Archive for the guardian

Stockhausen in Digbeth

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 13, 2012 by Robin Gosnall

(Source: Guardian)

Birmingham Opera Company has announced it is to stage one of the most challenging operas ever written, Karlheinz Stockhausen’s five-hour epic Mittwoch aus Licht (Wednesday from Light) , during the London 2012 festival.

Featuring real helicopters, two choirs, octophonic sound, numerous musicians, the Radio 1 DJ Nihal and requiring two separate performance halls, this will be the first time that all six parts of the opera have been staged together.

The “bewilderingly difficult” piece will be performed four times between 22 and 25 August, starting at 4pm each day at the Argyle Works, a former factory in Digbeth, Birmingham.

Tracey Emin: “What you see is what I am”

Posted in Culture with tags , , , , , , , , on May 8, 2011 by Robin Gosnall

Tracey Emin’s raw unpretentiousness – and the use she’s made of her life in her work – has captured the nation’s attention for 20 years. But its brilliance lies in its use of words.

This unpretentiousness has made Emin a national symbol. Her uncodedness, her frankness, her direct use of her own life in her work, have made her a repository, in the media and to some extent in the general public’s eye, for all that’s contentious in contemporary art. It’s easy to dismiss, simplistically, her complex and redolent use of self-portraiture as ego-posturing. But the thing is, there’s no pinning her down. There’s no reducing Emin. No matter how – or how much – the media strings her up (one minute lunatic, the next the new William Blake), her work engages the nation, and has engaged it now for more than 20 years, in a dialogue about art and life and the crossovers between both. It does this at what might be called a language-sensitive place. She is multitalented, multifaceted; aesthetically endlessly versatile; there’s no form she won’t try. Somehow nothing circumscribes her.

Tracey Emin: Love Is What You Want is at the Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre, London SE1 (0844 875 0073), from 18 May to 29 August 2011.

(Source: Grauniad)

Maurizio Pollini

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 24, 2011 by Robin Gosnall

Pianist Maurizio Pollini interviewed by Nicholas Wroe in the Grauniad:

His strong belief in the social benefits of art remains undimmed. “I think great art has entirely progressive aspects within it, elements that are somehow outside the detail of the text or even the political opinions of the person who made it. Art itself, if it is really great, has a progressive aspect that is needed by a society, even if it seems absolutely useless in strictly practical terms. In a way art is a little like the dreams of a society. They seem to contribute little, but sleeping and dreaming are vitally important in that a human couldn’t live without them, in the same way a society cannot live without art.”

Pollini’s restrained on-stage demeanour and dapperly conservative off-stage appearance indeed promote a strong sense of detached accomplishment. But he is by no means a “musical adding machine”, as he was once described. His distinguished silver hair, aquiline profile and line in smart grey suits may have prompted the observation that he resembled a typical Fiat factory executive, but in reality his political history reveals him as closer to a typical Fiat factory union organiser. He continually fishes in the pockets of those expensive jackets for an apparently never-ending supply of cigarettes, smoking no more than a quarter before stubbing one out and lighting another.

Zappa @ the Roundhouse & Baltimore declares “Frank Zappa Day”

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 3, 2010 by Robin Gosnall

Frank Zappa would have been 70 this year – his life and music are being celebrated in Britain and the US, 17 years after his death. Chris Hall meets his widow, Gail, and their children.

Last month, [Zappa’s widow] Gail and three of their four children – Dweezil, 41, Ahmet, 36, and Diva, 31 – went to the unveiling of a statue in honour of Frank in Baltimore, where he was born. The city also declared it Frank Zappa Day. “There were 5,000 people in the street. It was amazing,” says Gail, and they are all still clearly very touched by it.

The Czech president, Vaclav Havel, even claimed that Zappa’s music was part of the inspiration for the anti-communist revolution in 1989, and briefly made him a special cultural ambassador.


London Sinfonietta

(Source: Guardian)

Ray Winstone: “I used to be a raving lunatic”

Posted in Culture with tags , , , , , , , on September 3, 2010 by Robin Gosnall

Ray Winstone plays troubled hardmen with such conviction, it’s easy to believe he’s not acting. He talks to the splendidly named Decca Aitkenhead about his violent past, happy-go-lucky nature and love of westerns.

(Source: Guardian)

Frederick Delius

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , on May 29, 2009 by Robin Gosnall


Andrew Clements in last Saturday’s Guardian, (unsympathetically) reviewing a performance of Delius’s A Mass of Life, wrote:

Hardcore English-music enthusiasts were out in force at the Festival Hall for this concert. They are easy enough to spot. Male, conservatively dressed and middle-aged (you suspect most of them looked middle-aged when they were in their 20s), they invariably have an air of disappointment, as if the music they support so enthusiastically has never quite lived up to the expectations they load upon it.

I find a little Delius goes quite a long way; it quickly palls, and A Mass of Life more quickly than most. I find myself largely in agreement with Andrew Clements’s assessment of it.

Mind you, Delius was 100% German by blood, set A Mass of Life in German, lived outside England whenever he had the choice, and once famously said “English music? What’s that? I never heard any.”

So I wonder what “English music enthusiasts” were doing there, and how Andrew Clements knew that they were such.

I wonder also if he would get away with caricaturing black or Muslim music enthusiasts in a corresponding way. I suspect not.

Apart from the subtitle of Brigg Fair (“an English rhapsody”) the English connection dates back to the re-interment at Limpsfield in 1934 when Sir Thomas Beecham made a speech arguing for Delius’s re-burial in England (no doubt some had thought it inappropriate, not least because Delius was a strident and unrepentant atheist).

Earlier, in 1908, Havergal Brian witnessed a scene between Delius and the Hallé secretary, when the Hallé were performing Appalachia but had omitted some of the instruments in the score. Delius said, “Such blundering would be unthinkable in Germany. By God, if you English ever go to war with Germany she will smash you up!”

Why don’t young people listen to classical music?

Posted in Music with tags , , , , on April 2, 2009 by Robin Gosnall


“Now, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them. This is the principle on which I bring up my own children, and this is the principle on which I bring up these children. Stick to Facts, sir!”
(Charles Dickens, Hard Times)

This is the excellent question asked by Tom Service in the Guardian today. (There is a link to his blog from this article.)

Ever since the National Curriculum came in and made education a commodity to be bought and it prioritized and compartmentalized subjects and topics into Gradgrind’s “Facts” the majority of children have been short-changed and neglected. Music is just one subject (for me one of the most vital ones) that have gone down the pan in the last 30 years.

I hope that this article is read by ministers and former ministers on both sides of the Houses of Parliament who must hang their heads in shame.

What Tom Service points out which rarely gets any publicity in British education is that some countries have had very successful education systems particularly in music. Our powers that be always ignore the good work done in Finland, Sweden, Hungary, etc., and instead try to invent something new from scratch. British education is a patchwork quilt assembled by too many committees.

If the Arts were taught properly from the child’s entry and the momentum maintained until 16 or 18 years old we would see a natural demand being created for something which, at present, the system makes elitist.

Delia Smith

Posted in Food with tags , , , , on March 16, 2009 by Robin Gosnall


Follow the Word of Mouth food blog in the Guardian this week, celebrating four decades of Delia Smith.

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