Monday, 12 August 2013

I guess that's why they call it The Blues

So, we're half-way through August in the Festival City, when Art and Culture collide with politics and military might, not to mention a bag-full 'o pipes.  Earlier in the festivities a massive passenger-jet plane flew low over the castle. Only those who live here thought this unusual. If you live in, say, Hounslow in West London, low-flying planes are an everyday occurrence. This was, in fact, the maiden flight of the new Boeing 787, the 'Dreamliner.'

Yet, at the start of every Tattoo ‘performance’ – a military parade that is supposed to symbolise a celebration of the end of battle or fighting or hostility or whatever language you like to use to describe it – there is a fly-past of deadly, angry, lethal aircraft that cannot fail to draw attention to the crowds below, not only in the Tattoo Stadium.

For every cloud there is a silver lining. And, despite my revivified irritation and anger at the war-planes that fly over our city, I am glad that there are some who consider the incredible achievement and advancement of science that has led to the wonders of flight (not designed for violence) to be worthy of a Festival audience, even if most of those on the ground were oblivious or unaware that something incredible had happened in the skies above them.  I suppose most of them were too busy promoting their own shows. Or were, like the torturer's horse in Auden’s poem, busy scratching their bum while Icarus, having flown too close to the sun, fell from grace.

About suffering they were never wrong, The Old Masters.

Breaking from the festivities, in the next of my sequence of Blue poems, the word-play on the number eight is severely compromised by human activity: every celebration, achievement and accomplishment is annulled by our ability to deconstruct and maim. Even the ‘blues’ cannot find respite in music’s tempered scale. We all wear that theatrical disguise, where one mask is crying and the other, laughing. I could risk a cliché and say, two sides of the same coin. If only life were that simple.

Twelve Tones of Blue



Canto VIII


"After the Feast," they said, "Let's give it eight days."


They named the month October, and added two more;

Divided the character two by four, then constructed the enneagram;

The elements split stably into octaves, the atom into a W.M.D;

The octahedron and octagon confounded the Rubik's Cube;

C8 H18 became petroleum’s numeric; America stepped on the gas;

In octal notation, computers divided a base of eight implausibly by three;

And (in 1904) a piece of folded paper became an eight-page manifesto.

But they had music, and tempered the scale to a leap of twelve semitones.


Then someone invented the blues.


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