November 20, 2014


9.30 am. Off to London. It’s wise to sit on the right side of the coach on bright days like this, to avoid the screen of a laptop being bleached by the raking east sunlight:


I’m now in a position to begin writing the final Art/Sound lecture. I can see the end from the beginning, and the beginning of another beginning. The concluding lecture of every module that I’ve written has seeded concepts that have formed the basis of a future module. There’s a danger that a final lecture will serve only as a mop to absorb all those worthy topics that did not find a place in prior deliveries. Ideally, it should draw together, and offer a provisional conclusion to, existing strands of the discussion.


2.00 pm. I arrived in London. My Premier Inn room (bland, familiar, and consoling), sported a diptych quite unlike anything that I’ve seen in PIs elsewhere. The allusions here are to the hard-edged upward ‘thrusting’ metropolis rather than to the consolations of the rural idyll. (I rather miss the latter. Even bad art can endear itself.):


6.30 pm. I arrived at the Royal Festival Hall and the London Jazz Week to hear John McLaughlin and the 4th Dimension:


I’ve heard McLaughlin on three previous occasions, once with this present group, another time with his Indian ensemble, Shakti, and most recently with Chick Corea. A Norwegian power ensemble, the Hedvig Mollestad Trio, opened the show: two female guitarists and a male drummer. (Oh, that more women would take up the axe!) They are an exceptionally gifted young bunch who fused hard rock (with shades of Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin) and an intricate, intelligent contemporary jazz:


There was something ‘present’ in the auditorium tonight. The audience felt it; McLaughlin and his band seized it. In his guitar playing, I heard the fruit of fifty years’ experience focused within one and a half hours. He’s as fluent, fast, dexterous, and melodically inventive as he was in his 30s. But what impresses me more these days is a hard-won restraint, evident in his ability to articulate and situate a single sustained note within the bracket of silence. By the admission of some of the best guitarists today … he is the best of the best.

The great man’s pedal board, which was pored over by men of a certain age with cameras:


As one of the stage technicians wryly remarked to us: ‘It’s not the pedals, you know’. No, indeed. It’s the player’s genius (not a word I use often) and a sacrificial devotion to his craft that is frightening to contemplate.

11.30 pm. Fulfilled! Zonked! Bed.