Have you ever heard of such a thing? I certainly hadn’t, until I bought “Polyphonic Voices of Georgia” by the Anchiskhati Choir, which was released by the World Audio Foundation (a division of Soul Jazz Records) in 2009. I like music like this – during a visit to Greece in 2006 I was struck by the church singing of the Orthodox Church, which I first heard on a broadcast on TV in a hotel in Athens. I cannot claim to know a lot about it, but it seemed like a service was being led by one minister/priest who was singing from what I guess was the bible, while around 4 men sung different melodies and words at the same time. Later during that trip I heard the same thing coming from a tiny church on the island of Spetses.
Anyway, the blurb with this CD explained how Georgian polyphonic singing had been proclaimed by UNESCO as one of the Oral and Intangible Masterpieces of Humanity. Wow! I should know about these masterpieces of humanity! So I looked it all up and ended up on the UNESCO website for Intangible Heritage. From what I can gather, since 2001 various conventions have been signed to recognise these cultural contributions by countries across the world to the general heritage of humanity. Some are called masterpieces, some aren’t. There is a list here of all the additions to the list/s (List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding/Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity) since 2008. There are some wonderful things on these lists, each with a bit of info and a wee video. Incidentally, there is very little from western Europe, though I wonder if that is because our cultural heritage is in what is deemed to be a healthier state than other parts of the world (France try to protect their diet, the Belgians try to protect street games – “Ludodiversity” – nothing in the UK). Here are some of things I have seen and enjoyed since learning of the Intangible Heritage of Humanity:
1. SAMAN DANCE OF INDONESIA
This is a form of dancing and singing practiced by men and women generally from the Aceh province of Sumatra, Indonesia. People sit on their knees in a row and sing, dance, play their bodies as percussion in unison – its brilliant, and is done by young children as you can see in the UNESCO video.
2. TSIATTITSA POETIC DUELLING OF CYPRUS
I am sure you have seen ‘Slams’ of poetry/rappers in the past, probably that one of the English teacher and his ‘pupil’. Well it seems Cypriot’s have been doing something similar for years, musically accompanied poetic slagging matches. Check out the big lad with the stick and the tash…
3. BECARAC SINGING FROM EASTERN CROATIA
A lead singing “batchelor” followed by 2 or 3 part backing, who sings baudy songs of singledom with a cheeky look in his eye. Women do the same. Great stuff.
4. THE Kırkpınar OIL WRESTLING FESTIVAL OF EDIRNE, TURKEY
Introduced by a pageant of drums and flags, following the carrying of a golden belt into the city of Edirne, men get oiled up and wrestle in fields.
5. SUTARTINES MULTI-PART SINGING OF LITHUANIA
Multi-part singing, a bit like weaving songs – mostly only oldster’s singing it now – some nice wooden horns. The young women dancing in the woods sounds great.
6. THE RADIF OF IRANIAN MUSIC
Don’t believe everything you are told about Iran – here is some incredible music, more than 250 melodic units, called gushe, are arranged into cycles, with an underlying modal layer providing the backdrop against which a variety of melodic motifs are set – all of which is related to the days, weeks and months of the year.
7. KATTA ASHULA – “BIG SONG” OF UZBEKISTAN
Men sing while waving plates in front of their mouths, which seems to create a kind of vibrato effect.
8. SETO LEELO – POLYPHONIC SINGING FROM ESTONIA
Women singing in the woods again, sounds a bit like its backwards. Most choirs are composed wholly of women, and the most notable lead singer is crowned on Seto Kingdom Day as the King’s ‘Mother of Song’.
9. THE DUDUK & ITS MUSIC – ARMENIA
The duduk is a kind of clarinet thing, with a wooden sound, which is very pleasing and is made from an apricot tree. I heard quite a lot of music like this in the films of Sergei Parajanov. It’s quite a mournful sound and causes the player’s cheeks to inflate to ridiculous lengths.
10. GEORGIAN POLYPHONIC SINGING
And here is the music that led me to all these things…
Last week I took part in a discussion for part of Edinburgh University’s Innovative Learning Week – the subject of the discussion was “A Critique of Judgement – How do we decide what’s good and what’s bad in emerging practice?” – and I spoke along with Pat Fisher (Talbot Rice), Tamara Trodd and Neil Cooper. Here is my contribution.
SLEEP ON IT
Good or bad is a usually a matter of personal judgement and subjective opinion. For that reason I will concentrate on my own judgement, and how judgement is reached when assessing my own ideas and work as an ‘emerging’ artist.
I have been asked by different people (often relatives) who would not describe themselves as ‘creative’, “where do your ideas come from” – without wanting to go into too much detail, which I feel would be counter productive, I tend to say “I don’t know, I just think about things”.
It would be slightly more generous of me to add “I don’t know, I just think about things, often just before I fall asleep”.
The moments before sleep comes (and most definitely not dreaming) provide me with a sense of clarity and calm, a respite from open-eyed contemplation of the day – a chance to focus on the lava-lamp like, inner-space projections on the inside of my eyes. These moments can seem highly productive, when thoughts, ideas and images, words, sounds and doubts collide and coalesce, and are repeated over and over, refined and sanded down before I eventually succumb to sleep.
Creativity before sleep (not dreams) is a relatively common occurrence – I quote here from www.intjforum.com where ‘Bubbles’ in 2007 stated;
“Last night, I had the weirdest thing happen to me. I was still half-awake (not dreaming) – I dreamt that I was a pianist and this really nice song started playing in my head with violin accompanying it. I was controlling the melody while it played. It sounded so nice, it was almost like a masterpiece. The worse part is that I have no training in music so I have no idea what the notes are or how to reproduce it. Then after that I was having a nightmare about an integral which I couldn’t solve (I found out after I woke up that it was not integrable…”
Bubbles then asked;
“Does anyone else here subconsciously compose or play music before they sleep? Do you get any weird creative experiences right before sleep? I wonder if this is how artists and other highly creative people form their ideas… “
To which there were a number of supportive and commensurate answers;
“Yes, all the time. I’m mostly a guitar player, but I always have these insanely beautiful melodies running through my mind, and if only I knew exactly which notes they were, it’d be amazing. Usually I just hum them for fun.”
In Strict Confidence said;
“I get a lot of ideas when I’m trying to sleep, and that can be a really big problem at times, since my mind wont relax. But some ideas are really creative. I guess it comes when you have no external stimuli to focus on at all, even for an INTJ that means a lot of extra introversion. So the mind starts spinning on every thread available.”
INTJs are one of the rarest of the sixteen personality types, and account for about 1–4% of the population
“The state that you are describing is called alpha wave or alpha rhythm. Happens in the transition from awake to sleep states and vice versa. I have read that it is considered meditative state. and it is very creative. Have seen pictures, but never music. Will try tonight. Thanks”
“I have some crazy thoughts before going to sleep (“I must get the bananas ready for the queen!”) but none of them are really what I would call creative.”
But it is “Justmeiguess”’s answer which comes closest to my own experiences;
“It’s just before going to sleep that I come up with my best writing ideas and so have made a point to write down whatever I think of (which is a pain when I’m in bed wanting to go to sleep!) Sometimes these ideas are for new stories or sometimes I solve plot problems I had been stuck on for the entire day before. Sometimes, however, I discover that I have written down complete nonsense!”
For a while I tried noting the ideas that came to me before sleep, but often came to the conclusion, like Justmeiguess that I had written down complete nonsense.
I stopped writing things down, for a couple of reasons;
it was annoying to have to get up and write, or scrabble around in the dark for a pencil, or attempt to write legibly when already feeling sleep-deprived.
I found that in the morning when I woke, most of the ideas would still be in my head anyway – those that were obstinate enough to remain in my consciousness throughout the night were the ones I deemed to be ‘strongest’.
Now, it is in the morning when I turn to my sketchbook to set out the ideas that seem to be formed in my bedtime contemplation.
I am also keen to keep notes of some ideas which I consider ‘worth coming back to’ – with time, some ideas seem to make more sense than they did when first conceived – this passing of time allows me to come back and execute a work with more confidence and self-belief.
Again, sometimes the work I have already completed only makes sense with the passing of time – I am able to understand the context within which it was made, and am therefore in a better position to judge for myself, whether it was a success or not.
“Sleeping on it” in this context, illustrates only the first part in the development of an idea – I am not suggesting that my ‘best’ work comes fully formed over the period of 6-8 hours of sleep. However, I am putting forward the suggestion that time in general is an essential element in not only the development of creative ideas by artists (in this case me) but in the understanding and appreciation of art work.
Artists need time to develop their ideas, not only in a single artwork, but in their entire practice. Work that could be deemed ‘bad’ by some, can still serve a positive purpose for the artist – what may be called mistakes should be embraced by the artist, as, over time, as in life in general, these mistakes can help to refine and develop the individuals practice.
Therefore, viewers should also give whosoever they consider an ‘emerging artist’ time to develop – and with specific artworks, they should consider sleeping on it before they make a decision as to its worth.
What I want to advocate here, is not creativity before bedtime, nor the exclusion of research or critical thinking, but allowing for the passing of time before making a decision or judgement .
Amongst Erasmus’ collection of proverbs there is one – Tempus omnia revelat – which means time reveals all things
Hume said art that ‘survives all the caprices and modes of fashion’ is subject to what he called ‘durable admiration’
And as CL Smooth said on DJ Krush’s 1996 song ‘by any means necessary, go all out, and keep this alive, cos only the strong survive’
I would absolutely heartily recommend that you buy this album – I confess I am singing on some of the songs, and Hugo is also in Randan Discotheque, but! It is brilliant, imaginative, energetic, vivid imagery, excellent musicianship (99% of which is Hugo) – its like mini prog-pop, some of which reminds me of Kevin Ayers sped up, and as another friend suggested, some a “bit Associates-y”. Hugo is also just finishing a second album, which will be along soon – in the meantime, buy this one here, or listen on spotify before you buy.
Earlier this week we announced the winners of the Forest Pitch primary schools’ strip design competition at Hampden Stadium by Shona Robison MSP. Loads of the 30 shortlisted children came with teachers and parents, and it was a great day, the kids (and me) getting to go out into the stadium for photos. Here are images of the winning designs, plus some photo’s for the day. There were 4 winners, whose designs will be made into actual strips for our Forest Pitch players to wear, and there was also a special commendation which we hope to make into the goalkeepers jerseys – see www.forestpitch.org to see the full shortlist and for more details. All photographs courtesy of Christopher James.
Kerr Carlyle - Dalmilling Primary School (Winner)
Anah Dodds - Letham Primary School (Winner)
Mia Gordon - Edinburgh Academy (Winner)
Amelia Purkis - Lilliesleaf Primary School (Winner)
Ben Logan - Maxwellton Primary School (Special Commendation)