…being a quick introduction to three sites that have become important links on the Old Weird Albion reading list during my hiatus, each of which looks at folk music and folk tale in an interesting new light….

Cover of "What I Did This Summer" by Coventry painter George Shaw

Hey! Let’s take a trip to Folk Suburb! is an extremely odd creation: the reification of English folk songs as modern folk tales of suburban English life. Both on the blog and in the first issue of This Roaring Peace – a new .pdf-based zine of these materials created by the sister site Jack’s Tray – Folk Suburb imagines lyrics such as “Lovely Joan” set in today’s suburban netherworlds; a Martin Carthy reared on J.G. Ballard. (more…)

Phase two of my locative documentary poetry project, Public Record, is well under way, so it’s time to reenter the world of blogging. Please allow this to serve as both line-break, and invitation to check out the Public Record website!

The Old Weird Albion is on a li’l hiatus, just for a few more weeks, while my Public Record project gets sorted out and launched… check back this summer for new material on The Copper Family, English magic, medieval church painting, contemporary artists Matt Stokes and Jem Finer, and a ton more…

“On the Downs” - John Masefield (published Sept., 1918)

Up on the downs the red-eyed kestrels hover,

Eyeing the grass.

The field-mouse flits like a shadow into cover

As their shadows pass.

Men are burning gorse on the down’s shoulder,

A drift of smoke

Glitters and hangs and the skies smoulder

And the lungs choke.

Once the tribe did thus on the downs, burning

Men in the frame,

Crying to the gods of the downs ’til their brains were burning

And the gods came.

And today on the downs, in the wind, the hawkes of the grasses

In blood and air,

Something passes me and cries as it passes,

On the chalk downland bare.

Not sure how long this has been up, but hey – I just found out about it via the official unofficial site for Sinclair, that patron saint of the Old Weird Albion. An excellent interview with Iain Sinclair, written by the late Kathy Acker, at the time of Lights Out for the Territory.

Who but the irreconcilable irrepressible Acker could turn what might’ve been a run-of-the-mill conversation about lit-mysticism and beatnik neo-paganism into a beautiful dissection (nee exhibition) of the linguistic balance of Sinclair’s visionary novels and their arc into “non”-fiction? Coming soon: A roundup revisitation of some of the excellent recent webwise material from the ubiquitous Mr. Sinclair…

The 2010 crop-circle season opened last week with a military-badge-like piece near Old Sarum, and a piece just this past weekend about as close to Stonehenge as the makers might get. Obviously, that has sent many’s a heart a flitter, and the talk of ley-line connections between the two, etc., has already begun in earnest.

Below, I’ve tried to write a piece offering the Old Weird Albion point of view on the phenomena. The OWA stance is that man-made circles are far more interesting than any alien-made phenomena; that contemporary art criticism and ethnological folklore studies give us the appropriate tools to not only view crop circle’s through a more fascinating prism, but to appreciate the aesthetic and conceptual beauty of what must be the art world’s most radical practice.

This piece is, however, a  work-in-progress – comments and suggestions are beyond welcome!

(more…)

Ludwig VanThe Pittsburgh Post-Gazette today ran Spiked editor Brendan O’Neill’s essay on the peculiar police state Britain is becoming – in which light, sound, and even the so-called classics of Western culture are all mere tools of the never-ending battle with hoodies, chavs, and ASBO’s.

His piece revolves around a growing number of communities in which classical music is being used to either punish or discourage young people – be that exposure to Mozart in after-school detention, or the use of Shostakovich to keep kids from loitering in various public places. It’s revelatory to see the way that Britain – well, let’s face it, England – has become so security-minded as to turn an entire generation of its populace against the very cultural foundations that we in the West allegedly hold so dear. (Of note, however, is the anti-hoodie playlist, which, at least amongst O’Neill’s brief mentions, boasts no Benjamin Britten, no Ralph Vaughan Williams, Ivor Gurney, Frank Bridge or John Ireland. Even when dispersing hooligans, xenophobia plays its part.)

That old British troublemaker, Class, seems to rear its head in the argument, too. Why is it that this generation of hoodies implicitly understands classical music to be punitive? Is there that little exposure – rivaling or event beating-out the lack of arts education in America – that this music is understood from birth to be below even “uncool”? Or is there an understanding that this is music attached, by its very origin and nature, to a Class – that it is understood to be beyond the pale for anyone without an Eton jacket or at least a closet full of Midsomer Murders DVDs?

In the 1950s and early-1960s, the ruffians of the English underculture took their implicit cultural non-existence and turned it on its head, as Teddy Boys and Mods re-imagined the Edwardian dandy and the tailored City banker as street-savvy knife merchants, making dangerous fashions out of the very cloth they’d been taught to read as of a superior class. More recently, before being entirely taken over by the more “casual” side of Casual and the hip-hop elements of funky and grime, the more violent elements of English society turned Burberry, Hackett, and other top-name brands into signifiers of street crime and football extracurricular activities – to the point that as recently as 10 years ago there were pubs with “No Burberry” signs on their doors. (In a rather nasty pub I once met a footie lad of the scariest variety – scar-faced and black-eye’d (glad not to have seen The Other Guy) – and realized that his outfit a) Cost more than my rent and b) would’ve gotten him on the A-list at any ritzy Manhattan gay bar. I did not mention this.)

Might it be that in the not-too-distant future, we’ll see the love of Ludwig Van espoused by Anthony Burgess’ thugs come to a true fruition – that Mahler and Mozart will be the watchwords of a new breed of horrific post-ASBO mugs? That the thunderous conclusions of Frank Bridge’s The Sea (Suite) will become, like a Burberry check or an Edwardian pocket-watch, the nationalist’s pastoral – the signifier of a hidden Stanley knife and a nasty disposition? Maybe my sick admiration for the urban bricoleur is too twisted to be trusted, but somehow it just seems right. And the idea of dodgy Dagenham pub filled with football lads swaying glasses to Ivor Gurney is just sci-fi enough to adore.

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