players like hiiles Davis and John Coltrane and Wayne Shorter, and the younger players like Dave Liebman and Steve Grossman and hiike Brecker.’ But ior him, the guitar is the more innovative medium. ‘lt’s the guitar players who are coming up with the newer sounds, together with the keyboards. There are some great horn players, but the guys in the 1960s really said it on horn. in terms oi innovation in the last decade the guitar has come into its own. The guys who are coming up with new things, like Balph Towner, Frisell, or James Blood lllmer, are playing guitar. I sure hope it hasn’t peaked, still has somewhere to goll think it has-there are so many possibilities on the instrument.’ Scoiield will be exploring some oi those possibilities at Glasgow’s ilenry Wood Hall on 19 November: Edinburgh Dueen’s Hall (20th); Aberdeen Music Hall (21 st); and Dundee Whitehill Theatre (22nd).
language alive and in
A couple oi years ago an unlikely sounding candidate took the Scottish theatre-going public by storm. ‘The Puddok an’ the Princess’ was the tale ota bombastic, personable puddock (aka irog) with an extraordinary grasp oi the Scots tongue and unreasonable notions about marrying a princess. Pertormed by Theatre Alba, it was gloriously iunny and a box oilice hit. tlow author David Purves is venturing into the tray again, thistime with ‘The Knicht oi the Riddles.’
Like ‘The Puddok’, ‘The Knicht’ is based on an old Scots iairy tale that has its counterpart in the European tradition. Purves discovered the tale when translating it into Scots. lt lollows the lortunes ottwo hail-brother princes who ﬂee their home when they discover that the Dueen is trying to poison one oi them, and who eventually wind up at a castle where the lling protects the hand oi his beautiiul daughters by involving would-be suitors in a riddle-solving test.
The tale has many oi the recurring themes oi iairy-tales world-wide -the wicked stepmother, the
hall-brothers. the beautiiul
princess, the stern lather and the suitors’ task - a iact that lascinates Purves. ‘These are based on very deep, primitive things, like inlantile notions oi parents. The wicked stepmother represents the split between good mother and bad mother which is howa small girl might see her mother. I suppose the reason iairy-tales are so powertul is because this inlantile stage continues to tunction deep inside most oi us alter we have grown up. in these stories there are some interesting psychological truths.’
Working on this particular story Purves iound several; ‘The comradeship between the two hall-brothers is quite interesting, and the relationship between Alastair and his mother. So is the king. the man with an obsession - an attempt to combat the boredom oi being a widower.’
lie also seeks out the humour in the tales, some oi which is vested in the language. ‘The Puddok an’ the Princess’ extracted mudh oi its comedy irom the old Scots idiom - yet Purves also has enormous respect tor the language. ‘l've written a lot oi poems in Scots. When i was a child both my grandparents were living in the house and I suppose the language was based on what they said.’
lie ieels that it is important to keep the
currency. lie does not see himsell as crusading at all, ‘But I suppose even to write in Scots now is, in a broad sense, a political thing.’ The Knicht oi the iiiddles, Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh. See Theatre Listings.
in these very columns oi the last issue oi The List, wonder was expressed at Glasgow’s third iestival oi new music in lust overtwlce that many months, but this issue brings news oi yet anotherlestival, entitled ‘liow’s The Time’, running atthe Henry Wood itall irom Friday 26 - Sunday 28. Promoted by Platiorm, it takes its inspiration irom the creator oi the title tune, Charlie Parker, and breaks down the walls oi these obstructive boxes with ‘lazz’ and ‘ciassical’ labels on them through exploring composition and improvisation in diiierent
areas oi music.
tiewa commissioned ior ‘tlow’s The Time’, is ‘Sweeney Astray’, iortwo clarinets by Glasgow composer William
. Sweeney, who hastens to ' explain that the name is
really nothing to do with him but ‘the title oi a series oi medieval lrish poems about one oi the tribal chieitains or kings called Sweeney. Legend has it that because oi his blasphemy he was turned into a bird to wander lreland as an outcast‘. it’s not the first time that the Sweeney character (the irish one) has turned up in recent times. As Sweeney (the Scottish one) says ‘Seamus ileaney did a translation a couple oi years ago and the mad Sweeney crops up in T. S. Eliot and also in Flann D’Brien’s ‘At Swim, Two Birds’ (see below) When i was thinking oi doing something ior two clarinets that included improvisation, which is what this piece is, this seemed to be a good way to tie that to a theme’. Platiorm is usually known ior putting on performances oi (an in Scotland but, says Sweeney, ‘l don’t have a background oi writing or playing jazz, although my music has been described as having a background oi Gaelic and jazz, but i really don’t know how much (an there will be in it.’
In contrast, early
December (Saturday 5, Edinburgh College oiArt and Sunday 6, Third Eye _ Centre, Glasgow) brings the Scottish premiere oi Sweeney’s ‘Sonata’ ior viola, marimba and claves, by the New Music Group oi Scotland, which he describes as ‘having no improvisation in it. it’s probably the nearest l‘ve come to the minimalist style. For the viola partl started thinking more oi West Airican music, with
‘ rhythmically metrical
patterns repeated and repeated and then adjusted’.
More oi Sweeney‘s music can be heard when he conducts the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra in ‘Cumha’. the Gaelic word ior energy, commissioned by this year’s St Magnus Festival, on Friday 20 (see listings) and then the John Currie Singers give the premiere oi ‘an seachnadh’ to poems by Aonghas hiacneacail in February. it seems that ior Sweeney now’s the time in more ways than the iestival taking Charlie Parker’s words as its title. (Carol Main) tlow’s The Time. 26-28 tlovember, Henry Wood liall, Glasgow. Sweeney Astray (premiere), Friday 27, 8pm.
In the second of her regular columns Sheena MacDonald looks at the nature of rememberance.
‘What kind of McDonald are
4 you?’ asks the woman, hopefully. I know what she means. Not - are you the usual kind of intermittently concerned, regularly self-centred, inevitably impotent sort of McDonald (much like the average MacKenzie, Kelly, Singh and - I dare say - Campbell) but, where are you from - originally?
I tell her. She’s disappointed to ﬁnd that we cannot therefore be kin. Nonetheless, in the brief time we spend together, she entrusts me with her family history. Her grandmother, she says, was born on Rannoch Moor— yes, on the moor. Her grandfather, who was present (think about it), was sent for help, running across the miles of rock and heather. Four years later, aged fourteen, he joined up, fought in India. The Indian Mutiny (think about it). He came back and married the baby girl now grown whose life he’d helped to save.
You can’t save them all. No moorland chill, but diphtheria stole away three or four of the fourteen he fathered. His wife lived to be eighty-four— ’and she always had a very hard life, Sheena.’ And that’s it - time’s up. We part. But the vital information has been passed on, the decades - centuries even — spanned for a brief moment, the essential facts - birth and death — confirmed.
And I think three things.
First, I know nothing about her, or her husband, or her parents or brothers or sisters. In the time available, she has chosen to tell me about her grandmother— her times and hard times. And I think I understand why. The longer you live, the closer you move towards the past. Family lore intrigues. You kick yourself for not interrogating granny more thoroughly before she went. The sepia snapshots tantalise with the stranger in uniform, the familiar but unidentiﬁed face beneath the
picture hat. It’s one of Time’s tricks — ‘
here’s another: the managed slaughter of boys and young men over ﬁve muddy bloody years some seventy, seventy-five years ago is less comprehensible, less forgivable, more truly terrible as years pass. Similarly, the colossal common shame and horror and degradation of the Holcaust is not easier but harder to cope with as time passes. And - here’s the odd thing - both episodes seem closer to our apprehension and consideration than do, say, the war in the Gulf, with its daily teenage carnage — or, even, perhaps, the mindless killing and smashing of civilian lives in
peacetime (I believe) Enniskillen. T. 8. Eliot had something to say about it. As for me — what have I to say about it? Simply that Remembrance Day is relevant, that time clarifies rather than dims, that a ritual ceremony will never lose its true meaning and its power to move — to anger or to healing — while there are storytellers and listeners, although cenotaphs are perhaps less essential.
And I now carry the story of the woman who lay in labour (and who was she? and where was she born?) where the curlews call and the hardest snows fall, around the turn ofthe century. The 19th century that is.
Second, birth. I will now make it a point to find out where my grandmother was born. I do know where I was born (in a general hospital in Fife), and have even had the rare pleasure of meeting up with the woman who attended the great event - no, not that one — I mean the midwife. We bumped into each other in Xi‘an airport last March — at least, she recognised me. I confess I was awed by the coincidence, but am fully prepared for a dozen letters from Fifers who’ve met their midwives in China!
The point is, I don’t know where I’ll have my children (d.v.). But I‘ve thought about it a whole lot more after chairing an all-day conference on Choices in Childbirth, organised by the Elsie Inglis Action Group, which has been campaigning against Lothian Health Board’s proposals to concentrate maternity services in the city on three larger units, cutting the small units. Similar policies are being suggested around the country.
I agreed to chair the conference beacue I had no preconception (forgive, forgive . . .) about the issue. I left feeling that in years to come, when I and all the thousands of young women and men who would never consider forming an opinion on the provision of maternity services suddenly start planning and producing children, the choice of where to do it (unless you’re the Rannoch breed of McDonald) may be much more restricted than it is today. You may not care now, but will you one day? Strategy planning for the future happens in the present.
Think about it — ifyou like.
Third, If I’m ever going to produce fourteen children I’m going to have to start very soon — and never mind the soup, I’ve still to catch the rabbit!
Well, I’m not that kind of McDonald. But for the first time in my life, I’d like to think my granddaughter might live to an age where she’d care to describe exactly what kind of McDonald I was. And I wonder if I’ve met her grandfather yet . . .
The List 13 — 26 November 1987 3