The world is big
but I would like it bigger still,
more different not less.
Maps show that there’s
still room for one large island
or small continent.
Within, let us suppose,
a people with another calendar,
new names for stars, and constellations
patterned on the shapes
of animals and plants
we’ve not encountered yet.
(The contralope, let’s say,
or else the peeping duck,
the two-toed toad
and then the dipsodillo bush
which moves ten yards
over a century.)
Complexions which we’re unaccustomed
to chime out upon the faces
of the men and women
when you make your mutual discovery,
as they assemble round you on the beach
displaying every shade of blue.
You will find out
they greet each other touching feet.
They have no clocks,
but they have trained
their dogs to softly howl the hours.
They have a way of telling fortunes
based on the bends the river waters
make when one steps in.
They have a form of speaking
called the disconjunctive
which we will never truly understand.
They carve out poems on the
bark of trees
and hang them in the branches.
“A ten-bark tree” is what they call
someone or something
that is much loved.
When sunset comes
some feel an urge
to dance wherever they may be –
lawns, streets or beaches,
porches, benches, tables,
bath-tubs, ladders, window ledges,
unicycles, boats – and while the sky
is flushing, their numbers
grow and grow.
“You’re only dancing well,” they say,
“when you make everyone around you
feel they must join in.”
They make great dives,
from off their cliffs.
“Blue into blue is ecstasy”, they say.
They have designed
with the most complex shapes.
The biggest, having the
span of eight of our pianos,
and thrice as tall,
is laid out when a storm arrives.
The rain and winds
drive surprising music
from its multifold appendages –
flute-chutes, adjusting bells, song-gongs,
murmur pools, gurgoyles and vibro-sieves,
just to name a few.
“Nothing can outperform
the sky,” they say.
So many other things are
there to chance upon
if you’re inclined to stop and look.
They also say, “the world
is big, our minds
should be so too”.
I met a guy playing the kora on the street last night. It is such a beautiful instrument to look at and to listen to. Here’s a description.
I asked the musician whether he was a griot. He pointed to the card in front of him with his name and said “My father was a griot and so was my grandfather. Diabate is a griot surname. Like Sissoko.”
Other griot names, I found out on this page are Kouyate, Traore, Susso/Suso and Tounkara.
It always makes me happy to see and hear a kora, so I thought that I would share my favourite kora song from my favourite kora album, entitled Kairaba Jabi with Dembo Konte and Kausu Kuyateh. I could listen to their conversations, because that is what it sounds like, for hours. It’s also the kind of music that makes you want to set out on a 10,000 mile journey.
Memo to Philips. How can you let a CD called The Art of the Toy Piano go out of print ? It is one of the most surprising records I own. On it Margaret Leng Tan plays pieces like the Moonlight Sonata, Eleanor Rigby and a whizz-bang version of the Star Spangled Banner as well as other compositions made especially for toy piano. Here she is playing the toy piano as well as some other toy instruments.
She is also a specially good performer of John Cage’s music. My first experience with John Cage’s music was not too good. I rode on a train from Bologna to Ravenna which had been specially arranged by him to play his music and the amplified sound of the train. Unfortunately, something went wrong so we never managed to hear any of the his music but only the amplified train noise for two hours. Never mind, I actually like train noise. And later I fell in love with his piano sonatas. Margaret Leng Tan worked with Cage for many years and became one of his favourite performers. In the next clip you can see him telling her so. Watch this one to the end and you will see a surprising up-and-coming performer. I wouldn’t be surprised if Cage had written a piece especially for him/her (hard to tell which) perhaps by marking the keys with smells. There is a page about Margaret Leng Tan at http://margaretlengtan.com/
Certainly not in this case. I have never heard the Pipa played quite like this clip of Wu Man (吴蛮) playing.
The Guardian has an article on her here. And you can hear her play the pipa in music that isn’t at all Chinese in this programme from New Sounds, which is always a good place to find music you have never heard before. (Or at least which I haven’t heard of before).
If you now want to become an expert on the pipa, you can have a look at this book.