The delightfully curvaceous flute image that Simon provided for the Miniatures poster impressed me greatly at the time, as I presume it must have been hand-drawn, rather than distorted instantly with a flick of a (PhotoShop) wrist, as one could so easily do now. This is where the early days of pioneering techniques – in music as well as graphics – are for me so endearing, as they involved no little sweat, time, intelligence and sheer effort. Simon literally put his breath into creating advanced playing techniques and brave new soundworlds (I’ve always been a little envious of wind players, because all keyboard players have to do, like computer operators, is basically sit and push keys and buttons).
After Quentin Crisp’s request to basically Stop All Music, this track seemed the ideal one to follow, as with it’s looooong fade-in, it seems to tiptoe slowly in through the back door, masquerading as the cries of some exotic birds. Maybe Quentin would not realise it was music, and then the door would once again be open so we could carry on and finish the album.
Sampling has come into the picture now – a far more flexible system than the old days of playing over backing tapes. In this 2009 live video, Simon (looking virtually the same as he did when we met some 35 years ago) not only samples and loops his live playing, but controls the results by bird-like movements of his arms, to which sensors are attached. All very high-tech and digital, but at the same time organic, a fine balance indeed. Like Robert Fripp’s thin liquid guitar sound, Simon’s flute is an ideal source for building up multilayered soundscapes without little risk of them getting too heavy and sonically unwieldy.
Like any creative musician, Simon has a fine eye for colour, too. In recent years (actually since 1970) he has been involved, as both player and creative director, with Colourscape – remarkable immersive environments for children of all ages, in the form of brightly-coloured inflatable domes, tubes and other interconnected shapes one can walk through (and of course, play in). As the other slides viewable via the previous link show, he has also played his flute while hanging inside a large inflatable sphere floating along the River Thames. Here he is at it again in Finland. Not for Simon the cozy enclaves of the average concert hall!
By 2011 (says Wiki) there were six Colourscapes in existence, doing the rounds of schools, fairs, art festivals and so on. Rather in the spirit of Cirque du Soleil (before their descent into commerciality and big business) and also akin to the sadly unfulfilled dream that Ronnie Lane of the Faces had, of a travelling rock’n’roll circus, which he called “The Passing Show.”
Inevitably the Colourscape concept has attracted the attention of other fine musicians, particularly those into the art of free improvising. A few years ago Simon, along with sound processing whizz Lawrence Casserley, his creative partner since the early days in London, released “Music from ColourDome” – a CD of some of the music they performed live inside those multi-hued womblike inflatables. Their very special guests include Evan Parker (soprano sax), David Stevens (computer processing) and Phillipp Wachsmann (violin – presumably watching very carefully where he pokes his bow).
Watch this last link for news of Colourscape rolling into your town!
Next up: Sweetest song from our esteemed cover artiste…