” can be traced in its formation through the story of certain journals and you can tell this story by interviewing the people involved. One lesson that emerges is that the NYC art scene in the fifties was very small – only 100s of people. The poetry scene and the music scene were smaller than that and dependent on art circles.

On the West Coast everything was much much smaller – just handfuls of people – with the key ideas diffusing from NYC relatively slowly. In that sense the West Coast and London were not that far apart. It was possible for people to get involved in the contemporary art scene just by meeting a few other people, reading a few books, going to a few events or galleries. There were very few big theories and intellectually the whole thing was very open. If you had an original idea people were prepared to listen.

This is all pretty important stuff because this is the platform on which so much in the 60s was built – for example where John Cale started – at the start of the whole Elektra trajectory too. When Dennis Hopper bought a Warhol on the West Coast in 1962 then he was one of an amazingly small group of people who were in a position to understand what was happening to such a degree that they would invest.

If anything, Schoenberg teaching in LA had given the West Coast a stronger position at that point in contemporary music –the key figures on the scene included Lamonte Young, Riley, Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry, Billy Higgins, Eric Dolphy, Mingus, Pauline Oliveros, Phil Lesh. In the artworld Santa Monica seems to have been an important centre right from the early 1950s.

All of this looms large in my mind as I begin to dig deeper into Tony Reif’s ND 1948 CD which is a very powerful interpretive assemblage. I begin to realise that the linear thread of engagement with the ND’s work – interpretation and re-interpretation – while it is a relatively small group of scattered individuals, isn’t that small and that scattered – and it has duration. This is all quite disorienting but I feel that something may be afoot here.

I wrote to my sister – who bought me Magic for birthday – a thank you note and explained to her some of the various developments that have been triggered by the appearance of that CD. She is a retired local historian. I am not sure the music means anything at all to her but she might be curious about all the different strands.

Andrew K and I exchanged a few thoughts about the Lullabies event which I hope will develop. I talked to Peter Chatterton who filmed Meridian (Richard Jones) at Greenwich and even managed to get a tune in the can. Can’t wait to see that up on the site.

Hastings was fantastic – picnic on the beach with remains of Principal Edwards then a walk round the cliffs and a melodion jam. Principal Edwards were the rivals to Tintagel which I joined with Ian M – Tintagel was based on Goldsmiths drama dept and envied the multimedia aspect of PE. Ironically Bindi of PE now teaches in the Gsm Music Dept – alumnus J Cale. Everyone remembers Wild Oats the Pheasant, Jones, Cole, Cameron, Bell band which peaked at the Edinburgh Festival in 1970. Principal Edwards and Oats fell out over some May Ball food – a recurring theme.

Also met Geoff Nicholls who is writing the history of the drumkit – there was once a strange Nicholl/Jones/Cameron/Frith studio venture where I rather let the side down – pre-finals stress is my excuse.

Geoff and I talked about Jo Jones – the flying cymbal in Eastwood’s Bird is his. I said that hi-hat thing had entered my flute practice vocabulary. Also about Elvin Jones and Roy Haynes. Geoff now plays with Dave Dee Dozy etc.

Hard drive from Hastings to Leamington – small price to pay.

Listened and wrote more about the 1948CD.

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