Categories
Birmingham The Arts

Disabled by Wilfred Owen & The Torn Fields by Mark-Anthony Turnage

Last night I went to a performance by Thumb Contemporary Music Ensemble of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s The Torn Fields.

The piece is based on a number of war poems, one of which is Disabled by Wilfred Owen. This heart-wrenching poem is beautifully set  in the fourth movement of Turnage’s piece. Turnage has been careful not to detract from the poem but to enhance it. The poem was written during the first world war, but has disturbing resonances with today as conflict continues across the globe.

Have a listen here:

And here is the text:

Disabled – Wilfred Owen

He sat in a wheeled chair, waiting for dark,
And shivered in his ghastly suit of grey,
Legless, sewn short at elbow. Through the park
Voices of boys rang saddening like a hymn,
Voices of play and pleasure after day,
Till gathering sleep had mothered them from him.

About this time Town used to swing so gay
When glow-lamps budded in the light-blue trees
And girls glanced lovelier as the air grew dim,
— In the old times, before he threw away his knees.
Now he will never feel again how slim
Girls’ waists are, or how warm their subtle hands,
All of them touch him like some queer disease.

There was an artist silly for his face,
For it was younger than his youth, last year.
Now he is old; his back will never brace;
He’s lost his colour very far from here,
Poured it down shell-holes till the veins ran dry,
And half his lifetime lapsed in the hot race,
And leap of purple spurted from his thigh.
One time he liked a bloodsmear down his leg,
After the matches carried shoulder-high.
It was after football, when he’d drunk a peg,
He thought he’d better join. He wonders why . . .
Someone had said he’d look a god in kilts.

That’s why; and maybe, too, to please his Meg,
Aye, that was it, to please the giddy jilts,
He asked to join. He didn’t have to beg;
Smiling they wrote his lie; aged nineteen years.
Germans he scarcely thought of; and no fears
Of Fear came yet. He thought of jewelled hilts
For daggers in plaid socks; of smart salutes;
And care of arms; and leave; and pay arrears;
Esprit de corps; and hints for young recruits.
And soon, he was drafted out with drums and cheers.

Some cheered him home, but not as crowds cheer Goal.
Only a solemn man who brought him fruits
Thanked him; and then inquired about his soul.
Now, he will spend a few sick years in Institutes,
And do what things the rules consider wise,
And take whatever pity they may dole.
To-night he noticed how the women’s eyes
Passed from him to the strong men that were whole.
How cold and late it is! Why don’t they come
And put him into bed? Why don’t they come?

Categories
Jeremy Clay New Music

That Terrible Silence – my latest piece

Here’s a recording of my latest piece which was premiered at The Forge in Camden in October. It was performed by Thumb Contemporary Music Ensemble conducted by Dan Watson.

The piece is roughly based on the frustration of not being able to write anything. I’d already written half a piece for the ensemble but it was terrible so I got rid of it and was really frustrated with it all – then this popped into my head and I just went for it!

Categories
Birmingham Jeremy Clay New Music The Arts

Dancing with Girls by the Cemetery – Recording

Here we go!

This is my latest piece, performed by Thumb Contemporary Music Ensemble in concert at Birmingham Conservatoire, conducted by Dan Watson.

It was inspired by an American solider’s snapshot photo album from the Korean war, which I saw when I was working for military history book publishers Helion & Co:

Juxtaposition...

What interested me about it was the juxtaposition of really fun party times with the girls dancing / singing, placed next to a photo of a war cemetery where, presumably, lots of the solider’s friends had headstones. It just shocked me that the soldier was able to reconcile these images in his photo album – death and suffering juxtaposed with fun and relaxation. It raises all sorts of questions about escapism, denial, coping mechanisms etc etc…

In this piece I have simply taken the idea of juxtaposition and have taken solemn moments and juxtaposed them with reinvented versions American hit songs from the 1950s.

Hope you enjoy it!

Categories
Birmingham Jeremy Clay Reviews The Arts

My premiere tonight by Thumb Contemporary Music Ensemble

It’s been a while since I posted anything, mainly because I have been busy composing my latest piece for Thumb Contemporary Music Ensemble – being performed tonight – 7.30pm – 23rd May at the Recital Hall at Birmingham Conservatoire in an hour-long concert entitled MERGE. Should be fun!

Aside from that, I’ve been filling my time with fun stuff like BCMG’s Nostalgie cabaret and the Music Maze workshop we did alongside that. Also went down to London for my first creative meeting with Springs Dance Company for my new collaborative commission The Selfish Giant, based on Oscar Wilde’s story of the same name.

Also way back on 29th April (yes, royal wedding day!) futuresonic hosted their second event at We Are Birmingham which was an interactive laptop performance from BiLE (Birmingham Laptop Ensemble) which was intriguing!!!

Oo and I have another new nephew who is called Jonas! Winner!