Saturday, September 3, 2016

Detuned wanderings.

If ever there was a demonstration of chaotic complexity in learning it is in these "detuned wanderings" that I have experienced in the past few days.

Natures lies depressingly dormant and then in the space of what seems an inkling the desert colours are vibrant.

It is at times like this that I really value the despair that I am able to write here.

I draw it like it is.

What the hell is the point of trying to pretend?

There is an astonishing contrast between catatonic states and sudden energetic flourishes.

That is the nature of our lives.

We are always on the brink of falling apart.

I suppose writing this will help me to deal with parenting of teenagers who, at times,  seem to have transformed into a worrying chrysalitic state.

We must have faith.

I think of my eldest son, who appears to be learning butterfly flight.

He is beginning to stretch those wings.

Untamed elements.

A chance encounter with a post of Amy Burvall "Epherments: Transient Beauty Spliced with Sound."
sparked an unpredictable chain of connections and explorations related in a couple of blog posts here:



A series of blog comments, tweets, DM's and Facebook posts, between friends, acquaintances and unknown but connected Twitter users has enabled the emergence of creative collaboration, exploration, and reminded me of the value of participating in these, at times alienating, digital spaces.

Even here, in these virtual wastelands, wildlife flourishes.

We never know if, what, when, or quite how learning will be sparked.

Bearing in the mind our differences it is a miracle that we can connect.

We never know really why it is possible that it happens.

At times we come together in harmony.

At times we are flung uncontrollably into dischord.

It is easy to forget that there is joy in spinning around together despite at times feeling light years apart.

God, it is hard to hold onto faith at times...

When we see reasons for confusion others may see with clarity.

When we may perceive chaos, others might sense underlying harmony.

Transcending despair is an act of blind faith.

We hold on for grim death - it must make sense, it must make sense.

Why must it make sense?

What has faith to do with reason?

Perhaps we need to fully sense our existence rather than to vainly attempt to make too much sense of life?

I am so thankful to be connected to Terry Elliott's 'Antiharmonium'.

I am so thankful for the support of my friends who are there when my machine is shaking itself apart.

What is it that Terry says when at a loss for words?

Let's go bowling.

What do you say when there is nothing to be said?

We stand, hugging ourselves, trembling fearfully before our threshold of silence.

Suddenly those questions strike a chord with what I remember reading in Mary Ann Reilly's post entitled "Blind Faith".

 "Last night I was reading another book by Thomas Merton (it's like he's whispering directly in my ear). About halfway through Dialogues with Silence: Prayers & Drawings, Merton writes:
But there is a greater comfort in the substance of silence than in the answer to a question. Eternity is in the present. Eternity is in the palm of the hand. Eternity is a seed of fire whose sudden roots break barriers that keep my heart from being an abyss" (Kindle Locations 431-433). 
The substance of silence. Oh my.

Mysteries abound and surely that is for our good."

I repeat those sentences of Merton again to myself.

"Eternity is in the present. Eternity is in the palm of the hand. Eternity is a seed of fire whose roots break barriers that keep my heart from being an abyss."

Seeds of fire.

I return to that feeling of being "ensemble."  

An unexpected DM appears in my Twitter feed.

Wendy Taleo used to play the cello too.

She shares a poem.

I smile, thinking of "trembling before our threshold"...on seeing her poem is entitled 'Vibrato'.


I smile, thinking of the difficulty of disentangling responsibility for creative endeavour, for learning.

Meanwhile, Amy's posting of "Transient Beauty: Spliced with Sound." has opened up for me a whole range of creative possibilities which were sitting there on my smartphone waiting for the moment to take flight.

An initial creative effort of a cello piece for "Ensemble" has encouraged me to investigate further the interest of spending time gaining mastery in the manipulation of the application ThumbJam.

Kevin Hodgson's poem "Broken Strings" attracts me to play with the microphone and the music.

I go back to Amy Burvall's videos and combine it with the performance of Kevin's poem and its musical accompaniment.

In the meantime, Kevin has been enquiring about the interest of ThumbJam on Twitter.

A few hours later and Kevin is busy playing with ThumbJam...

I try to "close-read" his piece.

I am beginning to start listening to music anew.

My cello sawings are forty years dormant.

Those passing years have disabled my bowing and left me only too aware of the gap between my ability and those of my peers.

Starting playing an instrument, starting singing again, jamming with others seemed so unattainable.

I listen again to Kevin's piece.

What notes can I attempt to reproduce?

I realise that I don't have to cover it perfectly for my efforts to be recognized or appreciated by Kevin.

I am suddenly enjoying fluttering childlike rather than flapping frantically like an adult.

I can some way approach his playing on an iphone.

I can participate, meaningfully.

I am suddenly curious again at what I can conjure with my new found tricks.

We investigate future collaborations.

Courage is volatile.

There are many of my friends who fill me at awe at their talents.

I become frustrated at what I consider to be my scribbling, my dabbling, my scratching around.

I remember my mother's words at her frustration with her artwork:

"Oh what the use, I shall never be any good."

One of my most treasured belongings is her scraperboard hedgehog...

I return again to a quote of Warhol that I sent to my eldest son when he asked me about what I thought of his short film.

It is a quote which keeps me going in these "detuned wanderings..."

"Don't think about making art. Just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it's good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding make even more art."

Andy Warhol.

Our courage is "volatile" when faced with this uncertainty of becoming...

Wings pulse, wings pulse, wings pulse, imperceptibly...


I am so fortunate to be accompanied by fellow travellers who know what it is to be "trembling before the threshold"...


  1. I love that you tracked it all. Mainly, because I was going to try to do it, and you did it first. I guess I will be playing cello to your violin, Simon. Or maybe tuba. Can you hear me down here?
    Much appreciated, for the friendship and connection as much as for the creative collaboration and learning.

  2. Yes I can hear you up here.

    Am counting bars before cymbal clash.

  3. As I open and close doors into online friends' sharing of themselves and creative interactions for a couple of seconds here and there, I pause longer inside your posts, Simon. I want to put work and everyday humdrum aside to really put a magnifying glass to your shared thoughts, insights, music, art... (Is that too dramatic? A feeble attempt to manipulate words without skill) I've pulled out some silken threads and shared on Facebook.

    1. Thank you Tania for pausing here a while with me. I love your writing -please do more :-)

      "We are great writers on the same dreadful typewriter." Ginsberg

  4. Amazing reflection. Glad that we believe in our harmony from "detuned wanderings" so we continue to "make art" and remix to mediate understanding. Love this: Don't think about making art. Just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it's good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding make even more art."

    Andy Warhol

    1. We would do well to spend more time remixing the notes of others so as to familiarise ourselves with different perpsectives. Thank you Sheri for helping us all continue to believe in working together.

  5. Comment from Laura Ritchie:

    I cannot seem to comment on your blog... but here's what I tried to post - (feel free to put it up if you'd like!) :)

    It has taken me two days to get to reading this, and sometimes things happen at the right moment. On the first day of a new semester, even the title speaks to me and is something I long for - detuning. I feel so wound up. Tight. Taught. Overstrung. and then I read. The cello. the cello. The Cello?? You played - how could I forget. I love the music in the latest tweet video you posted. Is THAT the cello piece you wrote about? Is there a score? Can I record it for you? and Wendy played too?? so many links. and you say 40 years dormant. That is 'but a passing breeze' as the happy-go-lucky song 'Happiness Runs' says. I would teach you if you ever wanted to play again. really. :) connections lead to doors, and I'm finding many open doors. The choice is which to walk through.

  6. Thank you for this lovely comment. I posted it to the blog. It would be great to have real cello playing to these scraps of Thumbjam improvised pieces. I would love that. I have forgotten so much in 40 yrs. I can't even remember how to read music now :-) So there is no score. I know that now I wouldn't have the space to focus on cello playing. Maybe later - when I stop teaching sometime in the not so distant future. For the moment I am taking pleasure in being able to express myself musically for the first time in so many years. It is rather like being blind and then being able to see a suspicion of light.