Friday 13 June 2014

Episode 16

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1. Syd Arthur — "Hometown Blues" (from Sound Mirror, 2014)

2. Soft Machine — "The Moon in June" (from BBC Radio One session, 1969-06-10)

3. The Brotherhood — "Clunk Click" (from Elementalz, 1996)

4. Miles Davis — "On the Corner" → "New York Girl" → "Thinkin' One Thing and Doin' Another" → "Vote for Miles" (from On the Corner, 1972)

5. Henry Cow — "Living in the Heart of the Beast" (live in Vevey, Switzerland for Swiss TV programme Kaleidospop, August 1976)

6. Supersister — "Energy (Out of the Future)" [excerpt] (from To The Highest Bidder, 1971)

7. Grateful Dead — soundcheck jam (live at Watkins Glen, NY, 1973-07-27)

8. David Crosby — "Tamalpais High at About Three" (from If I Could Only Remember My Name, 1971)

9. Caravan — "Where But For Caravan Would I?" (from Caravan, 1968)

10. Kevin Ayers and the Wizards of Twiddly — "Lady Rachel" (from Turn the Lights Down, 2000)

11. The Paul Butterfield Blues Band — "East-West" (from East-West, 1966)

12. Eno — "Sombre Reptiles" (from Another Green World, 1975)

13. Arlet — "The Big Ship" (live in secret woodland location, Canterbury, 2014-04-13)

14. Caribou — "Sun" (from Swim, 2010)

15. Thompost — "Where the Broken Bots Wiggle" (Ekoda Map remix, 2014)

16. Tiger Tsunami — "Waves" (Koloto remix, 2013)

17. Delta Sleep — "Interlude" (from Management EP, 2013)

18. Squarepusher — "Rebus" (from Hard Normal Daddy, 1997)

19. Frank Zappa — "Eat That Question" (from The Grand Wazoo, 1972)

20. Lapis Lazuli — "Alien part 5" (from Alien/Abra Cadaver, 2014)

21. Plume — "Cruise" (demo, 2014)

22. Gong — "Eat That Phonebook Coda" (from Angels Egg, 1973)

My text said the following:

The existence of a "Canterbury Scene" between the mid-60's and the mid-70's is something which has been argued about since the term first appeared in a late 70's music press article. Originally an attempt to describe a loose network of interconnected musicians recording and performing together in a seemingly endless array of permutations during those years, the term has led to confusion about the extent to which these musicians originated from, or were based in Canterbury. The (perhaps disappointing) reality is that very little of the music, and only a minority of the musicians associated with its namesake "scene" had much to do with the City of Canterbury. For example, Pip Pyle (1950–2006) had every reason to object to frequently being referred to as a "Canterbury musician", although this misnomer is understandable, as much of Pyle's musical career was framed by a set of musical relationships involving players who did originate from here (or whose careers were similarly framed).

It's curious, though, that Robert Wyatt, almost universally accepted as the leading creative light of the "Canterbury scene", rejects the term more vigorously than anyone else associated with it. Wyatt was born in Bristol in 1945, moved to Lydden (actually closer to Dover than Canterbury) as a child, and ended up as an unhappy pupil at Simon Langton Grammar School. Three fellow Langtonians (Hugh Hopper, Brian Hopper and Mike Ratledge) were to eventually play along side him in early Soft Machine lineups, and it was in Canterbury (while attending art college) that Wyatt had his first experience of drumming in a regularly gigging band, the moderately successful local danceband The Wilde Flowers. Through this group, Wyatt became associated with Kevin Ayers (living unhappily in Herne Bay with an aunt after a carefree childhood in Malaysia) and the four members of the original Caravan lineup. In 1966, Ayers and Wyatt's family's former lodger in Lydden, the Australian beatnik jazz poet and traveller Daevid Allen, recruited Wyatt into the original Soft Machine. After a couple of weeks rehearsing in a house in nearby Sturry, the band relocated to London and were immediately swept up in the vortex of psychedelic music and art that was erupting there at the time. From that point on, Wyatt's links with the East Kent were very tenuous (his father had died and his mother relocated to West Dulwich). However, an examination of his discography shows that Canterbury-originated musicians continued to be involved in his work for the decades that followed. But this was simply a musician choosing to work with old friends, with other musicians he felt personally at ease, than some kind of adherence to a musical "scene" or movement.

Perhaps it's unhappy memories that have led Wyatt to dismiss his connections to the place. Or perhaps it's his (widely acknowledged) humility, which won't allow him to take any credit for his central involvement in a small, collaborative group of creative young people whose combined body of work is bewilderingly extensive and continues to attract worldwide devotion and critical acclaim.

So did the "Canterbury scene" exist or not? Does it matter? Certainly it's something which only came into focus retrospectively. At the time, there was a group of musicians and friends working together, and with others, as part of a wide network of like-minded "progressive" musicians that was evolving in Britain. Some of them came from the Canterbury area, many of them didn't, but this wasn't of much interest while it was happening. It was only looking back and trying to make sense of what had happened that led to the idea of a clearly defined "scene".

But I would argue that the "Canterbury" tag for this loose network is as good as any other, if understood correctly. The whole idea of a "scene" is problematic, but a simple application of the branch of mathematics known as graph theory can be used to give the concept some kind of meaningful reality. Imagine all musicians represented as points or "nodes" in space, with pairs of these being joined by line segments or "edges" whenever they have collaborated on stage or in the studio. These edges can be thought of as being "weighted" according to the extent of this collaboration. Instantly, with these ideas, we have brought forth a huge, tangled web of nodes and weighted edges which geometrically represents the totality of all musical relationships which have ever occurred! And within this tangled web, certain areas of unusual density would be visible. These areas would not have clearly defined edges — they would be more like clouds. They are what are commonly known as "music scenes". If I were to point to one, you would see what I was pointing to and we could discuss it. But, like a cloud, if we started to discuss where it began and ended spatially, concensus would begin to break down. But the cloud is undeniably there. The "Canterbury scene" is such a cloud of musicians, and at its heart we find Wyatt, the Hopper brothers, the Sinclair cousins, Kevin Ayers and a handful of others strongly linked to the area. Robert Wyatt's disinterest in these matters is perfectly understandable. He made the music, he doesn't need to pick apart its socio-geographical context. But what would you call it?

The first sentence of the third paragraph had originally said "Perhaps it's unhappy memories of being bussed daily to a boring, conservative Grammar school in a boring, conservative market town that have led Wyatt to dismiss his connections to the place.", but I got asked to redact part of that, presumably to avoid offending any important civic dignitaries!


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