Half a circle

At this point I realise that I haven’t written on the process of creating this body of work, if indeed that’s what it is…I am reminded of a Don Van Vliet quote “I’m interested in playing, not working”, gotta love the captain!

I’ve been overwhelmed by the generosity and engagement of my invited guests over the last 6 months and feel a need to pause and thank them all for the time and effort given to this unfunded, personal project.

It’s been such an interesting process working with the artists through the last 6 months, each bringing their own interpretation and understanding of their zodiac sign and how to engage with the project. As the series has progressed there is a sense that each sign is intrinsically connected to the last, potential methods of interaction and engagement increase with every iteration.

How appropriate at this point in the cycle to be challenged by a Virgo to ‘Do something you haven’t done before‘, I decided to take that principle beyond the improvised audio and break the visual format established in the previous videos too, breaking down the individual video components and creating new visual options for future participants to explore.

I am looking forward to working with my next half circle of guests and hope they will embrace the project as fully as the first half circle and be bold in their suggestions and participation.

“It’s only music when you’re playing it, if you’re not playing it, it’s not music” John Leidecker aka Wobbly

A circle in 12 parts: Virgo

This year’s circle in 12 parts features guest artists chosen by zodiac sign, my guest for Virgo is Jay Hodges:

“I know you’ve seen the note. I know you know what it says. How did it come to this? It’s not my fault, I’m innocent! I didn’t want to do it! I’M A PERFECTIONIST!”.

Ok, ok, back to the beginning and how or why I got involved in all this despicable, unholy behavior. It all started quite innocently in ‘The Before Time’. A couple of visits to the pub and this guy invites me to take part in his New Musick project, I’m a little sceptical but I think ‘hey, just Roll With It‘. He’d found a brewery with extra special ales, delivered free, that we could drink in his home. What a process! Order beer, deliver beer, drink! True explorers, finding random new hops whenever they arose – FOUND HOPS, what an amazing project, I’m fully on board, totally committed. Then he starts drawing circles and all manner of shit happens.

The soundtrack was the start of it all, if we had just used my suggestion of Madonna’s Like a Virgin, her ‘magnum opus’, none of this would have happened. I tried telling him of her integrity, originality and dedication to her art, and the deep emotional content of such a seminal track, but all did was ramble, speaking in tongues, muttering things like; “commodification of music”, “corporate whore”, “selling sex”, strange meaningless sentences. For him the soundtrack would be a live performance, Analogous to the project, something to “sample the Hops and Skip the Juice“. Performance! Sampling! Things were beginning to get weird, his fluid performance was about to become binary and there were way too many binaries in this world; Love and Hate, Life And Death, Analog and Digital.

The Separation and the outlawing of performance should have put and end to this absurdity, but it just fueled his madness, A Perfect Storm, he was to take things to a new level – a full circle with 12 co-conspirators, he had a crew and they could remote. Why he decided to convince me to join up I don’t know, perhaps he felt sorry for me but I was in way over my head. I should have ran there and then but I was committed and guys like me when we commit, WE COMMIT! My part in this demonstrable ritual was to use our original sample plan to create a circle (again with the circles), analog to digital – an improvisation. Improvisation! How could I? It’s against my nature, I’M A PERFECTIONIST! But all he could say was “Hey man, let the computer do the work, this ‘aint no job, it’s a Vocation“. I was reeling, Twisted Sour, my mind recoiled back to simpler times and the Double IPA‘s of FOUND HOPS. Thats it! I would double down, Madonna to the power of 6. I would lure him into unfamiliar territory – a first – and from there bring him back from the brink. However I would also be in virgin territory.

It was during the performance as I was about to unleash the power of the prickly pop princess that he finally revealed himself, amid Wave After Wave of expertly crafted crushing reverberation and modulation – a transformation, a digital wizard, the circle complete, my plan was in tatters, I was lost, the madonna had fallen, there was no going back, BUT I’M A PERFECTIONIST!  That’s when I found the note, carefully placed only to be discovered at exactly the right moment, as the last fragments of reality dissolve. You’ve seen it, you know what it says! Those Dark, Stout, ominous letters rendering themselves onto my being

LIFES A PITCH THEN YOU DELAY

I knew it was wrong, but I did it anyway and I know I can never go back but all I want to do is return to the pub where it all started and begin again, “like a virgin…Hey!… Fucked for the very first time”.

A circle in 12 parts: Gemini

This year’s circle in 12 parts features guest artists chosen by zodiac sign, my guest for Gemini is Ceri Owen-Jones:

“When Jake asked me to take part in this project, the first thing I looked into were the origins and myths of Gemini. At my friend Sue’s suggestion, I went from Latin to Greek (Castor & Pollux) and back to Gemini’s Babylonian origins in the Great Horse Twins, and the parallel Vedic tradition of the Twins, the Ashvins, which means the ‘possessors of Horse’. According to Joseph Campbell, the mastery of the Horse brought a new energy and vitality to the dawn of the Iron Age and its symbolism replaced that of the Bull.

There are many horse songs in traditional Welsh music. I chose to play & record a Ceredigion melody, Y Dau Farch. Y Dau Farch is a conversation between two horses, one old, one young, about their past and future, which feels perfect for Gemini, a sign with an emphasis on duality and communication. Keeping Gemini communication in mind, the albums that leapt out at me in Jake’s vinyl library catalogue were the Welsh language learning albums. I wanted to explore communication in a second language, the difficulties of learning and expressing oneself, how comprehension in certain registers and subtle expression can be problematic.

With what I now know is classic Gemini superficiality, I mis-read Jake’s guide to album choices. Once figured out, I was glad to see that amongst his base-line choices was The Planets by Holst and from this I liked an arrangement of ‘Mercury’ (ruling planet of Gemini) by Tomita, a fuzzy soft Moog version. Jake also pointed out that one of his Gemini readings by Melvin J Gunton and Brian Skinner was made in Canada, a great choice for a Canadian in Wales / a Cymro who grew up in Canada. The constant idea in my life is duality.

My birthchart has seven planets in Air signs as well as my Midheaven (I’m Air heavy!). To represent Air, I chose the tracks Air and Listening Wind by Talking Heads, Walking in the Air sung by Aled Jones, and The Dragon by Vangelis (the Dragon, especially in Chinese myth, being a creature of clouds and air and a potent symbol in Wales). I saw that Jake has two copies of this last record in his listing – found at Emlyn Antiques – one with a cover, and one without.

I added a Miles Davis album as we share a birthday. It was a choice between Dr. Jekyll and Decoy. Although the title Dr Jekyll seems appropriate to describe the duality of Gemini, I veered off with the Decoy as the feel of the music seemed good for the flightiness of the ruling planet Mercury. This album was given to Jake by our great friend Peter Stevenson.

In medieval music, each modal scale was associated with a planet. Mercury was hypo-phrygian and as one of Gemini’s characteristics is the enjoyment of improvisation and the ability to adapt easily, I thought I would improvise variations on this mode based on the Welsh melodies Y March Glas and Triban y Cathreiwr (for the Ox in me).

Thinking of form: moving from calm to frenetic is the two parts, yin and yang, of Gemini. This will be based on feel, and collaborating with Jake. It’ll just have to happen as it happens.

Dragons swirl amongst the clouds. The heartsease, Viola tricolor, with its zygomorphic flowers, are like the Twins. A Tibetan singing bowl to clear the space and air, along with gifts given to me and Elsa (musical Twins) from Jake, completes the Circle.

I paired this with Taliesin of the Shining Brow: Canu y Gwynt; a riddle of the Wind.”

Ceri’s record selection: Talking Heads – Air; Talking Heads – Listening Wind; Aled Jones – Walking in the Air; Disciau Dysgu Difyr – Adar; Miles Davis – Decoy; BBC Radio – Welsh for Beginners; Cwrs Cymraeg llafar;