Saturday, 4 April 2015

Einar Selvik

Einar Selvik is a skald and the founder of the Norwegian band Wardruna. Anyone who's been enjoying The Vikings will have heard his music as it features heavily in the series. It's spine-tinglingly good.

Here's a talk given by Selvik at the Dutch Archaeon festival. I particularly like what he has to say about tradition and the need for music to have something greater behind it.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

The Will of the Way Things Are

As regular readers will know, I am a long term Gong fan. It's therefore with great sadness that I learned today that Daevid Allen, who has been fighting cancer, has been given six months to live. But, oh my, here's a sobering and exemplary attitude to death. His letter, breaking the news, is copied from the Planet Gong website:

Hello you Kookaburras, 

OK so I have had my PET-CAT scans (which is essentially a full body viewing gallery for cancer specialists) and so it is now confirmed that the invading cancer has returned to successfully establish dominant residency in my neck. The original surgery took much of it out, but the cancer has now recreated itself with renewed vigor while also spreading to my lung.

The cancer is now so well established that I have now been given approximately six months to live.

So My view has Changed: 
I am not interested in endless surgical operations and in fact it has come as a relief to know that the end is in sight.

I am a great believer in "The Will of the Way Things Are" and I also believe that the time has come to stop resisting and denying and to surrender to the way it is.

I can only hope that during this journey, I have somehow contributed to the happiness in the lives of a few other fellow humans.

I believe I have done my best to heal, dear friends and that you have been enormously helpful in supporting me through this time

So Thank you SO much for being there with me, for the Ocean of Love 
and Now, importantly, Thankyou for starting the process of letting go of me, of mourning then transforming and celebrating this death coming up - this is how you can contribute, this would be a great gift from those emotionally and spiritually involved with me. 

I love you and will be with you always - Daevid xxx -

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Raga Kapi

Here are some videos of South Indian, Carnatic music. They're taken from a concert in London and feature Jayanthi Kumaresh and Patri Satish Kumar, who I think have become instantly two of my favourite musicians.

Kumaresh plays the saraswati veena, an ancient and now endangered instrument, said to have been played by the Hindu goddess of the arts, Saraswati. Kumar plays mridangam, the double-headed drum, the sounds of which form a prayer, or mantra, to Shiva Nataraja. Support, on the tampura drone, comes from Mithila Sarma. The chemistry and sympathy between the musicians is extraordinary, and I'm struck by how rare it is in the West to see a woman playing an instrument with such artistry, composure and humility, without men somehow stealing the spotlight.

Raga Kapi is introduced with an alapana section in the first video, followed by the thillana in the second. This is played in adi tala, an eight-beat cycle – if you can, try keeping time with hand claps (clap-pinky-ring-middle, clap-wave-clap-wave) – it will make the climax even more breathtaking. The final video is a short but illuminating interview with Kumar.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015


I've always found there to be something deeply pleasing about the hexagon, its sixness, its symmetry, the way it falls from a circle or an equilateral triangle, and of course its relationship to bees.

I was delighted, therefore, to learn that scientists have discovered that the whirling vortices of gases at the north pole of Saturn describe a nearly perfect, and permanent, hexagon. How beautiful is that?

It seems I am not alone in my love of all thing hexagonal for I've also stumbled upon the eccentrically wonderful As the author states, 'I found myself, seemingly out of nowhere, really fucking interested in hexagons', a position to which I can only nod in agreement.

Friday, 5 December 2014

On Brentor

The South West of England possesses three dramatic tors, each topped by a church or the ruins of a church. Glastonbury Tor is the most famous, and justly so, followed by its near neighbour Burrow Mump, also in Somerset: you can see the one from the other. The third lies much further to south and west in Devon, and, situated right on the edge of Dartmoor, is the least visited of the three. It is called Brentor.

Clamber up to the rocky summit and you're rewarded with dramatic views of the moor (and, when we went, the rising moon).

Oddly for a working church, the porch is covered in graffiti, some of it quite old.

The church is dedicated to St Michael, as were the ruins at Glastonbury and Burrow Mump, and as so many high places have shrines dedicated to the saint, some have speculated that this was a concerted effort by the Church to put a stop to lingering pagan practices (St Michael famously stands triumphant over Satan).

The fact that you can draw a straight line between Glastonbury Tor, Burrow Mump and Brentor, and, moreover, one that points in the direction of the May Day sunrise, struck the writer John Michell as more than coincidental. As I've blogged about before, he posited that here was a major ley-line, a piece of pre-Christian technology if you will, that directed earth energy up country towards a harmonious end. 

Whatever the metaphors we choose to describe it, I think high places like Brentor have always been regarded as holy, long before there were either Christians or ley-hunters. Just as we can't help but let our minds reach out with wonder to the horizon, so some part of us, a part that longs to touch that which lies beyond, relaxes and unwinds.

Craggy, desolate, a little bit haunted, Brentor remains a numinous place.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Revels and wrens

And so to Ludlow Castle to play bagpipes at its Medieval Christmas Fayre.

Photo by Joolz Webb

I was invited once again by Paul Saunders to join Revellion, a kind of medieval costume band supergroup. It's a fantastic chance to dress up, play raucous tunes and make bad puns with old friends.

There's always lots to look at…

…but I was especially delighted to get another chance to see Alan Kirkpatrick's No Strings Puppet Theatre again, after a gap of a good many years.

Delivered with Goonish energy and a characteristic dry wit, his portative hand-puppet version of 'Robin Hood and the Monk' wouldn't be out of place in a Terry Gilliam movie.

But my meeting of the weekend was with a man who said he could call wrens to his hand. "How do you do that?" I asked. "Oh", he said, "I speak wren" and with that he started to whistle. It wasn't the moment to whip out my phone and record him so you'll just have to take my word for it that his rendition was perfect. I was dumbfounded.

The conversation moved onto robins. "Nah, I can't speak robin. Aggressive little buggers."