Saturday, 4 February 2017

Fergus Kelly: Napalm Calypso (On the 10th anniversary of Paul Burwell's death)

'Napalm Calypso' was composed to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Paul Burwell's death. It was created with a mixture of his solo work and work with the Bow Gamelan, interview material and slices of some of his favourite music and exerpts from films and TV shows he enjoyed.
The solo extracts are taken from his 1979 album, 'A Mummified Person With A Pleasant Smile Is Kept In A Cupboard In The Vestry'. The Bow Gamelan material is taken from a documentary about the 'Offshore Rig' performance of 1987, made for Channel 4 arts programme Alter Image, some footage of them performing on the concrete barges at Rainham Marshes in 1986, and from my own bootleg of the 'In C And Air' performance at the ICA in 1986, some of which includes Paul talking to me afterwards.
It also includes my field recording of tidal wash at the Forty Foot in Sandycove, Co. Dublin in June 2016, with foghorns sounding. Dublin Bay as stand-in for Thames Estuary. The latter being a place where Paul & Bow Gamelan did various gigs. Water was also my means of transport between Ireland and England when working in London in the 1980s, as I used to travel by boat from Dunlaoghaire to Holyhead, so it forms part of my initial connection between Dublin and London and between Paul and myself. Before cheap air travel. Before internet and mobile phones. Less clutter, less distraction.
Paul loved Kung Fu movies and Westerns and was a big fan (like myself) of Apocalypse Now, which I've sprinkled liberally throughout the piece. The film soundtrack includes some great explosions, which are entirely in keeping with Bow Gamelan's penchant for using fireworks as a form of percussion. Someone once memorably described Bow Gamelan as 'like a cross between Turner and Apocalypse Now'. I like how the sound effects in the film creates a deep, widescreen sense of landscape, with the constant battering ram of near and distant shelling puncturing the air.
I only met Paul a couple of times, so I hardly knew him, but I took to him straight away. I liked the cut of his jib. His friendliness, openness and free-spirited nature was inspiring. When I re-watch Bow Gamelan footage for the nth time and see him interviewed I feel a great fondness for him. This piece is a tribute to that - my way of saying, 'Thanks Paul'.
Some of the elements in this piece are woven deep in the mix, and won't necessarily reveal themselves on first listen. Other elements move around the stereo field to create a sense of momentum in a soundworld I like to think of more in terms of a radio play or cinema for the ears.
Therefore, it must be heard connected to a proper amp/speaker set up or headphones (not computer speakers) with good stereo separation.
Thanks to Anne Bean and David Toop for suggesting the sources, which include:.
Apocalypse Now (1979)
The One-Armed Swordsman (1967)
Kwaidan (1964)
Woman In The Dunes (1964)
Bad Day At Blackrock (1955)
Rashomon (1950)
Hancock's Half Hour
Dad's Army
Baby Dodds drum improvisations
Buddy Rich drum solo
Jet Harris & Tony Meehan: Diamonds
One String Sam: I Need 100 Dollars
Screaming Jay Hawkins: I Put A Spell On You
Albert Ayler: Ghosts
Roderick MacLeod performing the Scottish piobaireachd, 'Old Men Of The Shells'
Orson Welles narrating Joseph Conrad's 'Heart Of Darkness'.

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