There is a generation to which I clearly do not belong. A generation that is about to be lost to us. I have a lovely girlfriend who is a doctor and as part of her training she worked on a geriatric ward with people of the age I’m talking about. This story is one she told me recently, and I like to remind myself of it often – as a shot-of-reality, if you like.
This dinner party is full of questions. None of them answered. And it’s been going on forever. I would have liked to have gone to bed hours ago. At least.
The question of Why? is sitting in the corner on it’s own, ignored by the other guests who seem to skirt around it like a barnyard dance step. The question of How-Many? is already totally plastered and sprawled, legs-akimbo, under the drinks table. The question of Are-You-Doing-It-Right? has been at my side and in my ear since the gathering began.
I offer no apology for the fact that this piece is written in both past and present tenses. Nor for the fact that I have used the imperial measurement system, as opposed to the metric. I grew up with the former and this is the way I have always written this piece.
Mention the Australian outback to most people, be they from another nation or other parts of Australia and visions of a vast, barren desert, miles upon miles of virtually nothing except a bush here and maybe a tree there and plenty of red bulldust, are usually conjured up. Overall not an attractive picture, so most would think.
How wrong can one be.
Every day they can be seen shuffling down the main street, arm in arm. The ladies! Two women who could be in their mid-eighties, but could also be one hundred. Always laughing and talking at top volume to each other. Yelling at each other over their inadequate hearing aids. Arm in arm.
A good friend of mine wrote to me last week about how he had finally reached a stage in his career where he feels accomplished. He has, to some extent at least, mastered his craft. Before I closed the email, I marveled for a moment at the awesomeness of being able to say that you’ve mastered your craft. As I returned to work on the images for this month’s column I thought, “yeah … same!”
As I cast a spectacled eye around the waiting crowd I saw that each little bundle of perfection was doing something. One was practicing pirouettes, one was playing violin, one was rehearsing acrobatic tumbles, one was singing … I felt a sturdy ball of dread lodge itself in my throat.
My music – suggestive, with preferably more for the performer than the audience. I actively want the majority of people to dislike my music, or, more accurately, distrust what they hear – which is more than just turning a negative into a positive, I just have a different idea of perfection. I have used chance procedures, graphic notation, textual and theatrical instruction both bizarre and traditional. I think I’m still a way off writing the music I really want to write. I love notes, I can’t think of a better way to spend my time doodling impossible lines of music, pushing a fragment of material to its exhaustion, delighting myself in symmetries (broken and total), patterns and relationships. Toying with probability assists inspiration, I keep dice and bingo balls on my desk, along with scrabble tiles and containers of pitches, waiting to be plucked out and written down.