Iain Cameron's Diary
"Click here to access the Fruitful Album" - Click here to visit Music for the Highveld Project
2010-08-06 - 8:06 a.m.
Correction - Heidi headed up Freiburg Uni in the 30s. Dr Z is enjoying a sunny morning in Paris - he is still looking for an edition of Pierrot Lunaire in French. Yesterday the Sony Studio arrived also Fear of Music - Rothko and Stockhausen. I read the latter on the way to and from Cafe Oto in Dalston. I used the Jubilee Line to get across London fast and then got on the new London Overground line to Dalston all of which was faster than I had estimated. Its a while since I have been to Dalston - in the 70s I was hit on the head by a brick while sitting on a bus in Dalston. The distance from the station to Cafe Oto is less than 100 yds and so I didnt get much of an idea of the scene. I was so early that Cafe Oto wasnt open. Luckily next door there was what looked like an art opening so I boldly walked in and helped myself to a plastic beaker of sharp white wine and sat outside with a host of other people.
The Cafe opened at 8-00pm and I paid my £4, got a pint of Belgian lager and sat near the front. These places dont change much - I remember visiting the Knitting Factory in NYC and thinking it was pretty much like the Middle Earth Club. Eventually something happened and Rob Young of the Wire sat down at his Apple and started to explain about Electric Eden. This book is about 700 pages long and Young only had an hour so his presentation was imagistic. His final point was that Mrs Thatcher declared war on visionary folk - he cited Wiener's book on English Culture which Mrs T made her cabinet read. I have a first edition of this, probably in Birmingham. W argues that elite and aspirational culture for over a century has been rural and anti-commercial. In fact this book and Young's presentation are part of a great tradition of contrasting the Country and the City which is usefully summarised by Raymond Williams' book with this title (or something like it.) Young started with William Morris and found a link between Morris and Holst and Vaughan Williams. Then Cecil Sharpe. He spent quite a lotof time on Peggy Seeger and Ewan Macoll and showed some pictures of Vashti Bunyan and Heron out inthe country - also of course the Traffic album cover. He played some of the Watersons which cheered me up as Tintagel had played at their farewell concert and their contribution to tradition commented on in the FT review.
Young confessed that he had mostly been interested in Wire type artists but had always had a soft spot for N Drake and J Martyn. His book was an attempt to suss out where this kind of thing had come from. Also an exploration of how folk had become so uncool. He made a deeply pomo point about the folk tradition - he believed that no one objectively knew what that tradition amounted to and effectively anyone could make up anything and call it traditional. He lingered on Macoll's attempt to regulate traditional in his Singer's Club. He pointed that no one could call the guitar traditional as before about 1955 they were almost impossible to buy in this country - if you wanted one you were best off going to the docks to see whether any sailors had brought one in to sell from overseas.
I decided not to stay for the discussion - it was quite warm in the Cafe and I didnt want to take such a big chance with last trains as I did when I saw Charles' duo in Battersea. I caught the 10.20pm from Dalston and changed to the District Line at Whitechapel. I should add that the Fear of Music book is pretty impressive and on offer from Amazon.