pictures of the music

August 17, 2017

You ask me how these pictures are evolved? “They are not pictures of the music theme – pictures of the flying notes – not conscious illustrations of the name given to a piece of music, but just what I see when I hear music – thoughts loosened and set free by the spell of sound.

When I take a brush in hand and the music begins, it is like unlocking the door into a beautiful country. There, stretched far away, are plains and mountains and the billowy sea, and as the music forms a net of sound the people who dwell there enter the scene; tall, slow-moving, stately queens, with jewelled crowns and garments gay or sad, who walk on mountain – tops or stand beside the shore, watching the water – people. These water-folk are passionless, and sway or fall with little heed of time; they toss the spray and, bending down, dive headlong through the deep.

There are the dwellers, too, of the great plain, who sit and brood, made of stone and motionless; the trees, which slumber till some elf goes by with magic spear and wakes the green to life ; towers, white and tall, standing against the darkening sky –

Those tall white towers that one sees afar,
Topping the mountain crests like crowns of snow.
Their silence hangs so heavy in the air
That thoughts are stifled.

Then huddling crowds, who carry spears, hasten across the changing scene. Sunsets fade from rose to grey, and clouds scud across the sky.

For a long time the land I saw when hearing Beethoven was unpeopled; hills, plains, ruined towers, churches by the sea. After a time I saw far off a little company of spearmen ride away across the plain. But now the clanging sea is strong with the salt of the lashing spray and full of elemental life; the riders of the waves, the Queen of Tides, who carries in her hand the pearl-like moon, and bubbles gleaming on the inky wave.

Often when hearing Bach I hear bells ringing in the sky, rung by whirling cords held in the hands of maidens dressed in brown. There is a rare freshness in the air, like morning on a mountain-top, with opal-coloured mists that chase each other fast across the scene.

Chopin brings night ; gardens where mystery and dread lurk under every bush, but joy and passion throb within the air, and the cold moon bewitches all the scene. There is a garden that I often see, with moonlight glistening on the vine-leaves, and drooping roses with pale petals fluttering down, tall, misty trees and purple sky, and lovers wandering there. A drawing of that garden I have shown to several people and asked them if they could play the music that I heard when I drew it. They have all, without any hesitation, played the same. I do not know the name, but – well, I know the music of that place.

Pamela Colman Smith
Pictures in Music
From the Strand magazine, July 1908

To dream without sleep

March 25, 2017

Diary 24th / 25th March

Question: What is the hardest thing to write about?

Answer: Happiness – anyone car write about misery, it’s easy. But real happiness with all its stubborn imperfections is the subject matter of great writers (unfortunately, I’m far from being a great writer).

My own writing evokes an inner world, a world of projections, fantasies and demonic illusions – or such is my intention. It is a world of emotionally greedy women, men whose incredible egoism is pushing them towards madness, and precocious adolescents who form an integral part (whether willingly or not) of the “ME” generation, which we seem to have created during the past three decades. All in their own way are seeking love and happiness; and all are sublimely selfish, considering only themselves in the paths they choose to take.


In good art we do not ask for realism; we ask for truth.


Pussy is a good moisturiser for the whole face. I like to apply it nightly. Even daily if the opportunity presents itself.


I have some sympathy with Oscar Wilde when he said: ‘I have no objection to anyone’s sex life as long as they don’t practice it in the street and frighten the horses.’ No one should ever want to frighten the horses.


‘As a musician I tell you that if you were to suppress adultery, fanaticism, crime, evil, the supernatural, there would no longer be the means for writing one note’ – so said Georges Bizet, and I totally agree.

Play It Glissando

December 1, 2016


Diary 1st December

More fragments from a splintered mind –

O the sisters of mercy they are not
Departed or gone,
They were waiting for me when I thought
That I just can’t go on,
And they brought me their comfort
And later they brought me this song.
O I hope you run into them
You who’ve been travelling so long

Leonard Cohen


Have you observed how closely our shadows sit together? Now and again they touch like lovers. They think we can’t see them, but we can, can’t we? Their desire, one for the other, is very apparent to me.


Yesterday, a grey sky lowering the horizon. The leaves have finally fallen, but still gorse bushes are flowering in places on the moor. Surely the frost must finish them off?

This morning, cold. Minus five on the thermometer in the garage.

Steam rising from my cup of coffee causes my thoughts to stray. Schooldays. Boredom and melancholy and endless bouts of wanking. Everyday a fresh opportunity to fail. Teachers with dead eyes. The walking dead. “Jessie” James with his nicotine yellow fingers, and his spiteful attempts at humour. Mrs Laite with her following of invisible but strange spirits, still in mourning for a long dead husband, and teetering on the brink of dementia.

Oh, what tough little roughs we were.

But even then, despite everything, I was easy prey for the seductive darkness. And the darkness in winter is so absolute, isn’t it?


Memory of an evening in Thame years ago. Dead and alive sort of place. What on earth was I doing there? Don’t know now, but I was with H – her of the long neck and smouldering glances – and we’d both had a drink or two, for sure. There was one of those prefabricated, aluminium-framed, bus-stops, in part windowless where once there had been windows. A rank and urine-smelling place, where tramps congregated late at night.

To my utter amazement, H said to me: ‘Have me here…here on the floor.’


And before I knew what was happening, she was on all fours, skirt up, wriggling lace panties down.

Just the smell in that place put me off. It was dark and there was no one else about. But I couldn’t comply with her demands. It was impossible. I tried to explain but she was furious with me.


And then a Saturday night at The Bell, Apsley. Much later, this. The “Tree-Fellow” was there, with his squint and his evil-smelling cheroots. H, more than a little intoxicated, told him she’d like to screw him. ‘A good night out for me,’ she said, ‘would involve a variety of sexual partners.’

I could tell he was deeply shocked.

I intervened, and she turned on me like a rabid dog. Eventually, I suggested we call it a day. Go home.

‘Fuck you both,’ she said, getting up from the table. ‘I’m outta here…’

All good things, inevitably, come to an end.


And then another time, with the woman I love most in the world. Our first ever date. In the King’s Head, Harrow-on-the-hill. The two of us sitting together, earnestly talking about life, the universe and everything. I with one leg awkwardly folded under me, excuse myself to go to the toilet.

But disaster always awaits the unwary.

On standing, I realise my leg has gone numb. I should sit back down, let feeling return to it. But no. I try to walk through that crowded bar towards the Gents. I make it, yeah – after hobbling and flailing about like one who’d just received a hefty kick to the balls. So very embarrassing. At one point, glancing back over my shoulder, I see the look of total shock on that poor girl’s face…

How to make a good first impression, eh?

What Will I Remember?

November 30, 2016


What will I remember?
What will I forget?
When this life is ending, and gone
What will I regret?
If tomorrow I don’t wake up, what happens?
My sunrise, or sunset?

If I never were born
If I never died
Would it even matter at all?
What should I decide?
I always imagined I’d mean something to someone
If I won’t, ‘least I tried

When my body suffers
When to breathe is pain
Is it really madness to think…
Think of breaking this chain?
Is the future mine?
God knows I have a past
Where’s my second chapter?
Or will the first also be my last?

Is my story over
If I fall asleep?
Would anybody find me?
And would anybody weep?
I can’t even pretend I care
But songs I’ll never sing…
Well that means something…
Yes, that means something…

Emilie Autumn

slow pizzicato strings

November 29, 2016


Vivaldi was dry, rational until slow pizzicato strings described hard claws tiptoeing across a striated sandy floor. Bach’s contrapuntal lines entwined in his head like smooth tubular growths…

Christopher Harman
Deep Water
From: Terror Tales of East Anglia – edited by Paul Finch

A young music…

September 22, 2016


Jazz seeps into words—spelled out words. Nelson Algren is influenced by jazz. Ralph Ellison is, too. Sartre, too. Jacques Prévert. Most of the best writers today are. Look at the end of the Ballad of the Sad Cafe. Me as the public, my dot in the middle—it was fifty years ago, the first time I heard the Blues on Independence Avenue in Kansas City. Then State Street in Chicago. Then Harlem in the twenties with J. P. and J. C. Johnson and Fats and Willie the Lion and Nappy playing piano—with the Blues running all up and down the keyboard through the ragtime and the jazz. House rent party cards. I wrote The Weary Blues:

Downing a drowsy syncopated tune . . . . . . etc. . . . .

Shuffle Along was running then – the Sissle and Blake tunes. A little later Runnin’ Wild and the Charleston and Fletcher and Duke and Cab. Jimmie Lunceford, Chick Webb, and Ella. Tiny Parham in Chicago. And at the end of the Depression times, what I heard at Minton’s. A young music—coming out of young people. Billy—the male and female of them—both the Eckstein and the Holiday—and Dizzy and Tad and the Monk. Some of it came out in poems of mine in Montage of a Dream Deferred later. Jazz again putting itself into words.

Langston Hughes
Jazz as Communication


Diary 15th / 16th September

Just a fistful of fast, challenging, hot-wired mind-bites!
Yes, I’ve returned, boys and girls, from the erotic world of Faery. The weather on Sunday was brilliant. Bright sunshine. But Monday and Tuesday were wet, windy and worrisome. And yet we had the most wonderful time, despite the inclement weather. We devoted ourselves to love and meditation. Which I would highly recommend to you all! It’s tiring but most enlightening (the lovemaking that is, not the meditation), full of the ivory-smooth sliding sensation of skin on skin.

Wednesday we woke to a world full of sun and went walking in the wild places. Gorse, confused by the weather we’ve been having, is flowering everywhere. Three buzzards circled above us in search of prey. Here fields fall away in to a rocky void…


Our rooms were sumptuously appointed. Some risqué oil paintings and a titillating nude portrait of some long dead diva on the walls. Four poster beds in both our rooms. Windows looking out on wild surf and rocks. What more could we ask…?

Well, summer continuing a little longer, perhaps? More bad weather is forecast.

Monday and Tuesday the overcast rendered everything colourless. Grey ruled, here, okay! The whole world became like an underdeveloped photograph. We drank a lot of brandy.

The sound of voices fading into the background at night. The crash of waves beyond our windows.

In this place at the end of a long combe (or valley if you prefer), sloping down to the sea through a cleft between high cliffs with its fine stretch of beach beyond, we overlook both beach and sea. There is, apparently, a locked door in one of the downstairs rooms, which leads to a passageway carved from the rock; this tunnel descends to a cavern in the cliffs beyond the beach. Here, so claims local legend, smugglers and wreckers shifted contraband cargo to the house above…

Over the years we have entered that cave many times from the beach below, seen the seaweedy rocks and smelt the damp decay of ages…And my mind turns now to George Sterling’s poem, A Wine of Wizardry:

But Fancy still is fugitive, and turns
To caverns where a demon altar burns,
And Satan, yawning on his brazen seat,
Fondles a screaming thing his fiends have flayed,
Ere Lilith come his indolence to greet,
Who leads from hell his whitest queens, arrayed
In chains so heated at their master’s fire
That one new-damned had thought their bright attire
Indeed were coral, till the dazzling dance
So terribly that brilliance shall enhance.


But now we’re back, home again, home again, and it’s time for more nonsense –

Oh, I hear little hooks popping.
A bodice unbuttoning.
A heart pounding, breathing.

I hear him, before I go to sleep
And focus on the day that’s been.
I realise he’s there,
When I turn the light off and turn over.

Nobody knows about my man.
They think he’s lost on some horizon.
And suddenly I find myself
Listening to a man I’ve never known before,

Telling me about the sea,
All his love, ’til eternity.

Ooh, he’s here again,
The man with the child in his eyes.
Ooh, he’s here again,
The man with the child in his eyes.

He’s very understanding,
And he’s so aware of all my situations.
And when I stay up late,
He’s always waiting, but I feel him hesitate.

Oh, I’m so worried about my love.
They say, “No, no, it won’t last forever.”
And here I am again, my girl,
Wondering what on Earth I’m doing here.
Maybe he doesn’t love me.
I just took a trip on my love for him.

Ooh, he’s here again,
The man with the child in his eyes.
Ooh, he’s here again,
The man with the child in his eyes.


September 8, 2016


Softly, in the dusk, a woman is singing to me;
Taking me back down the vista of years, till I see
A child sitting under the piano, in the boom of the tingling strings
And pressing the small, poised feet of a mother who smiles as she sings.

In spite of myself, the insidious mastery of song
Betrays me back, till the heart of me weeps to belong
To the old Sunday evenings at home, with winter outside
And hymns in the cosy parlour, the tinkling piano our guide.

So now it is vain for the singer to burst into clamour
With the great black piano appassionato. The glamour
Of childish days is upon me, my manhood is cast
Down in the flood of remembrance, I weep like a child for the past.

D H Lawrence