Posts Tagged music

The New Policeman

dowds number nine

Kate Thompson‘s The New Policeman is adorned not with pictures but with music.

Music runs through the tale, and you can hear some of the jigs and reels on Kate Thompson’s website.

The story, though written with an eye and ear for the detail of life in Kinvara, is a fantasy. Fifteen year-old JJ has to go a lot further from, and a lot closer to, home than he expects to find the time that everyone is so short of.


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I watched Mirrormask last night. Wonderful animation by Dave McKean. More than animation, direction and the creation of a whole host of wonderful phantasmagorical creatures, weird landscapes, layered dream sequences. Brilliant music by Iain Bellamy. Stephanie Leonidas is great as a the main character, Helena, a circus girl who, when her mother suddenly falls seriously ill, disappears into a fearsome Alice in Wonderland world to sort matters out.

Critics have said that the story is its weak point.  Other critics have said that it is too much an imitation of Labyrinth. (Remember Bowie as the Goblin King?) But I liked it. In fact it’s part of a whole sub-genre isn’t it: Girl disappears into Other World to solve this world problem. I think of Childe Rowland:


Burd Ellen round about the aisle

 To seek the ball is gone,

But long they waited, and longer still,

 And she came not back again.

Then there’s Miyazaki’s Spirited Away of course, where  Chihiro has to face all the challenges of the spirit bath-house to release her parents from their pig-form.

There must be lots of other examples. There’s also another subgenre involved – the swap story. Helena’s and the Princess of the Dark City swap worlds. Helena needs to find the mirrormask to get back to her own world. Dave McKean points out that this type of tale goes back to The Prince and The Pauper – it goes further back still to stories of Harun al-Rashid and The Desert Island in the Talmud.

Have a look at some of Mirrormask, here the beginning:

I love the circus music.

And some more, with its wonderfully eery Close To You:

Here’s Gaiman and McKean talking about their work on the film together:

McKean’s sketch for the giants

Really Useful Book

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Ivor Cutler

I don’t remember much about my teachers or lessons at Paddington Green Primary School. Teaching, if my school was anything to go by, was nowhere near as good in those days – disorganised, unambitious, uninspiring. I don’t remember the names of my teachers, not even the glamourous one in my class picture:

(I’m the little boy with the red jumper and blond hair.)

But I do remember Ivor Cutler. You can see him here top left in this shot of the staff:

This picture (wrongly labelled) is from this film about Ivor Cutler. You can see the whole film here.

He used to take us in the school hall for movement and music. He would get us telling stories. He was surreal, sensitive, gently anarchic, always surprising. Once he said that he would give us packets of flower seeds if we would promise to sprinkle them between paving stones.


He also wrote some books for children. Like Meal One, with pictures by Helen Oxenbury:

One morning, Helbert woke with a plum in his mouth. He pulled it out and held it between his fingers for a good look: it was purple and juicy.

“Who put a plum in my mouth while I was asleep?” he wondered.

“Me!” shouted his mum, stretching her head out from under the bed with a great grin on her lips. “Hello, Mum!” he smiled.

Helbert stuck the plum back, chewed it and spat out the stone.

‘”Let’s plant it, Mum,” he said.

“Where?” she replied.

“Under the bed,” he laughed, sleepily, stretching his right arm.

So they both cruched under the bed and cut a hole in the floorboards…

At first the tree doesn’t grow, but together they address the plum stone:

O Stone! O Mighty Plum! Send forth roots and shoots. Grow with our love into a plum tree, with lots of plums!

When they go downstaires for meal one they gasp at what they see in the kitchen:

In the ceiling was a jaggy hole.

Throught the hole was a tree.

The roots of the tree hung over the table, spread with meal one.

There was a lound sucking gobbling noise.

But meal one is not lost. Helbert’s mother manages to set it to rights, by the simple expedient of turning the clock back an hour. Helbert again wakes up, this time with nothing in his mouth.


You can hear Helen Oxenbury talking about this collaboration here.

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I did not come here for recognition

1223675642-sc-240reading the story of Culwch and Olwen*:

I always like the bit where the young hero-to-be rides into Arthur’s court.

Here it is from Robin Williamson‘s brilliant retelling on the CD Gems of Celtic Story – One, where he plays along with harp and sings some of it too, and in his book The Craneskin Bag (both far too difficult to get hold of) –

To help you imagine the harp with the story, here is the man himself playing the harp:

It was the custom to dismount at the gate, but Culwch, when the door was opened to him, rode straight into the hall dogs and all. ‘Greetings, Lord of Kings in this island,’ he said. ‘May the low part of your house be no worse than the high. May this greeting reach equally your fighting men, your companions and your warlords. May no one here be deprived of this my greeting. May your fame, Arthur, resound throughout Britain.’

‘Greetings to you also, chieftain. Sit here by me among the warriors. You shall have the privileges of a prince when you are here.’

‘I did not come here for recognition, but to ask one boon* of you.’

‘You shall have whatever
your tongue can utter
while the wind blows with the wetness of rain
and the full extent
of your mind’s invention
while sun lifts day to the last ebb of land
except my sword, my shield, my spear,
or my wife Gwenhwyfar.’

‘I ask first that my hair be trimmed.’

‘You shall get that,’ said Arthur, and taking a golden comb and silver handled scissors, he commenced to comb and trim the hair of Culwch. But as he was about this he felt his heart warm to Culwch, and he said to him, ‘I know in my heart we must be kindred. Tell me who you are.’

‘I will. I am Culwch son of Cilydd son of Celyddon Wledig and of Goleuddydd my mother.’

‘Then,’ said Arthur; ‘you are my cousin. Claim what you will of me.’

‘Help me to win the hand of Olwen daughter of Ysbaddaden King of all Giants.’

* Culwch –> pronounced kill-hook
“boon” = a favour, a wish granted

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