Ploughmyth International: Films / 2004
1) DH7 (duration: 12.42) - Essentially the view from the car window on the road between Waterhouses and Tow Law in County Durham, subsequently edited against a soundtrack improvised in real time using crwth loops from DH7 set against rhythm loops derived from random sampling elsewhere .
Two things of immediate significance: i) As a child I was mesmerised by the looped landscapes forever repeating themselves in the animations of Hanna-Barbera, herein acknowledged as a cultural debt. ii) In the ongoing wind-farm debate I maintain neutrality owing to my emotional reaction to massive industrial structures in otherwise 'natural' environments; this is likewise a cultural debt from childhood, having been raised near the semi-industrial seafront of Southeast Northumberland, until recently dominated by the chimneys of Blyth Power Station (the true 'Heavenly Gates' celebrated in the Venereum Arvum piece featured on Infernal Proteus & latterly lamented on As I Live & Breathe).
2) DARLO (duration: 14.55) - Darlo is the vernacular contraction of Darlington; as with DH7 much of the footage was taken from the car window, this time northbound on the A1 between junctions 57 and 61. Darlo itself features as a ghost; glimpses & details of the Victorian Gothic; particularly poignant is the neglected memorial to those who fell in the Boer War, here imagined as a native son of Darlington, fallen in the battle of Tugela Heights, his soul the ghost that haunts the timeless harvest landscapes of his youth.
The images were edited against a mix of Psalm 21, Verse 4 from my forthcoming collection of sonatas for crwth & proximal continuo; this piece in its final mix features the clarinet improvising a counterpoint against the crwth; here however, the crwth is omitted, leaving the clarinet playing against a ghost.
3) THE HA-HA (duration: 15.23) - This is basically a slide show of still & moving images edited against soundtrack derived from the recent Shibboleth sessions by myself & Clive Powell in which we return to basics - on-location live improvisation in various historic & significant sites in Northumberland. Here the looped improvisation is taken from a piece recorded in the Quarry Garden at Belsay Hall, against which I play an improvisation on the pocket trumpet, from which the ostinato theme is itself derived. Also features pertinent sample which those of a certain disposition will have no trouble sourcing...
The images come from diverse medieval grotesques in Durham Cathedral & Rosslyn Chapel, the 'lost' significances of which have caused many to ponder, especially upon the symbolism of the so-called green-man; the 'Heads-with-Leaves' or 'Foliage and Faces' in cathedral guide books prior to 1968. Far from being a survival of a pagan-god or 'the archetype of mankind's oneness with nature' as certain New Age prophets would have us believe, the Green Man is far more likely to be an icon concerning Nature / Nurture duality which in Christian theology is expressed in terms of Good & Evil, Spirit & Flesh. The Gnostic significance of this image is particularly apparent; a reminder of the wildwood, the terrible winter wilderness which was all too real to the mediaeval psyche. In this day and age however, the green man might bring us back to this wilderness, returning us to a wildwood that is all but lost, thus The Ha-Ha, which is a particular feature of eighteenth century landscaping invented by Charles Bridgeman; essentially a hidden ditch, it enabled the more formal country house gardens of the time to appear linked to the surrounding landscapes whilst nevertheless providing protection from intruders therefrom...
4) HOWICK (duration: 20.17) - Howick is a Northumbrian estate, still privately owned & open to the public upon payment of a nominal fee. Eschewing the commercialism adopted by English Heritage & the National Trust, Howick is place of ease wherein one can freely wander the landscapes and gardens fearless of encountering re-enactment groups, children's entertainers or, God forbid, storytellers.
Of particular interest are the carvings on the church, apparently carried out in the early years of the 20th century by an eccentric family member who went about her business undisturbed. These carvings echo those of the medieval era, ever more fanciful in their depictions of Green Men such like grotesques. Two of these might be familiar from the cover of DH7 - Live at the Hermetic Museum, the first piece of which is built around a field recording of the stable clock at Howick chiming five just as one of the riders returns on her whinnying horse, hooves rattling on the cobbles. This recording also features in its pure form in conclusion of King Orfeo on Venereum Arvum's Scowan Urla Grun.
The music here is an as yet untitled piece from the new sequence of sonatas for crwth & proximal continuo, this time actually featuring the crwth. As with the other films, the editing process begins with the music, but given the limited nature of the technology this isn't always apparent; such shortfalls generate their own charm however, and we hope they'll adequately accommodated by those familiar with other aspects of the work of Ploughmyth International.
5) TOON (duration: 18.19) - This concerns the city Newcastle-upon-Tyne, The Town for anyone born within a thirty mile radius of Saint James' Park. Here the focus is on the mythic images employed by successive generations of city architects, set within familiar city landscapes, these are hidden icons, unnoticed by anyone without a zoom lens and a penchant for looking up.
The music is the proximal continuo part for a crwth sonata entitled LAMMAS, constructed from organ, crwth & drum loops though heard without the live crwth improvisation; the disconcerting bend in pitch at the beginning is not deliberate by the way, occurring as a glitch in the occult mechanism of the video editing software, it remains as a testimony to spectral randomness.
6) JORVIK (duration: 21.51) - Filmed in and around the city of York on August 11th 2004, one of the few sunny days in a summer of rain. York is a city of angels & demons, mythic icons employed by the architects of old for whatever purpose remain stranded for want of meaning in an age of changed priority; well we might speculate...
The music is the crwth counterpart to Psalm 21, Verse 4, (see above note for DARLO) here heard without the clarinet.
7) EDOS (duration: 20.17) - This carries on from DH7, expanding the landscapes on the Tow Law wind farm (taken on a sunnier day!) with harvest images from around the Deerness Valley & beyond; including the lighthouses on Saint Mary's Island in Whitley Bay and the post industrial landscapes of North Blyth graced by the two largest off-shore wind turbines in the world.
The music is a looped improvisation plus pocket trumpet, specifically composed to accompany this footage.
8) AUTUMN IN PURGATORY (duration: 11.10) - A saunter around the cemetery at Seaton in Northumberland, the music being improvised the following week using the same analogue 4-track technology I used in my music prior to 2002; in many ways a return to the landscapes of Hometime this also looks forward to other possibilities, via better microphones & a new array of sound makers. This piece, in a less resonant mix, will feature on the supplementary disk accompanying the new sonatas along with others similarly realised...
9) LUMINOS (16.54) - Analysis of operative myth & folkloric process; humanity yields to primal impulse, light in darkness, celebration, ritualised illumination - esported / imported / returned by way of festive tradition arguably unchanged. Documents seasonal lights & darknesses of a cold December night in the rural hinterlands of the Deerness Valley wherein far flung mining villages left stranded by closure of the collieries rest as constellations in the black & bitter night; village to village, house to house, by the incidental brilliance of a cold gibbous moon; the lanes are very dirty, and my shoes are very thin, I've got a little pocket to put a penny in... .
Music derived from loop extracted from an improvisation on the medieval theme Personant Hodie as performed by Tertius (gothic harp) & Sedayne (crwth) in December 1993; added to this: drum & organ loops coupled with an entirely live real-time improvisation in which Sedayne plays pocket cornet, bells & bamboo flute circa December 2004; suitably addled perhaps, by way of the season naturally...
Comments as ever, very welcome: firstname.lastname@example.org