Group Four's blog, 2010/2011
Song: "A guide to touching the human heart"

Group members:
Charlotte Beament
John Mackay
Peter Yarde Martin

 

What's new?

29.03.11:  » Permalink

Our latest draft, following readings, discussions and sketches:


A guide to touching the human heart


First, acquaint yourself with the preface. Do you have all the necessaries?

If yes,

let’s begin

with the thinness of skin. Trace the tip
of your index finger over an eyelid:
press it, until it gives.

Caress the neck. Accept
the tremulousness of the pulse. It is saying

again and again and again and again.
It is saying everything that can’t be said.

Check for breath, then let your tongue flutter
in folds of flesh. Watch
the lips flinch.

Remember,

there are parts of the body
that must not be approached without permission
(refer closely to the manual, and wear gloves where required).

But the sternum, despite appearances,
responds well to affection. So go ahead,

find a way in.

Just look at what is sealed behind skin
and bone.
There will be no end of trouble
fitting it all back in.

Now,

reach deep into its cave, and pull out
the heart.

Wait,

it should be disconnected first.
Note its contours and scars,
the deep dark

red of its blush as it emerges
into the open air. Forgive it for this,

it has never been touched.

Feel the last of its beats
in the palm of your hand.

 

Group FOUR

11.03.11:  » Permalink

An exchange of email began our relationship. When we met John had brought some interesting findings from an outing he made. There was an instant connection between the three of us. Ideas were thrown about. We were on the same wavelength. This was an exciting way to begin ‘the project’.

Our discussions led us towards ‘touch’. They usually took on a playful sexual connotation. Pete and I played with the idea of a jazz nightclub singer. Using consonants in the text to illustrate how the sounds can conjure a certain feeling or sensation. There were certain colours and timbres that group FOUR enjoyed listening to/ singing and we experimented with these.

John read the poem and without even thinking I found myself ferociously scrawling notes all over his work. Why did he linger on that word, pause or speed up through that sentence? It was so different to how I had read it out loud. BUT I liked it. I preferred it. I saw more depth.

Singers can often be expected to overdo the text. Sometimes we are projecting to the back of a hall seating thousands of people over an orchestra of strings, brass, woodwind and percussion. The lack of emphasis John gave words like ‘caress’, ‘lips’ and ‘flesh’ gave them more weight. We pulled the ‘guide’ apart. I felt my head was swimming with ideas already. It was really quite exciting. I felt honoured to be part of something so fresh.

Things are getting more and more exciting as we advance through the process of this collaboration. We have to start mercilessly pulling apart the text to fit our ideas, the music, my voice…..

But forgive us… as this has never been touched!

 

Wish you were hear...

03.03.11:  » Permalink







In putting together a 'sonic postcard' for this project, we decided to make it exactly that: a collection of conversations and sounds in the manner of a briskly dashed off wish-you-were-here, rather than writing A Piece Of Music To Be Listened To. Our recorded materials are taken from explorations of the word 'touch', one of the main ideas connected to our piece (see John's posts below). This includes investigations of the sound of the word, and its multiple meanings, both on its own and in a variety of phrases and songs.

John and Pete held some lengthy conversations about touch in the foyer and corridor of the Guildhall, leading to awkward silences and creative foot-shuffling as people walked past to hear us discussing the smallprint of the Midas touch, existence and the presence of rutabaga in Branston's pickle. Particularly of note is John's exemplary rendition of Samantha Fox's 'Touch Me', which only leads to disappointment that he will not be performing the final piece at the Wigmore in May.

Later on, Pete and Charlotte went exploring spaces in the Guildhall and Barbican complex, belting high notes out of ninth floor windows, running and singing, and investigating the different acoustics, from closed, dry lifts to reverberant stairwells, noisy foyers and, yes, public toilets.

The postcard puts these sounds together with radio noise and segues into clips of pieces of music – 'Nessun dorma' features heavily, along with various instances of the word 'Touch' in pop songs. The use of sudden cuts and juxtaposition of vastly different spaces creates the kind of disorientating effect that messes with our sense of acoustic and place in the real world. It's one of those postcards that tries to cram just a few too many famous landmarks onto one side of A6, rather than one of those arty black-and-white ones with a picture of a dog looking vaguely disappointed. Rough around the edges, never taking itself too seriously, it is perhaps a playful exhibition of the joy of creative mess. Or something.

 

First poem

01.03.11:  » Permalink

A guide to touching the human heart


First, do you have all the necessaries?
If yes, let’s begin

with the thinness of skin. Trace the tip
of your index finger over an eyelid:
press it, until it gives.

Caress the neck. Accept
the tremulousness of the pulse. It is saying
again and again and again and again.
It is saying everything that can’t be said.

Check for breath,
then let your tongue flutter
in folds of flesh. Watch
the lips flinch.

There are parts of the body
that must not be approached without permission.
Refer to page eight, paragraph three,
subsection six.

But the sternum, despite appearances,
responds well to affection. So go ahead,

find a way in.

Just look at what is sealed behind skin
and bone.
There will be no end of trouble
fitting it all back in.

Finally, reach deep into its cave, and pull out
the heart.

Wait,

it should be disconnected first.
Note its contours and scars,
the deep dark

red of its blush as it emerges
into the open air. Forgive it for this,

it has never been touched.

Feel the last of its beats
in the palm of your hand.

 

Something in there, somewhere

01.03.11:  » Permalink

After a session at Guildhall, incorporating singing (Charlotte), piano (Pete), and occasional interjections (John), some more key words emerge, and it's time to hammer something down on a single page of A4. Here's some notes towards a poem:

Key words:

Autonomous, porous
Stripped naked
Safe

Where do you want to touch me today? But it is not safe, it is not safe. I have been stripped naked.

What shall be touched. Made safe.

All the meanings of touch

Do not touch me, I cannot be touched, I am untouchable

I am autonomous something. I am porous nothing. I am, he said, I am. I am curious orange.

Where do you like to be touched. And all I want, he said, is to be touched. But not in that way.

The touch of your hand, tell me about the touch of your hand

A few words about touched: he’s touched, as in mad; she has been touched (as in sexually); they are touched (as in moved).

Continue reading » Something in there, somewhere

 

A touch of editing...

01.03.11:  » Permalink

deller%20car.jpg

After the outpouring of free association etc, comes the realisation that there is too much: a performance that will ultimately amount to around five minutes, can't accommodate all that language. So, later in January, we talk about the idea of using a single word or phrase – perhaps from the notes done already, perhaps not – to get us started. To say the word in lots of different ways, get a feeling of its strangeness. How when you look at a word over and over again, it becomes nonsensical, an alien formation. A word we keep returning to from the initial notes, is 'touch'

DO NOT TOUCH: don’t touch this as a subject, a poem is an insult to those who died. How dare you make art out of violent death. What kind of a subject is this?;

shards and fragments of this car touched others in a very violent way, but now DO NOT TOUCH;

perhaps, ‘do not touch up’, don’t make it look any less ugly than it is now – the ugliness is the point, in among all the shining beauty of the hardware that surrounds it;

touch is intimate, it happens between two people, perhaps naked. The bodies of those who died would be touched one last time by their loved ones;

do not touch, as in ‘do not inspire feelings of sympathy’. What business is it of yours to try and touch others through this work you plan to write and perform? Mind your own business. What do you know about what happened, anyway? This is no concern of yours. You are trying to gain by means of others’ loss.

 

First Notes: Deller's bombed car

01.03.11:  » Permalink

These initial pages of notes, produced at the beginning of January, were sparked first by the student demonstrations in London, and in particular the royal car, splattered by paint and attacked by a stick (attached to a student). I remembered the car that artist Jeremy Deller had brought to the Imperial War Museum from Iraq, via a tour of the US, and there followed a process of free association and a mass of general ramblings about cars, rats, artists, a Crunchie bar, leaves, smells, children, rust, books, and birds.

JM


Like the car that was blown up in Iraq, Afghanistan?, and brought back to the Imperial War Museum by Jeremy Deller. What makes that so powerful: a study of the car that was blown up. The mangled metal, it has found its own solace now in a place of high culture in London, the city of high culture.

‘The bombing on 5 March 2007 killed 38 people and wounded many more at Baghdad's Al-Mutanabbi book market, a place at the heart of the city's cultural and intellectual life, and is viewed as an attack on Baghdad's cultural life. No one has ever claimed responsibility’
‘It is the historic center of Baghdad bookselling, a street filled with bookstores and outdoor book stalls. It was named after the 10th century classical Iraqi poet Al-Mutanabbi. This street is well established for bookselling and has often been referred to as the heart and soul of the Baghdad literacy and intellectual community’
‘He is regarded as one of the greatest poets in the Arabic language. Most of his poetry revolves around praising the kings he visited during his lifetime. Some consider his 326 poems to be a great representation of his life story’ ‘The mangled, rust-covered hunk of metal is displayed in the museum’s entrance hall alongside some of world conflict’s shinier mementoes’

Continue reading » First Notes: Deller's bombed car