Peter Sheppard Skærved – ‘Channel Firing’

Posted on August 1, 2014
A word of explanation.  I am a violinist and spend my time moving between the music of the past and present, hunting for the dialogues between our time and our forbears. My project for Dover Museum takes World War One as a model and seeks to investigate how its many narratives find resonances in the past and present. This project uses music from before, during, and after 1914-1919, imagery past and present and writing. The natural history to which Dover gives focus is a very present counterpoint to this process. 

Screenshot (47)

Shakespeare Cliff, seen from the Folkestone-Dover railway line. Peter Sheppard Skaerved. Spring 2014
Shakespeare Cliff, seen from the Folkestone-Dover railway line. Peter Sheppard Skaerved. Spring 2014

20th October-Returning to the idea of pilgrimage
In his book, ‘Japanese Pilgrimage’, the american writer Oliver Statler noted that the important difference between the European notion of pilgrimage, and the Japanese one, was that the Japanese tended towards circular pilgrimages, not linear ones. This made a big impression on me when I read it in my early twenties, and helps now, with examining how I/we are looking at, playing with, travelling along the many paths which this anniversary has opened up. I have found myself filled with nostalgia, already for the images and impressions which struck me at the beginning of the process, the beginning of this summer of anniversary, and I realise that I am unconsciously modelling the longing which grew, in soldiers and those at home, for the lost hot summer, the pastoral idyll of ’14, which preceded the war and the onset of autumn, and colder, wetter realities. My notion of the relationship of the war to Pilgrimage, and the project to pilgrimage, which has been enhanced in the work by the incluence of the writers Patricia Hampl and Juliet Nicholson.

Cornfield near Lenham, on the North Downs Way, July 2014
Cornfield near Lenham, on the North Downs Way, July 2014

Ford Maddox Ford has reminded me to take the weave with the natural world, in this narrative, seriously, so there has been a constant discussion as to the part of plants and animals in the narrative, both as reminders of the past and symbols. So, inevitably, the change of the season, from summer to autumn, and the echo that offered with the change of response to the war, as it happened, as it approached, and as it receded from view, is very important. ‘Parades End’ has really offered a model of how think, create and respond, retracing steps, again and again, seeing significance and insignificance in the smallest things.

Mystery Road. North Downs way west of Guildford, July 2014. Microclimates and geology
Mystery Road. North Downs way west of Guildford, July 2014. Microclimates and geology

 

18th October -Counting not the Cost

Moving towards the recording stage of the project, which will take place at St Michael’s Highgate (the church where Samuel Taylor Coleridge is buried).

Re-imagining the path; strange pilgrimage. In 1919, the Michelin Tyre Company published  their MICHELIN ILLUSTRATED GUIDES TO THE BATTLEFIELDS., for the new pilgrims, from all sides, who flocked to the Western Front, looking for answers. I am not sure that we have found any yet.
Re-imagining the path; strange pilgrimage. In 1919, the Michelin Tyre Company published their MICHELIN ILLUSTRATED GUIDES TO THE BATTLEFIELDS., for the new pilgrims, from all sides, who flocked to the Western Front, looking for answers. I am not sure that we have found any yet.

I have been thinking about the astonishing work of the nurses, a profession which barely existed, even in 1914. Juliet Nicholson’s astonishing ‘The Great Silence’ reminds us that there were barely 5 nurses per 1000000 of the population in 1900. Today, I noticed this in the gatehouse of St Bartholomew’s Hospital, Smithfield.

Memorial to nurses who died in the conflict from 'S Barts' 18 10 14
Memorial to nurses who died in the conflict from ‘S Barts’ 18 10 14

Interesting, the quote is a Jesuit one, taken from St Ignatius’s ‘Prayer for Generosity’

Lord, teach me to be generous.
Teach me to serve you as you deserve;
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labor and not to ask for reward,
save that of knowing that I do your will.

And then, on the walk back to Wapping, all that remains of the original bridge of the London Chatham and Dover Railway, at Blackfriars. After the landslip onto the South Eastern line at the Warren in 1915, it was the LCDR route to London, north and west out of Dover, which was used (despite it’s extreme gradients) for the hospital trains to London.

Arms of the LCBR, erected on their bridge at Blackfriars, in 1864
Arms of the LCBR, erected on their bridge at Blackfriars, in 1864

15th October – Strange News from Another Star

Today, a delicate memorial, and a haunted face. ‘Strange News from another Star’, if you like. Memorial to a Zeppelin attack (October 1915) in the road by Lincoln’s Inn Chapel and Kitchener’s eyes, in a fundraising poster, at the Museum of Freemasonary . And yesterday’s ‘Channel Firing; talk, uploaded to listen:

Lecture recital part one:

Lecture recital part two:

Peter Sheppard Skaerved with Roderick Chadwick, Piano

Fundraising poster of Lord Kitchener. Part of the Museum of Freemasonry Exhibit 15 10 14
Fundraising poster of Lord Kitchener. Part of the Museum of Freemasonry Exhibit 15 10 14
marker in the roadway by the Chapel of Lincolns Inn, marking the spot where a bomb exploded dropped by a Zeppelin on the 13th October 1915. Photo. P Sheppard Skaerved 15 10 14
marker in the roadway by the Chapel of Lincolns Inn, marking the spot where a bomb exploded dropped by a Zeppelin on the 13th October 1915. Photo. P Sheppard Skaerved 15 10 14

14th October-Channel Firing, at the Royal Academy of Music

A slide from the lecture recital at the Royal Academy of Music. We finished with Enrique Granados' 'Danse Espagnole' transcribed by the great Austrian violinist Fritz Kreisler, who wrote a heart breakiing account (quoted on the slide) of his time at the front. Granados died off the Kent coast, on his way back to Spain from making piano rolls in New York (pictured at top), and giving a recital at the White House for Woodrow Wilson. He and his wife were passengers on the SS Sussex, which was torpedoed shortly after it left Folkestone in 1916.
A slide from the lecture recital at the Royal Academy of Music. We finished with Enrique Granados’ ‘Danse Espagnole’ transcribed by the great Austrian violinist Fritz Kreisler, who wrote a heart breakiing account (quoted on the slide) of his time at the front. Granados died off the Kent coast, on his way back to Spain from making piano rolls in New York (pictured at top), and giving a recital at the White House for Woodrow Wilson. He and his wife were passengers on the SS Sussex, which was torpedoed shortly after it left Folkestone in 1916.

 

8th October-The path underfoot

And so, today, I returned to the path, with my wife Malene, who has, this summer accompanied all my wandering, producing an epic, poetic archaeology of war’s cruelty herself.

'Meadows are surrounded by Barbed Wire' Herman Hesse 'Wandering' (North Downs Way, East of Farnham, 8 10 14)
‘Meadows are surrounded by Barbed Wire’ Herman Hesse ‘Wandering’ (North Downs Way, East of Farnham, 8 10 14)

Like 1914, this has been a hot dry summer, now, it seems broken in the first few days of the new month. And suddenly, today we found ourselves confronted with small reminders of the the Leitmotive of the war.

'Garlic and sapphires in the mud/Clot the bedded axle tree' 'Burnt Norton' T S Eliot (lines 47-48) (North Downs Way, near Compton 8 10 14)
‘Garlic and sapphires in the mud/Clot the bedded axle tree’ ‘Burnt Norton’ T S Eliot (lines 47-48) (North Downs Way, near Compton 8 10 14)

It sounds strange, but I have started acknowledging the way that the memorialisation of war found its way into our architectural vernacular. As we climbed out from Puttenham today, walking, for me, for the first time West to East, I was struck by the counterpoint, repeated thousands of times across the country, between the war memorial and the church of St John the Baptist, originally Saxon, and reconstructed in the 20th Century.

The First World War Memorial in Puttenham, with casualties from the Second added on a cartouche at the front 8 10 14
The First World War Memorial in Puttenham, with casualties from the Second added on a cartouche at the front 8 10 14

 

NB-beyond here, there has been a tecnical problem, and I need to restore the page -these is a temporary version of the text only, as a stop-gap

 

2nd October-Trench. Ditch.Mine.Dike.Road

As I draw towards the end of the research/building part of this project, ideas, images and musics are interweaving. This is equally the case with landscapes. No one can spend days walking in the South of the UK without becoming more sensitive to the layers of change that time, nature and humans have wrought upon the landscape, and thus, made it.

25 Miles in the Chilterns yesterday, along two canals in use, and one, unused, but filled with water, then across the hills back to the reminded me of this, especially, finding a favourite example, this inconspicuous earthwork near Lee Common.IMG_4025_Edited

Earthwork in the Chilterns. 1 10 14

Naturally, the Chilterns are geologically related to the the Downs, the northern tine of the trident of chalk which reaches east from Salisbury Plain. Many features of the landscape, natural and manmade, pertaining to war and peace, are shared, most particularly, ancient roadways and ancient earthworks. The land has been turned over and over, for millenia, and in that can be found its value, meaning, history, and destruction.

Dartmoor evening. Winter 2013

P1030786_Edited_Edited

Even a landscape which might be seen to be totally different from the the chalk and and sandstone downs running to Dover and Thanet, or the rich farmland of Great Stour, or the marsh of north and south Kent, shares many of the qualities of having been worked, travelled, dug, farmed, worshipped and fought over. Even the great granite protusion of Dartmoor tells similar stories of our many pasts:

‘For God’s sake, let us sit upon the ground/And tell sad stories of the death of kings…’ (Richard II (A3S2)

So I am beginning to see the trenches and redoubts of the First World War in a different, or multiple perspectives. Walking the astonishing chalk roads in the Yew and Juniper woods near Merstham, on the way to Dover, on rock cut and polished by centuries of hooves, feet, and more recently mountain bikes, I am powerfully reminded that a road is, by definition, a defensive position. Or that, looked at another way, the action of centuries of travellers not only cuts down into the rock and earth, but in the process, throws up banks on either side. When we read the accounts of life at the front, all sides of the 14-18 war, it’s perhaps instructive to note that the most quotidian activity, was moving through them; the descriptions of walking, crouching, wading at the front, are, if you like, descriptions of travel on ancient roads, under extreme duress. War, as ever, simply puts the everyday into sharp and painful focus.

Talking to a young woman in Sarajevo, not long after the end of the siege, this was expressed very powerfully for me. I asked her why she risked her life, as a teenager, running along the ‘sniper alley’ by the old market, to get the cinema? ‘But normal life went on,’ she smiled. ‘We all wanted to meet at the movies. It was the same with food. I remember bursting into tears, after my mother managed to get a cabbage. I hadn’t seen a fresh vegetable for a year.’

Another aspect of the worked land, which consideration of the war throws into a brighter light, is digging, mining. Everywhere you walk, along the North Downs way, you stumble across the evidence of mining. On the top of hill, pits reveal iron workings from pre-Roman days, everywhere there are the flint diggings, so important for tools in the neolithic era, then, more recently, for facing buildings, for flintlocks. Then the hills not far from Dorking reveal the lime-mines, when cement was needed in the industrial revolution, to supply the gargantuan appetite for brick of our recent centuries. No war more than the first world war explored the necessity to dig more, to dig deeper for safety, or to undermine, or to undermine the underminers. Ford Maddox Ford’s hero, Tietjens, is tormented by the memories of the sounds of German engineers, their pickaxes somewhere below his bunker.

Thinking about this, I found the following in Alan Armstrong’s, ‘The Economy of Kent 1640-1914’:

‘I have seen men, with a life line fastened round their bodies, securely tied to an iron crow bar driven into the ground at the top, and some few yards from the edge of the chalk cliff. There would be several men working at different heights quarrying the cliff, which would sometimes crumble beneath their feet.’

And of course, everywhere, especially with the harvest in; ploughing. Yesterday, we got lost, as the path we were seeking had been temporarily obliterated by the necessary work of the farmer after a good harvest. Edward Thomas put the tragedy best:

‘This ploughman died in battle’

0000000000dover (14)

Harvesting onions south of Reculver. September 2014

 

27th September – Darkling Plain

On the long, and spectacular train ride home from Glasgow, yesterday, I took the time to re-visit some of the texts which I have been gathering, the ideas welling up from the walk to, and circumscribing Dover and Kent. One of these very much in my mind this morning, as my wife and I spent time in front of an imaginary landscape, by the Dutch artist, Philip de Konnick (1619-1688).

 

The text, irrestible as my reading of this landscape of dikes and distant hills, was of course, Matthew Arnold’s ‘Dover Beach’, or rather, it’s prophetic ending.

‘Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.’

He wrote that 65 years before the war broke out,  inspired by the ‘long line of spray/Where the sea meets the moon-blanch’d land,’ beneath the ‘cliffs of England’, ‘glimmery and vast’.

Little is known of de Konnick’s life, but his picture suggests to me, that after the Restoration, he may have taken the boat to Kent, and seen the counterpoint of lowland and downs of the Stour Valley. But, as is so often the case with the great landscapists of the time, particularly Ruisdael, one can see a prophetic cast in the land, as prophetic as Arnold, of how the fictional Christopher Tietjens, in Ford Maddox Ford’s ‘Parade’s End’, describes the land, remodelled by modern war.

‘A dawn-land road, with some old thorn trees, they only grew really in Kent. And the sky coming down on all sides. The flat top of a down!’ (‘A Man Could Stand Up’ – Parade’s End, P.604)

An hour with de Konnick’s landscape. National Gallery, 29 09 14

26th September Banality and Cruelty

I am between concerts in Glasgow, unlinked to ‘Channel Firing’. My main concerns, in between rehearsals, in the time spent in a hotel room, are preparation, practise, and concert clothes. Just after I had hung last night’s suit up, I remembered the routine for military executions in the British Army. The British executed 4 of their own in 1914, 55 in 1915, 95 in 1916. I am not sure that the figures reflect an increase in savagery or draconian sentencing; rather that the proportion of soldiers suffering from what we would now recognise as PTSD, had increased, exponentially, as the war went on. In the whole war, the Germans executed 48 soldiers.

IMG_3997_Edited

But, it was Adam Hochschild’s (‘To End All Wars) description of the routine, designed to ensure a shot to the heart, which came to me as I hung up my suit; I’ve illustrated it, and it’s hanging on my wall now.

‘A officer pinned a white envelope over each man’s heart as a target’ (Hochschild P.243)

The Kent born poet Siegried Sassoon, says it better than I can:

‘You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye

Who cheer when soldier lads march by,

Sneak home and pray you’ll never know

The Hell where youth and laughter go.’

 

My indignant reaction to the ceramic poppies filling the moat of a castle not 10 minutes walk from my front door in Wapping, reminds me of the straight line which was drawn, between Spy, Coward, and Conscientious objector. After all, it was the fraudster, liberal MP, and propagandist, Horatio Bottomley, who called for ‘COs’ to be shot in the Tower of London. It’s worth reminding ourselves that the Tower of London was where Germans accused of spying, 17 of them, were shot during the war.

IMG_3189

 

Cornflowers and Poppies in a meadow, near Kits Cotty House. August 2014

 

24th September-to Music

We have confirmed that on the 30th October, we will record the music for this project. Works by Elgar, Granados, Janacek, Holst, Ives, and Delius, as well as new pieces. I found myself drawn, this morning to the War issues of the ‘Musical Times’.

The September 1914 issue concerned itself with some of the pscyhological effects that the war was expected to have:

‘The intense obsession of the mind’-‘a sort of stupor and a feeling that the ordinary concerns of individual life are jejeune and insignificant’.

And the following, which in retrsopect, is touching, or heart-breaking, or both:

‘It is observed that recruits are bring marched to the London Stations in gloomy silence’. A ‘recruiting bands’ organisation is being established to ensure their getting a stirring send-off.’

This immediately reminded me of the painting by J Hodgson Lobley in the Imperial War Museum collection. Casualties from the Battle of the Somme (1916) arriving on the trains from Dover at Charing Cross. A very different ‘gloom silence’, tragically.

 

charing cross

(signed)J Hobson Lobley 1919.

 

18th September-for Patricia Hampl

Still haunted by the path from Margate, and then south from Reculver two days ago

I have realised that much of the past month or so has been influenced by conversation with, and the work of Patricia Hampl. Her ‘Spillville’ is a visionary approach to Dvorak in Iowa, and opened my ears and eyes to music that I thought that I knew. She notes:

‘I suppose that makes this trip a pilgrimage: in the footsteps of”

21st September-Exploring linked symbols

Walking East out of Wye, the hillside was covered in thistles, particularly the Slenderflowered Thistle (Carduss Tenuiflorus) flocks of Goldfinch (Carduelis Carduelis). Both of them symbols of the Passion, of the thorns and thistles which made up the Crown of Thorns, the Goldfinches which feed on the flowers-the latin name, means Thistle Eater. A reminder that the flowers and animals which have surrounded me on this journey have complex webs of imagery. A flower, of whatever colour, means so many things. The Poppy is not only used by Hypnos to bring sleep, or Morpheus to bring night to the land. It is also a symbol of the Last Supper, as it grows in the cornfield, amongst the grain which will eventially become transformed, through trans- or consubstantiation, into the body of the Saviour.

So for today, a voice from the stunned years after the war, Delius’ ‘Lullaby for a Modern Baby-to be played or hummed’ (1923), filmed in rehearsal at Edvard Grieg’s house in Bergen.

Lullaby

17th September. ‘He Paweth in the Valley’

Walking through the astonishing marshland between Ferry Crossing and Canterbury yesterday, we came across a group of very happy horses, up to their fetlocks in water, eating in the reeds. Upon looking at one of the last pictures I took during the day, a closer look revealed this (click on the picture to get a better look):

0000000000dover (16)_Edited

The motto on the horse trough turned flower pot is from Job 39:21

I confess that I had not noticed it, when I was taking the picture of the Royal East Kent Yeomanry memorial.

Over the past month or so, we have been walking along ancient roads, which for the majority of their existence were dominated by the horse; bearing soldiery, pilgrims, wool merchants, pulling farm machinery and produce …

It is estimated that at least 8 million horses died on both sides in the war. I think that it’s only fair that I post the whole of the quote from the book of Job which has been affixed to the horse trough. It’s missing, but, tragically, very much in the air:

‘He paweth in the valley, and rejoiceth in his strength: he goeth on to meet the armed men.'(Job 39:21)

I need say no more.

16th September. Shorelines, hidden landscapes, palimpsests

0000000000dover (7)_Edited

Ancient Roadway on the beach. West of Margate 16 9 14

Today, walking from Margate station to Dover, confronted by landscapes ancient and modern, the layers and palimpsests which this project has forced me to reconsider. My work with the Margate-raised composer, Nigel Clarke, has been an inspiration in this, and so many other things, and his stories of growing up on this beach, where his father was a decorated lifeboatman, were in my mind as we walked.

0000000000dover (15)_Edited

War Memorial by the Gate of Canterbury Cathedral

At the end of our bath, under the astonishing lightness of Canterbury Cathedral, a WW1 memorial that encapsulates so many of the issues of past and present, the longing for an age of vanished chivalry (which really wasn’t)

And a few hours earlier, the astonishment of Reculver church, built by Abbot Bassa in the 7th Century on the corner of the 3rd Century Fort which the Romans built to guard the eastern shore of the Wantsum, now merely a trickle, channeled through dikes.

The Saxon church was enlarged in the 1100s, but stood intact until 1809, when the mother of the local priest became obsessed that it was a ‘poppet show’. So it was pulled down, all but the towers, useful as a navigation point for ships entering the Thames.

Other landscapes appeared, more reminiscent of the Apollinaire and Satie, which surface again and again in this exploration.

12th September-Processing material from the walks

In the water: Pegwell Bay 13 9 14

Over the next few days, I will bring more material gathered walking from Winchester and Ramsgate to Dover this summer. Here’s an example, which I expected to find, but was just no sure where it would turn up.

1922 ‘Waiting Room for Passengers’. East Kent Road Car Company. Sandwich. Photo taken 9-8-14

We found a lovely lunch in Sandwich in a cafe near the Guildhall, with its astonishingly preserved 17th Century Courtroom. We ate fish pie and home grown vegetables under a wonderful ‘bunte’ of beams and rafters, not a few of them, clearly ‘salvaged’ from the many churches, either during the Reformation, or when they fell down in the 17th Century. But it was a 20th century building (albeit half-timbered) which caught my eye, in the square outside. The East Kent Road Car Company was formed in the summer of 1916, from a number if competing bus companies in the area (most of which had been granted licences two years earlier to serve the burgeoning tourist trade, which had blossomed in the long hot summer of 1914). Shortages of parts forced the amalgamation, and, come the end of the war (Christian Wolmar’s ‘Steam and Speed’ had already alerted me to this), the company was able to expand with ex-military vehicles, suddenly in surplus; this began the British trucking boom, from which the railways never recovered.

The ‘Waiting Room for Passengers’ is charming; though no longer in use for its original purpose (there’s a huge snooker table inside at the moment), it is beautifully preserved. It’s a testament of the nostalgia for a lost medieval age which spurred the building of myriad ‘half-timbered’ suburban semi-detached houses in the  interwar years.

10th September-Ah Robin, gentle Robin, tell me how thy leman doth

Lunch by the Fisher Gate (ca 1340). Sandwich. With a little help from Bradshaw (1863), and Pevsner

Concert programme in Sweden, including one of my new works for ‘Channel Firing’

Tomorrow, I am going to play my version of Thomas Wyatt’s song ‘Ah Robin, gentle Robin…’ which has emerged from this project, at Musikhögskolan i Malmö, along with works written for me by Judith Bingham, Dmitri Smirnov, and Elliott Schwartz. Wyatt was born at Allington Castle on the Medway, and may have been the lover of Anne Boleyn. As we walked the Pilgrims way to Dover, it has been impossible not to be moved by the attention of the ‘lovely Robin’, which has accompanied, it seems, ever step through hedgerow and woodland. I always find myself talking to the bird.  John Webster sheds a little light on the melancholy association of the bird, in his tragedy The White Devil (1608)

‘Call for the robin-red-breast and the wren/since o’er shady groves they hover,/and with leaves and flowers do cover/The friendless bodies of dead men.’

 

00:00

00:00

 

 

9th September. Walking Ramsgate, Sandwich, Deal, Walmer, Dover

St Peter’s Church, Deal. Wooden Cross, the grave marked of Major R D Harrison ‘Killed in Action 16th September 1917’. The two mottos, ‘Ubique’ and ‘Quo fas et gloria ducunt, on the cross, tell us that he was either a member of the Royal Artillery or the Royal Engineers. ‘RFA’ confirms that he was a member of a ‘Royal Field Artillery’ brigade

This was a long walk rich in layered history, and astonishing beauty. It’s fascinating to me, that as we walked south, over the traditional landing sites for the Saxons and St Augustine at Ebbsfleet, the Roman and (secret) First World War Port at Richborough, we first found ourselves confronted by a more modern relic. Crumbling gracefully into the sea, wildlife and marsh reclaiming it, the almost forgotten Hoverport at Ramsgate. This was mooted, in my childhood, as a perfect example of military technology-landing craft, hovercraft technology, finding a peaceful use (though no one who was ever close to one of these hovercraft would say that!). Petrol prices put paid to that. and now, the terminal is a natural wonder-the runways and marshalling spaces slipping into the sea, a footbridge to nowhere from the sandstone cliff at the west. Ozymandius, again.

One of the ‘runways’ at the old Hoverlloyd Terminal at Ramsgate 9 9 14

It’s clear that, with the departure of the terminal, Pegwell Bay is returning to the state described in my 1863 ‘Bradshaw’:

‘No one would think of stopping a week at Ramsgate without going to Pegwell Bay, where the savoury shrimps and country-made brown bread are supposed to have been brought to the very highest degree of perfection’

It was in the shattered church of St Peter in Sandwich, that we found the haunting memorial from 1917 (see above). This palimpsest of a building, which even includes the remains of a Dutch chapel built by my Hugenot forbears, offered a moment of tenderness, the tomb of a 14th century couple; local worthies, probably merchants, their heads angled so they could see the altar from their chest-tomb.

14th Century couple in St Peters Sandwich

 

8th September. Wyndham Lewis, Sir John French, Charlotte Despard

Tomorrow, we are going to walk from Ramsgate to Dover, by way of Ripple Vale, birthplace of Sir John French, epitome of the old guard who failed to recognise that warfare had changed, and his extraordinary sisters, Charlotte Despard, pacifist, social reformer, suffragette, vegetarian, and the lesser known but no less remarkable ‘Katie’ Harley, who died in 1917, aged 62, serving as a nurse with Serbian army.

For some reason, reading about these contrary siblings has drawn me back to the earlier vorticist work or Wyndham Lewis, and Levinson’s futurist shell-blasts with which he began the war. That’s the only way that I can explain this.

8 9 14 (Pen and Carbon)

This afternoon, working with composer David Gorton, on his response to the ‘Acoustic Mirror’. Here, playing his work for my exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, two years ago.

GORTON CAPRICE

The conversation with David Gorton was fascinating, not least because, he of all my collaborating composers, has built a powerful ‘psycho-geography’ of the landscape and military ruins of the East Coast near the Wash. So he is ideally placed to make these ideas a reality.

 

6th September. Mal-air

Today I will be posting some ideas about the Black Death, and Malaria in Kent in the War. This issue arose at the onset of hostilities, as the possibility of infection being brought home by soldiers returning from Eastern Mediterranean. The fears actually proved justified; 500 people in Kent were infected, although none died. Up until the end of the 19th Century, the link between Malaria and the Mosquito was unsuspected until the pioneering work of Ronald Rose. Ever since the first reported instance of the contagion in the 16th century, inhabitants of marshy areas in the UK, had been at risk. In many areas, Opium, from poppies specifically cultivated for this purpose was introduced into the died, in an attempt to stave off the disease. It was not uncommon to find large percentages of Marsh or Fenland areas in the East and South of England to be addicted, and pubs offer opium-laced beer as a pre-emptive. Rose (before the war) created ‘mosquito brigades’ in order to clear blocked and stagnant pools and ditches. These brigades became de facto  military operations come the war (the Imperial War Museum has hundreds of images paintstakingly documenting their wartime work in Kent).

 

1914/15 Anti malaria treatment in Kent. Experimental dyke for treating waters.

Drainige ditch on Luddenham Marsh August 2014

Walking around the (manmade) lowland areas of Kent, in the Stour Valley, the North coast, it’s impossible to not see the risk, with, at this time of year Spirogyra-clogged ditches and dykes like the one above. Fascinatingly, Malaria was being used among soldiers as a treatment for the scurge of syphillis. Sr Alfred Jones, Ross’s rival in the research, discovered the effectiveness of this treatment whilst researching an alternative method of preventing the spread of Malaria, which involved well-aired, un-crowded accommodation, the clearing of cluttered farm-buildings and outhouses. The IWM website provides plenty of evidence that both techniques were being put to use.

However, the word ‘Malaria’, literally ‘Bad Air’ points to a history that looks back beyond the first cases of the disease in the UK, and to the old fear of infection through ‘miasma’. Shakespeare is full of it:

‘O, when mine eyes did see Olivia first,/Methought she purged the air of pestilence.’

 

5th September. Bringing elements together I have published a preliminary version of a short video piece based around Anton Webern’s ‘Bagatelles’, which mark the beginning of the War. This uses some photos gathered on the walk to Dover along the length of the Pilgrims Ways, paintings, and material from the inspiring exhibition at Dover Museum. CHANNEL FIRING FILM

And still gathering the ideas.

The pity war distillled (Owen)
The sweet relief, the straggling out of hell (Blunden)
When the burning moment breaks (Grenfell)
When the guns died to silence, and men would gather sense (Gurney)
Those hollows in the heart (Herbert)
Car-sharps toying with the people’s fate [my trans] (Arcos_
Beams hot with blood (Goll)
Spectral form upon the throne (Anon 1916)
In dead men, breath (Graves)
Of dying heroes and their deathless deeds (Sassoon)
Here our bones lie mixed (Houseman)
Les Mort sans haine et sans drapeau (The dead, without hate or flag) (Arcos)
A sheaf for Death (Plowman)
Fields with shame sown deep (Hale)
Too few for drums (Owen)
Flesh we might have saved (Sackville)
Trodden deeper in the Mud (sassoon)
These glorious chivalries, these deeds of gold (Freston)
The dead’s brief immortality (West)

 

Still from ‘Channel Firing’ Film

4th September-the era before.  Some hours in Tate Britain, lost in wonder at the richness of the paintings running up to the war. We went backwards, beginning with Levinson, and Spencer, and Gertler, and Wyndham Lewis, and then were swept off our feet by Lazlo, Lavery, Millais, Watts, Hunt, Rossetti, Leighton, Tissot, Landseer, Burne Jones. Sat and talked and drew for a long time in front of Tissot’s 1874 ‘the Ball on Shipboard’. The awning to protect the partygoers from the summer sun is made from the draped flags of the German Navy, Britain, Austria, America, Belgium, France – dressed overall, meant all the flags of all the nations, and some flags which would cease to exist. There would be very different embarkations in the future, and my drawing, unwittingly, came to reflect that, the more that we talked and looked.

Inspired by Tissot’s ‘Shipboard Ball. Tate Britain, 4 9 14

3rd September. A day of Music and Poetry

Faversham Creek. Low tide Photo PSS August 2014

Working with the wonderful pianist Roderick Chadwick on more of the music which is going into the project. Today, Elgar, Janacek, Granados. At the same time ideas rattling around of some of the themes which are bubbling up as I walk to and from Dover; too many to count, just here, as they appeared. Here, only poets in English, so a very one sided list. The image of Faversham creek, at low tide, seems to fit the collection.

Inter arma enim silent leges (in the time of war, the law falls silent) ”When thys batayle was done” (Malory) ‘our fathers lied’ (Kiplling) In the day when Heaven was falling (Houseman) ‘Living pictures of the dead’ (Newbolt) This ploughman died in Battle (Ed Thomas) Uncounted shapes of living flesh and bone (Shore) Their feet had come to the end of the world (Owen) Great death has made all his for evermore (Sorley) The larks still bravely singing, (Macrae) ‘Blood drenched intellegence/beating for light’ (Rosenberg) ‘But determined to hide the bad’ (Gurney_ ‘You are fuel for a coming spring’ (Monroe) ‘A dark bird falls from the sun’ Lawrence Mimic battle ends with a sob (Barrington) Black ruins of frenzied night (Nancy Cunard) I could not look on death, which being known/Men led me to him, blindfold and alone (Kipling) These laid the world away (Brooke) Bleach the bones of comrades slain (Houseman) ‘Red war yet redder’ (Hardy) A box death brings (de la Mare) But until peace, the Storm (Sorley) Celestial choirs are mute, the angels have fled (Monroe) Cruel men are made immortal (Rosenberg) Is this the last of all? Or this- or this?(Farjeon) Brother lead and sister steel (Sassoon) Other flowers rise (Farjeon) Was it for this that clay grew tall? (owen) The brains of science, the money of fools (Smalley Sarson) But I had seen a hateful thing/Masked in the dignity of Man (Brett Young) Still we drudge in this dark maze (Blunden) In dead men breath (Graves) ‘With the seal of subtle lying'(Kennedy) War was foundering of sublimities (Graves) And the children/Went…(Osbert Sitwell)

This is, very much, inspired by the work of composer Nigel Clarke, and Malene Skaerved, who have helped to drive this forward. 1st September 2014 Conkers and Cordite

Wapping Harvest. Autumn is here. 1 9 14

This morning, collecting horse chestnuts in Wapping, I was reminded of the following announcement in the KENT MESSENGER ’27th October 1917 URGENT APPEAL FOR CONKERS – 200,000 tons of horse chestnuts are called for in appeals published in local papers.The horse chestnuts will be sent to drying stations, where starch will be extracted from the nuts.Acetone from this starch will be used to produce cordite, a vital component in munitions.Miss Baillie-Hamilton, of Greenway Court, Hollingbourne, has been appointed to organise conker collections on behalf of the Department of Propellant Supplies. Children from local schools respond enthusiastically to the appeal. (Kent Messenger 27 10 1917′   Conker fighting is not what it was. I remember the schoolyard of my childhood, carpeted with broken conkers. I would commandeer my father’s tools to drill holes in the perfect nut. However it strikes me that there may be, just may be, a link between the apparent military application of the humble, inedible conker, and it’s perceived value as a weapon of war. Many of the references to the game until the 20th century refer equally to other, more edible nuts being used, so I wonder whether the iniativ spearheaded by Ms Baillie-Hamilton in Hollingbourne, drove the imagination of schoolchildren, rather more than it had any quantifiable result. The end of October would seem very late to think about it (and if collection was being organised for the following year, it would have been too late to be of benefit). It also brings to mind Wordsworth’s analogy between nut-gathering and the rapine of war, written in the year of the battle of Aboukir Bay: ‘Then up I rose, And dragged to earth both branch and bough, with crash And merciless ravage: and the shady nook Of hazels, and the green and mossy bower, Deformed and sullied, patiently gave up Their quiet being[…]’  (William Wordsworth, ‘Nutting’ (Lyrical Ballads) written 1798 For the second part of my morning, the lovely Canadian soprano, Eve Daniell, came to work on the Holst ‘4 songs’ with me. These are beginning to form an important part of this project.

Working on Holst ‘Four Songs’ 1916, with Eve Daniell. Wapping 1 9 14 .Photo Malene Skaerved

31st August ‘Molten right through our youth’

North from Harty Ferry. 29-31 August 2014

What in our lives is burnt In the fire of this? The heart’s dear granary? The much we shall miss. Three lives hath one life- Iron, honey, gold. The gold, the honey gone. Left is the hard and cold. Iron are our lives Molten right through our youth, A burnt space through ripe fields, A fair mouth’s broken tooth. (Isaac Rosenberg 1916)   30th August Ghosts in the Water

Ghosts in the Water; Oare to Harty Ferry 30 8 14

In Faversham church, preparations were underway for the annual Hop Festival. The lady who we talked to was not so pleased that ‘Shepherd Neame’, who usually sent a Barrel to place in the Nave for the festival, had sent, instead, what appeared to be (her words), a ‘shop window’, with lots of bottles of beer. Nevertheless, they’d also sent enormous mounds of fragrant hops.

Hops in Faversham Church. 29 8 14

At the beginning of the war, it was agreed that the pubs which coordinated the Hop picking in Kent, would use their organisational skills to serve as recruitment centres, but only after the harvest was in.   29th August. A different Coast. Walking around Faversham, Oare, Conyer, and Sittingbourne.  This far from straight walk not only exposed me to a very different landscape than the Downs and Dover, but that landscape, which has been honed, torn apart and controlled by humans for centuries, quivers with its exposed history. There’s no foliage, no hedgerows, no  valley to conceal the stories. One aspect which I have not yet broached in this blog is the natural world. The reaction to the war, from poets, composers, artists, and letter writers, was essentially, a pastoral one. And that has not been lost on Malene and I as we have been able to walk the Pilgrims way in a summer of astonishing natural glory.

Looking East from Ludddenham Marshes 29 8 14. Weather changing

It’s not just a counterpoint, or even a counterpose, but one of the threads running through the experience. Yellowhammers have pursued us from hedgerow to hedgerow the whole length of the walk. Historically, this bird was hunted for its assumed association with the devil, a practice which continued up till the beginning of the Twentieth Century. This may have been a result of its sulphuric colouration, or, more likely , and idea that the black/brown squiggles on the eggs might be some diab0lic script. However, by the time Ford Maddox Ford came to write the first the four books which make up ‘Parades End’ (‘Some do not…) in 1922-3, the association was more benign, and flagged up a natural association with German culture which would be lost in the fog of war.

‘Each knew the names of birds that piper and grasses that bowed: chaffinch, green-finch, yellow-ammer, (not, my dear, hammer! ‘ammer’ from the Middle High German for ‘finch’), garden warbler, Dartford warbler, pied-wagtail, known as ‘dishwasher’.’ (‘Some do Not’ (1924) Ford Maddox Ford, Penguin Modern Classics P.105

As we walked from Oare towards Harty Ferry, clouds of Yellow-ammer, and Pipits swirled around us. It was very difficult to even imagine that we were in the area affected by the disastrous, and, to this day, mysterious 1916 explosion at the Explosives Loading Company factory (2 April), 1916, which took the lives of 109 men and boys.  But,  a tragic aspect to the North Kent coast in the First War, is the number of lives lost, on ships and factories, from here to Sheerness. The open-skyed beauty of the place renders it all the more heartbreaking. Down on the shore north of Luddenham marshes, I found a natural wonder, the skull of a porpoise. This was the climax of a day when nature seemed to be conspiring to push away the follies of mankind. Here it is, and I counfess to wonderment that I can take a train that takes just over an hour from my home in Wapping, and find this creature, majestic even in death.

Porpoise skull, found between Faversham and Conyer Creeks, 29 8 14

28th August Idealism and Denial I am drawing together the music which will make up a large part of my output for this project. Last night, I worked long into the night on two works, by a British and a French composer Gustav Holst, and Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns. Holst, of course is most famous for The Planets, which he wrote between 1914-16, knwn for it’s depiction of ‘Mars, bringer of War’ and for the use of the hymn tune ‘I vow to thee my country’ in ‘Jupiter’. Holst came to bitterly resent the public success of this piece, which he regarded as far from his best. This distaste was heightened by a post-war tendency to re-order the work so that it ended with the jollity of Jupiter, which renders the outcome of the piece jingoistic, to say the least. Almost immediately upon finishing this work, he started work on Four Songs for Voice with Violin, which is the complete antithesis of The Planets.  He was inspired by the recently published  A mediæval anthology: being lyrics and other short poems, chiefly religious (London: Longmans, Green and co., 1915), by Mary Gertrude Segar. The result was a work which was as different from the sound and fury of The Planets as anything imaginable, a work of stripped-down idealism, which reminds me of nothing so much as the simplicity of the chapels and half-revealed wall-paintings on the Pilgrim Way to Dover. Writing this in the year of the battle of the Somme, I think, speaks for itself.

Church of St Mary & St Radegund, Postling: ‘Corbels in the nave, with the sawn off ends of the rood-beam, still coloured.’ (‘The Buildings of England-North East & East kent’, John Newman (ed. Pevsner) Yale (Third Edition), 1983, P.417). Photo: PSS July 2014

This piece has offered me another reading of the dialogues between medieval/mythical notions of Britain and the symbolism which reared its head before and after the First World War. Here’s an obvious example. A large quotient of War Memorials erected in the decade after the war, made use of England’s (and this is an important distinction), patron saint, St George. An example in Kent, would be the memorial in the grounds of St Peters Church, Sandwich,  which depicts the mounted saint, striking down the dragon, and with the inscription:

1914 1919/TO THOSE MEN OF THIS TOWN/WHO WENT FORTH TO FIGHT FOR/GOD, KING AND COUNTRY/AND CAME NOT BACK AGAIN

However, it is worth noting, that, especially after the First World War, the image of St George slaying the Dragon was subjected to re-callibration. Historically, the iconography of this curious saint had fused with that of Perseus … and Andromeda. The most famous images to be seen of the myth of George and the Dragon, in Britain, were/are the examples by Uccello and Tintoretto in the National Gallery, London. In both of these examples, the ‘princess’ (sometimes referred to as ‘Sabra’) is clearly present. She is invariably presented, reflecting her depiction in the Golden Legend, as a figure of constancy, virtue, strength, and certainly in Uccello, phlegm; not pleased that the heavily armed saint is transfixing the pet she leads on a string. The Princess Sabra  is a Marian figure, like the medieval text which Holst set in the second of his songs:

‘I sing of a maiden/That matchless is:/King of Kings/Was her Son i-wis./He came all so still/Where his mother was/As dew in April that falleth on grass:/He came all so still/To his mother’s bower/As dew in April/That falleth on flower:/He came all so till/Where his mother lay/As dew in April/That formeth on spray./Mother and maiden/Was never none but she:/Well may such a lady/god’s mother be’

It’s worth noting how hard the medieval poets endeavoured to distance the annunciation from the rapine of Jupiter with Europa/Danae/Leda et al. And this distinction, it seems to me, is one we should not forget. The absolute ravaging of war; whose primary weapon remains abhorrent violence against those least able to defend themselves, can be represented, over 600 years of history, by what happens, to the St George story when a country is on war footing. Last week, I was in Stockholm, where the cathedral contains a sculpture of the saint, made exactly at the same time that Uccello  by  the German artist Bernt Notke. This horrific image was commissioned by the Swedish regent, Sten Sture, to commorate his victory overy Danish King Christion I at the 1471 Battle of Brunkenburg. This is an image of horrific violence, and the only way that we can be sure (seeing it un-informed) that it does not represent St Michael’s victory over Lucifer, is that the serpent is presented as … female. Nothing more needs to be said. However, when the war memorials sprang up all over the UK in the years after the peace, the dragon was presented, invariably, as a sexless, or male figure. Two things had happened; the violence had been cauterized, the ‘soft underbelly’ hidden from view, and a shift had occured. St George (and here a cue was taken from Spencer’s The Faerie Queene) morphed into an Arthurian figure, almost one who could have sat in ‘siege perilous’, or as Sencer calls him, ‘Redcrosse’. In doing so, history was written by the victors; Britain could claim that it was victorious in a ‘last crusade’. A war which was the result of governments, kings, statesmen, tripping over system of agreements designed to avoid conflict, was re-defined, after the fact, as a ‘war of the cross’, an image underlined by the re-imagining of an obscure Roman saint as a Arthurian Crusader trampling on absolute (female) evil.

The bronze version of the Stockholm sculpture, outside the cathedral. Photo, PSS August 2014

I know that this might seem a reach, just beginning with the Holst songs, but it seems irresistible to me. Here is a link to Elgar’s friend and collaborator, W H Reed, playing this piece with the singer Dora Labette, in 1924. This morning, I have also been struck by two images of Dover. One is from before the war, the other a decade afterwards. Here they are:

Allan Gwynne-Jones RA ( 1892 – 1982) ‘Dover Harbour’ 1929

I confess that before today, I had not come across Gwynne-Jones work before. It is a wonderful engraving, but what struck me forcefully was its nostalgia. This drawing shows the port of Dover almost four decades into the 20th century. There are, admittedly, some of the signs of modern life-somestacks, and what appear to be telegraph poles on the cliff behind the down. The ship moored near us, is identical to the ‘Thames Barges’, of which 8-10 are moored in dock not 5 minutes from where I am writing. These distinctive Sprit-sail rigged, flat-bottomed coasters were in wide use until the end of the second world war-in fact a number of them were used in the Dunkirk evacuations – two of them were stranded on the beach, and left there. This appears to be a comparatively new boat. For all that, Gwynne-Jones has endeavoured to evoke the Dover of the past. This engraving reminds me of of much of Turner’s work, and even of Hollar, from three centuries earlier. There’s no really forceful point to be made, just that we artists, can be accused, even at our best, of pretending ‘like nothing has happened’, or longing for a return to a golden age. It reminds of me of the old adage: “You know, the ‘gold old days’ really, weren’t.” I realise that I do this myself-sitting on deck leaving Dover last week, this emerged-looking west towards Shakespeare Cliff and Folkestone.

from the MS Ryndam, looking west. 10 8 14

I, with justification, can be accused, of ‘fiddling whilst Rome burns’. Where, in this, I should ask myself, is any acknowledgement of what is happening right now, in Gaza, in Urkaine, in Nigeria, in Missouri … ? I have no answer. But here is the other image which struck me this morning – it’s from a pair of late Victorian  ‘photochrom’ photomechanical prints, published in 1905 by Detroit Publishing Co.

‘The Castle from the Park-Dover, England’ (1890-1900) (Library of Congress ppmsc.08352)

The picture shows the pond in what was then, the comparatively new ‘Connaught Park’, which had been opened on the 14th July 1883 by R.H. Duchess of Connaught. The photo would have been taken from beneath the huge whale’s jaw bone which stood at the northwest end of the pond until vandals cut it down in 1967 (solving a problem for the council). It looks to me as if the picture was taken on a summer’s evening, as there are long shadows from the south west. There are at least 4 children in the picture, two of them boys. Everything is tranquil, and whilst this is a brand-new park, with a brand-new pond, with a brand-new fountain, and new planting, and nicely kept lawn. It’s a municipal evocation of pastoral England, all the more curious for being within 5 minutes walk of open countryside. I can only look at it an think: but what is to come for these young people?

‘…But memory like the rose Wakes and outs forth her bright and odorous blooms And builds green hanging gardens in the heart.’ (Martin Armstrong, Before the Battle, London, Martin Secker, 1929)

27th August-‘Locophone’

Puzzling it out. The acoustic mirror between Dover and Folkestone has long lost its ‘stethoscope’ microphone. This is an idea of how it might have worked if that was placed at the centre of the circle whose segmement forms the functional part of the concrete mirror

The composer David Gorton is often inspired by objects, such as the Rosetta Stone in London, an has written pieces reflecting on military curiosities. He has been writing ‘caprices’ for me since 2006, and now is looking at the acoustic mirrow/early warning system erected on the cliffs west of Dover in 1917. I sent him some of the photos which I took of it, and naturally, his questions are i)How does it work, and ii) what is its acoustic.

A close up of the mirror, taken on the last day of my walk from Winchester to Dover, last month

Here’s a drawing I made last night. There used to be an acoustic mirror in the science museum. But what I found yesterday at the IWM was one of the last developments of this technology before the arrival of radar. I have worked out (from a photo of a later model-the Dungeness ones, by the way, are ca. 1930), that if the microphone/stethoscope was placed on a pole (as pictures show) at the centre of the circle that would result from the continuation of the segment/arc made by the concave surface. any directional sound would always reflect at a reciprocal angle, half of which would strike the microphone. This would enable directionality/speed (especially with slow moving aircraft) to be calculated-though it is interesting how, even the later models relied on the hearing of the operator, rather than any technology, to analyse the results. Here’s the 1930’s portable version I found yesterday

It’s clear that attempts were made along the North Downs to improve functionality by having adjacent mirrors of similar type-for some type of triangulation.

26th August. Crossing the water; the wound-dresser

Heavy Weather. Augarrust 2014

It’s increasingly impossible for me to disentangle narratives of past and present, fact and fiction, writing and music, as I bring this project together. Composer Robert Saxton reminded me that Edward Elgar’s father was a Dover Pilot. Here’s one of his professional descendants, alongside our ship in the Channel, two weeks ago.

Dropping the Pilot. August 10th.

I will be recording Elgar’s heart-stopping Sospiri, as part of this project. Like Hardy’s Channel Firing, this piece was written in the spring before the war broke out, a war for which Elgar could muster no enthusiasm. In order to distinguish between sea journeys taken for war and those for religion, the Anglo-Saxon chroniclers of the 7th century simply used direction. In 616 Bishop Laurentius of Canterbury (he had succeeded Augustine, whom he had accompanied on the orginal mission sent by Pope Gregory) ‘He wolde suđofe sae’. ‘South over the sea’ implied St Iago. He was dissuaded by St Peter in a dream. (Peterborough MS). The enlightenment introduced a very different kind of pilgrimage, initially for the privileged; crossing the channel in the cause of Art and Culture, even to become ‘inglese italiano’. By the end of the 19th Century, the pursuit of culture, meant, very much, Germany. Young men and women sought out the universities and art schools of Berlin, Munich, Leipzig, for their self improvement. This would be permamently derailed by the 1914-18 war. For musicians, Leipzig and Berlin were the goals. Elgar’s epochal violin concerto had been published, naturally enough, in Leipzig, in 1910. And then, this afternoon, I found myself, speechless before CRW Nevinson’s French Troops Resting(1916) at the wonderful exhibition ‘Art from the First World War’ at the Imperial War Museum.

Ecce Homo-an hour with Nevinson. 26 8 14 IWM

And Malory’s description of the burial of Gawayne and the compassion of Arthur on the ‘Day of Destiny’ was back with me:

‘And so at the owre of no one sir Gawayne yielded up the ghost. And than the kynge lat entere hym in a chapel within Dover castell. And there all the men may se the skulle of hym, and the same wounde is sene that sir Launcelot gaff in batayle. […]And than the kynge let serche all the downys for hys knyghtes that were slayne, and entered them; and salved them with soft salve that full sore were wounded.’ Sir Thomas Malory-The Morte Arthur ‘The Day of Destiny’ Bk.XXI Pp.710-11

On the HQS Wellington two days ago, another reminder of the Channel, and the hospital ships shuttling the wounded across from France. One of these was the paddlesteamer ‘Viper’, which was requisitioned for this purpose. When the ship was scrapped, the elegant stair case was salvaged for the ‘Wellington’ as she took up ceremonial duties on the River Thames. Here it is:

Staircase from the WWI hospital ferry ‘Viper’ as installed on HQS Viper

25th August: Malory,  Dover 

‘Thn there was launching of great botis and smale, and full of noble men of armys’ Malory. Cog/Carrack at Warnemünde. 12th August

As I have said before, the layering of histories, the making and telling of -stories, is something which fascinates me, and constant return to the Arthurian myth is one which is unavoidable in Dover, and underlay the ‘going to war’ in 1914. Generations had been raised on Tennyson’s Idylls of the King , and in Germany and Austria, Wagner had fanned an Arthurian flame high with the Yggdrasil and Ossian.  Laurence Binyon’s For the Fallen is just the latest turn of a wheel of stories, turning back through the Morte d’Arthur, to Henry the Fifth, to Malory, Geoffrey of Monmouth, to the Homeric forbears that nearly every nation claimed. The ‘topless towers of Illium’ could still, it seemed, be glimpsed, from the White Cliffs.

‘They went with songs to battle, they were young, Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow. They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,. They fell with their faces to the foe.’ (Binyon, The Four Years,  (1919) London, Elkin Mathews, P.42)

Sir Thomas Malory (ca.1480) elaborated on the earlier ‘Mortes d’Artus’ and explicitly begins the ‘last battle’ between the forces of Arthur and his son, Mordred at Dover, before running his the armies west along the downs to doom in the west country. This came to mind last week, running into a replica Hansa ‘Cog’ on the German coast near Rostok, and a fatefilled sky.

‘And so as sir Mordred was at Dovir with hys oste, so cam kyng Arthur with a great navy of shyppis and galyes and carykes, and there was sir Mordred ready awaytying uppon his londynge, to lette hys owne fadir to londe uppon the londe that he was kynge over. /Then there was launching of greate botis and smale, and full of noble men of armys; and there was muche slaughtir of jantyll knyghtes, and many a full bolde barowne was layde full lowe on bothe partyes.’ (The Morte Arthur, Bk.XXI, P.709, Lines 6-12, OUP, 1971)

24th August Hospital Ships, Cleopatra’s Needle Back on firm ground, and enraptured by the experience of sailing to and from Dover. By complete chance, today, we found ourselves today onboard HQS Wellington. A thought-provoking exhibit on the hospital troop ships of the war. This picture is inspiring me, especially as I have just spent the past two weeks playing 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th Century music on board ship for the past two weeks. And reading a letter from William Lomnor to John Paston I, written on the 5th May 1450, I ran into the account of the violent death of the Duke of Suffolk, on board ship off Dover. I am unable to resist the layers of history which the 1914-18 conflict seem to set vibrating. This horrific image is just the latest.

‘And in the sight of all his men he was drawn out of the great ship into the boat, and there was an axe and a stock; and one of the lewdest of the ship bade him lay down his head, and h should be fair ferd {dealt} with, and die on a sword; and took a rusty sword, and smote off his head within half a dozen strokes, and took away his gown of russet and his double of velvet mailed, and ladi his body on the sands of Dover. And some say his head was set on a pole by it, and his men set on the  land by great circumstance and prayer. And the sheriff of Kent doth watch the body, and sent his undersheriff to the judges to weet what to do, and also to the king. What shall be do further I wot not, but thus far is it…(The Paston Letters, Ed.Norman Davis, OUP 1983, Pp.27-8)

But back to the Thames. Half a mile from the HQS Wellington, one of the most enduring relics of the destruction of 1914-18. On the night of the 4-5th September, 11 Gotha Bombers attempted the first night raid on London. Navigation was largely a matter of luck, and only five of the planes that made the attack got to London, of the nine that made it acrros the channel. The others found their way to Suffolk, to Margate and to Dover.   One of them attempted to hit Charing Cross station, and got very close, as the Needle is only a couple of hundred metres away. The damage was extensive-killing two people on a passing tram (including the driver), and ripping open the roadway, exposing gas and electricity lines, as well as the District Line, running a few metres below. The scars in the granite plinth, and to the bronze sphinxes remain, offering a mild warning of what was to come, quarter of a century later.

Damage to the plinth of one of the two sphinxes adjacent to Cleopatra’s Needle, on the Victoria Embankment, London. (photo PSS, 25 08 14)

I was immediately reminded of the first sight of the vessel which was built to transfer the obelisk from Alexandria to the UK in 1878, as it appeared, in tow,  at Dover.

The ‘Graphic Magazine’ for 1878, depictinsgthe arrival of Cleopatra’s Needle at Dover, in 1878

 

Approaching Dover from the North, 22-8-14

August 13th-‘Unfit! Unfit!’

Far from Dover. Gotlland to the East. 13 8 14

Far from Dover, steaming off the coast of Gotland, reading the ‘Song of Lewes’, which dates from the early 13th century: ‘’Thou shalt rider sporeless o thy lyard [grey horse]/Al the ryghte way to Douere ward; Shalt thou neuermore breke foreward, Ant that reweth sore.” (Song of Lewes Lines 39-41) I find that these Middle English texts help me to find a ‘way in’ to thinking about Dover in 1914-19. I think that the reason is, that the war footing returned people to a phlegmatic outlook which reminds me of the outlook of the middle ages. Phil Eyden’s ‘Dover’s Western Heights in the First World War’ is providing a fascinating counterpoint to this reading. I am very grateful for his research and insight. Eyden’s account of the death of Private William Burton, on November 5th 1915, has an almost Chaucerian quality; Burton’s body was discovered at the base of Shakespeare Cliff: ‘A 34-year old quiet, introspective man who had not been passed fit for active service, […] he had disappeared whilst setting up targets on the firing range, and a search party was sent out to look for him. Burton was still alive when discovered, but died whilst being rolled over. A note was found in his pocket stating “Unfit! Unfit! Cannot be murdered by Germans. These unmerciful and inhuman beasts. May my soul rest in peace out of the way.’ (P.30 ‘Dover’s Western Heights in the First World War’, Phil Eyden, Riverdale Publications, Dover 2014_ 9th August – In the Channel

Taking Ship from Dover-boarding through the old SECR terminal. A blazing, beautiful August day. Under the gaze of Henry II, the Pharos, Gawaine, and the harbour, almost empty now, save the ferries. Just the echo of drifters, caravels, and the 20 ships which the merchants of Dover had to make available for two weeks of the year to William the Conqueror, according to the Domesday Book

8th August -Back to Dover Time thinking in Dover Museum and Dover Castle. Two things struck me. A WWI nurses uniform, and the exquisite decoration on Queen Elizabeth’s Pocket Pistol-a weapon made for Henry the 8th in the 1540s-just after the Battle of Boulogne. It’s impossible to be here, in this beautiful port, a natural fanfare for arrival and departure, without remembering everyone who has come through this ancient port, in peace and war.

Constable’s Gate and the Keep of Dover Castle. Seen from the the steps of Dover Museum. 8 8 14

Figure of Victory on ‘Queen Elizabeth’s Pocket’ Dover Castle 8-8-14

Red Cross insignia on Nurses Uniform, Dover Museum 8 8 14

Wenceslaus Hollar’s view of Dover Castle. 1642

Today I am spending time in Dover, working with the Museum on the public outcome of this project. That great musical traveller of the 18th Century, Charles Burney, is on my mind:

‘Sunday June 1st 1770: ‘Arrived at Dover in order to embark for France, but was detained there by a foolishe acciednt which happened on the road from having left my sword,  that necessary passport for a gentleman on the Continent. I thought it of consequence enough to remain at Dover until I recovr’d it, which has not until Wednesday night. However this delay gave me the opportunity of seeing the castle and of lounging about the town with a person very dear to me who had accompanied me thither: and the situation of Dover is such as must strike everyone who sees it as unique, It is wonderfully bold and sublime; but Shakespeare’s description is so much more wonderful than then thing itself, that this famous cliff is always diminuration in my eyes compared with his poetical picture of it.’ (Burney in Italy P. 1)

Of course, he epitomised the ‘grand tour’ attitude, albeit remodelled according to his passions. His tour was not the ‘finishing’ education undertaken by young men to model themselves into Inglesi Italiani, but a rigorous and energetically programme of research, one might say of musical anthropology. One aspect of the Grand Tour was that it necessarily eroded social barriers between travelling Englishmen (as is powerfully on show, albeit in different circumstances, in Forster’s Room with a View). So ‘it should come as no surprise that Burney associated with the Henry Fuseli in Italy.’ It was Fuseli’s wild style, which a few years later, it was suggested, had ‘contaminated’ another thoroughly Italian Englishwoman, Maria Cosway, who had grown up as, Maria Hadfield, in Italy. 7th August    ‘To the inhabitats of Dover and Neighbours and all whom it may concern, Take notice: a state of war exists and mobilisation has been ordered.’ Proclamation 4th August 1914, the General Officer commanding Dover Fortress. The 4th past, and I am sure that I am not alone in having a very ambivalent reaction to the aspects of this anniversary which are being publicly commemorated. The blood and poppies flowing into the moat of the Tower of London is a particular example, and all the more troubling, as it is pouring out and around that building, sloshing around the foot of Tower Hill. Perhaps that’s the point. I will come back to the poppies later….

Uneasy memorial. An hour with Karl Dujardin, National Gallery, 4 8 14

The never ending passage of travellers to and from the sea, is solace. Chaucer’s pilgrims, of truly earthy sort, crossed London Bridge from St James Church, and that was quite enough for the first day’s journey; they settled into the Board at Southwark. Walking home from Lincoln’s inn last night, today’s bridge-which is a little to the west of the original, lit up the way across the Thames. Don’t forget, this is the only bridge to have been made with the comfort of walker’s feet in mind. It has heated pavements, so that the quotidian tide to and from London Bridge station, don’t slip on the ice in the winter.

London Bridge, Looking South from Fishmonger’s Hall. 6 8 14

 

5th-6th August Arrivals and departures ‘…a flash between darknesses…(Rupert Brooke)

The arrival of Charles II at Dover in 1660 keeps resonating, for me, prefiguring, so powerfully the arrival which most symbolised the end of world way, Woodrow Wilson on the 26th December 1918.

President Woodrow Wilson, accompanied by the Duke of Connaught, arrives at Dover 26th December 1918

Samuel Pepys accompanied King Charles, back from exile in 1660, from Scheveningen to Dover: (25th May 1660)’By the mornig we were come close to the land and everybody made ready to get on shore.  … he would go in my Lordes barge with the two Dukes; our captain steered as my lorde went along bare with him. I went, and Mr Mansell an one of the King’s footmen,( with a dog that the king loved, which shit in the boat, which made us laughe and me think that a king and all that belong to him are but just as others are) went in a a boat by ourselves; and so got to shore when the king did, who was received by Gen.Moncke with all imaginable love and respect of his entrance upon the land t Dover. infinite the crowd of people and the gallantry of the horseman. Citizens and noblemen of all sorts. The mayor of the town came and gave him a white staffe, the badge of his place, which the King did give him again. The mayor also presented him from the town a  very rich Bible, which he took and said it was the thing he loved about all things in the world. A Canopy was provided for him to stand under, which he did, and talked awhile with Gen. Moncke and others; so into a stately coach there set for him and so away straight through the town towards Canterbury without making any stagy  at Dover. The shouting and joy expressed by all is past imaginable.’ (Pepys Diary Volume 1 Pp.50-51 King Charles II and Wilson’s arrival’s in the UK both marked the end of periods of austerity. In Charles’ wake, artists and musicans flooded into the country, from Germany, the Low Countries, Spain, France and Italy.  From the silence which had descended on England’s theatres, concert halls and churches at the end of the commonwealth, the country erupted in a riot of music, plays, ballet, painting, poetry…King Charles II and Wilson’s arrival’s in the UK both marked the end of periods of austerity. In Charles’ wake, artists and musicans flooded into the country, from Germany, the Low Countries, Spain, France and Italy.  From the silence which had descended on England’s theatres, concert halls and churches at the end of the commonwealth, the country erupted in a riot of music, plays, ballet, painting, poetry… Pepys would be enchanted by one of these new arrivals, the violinists Nicolas Matteis, whom he recorded hearing in 1674. Nicola Matteis-G major Prelude Peter Sheppard Skaerved- Violin (Workshop recording in St Michael’s Cornhill-Christopher Wren)

00:00

00:00

Samuel Pepys-‘Novemb. 19th 1674. I hear that stupendous violin, Sig. Nicholao (with other rare musicians), whom I never heard mortal man exceed on that instrument. He had a stroak so sweete, and made it speak like the voice of a man, and, when he pleas’d, like a consort of several instruments. He did wonders upon a note, and was an excellent composer. … nothing approached the violin in Nicholao’s hand. He plaied such ravishing things as astonished us all.”’

I find a fascinating resonance between these two events,which  both marked the outbreak of peace, and Rupert Brooke’s description of this experience of  going  to war. When he writes ‘we marched to Dover’, in truth, the march was from the Royal Naval Brigade camp at Betteshanger, the three miles down hill to the port. Rupert Brooke to a friends, 1914: ‘We were pulled out of bed at 5 am on the Sunday, and told that we started at 9, We marched to Dover, highly excited, only knowing that we  were bound for a month. Old ladies waved their handkerchiefs, young ladies gave us apples, and old men cheered us on and children cheered and we cheered back, and I felt elderly and sombre, and full of thought of how human life was a flash between darknesses, and that  percent of those who cheered would be blown into another world within a few months; and they all seemed to me so innocent and noble, and my eyes grew round and tear stained.’ (The Collected Poems of Rupert Brooke, with a Memoir, London Sidgwick adn Jackson Ltd, July 1918) Brooke had already memorialised his departure from Dover in a poem of 1909: ‘A Channel Passage’ The damnder ship lurched and slithered. Quiet and quick My cold gorge rose: the long sea tolled; I knew I must think now of something, or be sick; And could think hard of only one thing- you! You , you alone could hold my fancy ere! And with you memories come, sharp pain, and dole. Now there’s a choice – heartache or tortured liver! A sea-sick body, or a you-sick soul.   Do I forget you! Retchings twist and tie me, Old meat, good meals, brown gobbets, up I throw. Do I remember? Acrid return and slimy, The sobs and slobber of a last year’s woe. And still the sick ship rolls. ‘Tis hard, I tell ye, To choose between love and nausea, heart and belly (December 1909) 4th August Towards Dover

4-8-14 (Walk cross section, Merstham to Farnham) Workshop recording Wapping 04 08 2014

00:00

00:00

Peter Sheppard Skaerved-Violin (W.E.Hill & Sons 1903)

Another piece emerged over night, as the 4th August dawned. It’s a tentative walking piece, a pilgrimage in the wrong direction, from Merstham to Farnham, reflecting the cross section of the walk, chalk, sand, mud, two river.

The score of the new piece, with the most British of violins, my beloved Hill 1903

 

The path beneath. On the North Downs Way to Dover. July 2014

Things fall apart. The sense of uncertainty, that the centre could not hold, dramatically affected Stravinsky’s approach to the string quartet. Inn 1914, he wrote what has come to be seen, as perhaps the most dramatic reimagining of that form, his ‘Three Pieces’. Nothing would every be  the same again.

00:00

00:00

Igor Stravinsky-Three Pieces for String Quartet Stravinsky, Igor: Three Pieces for String Quartet (1914 rev.1918) Kreutzer Quartet (Peter Sheppard Skaerved, Mihailo Trandafilovski, Morgan Goff, Neil Heyde (Live recording 2014

Channel Firing: Approaching Dover atop the Warren (31 7 14). With a little help from Rupert Brooke and TH White’s bestiary translation

During the First World War, many of those who served were trained to drive-something not available to the vast majority of the population prior to 1914. When the war ended, the newly demobilised troops (most were back on ‘civvy street’ by the end of 1919), were given the opportunity to buy ex-army vehicles with their (widely varying) demob payements.  Many of them set up freight haulage  businesses. Rapidly, this, plus the low price of gasoline, drew freight away from the railways, and they never regained their former domination. Last year (2013) 2206278 trucks passed through the port of dover, with it’s 28000 inhabitants…. Swords & Ploughshares

On Brabourne Down. 31 7 14

The first tank built for the British Army in 1915 was nicknamed ‘Little Willie’, having been built by ‘William Foster & Co.’ of Lincoln. This firm had spent the second half of the 19th Century building threshing machines for farms. Walking on Brabourne down from Wye to Dover we found a John Deere tracked tractor at work on soft ground-a peaceful benificiary of the evil that men do.

Channel Firing: approaching Shakespeare Cliff from the West, the town and Western Heights beyond (31/7-2/8/14). Apologies to Hollar

3rd August 2014 Walking Towards Dover-various histories emerge

Documenting the walk. One of the crossections I have made-this one showing a segment walked from Mersham to Guildford (East to West). It records a deliberately non hierarchical range of things, from 1890s fortifications to wildlife.

It seemed important to walk to Dover. Having previously undertaken a large scale artistic project linked to the town (for DAD’s ‘War and Peace’ project), I felt that I needed a new perspective. I live right in the Centre of London, by the Thames at Wapping. It seemed obvious that I should walk the North Downs Way this July, to have the feeling of the Town, of the histories, of the war, and as it turns out, many other things, slowing coming into view. I immediately realised that much (but not all) of the this magisterial hill-track is the old southern Pilgrim Way, for some, on their way to Compostella, and more, going to Canterbury. There  was no logic in that finishing at Farnham (where the North Downs Way ends), so I have taken it further, out along St Swithun’s way, to Winchester. This walk took 6 days, and we finished on the 1st July, with the wonder of approaching Shakespeare Cliff from the west, with hundreds of miles under our boots. As we walked, the many travellers who had taken that route to and form Dover seemed to join us.

There is a cliff, whose high and bending head Looks fearfully in the confined deep: Bring me to the very brim of it, And I’ll repair the misery thou dost hear With something rich about me: from the place I shall no leading need. (Lear IV-i-76)

Many medieval pilgrims gathered in London around the churches clustered in what is now the ‘Square Mile’, taking Mass at St James’ Garlickhythe, a mile or so from where I am writing, and like Chaucer’s gang, crossing London Bridge (Chaucer’s pilgrims regarded that as enough travelling for one day and went straight to the pub). They still seem to hover around the ‘river churches’. The oldest of all the city foundations, All Hallows by the Tower, has 15th century German sculptures, of a pilgrim (with his cockle shell), St Roch (the lepers saint) and the patron saint of travellers, St Anthony of Egypt, which I suspect were brought to the church by just such pilgrims.

A morning in All Hallows by the Tower. The Saxon Chapel, underground, and a 15th Century sculpture of At Anthony of Eqypt. Two small miracles. 21 7 14

So the idea of pilgrimage has found its way into this project. At the very least, the parallel between the trek to war, and the trek to enlightenment to faith.Quests. This piece, a true walking work for violin, quite literally represents grace, inspiration floating around the traveller, trudging her or his repeating four steps, four notes, without variation. It has been on my mind as we neared Dover on the ancient chalk road. Biber-Chaconne-Mystery Sonata No 16 ‘Guardian Angel, companion of Mankind’ (ca 1680). Peter Sheppard Skaerved-Violin.

00:00

00:00

 

More from the Pilgrims Way: Titsey Church, from Joelands Wood. 28 6 14

Reflecting on the year 1914 The year that the war broke out inspired a wide variety of responses-from the heroic to the mocking. I am not quite sure where to place Erik Satie’s extraordinary 3 pieces from 1914 . This piece has been something of an obsession of mine for many years. It is Satie’s only published work for violin and piano, although there is also another (untitled movement) for the combination. The piece is one of Satie’s funniest, and also most melancholy, and it always feels to me that the composer was playing a Magritte-like game with language. The score is littered with playfully poetic performance instructions, ranging from ‘dry and distant bones'( which always put me in mind of T S Eliot’s mock-surreal’I should have been a pair of ragged claws/Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.’) to ‘crest-fallen'(penaud), after a violin cadenza which is marked ‘with enthusiasm’. The exquisite chorale which begins the work is marked thus:

‘My Chorales equal those of Bach, with this difference; they are less numerous and less pretentious’

Satie-Choses vues à droite et à gauche (sans lunettes) 1914 (Choral hypocrite-Fugue à tâtons-Fantaisie musculaire) Workshop recording. Peter Sheppard Skærved and Roderick Chadwick. London  2014 Peter Sheppard Skærved & Roderick Chadwick

00:00

00:00

I will leave it to Apollinaire, who died from his wounds at the end of the war, to respond.   Ocean of Earth I built a house in the middle of the ocean Its windows are the rivers which flow from my eyes Squid groan everywhere as they stick to the walls Hear their triple hearts and their beaks tapping the glass Humid House Hot House Fast Season The Season that sings Aeroplanes beat the eggs Attention-they are going to cast their anchors Watch out for the ink they are ready to throw It would be best, if you varnish the sky The goat-leaf of the heavens The palpitating earthbound squid But then we are our more and more our own gravediggers Pale squid on the waves of chalk, squid of the pale beaks You know the ocean around the house Which never rests (Apollinaire)

Apollinaire’s extraordinary landscape came back to mind, walking from Margate to Canterbury, a month or so later

2nd August 2014 – Ideas, sounds and images gather It is coming clear to me that the interest of Dover in the First World War, is, at least in part, one of typology. Over the next few weeks, I hope that it will become clearer what I mean by this, but first I should explain what I mean. In his Essays in Typology (London, 1963), Woolcombe writes:

‘All parts of the pattern were closely related to each other and converged on the central motif: and all the patter between the beginning and the central axis mirrored the pattern from the central axis to the end.’

In my case, the ‘central axis’ is ‘Dover-1914-1919’. The typologies which are emerging are not only temporal-past/present/future, but of geography, of biography, of idea, of geology, botany…..the list could go on.
‘Mrs Rosanna Forster from Kent is a chimney sweep, carrying on her husband’s business while he serves abroad. Here, she walks along a road, her brooms over her shoulder.’ (National Maritime Museum Collections)

But the model of music is my guide. Every piece of music is mapped onto another. My teacher, Louis Krasner, commissioned and premiered Alban Berg’s Violin Concerto (another typology-the first performance took place to a background of gunfire in Barcelona in 1936). The concerto, famously ends with a transformation of J S Bach’s version of the Chorale ‘It is enough…’ .  The chorale itself was written by Martin Luther. Krasner was adamant about how I should work with this as a young musician:

“Bach wrote (this chorale) so that Berg could find it, and Berg wrote his concerto so that Bach could write his chorale. If you don’t know this, then please leave now.” (Conversation with Peter Sheppard Skaerved Boston 1989)

 

From one of my notebooks-a survey of chamber music fro 1913-1919 (left to right, in columns, and, ringed in blue or red, composers who died. Rudi Stephan, Albert Magnard, Lilli Boulanger, and Enrique Granados, who died when the SS Brighton was torpedoed out of Folkestone) 2 8 14

Some of the links which are emerging are visual ones. They are not always obvious, and sometimes, I am not sure what I am drawn to them, or make them. Here’s an example:

Foundation Stone (possibly 12th Century-Postling Church of St Mary and Radegund. Walking the Pilgrim Trail Winchester- Dover July 31st 2014)

 

Acoustic Mirror circa 1917. Walking into Dover from Wye, 31 7 2014

The acoustic mirror has put me in mind of the ‘Prophecies of Merlin’ from Geoffrey of Monmouth’s ‘History of the Kings of England’:  Merlin:

‘In that time the stones will speak./The over which men sail to Gaul shall be contracted into a narrow channel A man on any one of the two shores will be audible to a man on the other, and the land mass of the island will grow greater./The secrets of the creatures who live under the sea shall be revealed, and Gaul will tremble for fear.’

1st August-what am I aiming at…. I am using this to bring together a broad scope of my practice as an artist in the broadest sense: music is at the centre of my work, so this project challenges me to look at the dialogue between that as a curatorial and a creative act (an example, would be balancing works created by composers during WW1 (with an internal balance, a ‘Weltanschaung’ between music from Britain and from the rest of the world), with my work creating music now (with another internal balance, being works created by my collaborating composers and works which I produce-more on this  later. Anton Webern-Sechs Bagatellen Op. 9 (1914) BagatellenMässig – Leicht bewegt – Ziemlich fliessend – Sehr langsam – Ausserst langsam-Fliessend Kreutzer Quartet Peter Sheppard Skaerved, Mihailo Trandafilovski, Morgan Goff, Neil Heyde (Amati Maggini, Daniel Parker, G B Vuillaume) Live Performance 2014 But Music is only part of the equation, the challenge is the ‘site’ this central element with the topography of my visual work (and here is another internal balance/dynamic, between figurative work and non-figurative)-and my work as a writer (which entails yet another balance, between the curatorial act of collecting old writing, and presenting new material).

Channel Firing 2: Royal Flying Corps Airfield and dock defences. After a photo taken from a Zeppelin in 1915

The landscape which all of this is set in is that of history (and this is the most powerful balance,  as I cannot resist the typology of ancient, older history onto the focus iof 1914-19, and all of their projection onto us, today). This sets of another modelling, between Dover, and a broader scale from Kent, to the UK, to Northern Europe, often crossing, as all the elements do, from one integer to another. The most physical environment that this sits in, and this is well under way, is the actual soil, and to that end, I have just completed walking (yesterday) from Winchester to Dover; this walk is serving as a focus for all of these balances (for instance, yesterday, between a 12th century foundation stone in Stowting Church and the acoustic mirror on the cliffs), opening so many ideas and literal vistas. To answer the question: what do I hope to get out of the project? Clarity.

More from yesterday’s time on the North Downs. An extraordinary landscape between Lyminge and Postlng. 1 8

July 2014 ‘Channel Firing’ begins. Can’t define this project much yet, except to bring together the first ‘piece’ ;Desiderata Curiosa I – Richard Plantagenent/Bricklayer (Eastwell 22 July 2014) (after William Cornish/Thomas Wyatt sen.)(For Sadie Harrison)-just at the desk this glorious evening. Marius and Malene Sheppard Skaerved walked it with me, so know more. Joanna Jones and Clare Smith, this is the first fragment…. Peter Sheppard Skaerved-Desiderata Curiosa I – Richard Plantagenent/Bricklayer (Eastwell 22 July 2014) (after William Cornish/Thomas Wyatt sen.)(For Sadie Harrison)(Workshop recording-24/7/14)

undefined

‘Ah Robin, gentle Robin, tell me how thy Leman doth/And thou shalt know mine’ ‘But if I should be so unfortunate as to lose the battel, then shift as well as you can and take care to tell nobody ever that I am your father; for no mercy shall be shewed to any one so related to me.’Richard III to Richard ‘Plantagenent’ before the battle of Bosworth. Register book of Eastwell Parish 1550: ‘Rychard Plantagenent was buryed the 22, daye of December anno et supra.

Channel Firing 1: Jack Cade-the woods at Westwell 26 07 14

Uprooted Beech tree (chalk and roots)Boxley Wood 16 7 14

Everyone sang Everyone suddenly burst out singing And I was filled with such delight As prisoned birds must find in freedom. Winging wildly across the white Orchards and dark-green fields; on-on-and out of sight. Everyone’s voice was suddenly lifted, And beauty came like the setting sun: My heart was shaken with tears; and horror Drifted away … O, but Everyone Was a bird, and the song was wordless; the singing will never be done. (Siegfried Sassoon)

Walking west from Guildford.Two readings of Ancient Yew trees in the graveyard of St Mary’s, Bentley, Hants

Thirty Miles east from Guildford, on the North Downs Way and St Swithins Way. Tracks in the corn. 730am, from East Warren. 9 July 2014

Crossing the zero meridian on the Pilgrims Way, a mile south of Botley Hill. With Malene Sheppard Skaerved, walking Redhill to Chelsfield. 27 6 14

 Juniper

 

 

This set music in my head, most particularly, Nigel Clarke’s extraordinary memorial to Edith Cavell ‘The Scarlet Flower’ (referring to a poem by Martin Westlake. I realised that I was determined to give voice to the opening of this, as a pale, distant echo for muted violin. As soon as I got home,