Friday, 6 December 2019

Holloway: Field Notes: 1

“There is no such joy in the tavern as upon the road thereto.”
Cormac McCarthy

My latest album 'Carver's Law' is out: doing the rounds.
What next?
Folk often ask me where the songs come from and, to be honest, because I don't do gigs and don't daily revive them, once they are fully formed it seems like they are released and left to make their own way in the world: deserted. It's easy to forget how they were birthed and beached, so I thought that with any new recordings it might be interesting for me to keep notes about that period between conception and birth: the gestation of new material. 
These will be notes that I keep for myself; so that there's a sense of understanding in the way things develop. I wondered if it might be interesting to the listener to read about the process: my process. I can see that I might be lampooning myself here: that some folk like a bit of mystery to come with their music and want to receive it fully formed and final. They don't need to see me humping away at my muse.
I'm not refining the writing so you might want to look away now: it'll be stumblings and mumblings and I might decide that this is a bad idea, but until then...

Holloway: Field Notes: 1

A new album: it's often an idea to start with a title.
'Carver's Law' was initially going to be called 'The Burden of Endless Dreams' after a line lifted from Joe Henry's brilliant 'Our Song'
Joe even gave me permission to use it. 
'The Burden of Endless Dreams' seems apt because, hand in hand with the joy of creation, and the endless possibilities of the blank page, comes the mithering that goes with it: the waking at 3am with a nagging melody or lyric, that rips me from the warmth of bed and Di, in search of a scrap of paper and a pen, or my iPhone's 'Voice Memo'. You'd howl if you heard the hapless humming and howling that often informs a song. I consider 'The Burden of Endless Dreams' and try it out on Di who shakes her head. Too many words apparently. She reminds me of 'Holloway'. Di and I spent an idyllic weekend at Roger Deakin's Walnut Tree Farm, living in one of his outhouses, an old railway carriage spruced up for pilgrims. We immersed ourselves in his world of wood and words, threatening to swim in his moat. Deakin's writing reminds me to finish a book that's been sitting unfinished for too long. I'd been reading Robert McFarland's 'The Wild Places'. They were mates: co-adventurers. There's a chapter, 'Holloway' in which McFarland (accompanied by Deakin)  explores ancient, deep sunken paths and marvels at how, once you are within these 'holloways', you feel cocooned, protected, and by adjusting your vista, your view on and of the world changes, offering a different kind of clarity. I like the idea that these 'ancient arteries' might lead to an alternative way of seeing and perhaps lead to uncharted destinations.
'Holloway' it is for now then...
Looking for inspiration for new songs.
What has happened this year of note?

My annual Thanksgiving fortnight in Walberswick always acts as stimulant: away from London I can de-frag, reset and re-consider my belly button. 

After the dramas of my detached retina in 2018 came the recovery and then, with the subsequent cataract, another operation. As 2019 hurtles towards 2020 Di jokes about it being the year that she will have her eyes lasered to redeem her vision to 20/20. Getit? We chuckled but it got me thinking: the past couple of years have seen me re-calibrating, adjusting to my new world view. I’ve lost the ability to cut a squash ball out of mid-air but have gained an ability to gaze vaguely. I'm surprised to find that I often see more that way. Sometimes an eye can be too... keen. Between long sight to short lies the in-betweens. It is easier to see the ‘long and the short’ of things. My eyes are working independantly and my sight-lines have thus been altered to accommodate both: my surgeon calls this 'mono-vision' and advises that only about 30% can adapt and adopt it successfully. I fear that I'm with the other 70%; my mono-vision a netherland of vagueness which passes as both long and short focus; it's a compromise of clarity. This change of focus from horizon, to hedge, to home has also led to an interesting development of my haptic memory: with me reaching more readily for touchstones.
Apparently my left eye was dominant. After my injured right eye was 'fixed' it asserted itself as prime orbit. It feels like my repaired eye is re-trained, memory avidly joins the dots, I’m finding new ways of connecting things. What are these ‘things’? I’m unsure, but am convinced that it is leading me towards a new way of seeing and thinking, and hopefully will help me mine a fresh lode of songs. Perhaps, as with any loss, what’s residual is somehow enhanced; distilled and filtered into something somehow more refined or pure? Let’s hope that this attempt at positive thinking somehow sublimates these stumbling, fumbling rants. 
As the year is ending I'm sitting here with two lines:

Black crows applaud the sky
And I wake from my dream of spring

Ah well, it's a start.
Here's to 2019.