We drive to an upmarket shopping mall this morning to pick up something. A quick stopover – end up parking in a somewhat dark corner of the parking garage. A group of employees from some supermarket or chain store (they’re all wearing uniforms) file out of a side door and, using bits of cardboard to protect their uniforms, seat themselves on the low concrete curb just a few centimeters in front of the parked cars. They proceed to enjoy their mid-morning break conversing, drinking tea, passing things to eat between themselves, and staring into the half-darkness of the parking garage.
I met with Jill Richards for lunch today. Jill is a wonderful pianist without whom a piece like Antjie in Berlin would probably never have come to life. She has wonderful Steinway (carefully pampered), and many happy hours have been spent in her living room listening to the seemingly never ending resonances of its strings.
While composers may be stepping into the role of performer more often these days, Jill is an example of an ever creative performer. An initiator, free improvisor, and participant in many multi-disciplinary collaborations, she has also been creating soundtracks and now even works involving actors!
In 2007, around the time Heston Blumenthal famously included sound as an integral, taste altering, part of his multi-sensory dish Sound of the Sea, Lars Kynde was looking for ways in which Wagamama’s loudspeaker system could be put to better use. Those experiments eventually led to the creation of his Tasteful Turntable, an ever evolving project in which sound and taste are intricately choreographed to the timeline of a turning table. With brands now in on the game, as described in Ben Houge’s NewMusicBox article, this synaesthetic field is apparently no longer exclusively the domain of (culinary) art and performance.
The exercise of writing these notes every day is in part an exercise in getting more in touch with what it is that is actually going on in my mind. An attempt to identify what it is my thoughts are milling around (over and above navigating the events of the day). That may seem trivial, but when it comes to putting thought-fields into words can sometimes turn out to require some degree of effort.
Attempting to draw something is a great way of getting to see aspects of it one would normally brush over. The same with thoughts and words.
The temperature was thirty degrees at eight o’clock this morning, and that set the tone for the day. I’m not sure how high it reached, but it must have been quite high. The kind of weather that would be classified as a heatwave in Denmark and make the national news. It’s unusual to experience this kind of warmth in Johannesburg; during my childhood it was reserved for the holidays spent on my grandmother’s farm. Now sitting on the porch with lawn sprinklers on and a slight breeze blowing through the shadows of the trees as it would in a Tarkovsky film.
The student protests of the last weeks have brought the government to review its allocation of resources – the relatively high fees for students at South African universities won’t be increased for the year to come and services will no longer be outsourced.
The outsourcing part got me thinking about an Erik Spiekermann article on tipping – arguing that it perpetuates disadvantage rather than laying the ground for a viable and sustainable living. The same may be said of much of today’s “sharing economy”.
Tipping: It’s hard to imagine present day South Africa without this unstructured form of exchange.
Change starts at home.
Getting around in Johannesburg is its own kind of craziness. A lot of time in the car travelling from one oasis to another.
There’s a great episode of 99% Invisible on the development of the shopping mall in America. Victor Gruen, its Austrian inventor, eventually returned to Vienna, disillusioned and “refusing to pay alimony for the bastard developments” his invention had spawned. Those children are alive and well and leading sophisticated lives in Africa. (And a great many other parts of the world I suppose.)
“Paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”
I’m thinking about all that time and space.
I’ve been sitting on a darkened stoep, evening sounds in the background, listening to violin:piano – a recent release of compositions by Kevin Volans beautifully played by Jill Richards and Waldo Malan. It’s Passi leggieri, the last piece of the recording that’s caught my ear. I’m intrigued by the abrupt changes in tempo, as if one was suddenly playing the fast passages at a slower speed in order to catch the details. This subtly composed zooming in on the sound/material has me thinking back on parts of the string quartet version of White Man Sleeps. And also of Adrian Holovaty’s Soundslice.
Twitter can be weird, and not necessarily in a Weird Twitter way. I gain six Japanese followers overnight. Accounts created years ago, hardly any followers, hardly any tweets. Lists about gaining followers – OK, that’s what that’s about.
@shionruka though has two tweets. The last, dated 21 March 2011, translated:
Is no harm? So what harm comes out of? I still have the health harms(;one _ one) said just the amount of radiation that is radioactive material? Correct to 0.00001 also inhaled, after exposure to body damage my life and heard me!
Suddenly in the middle of a story there.
Travel and the cultural bubbles we live in. A word like “Banting” for instance. All the rage in South Africa, yet never once encountered in Copenhagen. A quick search reveals that this diet, a kind of precursor to the Paleo (which is encountered all over Copenhagen), has its roots in William Banting’s 1863 Letter on Corpulence.
There’s a New Yorker cartoon with two puzzled cavemen that comes to mind: “Something’s just not right – our air is clean, our water is pure, we all get plenty of exercise, everything we eat is organic and free-range, and yet nobody lives past thirty.”