Music & Light, 10 April

Purity, would that be the Coalsack blackening the foot of the Southern Cross or Venus (a superstar like Madonna or the holy virgin)? Saturn standing close by, is a small looking guy, though appearances can be deceptive. He is the god of Russian Oligarchs, as well as liberation.

I am beneath a Gumbaynggirr sky
I am beneath a Celtic sky
I am beneath a Greek sky
I am beneath an Egyptian sky
I am beneath a Taoist or Buddhist sky
I am beneath an Islamic sky
I am beneath a red light, smaller than Mars,

flashing overhead, alternating with two pale lights blinking on the end of wings gliding through the heavens bursting with silence, natural and unnatural. The apparent velocity confounding, but what’s natural anymore? Everything is a mix of both, from the air, the water, our bodies, our thoughts, our music, our art. It’s not as if artifice rusts, or we tire.


Jetty Beach, Coffs Harbour

Lunchtime, forgetting the markets, the sun being rare these days and being a Sunday morning, we are stuck in a traffic jam, first for very many years. I find a lucky park and take a short cut across the grass, spattering my legs in black mud. I shower by the beach, while Wyn gets Syrian lunch. I would have asked whereabouts they came from. I am sat in the theatre of almost an English beach scene, apart from the blue sea, orange socks drying on the bench beside me, and the humus.

I am not enjoying the pleasures, the sea and beach, the intertidal zones have become habitat for me. I have abandoned playgrounds, old enough to witness life forms that are vanishing. We don’t stay.

The North Coast Regional Botanic Garden
The storm has been through the Botanic Gardens, uprooting trees that smashed others down. This beautiful trunk should be standing vertical, not lying cut into neat lengths like pastry. There is still plenty of life around. A Brown Thornbill gives me a quick look between his frantic foraging. A dragon, keeps an archaic eye on me. We are being watched. Exotic fruits, the colour of wonder, atrophy to dust on the ground.

Brown Thornbill

Water Dragon\

The glasshouse is about to open a pristine new habitat for plants that don’t belong, that can’t grab wild. The glass is new, intensely transparent.

The Japanese lake is home to generations of Moorhen and three species of weed, including South American parrot’s feather, a semi-submerged problem. And so far, impossible to deal with. I detect the water sending out urgent messages. I record some kind of digital code while a pair of Magpies, pair of Peewees and a Willy Wagtail, all ordained in black and white, dance around our feet. The world is subsiding from what’s natural.

Jealous of these three Bird’s-nest ferns. We had three, all different species, all died.


Chamber Festival, Coffs Harbour Regional Conservatorium
The concert must go on. A string quartet down from COVID, teachers and students step in with the unnatural coherence of untold practice and discipline. Never a fan of Mozart, finding it dance music, the third movement of Mozart ‘Hunt’ Quartet, blew me away, sounding so innovative. I wonder why the name. Paul Dean (the clarinetist) tells us he wishes he could teleport to hear Brahms and Mozart play in the same string quartet, though it was probably out of tune and sounded terrible.

He tells us Brahms had retired, given up, was drinking at the Red Hedgehog every night, told someone, ‘In the morning I write a quaver and, in the afternoon, I remove it.’ The Wagnerian forces had won, then he heard a clarinetist and reborn, started writing some of the most wonderful works for the instrument. Opus 115 is gloriously romantic, the slow movement aches for Clara Schumann’s love. The Australian String Quartet were fabulous.

We were in the front just feet away and listened to bows scraping magical music, but could hear the sound of aircraft, a deep rumble. At the back, close to the roof, the air-conditioning must have been off putting. The sky before dawn was so quiet.

All the musicians muster on stage for fun, including a very young girl with a double-bass bigger than she. Paul Dean, introduces Copeland’s Appalachian Spring with aplomb, telling us that his early works from Paris followed the atonal trend. At the premier in 1925 of Symphony for Organ and Orchestra the conductor Damrosch famously remarked, 1925, “if a gifted young man can write a symphony like that at age twenty-three, within five years he will be ready to commit murder.’ Though I like the piece and now seems simply musical. He explains the synopsis of the music commissioned by the choreographer Martha Graham, ‘a young couple get married and are happy’. We all laugh. It is music to face up to a depression and war.


Patrick Brearley, Executive Director of the Con put an amazing chamber music festival together over the weekend despite all the difficulties. After an enthusiastic and well-deserved standing ovation, I rip my mask off, we go straight home chatting about the concert. I play ‘Go Go Penguin’ loud, the bass shivering. Rob Turner’s drumming subtle and sublime, the music carnal, filling the room. I wish I could write it all down.


21-year-old Johannes Brahms wrote to 35-year-old Clara Schumann, ‘If the great longing that has possessed me during the last few days has any influence on my playing etc. it ought soon to enable me to cast a spell over people.’ August 1854, a year after they first met through her husband Robert with who she had eight children.

Show More

Related Articles

Check Also
Back to top button