The Alchemist

Here is my second collaboration with composer Joe Donohoe. This one, The Alchemist, has quite a different feel to Kiss the Book, in that it is brighter, both musically and in subject matter, being more of a "straight" love poem than the more cynical Kiss the Book. This time around I sent Joe the text of the poem and he composed out of that, recording my vocals afterwards. Joe used composing software to simulate tuned percussion and violins, and I think the results are very beautiful.

A few shots of the embroidery which accompanies the sound piece

The text of The Alchemist reads:

The Alchemist

My words always did look prettier in your mouth,
you alchemist
Always taking lumps of coal and dreaming them into diamonds Making something out of nothing with the slightest
Sleight of hand or
Flick of the wrist;
You undid the buttoned-up British stiff upper lip at the collar,
Slipped that starched white surgical ruff off of the
Draft diamond, gave it room to respire,
A pause for a breather;
Then went mining beneath its varnished veneer,
Told me to take my medicine when i told you i belonged back in the coal scuttle,
Only just no longer merely a minor, so why don’t you try her,
Before she slips back down the mine shaft to try for another?

I want to kiss you on the mouth; I want to kick you in the teeth, Oh take out your molars and string ‘em up into a necklace and
I’ll wear you always, strung up and strung out and resting soft as clouds of
Cubic zirconium all along my collarbones;
Oh boy you just about knock me out.

Today I am sewing my next piece (which will remain shrouded in mystery until it is unveiled), listening to a lot of angry girl music (such as The Horrorpops and The Dresden Dolls!), and checking out internships at The Tate. Got a few more collaborations on the way and very happy to be busy.

Kiss the Book

This is the result of my first collaboration with Joe Donohoe; we recorded my monologue/prose poem, and Joe then added atmospheric sounds of East London at night, together with an out-of-tune chord harp. The embroidery in the video illustrates one of the lines from the monologue.

The embroidery is currently on show at the Pharmacy of Stories as part of the Here Is My Heart exhibition. 

The title Kiss the Book is a reference to a line spoken by Stefano the drunken butler in Shakespeare's The Tempest. The "book" of the line is in fact a bottle of alcohol.

The text of Kiss the Book imagines a romance between two self-styled tortured artists:

Kiss the Book

In later days the latter day lady lit her Marlboro Light and skipped lightly to the front of a 10,000 strong queue waiting on cheap thrills not one of us could afford (yes, we sold our very souls for the promise of a Parker pen and possible publication).

The background noise of barely mentioned sexual tension’s got me jumpy, buzzing in my ears like a pneumatic drill setting my teeth on edge.

So bring your lips to the battle and I’ll bring a bottle (the truth is I haven’t been kissed in a while), and we’ll wear our best black boot polish berets atop dreaming (a)spire heads. Blacker-toothed and blue-lipped, let’s riddle ourselves with writer’s cliches like other teens catch sexual diseases.

But don’t sweat it babe, bard, it’s quite legit, I carry a Poetic License for use in the event of romantic circumstances like these. If you amuse me, I’ll have you with my morning museli. You’ll briefly be my brightest burning muse. And valorously, vaingloriously, we’ll fur our teeth over with velour, spooning with a desperate fervour, for revolution, for a resolution to our private privileged hells.

Our teeth are furred over like cheap velour by cheaper wine whilst we worry the kerb, licking biro-bled blue-black lips, cursing the orange sky, cultivating Scrooge sentiments, stoppering our hearts before a drop is spilt. Dry ice breath puncturing the air, punctuating our sentences with commas, a brief breather between my romantic comas.

You and I might be the last remaining sufferers of Celia Johnson Syndrome, forsaking feelings for public decency, drinking to loosen stiff upper lips, awakening to find starched white surgical ruffs buttoned back up beyond the collar. Still, we are still so young and lost, on booze, lust, wanderlust. Wilted English roses grown pallid and wan, wandering moors, moaning “Willoughby, Willoughby” at thin air for hours.

Audio Obscura

Last night I went to St Pancras station to experience Artangel's Audio Obscura. This sound work occurs between Marks and Spencer and Le Pain Quotidien in the station's concourse, but audience members/participants are free to wander the extent of the station whilst listening to the piece on headphones.

Billed as "an aural equivalent to the camera obscura", the piece is by poet and novelist Lavinia Greenlaw, and is comprised of a number of internal monologues interspersed with everyday environmental sounds of St Pancras itself; announcements, heels clicking on the floor, and perhaps the most interesting aspect of the sound piece, the amplified sound of the listener's footsteps.

A friend and I agreed that there was a possible lack of balance in the piece due to the negative emotional quality of many of the monologues; there was a lot of frustrated swearing in them, and a lot of tears! We also decided that the piece at times made us feel invasive and voyeuristic, as we began to match the monologues with random passersby in the station. In fact, despite feeling voyeuristic, we felt the best way to experience the piece was to sit and observe passersby whilst listening to what could be their "inner thoughts".

Audio Obscura reminded me of Beckett, in particular his one-act play Not I, due to both pieces consisting of very intense, stream-of-consciousness monologues meditating on death and punishment.

I found the experience of the sound work disorientating due to its emotional intensity. In subject matter it was very different to my own sound collaborations with Joe, but the use of atmospheric background noises is something which I will consider.

Collaboration With Joe Donohoe

Today I recorded a spoken word piece with good friend and composer/ambient musician Joe Donohoe. We will be working together for the duration of The Cure For Love project, translating my poetry and prose poetry on love into sound pieces. These will include sound textures from Walthamstow in East London, where we both hail from, together with Joe's own original compositions.

Joe performing Hope/For Daniel at the Secret Garden, at Bossanyi Studios in West London: