Thursday, 3 July 2014

Seen and heard: June 2014

Veronese - exhibition at the National Gallery. Great furs, great fabrics, great faces. Also interesting comment on the audio guide from an opera director, about the organisation of a scene, whether on stage or on a dramatic canvas: the whole scene needs to tell the story, but an individual viewer's gaze may focus on any part of it, so every bit of the background needs to be interesting and relevant.

Episodes, Series 3 - not the same satirical edge as the first two seasons, when the core jokes were about the culture clash of British writers compromising and being compromised by adapting their TV comedy for Hollywood. But the scripting and the acting is still razor sharp, acid black, and laugh-out-loud funny.

The Pallisers - TV drama from the 1974, which I missed at the time but featured in the BBC2 50th birthday celebrations. Watching some further episodes on YouTube, I was gripped by the quality of the writing and acting, especially Philip Latham as the stiff but fundamentally decent and morally upright Plantagenet Palliser, and Anthony Andrews and Jeremy Irons as the more wayward men of the younger generation. Was it this partnering of Andrews and Irons which gave someone the idea of putting them together again in 'Brideshead Revisited'?

Brideshead Revisited - TV drama from 1981, watched on DVD, inspired by the above. Again, I never watched it properly on first transmission; working in a university as I was during the Thatcher-yuppie era, it was a political embarrassment and irritant to have university life depicted as endless round of decadent self-indulgence - which was what most people seemed to take from the show. At this distance in time, I have the patience to take in and appreciate the whole story arc and the ways in which its sad and tragic direction (with the tiniest final hint of redemption) is anticipated from the outset - in particular when Cara in Venice predicts Sebastian's self-destruction. What a great period for long-form TV dramas the 1980s was, just checking the DVD box sets we've bought in the last couple of years: not only Brideshead but Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Beiderbecke Affair, and A Very Peculiar Practice, not to mention Fortunes of War and Edge of Darkness.

Gypsy Fever - performing at the QuecumBar, Battersea, London, a couple of the band members being good friends. A great evening: infectiously energetic music, delivered with style and brio.

Stanley Spencer Gallery - the current exhibition including the enormous and uncompleted Christ Preaching at Cookham Regatta. Three things I learned about Spencer from this exhibition: (1) how good and striking his naturalistic paintings and portraits are, though he's more famous for his stylised forms; (2) when he painted biblical scenes set in contemporary Cookham, he'd already left the town, so for him Cookham was the past, his childhood; (3) in many of his paintings (Christ carrying his cross, the arrival of stretchers at a military hospital), he deliberately doesn't paint the suffering one might expect, which is either transcendence or denial. (I’ve seen many people for whom I’d suspect the latter, but I think in Spencer's case it genuinely was the former: finding the moment of peace, the still centre, in a situation of horror – as in, even more conspicuously, Hieronymus Bosch’s Christ Crowned with Thorns, memorably discussed by Pamela Tudor-Craig in The Secret Life of Paintings.)

GTech multi - video review by Techmoan. A model of a self-produced video review: seemingly casual, but sharply focused with not a wasted minute, and professional quality shooting and editing. I wonder how much experience, practice and failed attempts lie behind such a fine final product.

The Exponential Horn – exhibition at The Science Museum, reconstructing the huge (27 foot) loudspeaker horn built in 1929 to provide the best possible sound reproduction - quite a novelty for a public accustomed to crackly and tinny wireless. Apparently they used to come there and eat their sandwiches while listening to the midday music broadcasts, so I timed my own visit to coincide with the live feed from the Radio 3 lunchtime concert. A less spectacular experience than I'd hoped; I suppose high-fidelity (as we used to say) reproduction is something we take for granted nowadays, and I was more conscious of the contribution of the original recording (they also played BBC archive extracts from the 1930s) and the acoustic characteristics of the gallery to the perceived sound. A worthwhile reconstruction to have made, though, offering a connection back to another time.

Electronic music exhibition at the Science Museum. You know when you're getting old when your past shows up in museum exhibits. I felt a wave of temporal displacement on seeing, in a glass case, the same model of synthesiser (a VCS3 from Peter Zinovieff's Electronic Music Studios) which I used in 1976 to create electronic music and effects for a school production of Dr Faustus. My supernatural sounds were a bit like the contemporary Dr Who music (mainly because the BBC Radiophonic Workshop used the same technology), but I'm still pleased with what I did back then. And that was all produced on a tape recorder (quarter-inch tape), using the three-head system to lay down multiple tracks one after the other ("sound-on-sound"), with no possibility of digital Undo, and cuts and joins being achieved with razor blade and sticky tape. So perhaps there has been some progress since the '70s.

Cognition: Episode 3, The Oracle. The tension is really cranking up on this great adventure game series, with a minor character from Episode 1 now taking centre stage and being revealed as the driving force behind much of what’s been going on. And the shock ending: whoa, I didn’t see that one coming! Can't wait to play the final episode.

No comments:

Post a Comment