Friday, 26 October 2012

Field Study's Man in E17 is a dedicated stalker of passion

Is this the Coppermill Bridge under which the chronicler of the Marshes, Gareth Rees, lay down to sleep, exhausted by the intensity of his (unrequited?) love for those crackling steel maidens, the towering electricity pylons, having followed their course accross the marsh? It was at the Union Chapel on Saturday (20/10/2012) that Gareth Rees and Jetsam performed 'A Dream Life of Hackney Marshes', a plaintive and resonant tale of love in the 'hole' that is the edgy union of Hackney and Walthamstow Marshes - a hole in the east of London that swallows up the city's time. 'A Dream Life....' was performed as part of 'Daylight Music' - a programme of free events presented on Saturdays (12-2pm) by the Union Chapel in association with 'Arctic Circle'.

My scribbled notes made during the performance comprise,

elegiac/doleful/desolate/slow/morbid/dirge/love story/ghost story/wasteland/edgeland/
love affair/song/ode/sweetly sung/poetic/cellos mourning/guitars/piano/flute/synths/
carefully arranged/gizmo/resonance/reverb/microphone
melodramatic/what sort of place can inspire love for a pylon/what sort of love?/wall of noise/prose/landscape writing/romantics/crescendo/sweet rendezvous/hazardous liaisons/stained glass/timbre/musicality of voices/spoken word/acoustics/cries of children/rumbles/static/charged/dreams/synaptic

It was my first visit to the Union Chapel. The cool light of an overcast day outside tunneled in via the chapel's stained glass windows into the chapels high voluminous gloom. The gloom was soon dispelled by the gathering warmth of an audience and the appetizing smells of sweet and savory refreshments on sale far below.

Before 'A Dream Life.....' came a gnomish Paddy Steer  from Manchester (via the M6), with his peculiar assemblage of electronic sound making gizmos and percussive instrumentation (tin can included). It was a kit akin to a flight deck, imbued with a DIY aesthetic and played to explore the latent and inner acoustics of the space with ultra low notes electronically synthesized to disturbing visceral effect. Cosmic.
Perhaps more easy and melodic than the music of Sun Ra (an artist Steer covered during the set), Steer's frequently twiddled and oft adjusted higher notes danced and grooved about entertainingly on the heaviness and booming solidity of his drones and reverberations. The octagonal space of the chapel vibrated rhythmically while heads nodded and bobbed along appreciatively in the pews.
A mysterious shrouded or veiled, patchwork cloaked visitor from another plane of up there, introduced as Alabaster DePlume, joined in with alien (to me) squelchy speak  and saxophone toots before going solo and gracing the space with  his unveiled slightly over hung and weary of-this-world poetry, followed by highly wrought songs sweetly sung. Kiddies in the audience chirped, laughed and called out to add a sort of homeliness and dreaminess to the occasion. As DePlume's final song, buoyed by applause, ascended into Cubitt's great wooden ceiling the stage was set for a musical ensemble of 'Marshman Chronicles' inspired enchantment.

'A Dream Life of Hackney Marshes'

Gareth Rees and Jetsam (a 6 piece musical ensemble) sat in a semi-circle in front of a huge black curtain and the imposing presence of the pulpit to perform, 'A Dream Life of Hackney Marshes'. It was an appropriately sombre setting for the slow, elegiacal rendition of the chronicles, in particular, the Marshman's story of his love of the towering National Grid electricity pylons which traverse the east London marshes.
Jetsam's music and sounds were saturated with a bleakness that complimented the desolate and sepulchral impressions of the marshes, spoken lucidly, if perhaps a little severely, by Gareth as the narrator - "a heron scans the water in a flooded bomb crater" was articulated as sharply and lean as that bird. I wondered if Gareth could have played more with the cadence and inflections of his oration - using the microphone and amplification to relish the musicality of the prose - like say, Nick Cave in, 'And the Ass Saw the Angel'.
In the marsh dream cum nightmare, the Lea, flowing through the marsh, is a 'sick green canal' with only memories of kingfishers - those shy birds that, when seen, disappear as flitting electric blue flashes over glinting clean flowing streams, not the dank over-spill of the effluvia of metropolitan dreams. I recognized many of the images in the story Gareth told from his blog, The Marshman Chronicles. 'A Dream Life ....' seemed to be a lyrical distillation of that personal reinvention of the area and it was enjoyable to see, hear and feel through the chapel's incredible ambient acoustics such a carefully and richly composed interpretation. The mood of the whole piece reminded me of the 'Tindersticks' soundtrack for the film, 'Trouble Everyday', coupled with the synthesized intricacy and dissonances of Brian Eno's, On Land  There were however a few occasions when I struggled to keep in touch with the text or libretto, perhaps losing the story, such was the interplay of the sounds in and of the space.

In the enlightening study of British folk music, Electric Eden (Rob Young) - a book which features a pylon in the cover illustration - much attention is given to collaborations and other connections between writers and musicians/composers - most notably in this context, the collaboration between Gustav Holst and Thomas Hardy, 'Egdon Heath' - the fictional terrain from 'The Return of the Native' that, according to Young, Holst evoked via eerie atmospheres and hallucinatory acoustics .
From what I gathered of, 'A Dream Life of Hackney Marshes', a story of the love in and of the marsh-scape, there was no reciprocation between Marshman and the crackling towers. The fantasy played out in an extended song sung by Jetsam's, Sam Mumford (vocals and guitar) and following this, the Marshman walked until 'the hole' absorbed him in sleep and his high wire dream. In the recollection of the dream all the conflicting forces of the natural and unnatural expressed by that area of the Lower Lea Valley were embraced to become a place of bitter sweet retreat and lament.

In 'Edgelands', Paul Farley and Michael Symmons say of pylons, 'only in the edgelands do these giants look at home, with their sagging skipping ropes and the ominous crackle and hum as you approach them'. They cite Simon Denison and Philip Gross as an artist and a poet who have explored some of the allure of pylons and their place in the dynamism and indeterminancy of edgelands - places which play with the collective mind, on a pysche seeking refuge from modernity, of which pylons are a potent symbol. For some the promise of tranquility is disturbed by their presence and association with energy, driven power, combustion - the latter, said by WG Sebald, in, The Rings of Saturn, to be 'the hidden principle behind every artefact we create'; a legacy of many mythological thefts of fire.

I left the Union Chapel unsure of what I heard and have tried to remake it up in my mind, to figure out how the various fragments might come together to form a coherent and sensible opinion about 'A Dream Life of Hackney Marshes'. Perhaps no such impression was intended. Anyway on the same day of that show I happened to cross the marshes late in the night and pass through the place where I imagine Marshman set himself down to sleep. It was there during a dark drenching downpour that I came across the oozing larval light - a genuine trace or impression perhaps of Gareth Rees' and Jetsam's, 'A Dream Life of Hackney Marshes'.



Sunday, 21 October 2012

a field student of coops, skeps and super highways in Bow

Field Study's Man in E17 found himself in Bow recently at another Co-op skep emblem to add his field study. This 'Nisa' is on Bow Road, close to the Bow Road Interchange. The latter is a dismal and appalling location to cycle through despite some recent efforts to try and make it more cycling friendly. It is on a cycling super highway - which takes in Bow Road, Mile End Road, Whitechapel Road and Whitechapel High St to Aldgate, where there is more abysmal road design in the shape of the junction of Mansell St, Aldgate High St, Whitechapel High St and Botolph St. It is baffling that a much applauded 'improvement' in cycling infrastructure should begin and end east/west and vice versa which such hazardous junctions.  

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Field Study's Man in E17 is forever blowing bubbles

It is just over 300 years since the South Sea Company was formed (1711) as a public private partnership required to consolidate and reduce the cost of the National Debt. Wars and colonial expansion had added substantially to the Britain's national debt, and inefficient governance had hindered effective taxation that might have lessened the debt burden. By 1711 the government was increasingly dissatisfied with the Bank of England as the manager of the National Debt. The Bank of England was founded as a private company in 1694 and it's role involved making loans to the government on which interest was charged (8% around 1700) and loan management fees payable (£4000 per annum early on). In 1700 the National Debt was £12,000,000. That debt can be compared with the current debt courtesy of a graph via Wikipedia:

The United Kingdom of Great Britain was created in 1707, via the Treaty of Union, and Acts of Union. This union (and debt) may change with the Scottish independence referendum due to take place before the end of 2014. There is some argument that the whole of the UK should vote on Scottish independence. There is some nominal irony that the 'Royal Bank of Scotland' (established in 1727) played such a pivotal role in the 2007/2008 economic crisis and its continuing legacy. The beginning of the 18th century appears to have been a time of huge change economically and geopolitically; the beginnings of globalization.

In 1706, Clock House (Wood St, Walthamstow), the home of Sir Jacob Jacobsen, was completed. At that time the house was situated in a rural, agricultural area rather than the suburb Wood St is today. In 1714, Sir Jacob Jacobsen became a director of the South Sea Company. By 1720 the South Sea Company had generated such fervent and unsustainable commercial speculation the 'South Sea Bubble' burst, resulting in catastrophic losses for many so called gullible speculators or investors. 

The Clock House was temporarily taken from Jacobsen by the government as compensation for the chaos caused by the burst, and possibly as punishment for the illegality of many of the investment schemes which may or may not have been the direct responsibility of the South Sea Company directors.

In a previous post I was skeptical about Sir Jacob Jacobsen being referred to as 'successful'. Since then, in my efforts to try and understand this historical field better, I've read more about the South Sea Bubble, including an essay on 'globalization in historical perspective' in which economic historians, Larry Neal and Marc Weidenmier, assert the South Sea Company was 'successful ultimately in reducing the respective debt burden(s)' and that, 'the South Sea Bubble proved to be the 'big bang' for financial capitalism in England. In 1726, even the Bank of England had to acknowledge the success of the South Sea Company's three percent perpetual annuity when it issued its own "Three Percent Annuity"'.

Have I learned a lesson here?

The pictures above are taken from my archive of snaps of this years E17 Art Trail including some from a visit to the Bank of Walthamstow, courtesy of Jonathan Thomas.

I am the proud owner of one of 500 'one stowner' notes produced by J Thomas. The design of the note features an image of Walthamstow Dog Stadium. This note might be pertinently linked with the Archipelago of Truth's recent comment on the dog track debacle - Dog Track Dosh.
While I write I am a 'proud owner' I have hesitated to express some disappointment about my 'one stowner' - the back of the common weal note is blank. Who could be portrayed on the reverse? Would Sir Jacob Jacobsen be a worthy character to celebrate Walthamstow's place or role in the history of successful entrepreneurial-ism?*
Could the formation of an 'E17 Company' and canny management of an 'E17 Bubble' along with Walthamstownian independence create a state of debt free bliss?

* - I have not yet found an image of Sir Jacob Jacobsen however there is a portrait of his son, Theodore Jacobsen, by William Verelst and assuming there was some likeness between father and son, the ghost of JJ might be rendered visible if it exists.

I picked up a flyer recently advertising a 'London Ghosts Conference' - an event organised by the London Fortean Society which, sadly, I doubt my 'stowner' will not afford the price of admission. 



Sunday, 14 October 2012

Field Study's Man in E17 surfs

I have been studying the merits, or not, of continuing to feed our honey bees with sugar syrup - a substance invariably prepared with Tate & Lyle granulated white sugar. Tut tuts and teeth sucking at this besmirchment are resounding. The honey stores of each of our hives/colonies (we have three) have not, despite continual feeding since August, reached the requisite 20kg to nourish or fuel the bees through to next spring. Various climatic and (bee) physiological factors, some quite complex, mean feeding with syrup might be inappropriate or harmful. Dire straits!
Meanwhile, 'Field Study's Man in E17' has been surfing the magnificent tube of You to imbibe knowledge about the manufacture of sugar, honey gathering and sweet toothness (toothity?) partly in an attempt to reconnect with Jacob Jacobsen and the ghosts of E17 retail cargo cults. Check out these gnarlatious video honeys, you dudes and dudettes you:


 A pole cum log found at the rear of Clock House, Wood St, E17 and dedicated to the memory of Jean (lumber) Jacques Rousseau 

Saturday, 13 October 2012

a field student of the lost in the ether 17

Some of the images published on this blog have started disappearing, e.g.
I'm not sure why this has happened; perhaps I have exceeded the memory capacity Picassa/Blogspot allows,
Here then is a recovered moment of ballardian epiphany



Field Study's Man in E17 on the rings of Walthamstow

‘Field Study’s Man in E17’ has been in a funk recently and has been trying to walk through and out of some of the darker atmospheres of his morbid state of mind. Here are some images from a psycho ‘snappographic’ circumambulation undertaken by him one evening earlier this week. The walk took in a perusal of the Hoe St Co-op skeps before a visit to the entrance of Queens Road Cemetery, and then on to other sites of earthly or rather saturnine remains.

There is an obvious funereal connection between Alstron House, the location of the ornamental skeps, (‘Co-op funeral care’) and Queens Road Cemetery. That burial ground is now full, according to the council web site. There seemed to him to be a disparity between the coffins on display in the showroom and what he thinks are the usual ethics and values of cooperatives/the cooperative movement. He contemplated the various costs of the great inevitable while walking down Queen’s Road, by streets most likely named after some of Queen Victoria’s children, (Leopold, Beatrice, Helena...) all of whom are long dead.

'Field Study’s Man in E17' is on the trail of a ghost story. In his forage for spooky themes and ideas that night he found himself among chthonian bees, the melissae, sent down from the moon goddess Artemis. By day, the bees are still, suspended, stucco in, of and about her skeps. By night and the chill moonlight they, as disembodied souls, are released to transmigrate and forage along the old ways, amongst the carved and moulded ornamental flora, of Walthamstow. 

The stone gate posts to the cemetery are eroded, the tree motifs substantially diminished since their installation in 1872 (?). Could the motifs be ornamental renderings of yew trees and might that be a yew tree next to the entrance? If that is a ‘living’ yew at the entrance, might it have been a Victorian (or later) planting, an indulgent harking back to ancient burial lore?

From Queens Road, 'Field Study’s Man in E17' followed the drone of one of the sepulchral bees down towards St James Park where, nearby, other sorts of remains were to be found.

Further on and a browse of the Oxfam book window found the field student looking at a paper- back copy of Charles Palliser, The Quincunx. What sort of coincidence was it that the field student had just finished reading the first chapter of W G Sebald’s, Rings of Saturn? In that chapter, Sebald cites Thomas Browne’s demonstrations of, or allusions to, ‘the elegant geometrical designs of Nature’ (quincunx), as well as his investigations into funeral rites leading to discourses such as, Hydriotaphia or Urn Burial 1658, in which  he observes, ‘the (pre-Christian) funeral pyres were built of sweet fuel, cypress, fir, yew, and other trees perpetually verdant as silent expressions of their surviving hopes’.

In Browne’s catalogue of the hopes once dispatched with the dead in urns, there is a collection of 300 golden bees.