A Blog about the Wardour Castle Summer Schools 1964, 1965

blind but not deaf: methodology iv

I have organized a series of interviews over the next few weeks and so needed some new equipment for documenting these. Much has changed since the last time I bought a portable recording device, including the prevalence of very portable high quality video and audio equipment and the dissolution of low end and professional quality gear (see, for example, the Tascam DR-100). In the end the decision was based on what I didn’t want to record. My worry with this project is that I will accumulate too much data that I have neither the time nor expertise to adequately process, leading to a situation where I fall back on old habits, clichéd categorisations and the like. With a project based on events that occurred more than forty years ago, the accuracy of memory of those who attended is going to be a major factor, and one that I am keen to construct as a positive part of the research process, such that the study informs a broader understanding of a cultural memory for these events. The blog so far has detailed what exists in written publications and the questions that I am formulating for the forthcoming interviews are based on the extent of those documents. To an extent about which I cannot be precise, loss of memory of details and the unmemorability of the events are entangled.

What this project is not seeking is a complete understanding of anything. And the decisions I am making at each step are designed to take this claim seriously. So, I did not buy a video recorder for these interviews. Partly this is pragmatic, since it’s easier to edit audio, which also takes up less memory (and therefore is cheaper). Video recorders are also expensive for the quality of their audio capture, and I want to make other compromises. Partly this is also ethical, since I don’t like being videod but will happily have my voice recorded. Although youtube makes dissemination of video easy, I find myself frequently listening to material even when there is a video component, either because I am doing other work, because I am frustrated by the camera-work, or because I am walking around London whilst listening.

London seems to be little obsessed with hi-fi and shops selling such equipment are few and far between (small recommendation for Bartlett’s in Islington as one of the few that’s also very good). I can’t shake entirely the ‘fidelity’ issue, even though I am unsure of what being ‘loyal’ means. So, I bought an Olympus LS-10. It sounds good, it well built, doesn’t have too many flaws, is flexible and small. I can put it on the table press record and forget about it, leaving me room (pardon the pun) to think about the conversation at hand.

This post is partly prompted by How Modernity Forgets and a podcast of Thinking Allowed. When listening (as I do when I  am out walking each morning**) I was struck by the association of forgetting and ‘place’, and reminded that when I contact Hugh Wood to arrange an interview, that I asked if I could speak with him about the Wardour Castle Summer Schools. He responded that yes, it would be good to talk about ‘Cranborne Chase’. Where I had emphasised the event, he emphasises the place. The following brief comment Wood made was about the Manchester three being ‘together’, presumably meant geographically rather than aesthetically.

Before seeing Hugh Wood I am meeting Michael Hall, who holds interviews with several composers who were at the events, including the organizers. He also has an interview with Nicholas Maw about the WCSS, which he characterised to me as especially useful because Maw had a fine memory for what went on. The interview is currently inaccessible (in that it’s unpublished) and Maw is now dead. It will be interesting to meet Hall, since he has been planning a book on the WCSSs for some time, and has collected materials from many sources (including Hugh Wood, who couldn’t remember where his programmes had gone, only that someone who interviewed him had them… I reminded him of Michael Hall).

In November I am meeting Anthony Gilbert, who suggested (very kindly) being interviewed together with David Lumsdaine (‘we met at the WCSS’ – Gilbert (phone conversation October 2009)). I asked Lumsdaine is this would be ok, and he agreed – ‘I might remember more’. Throughout my PhD, writing about Lumsdiane’s music, he reminded me of his ‘failing memory’, which is something for which I am most grateful (in both senses). Speaking with Erika Fox yesterday (22 October 2009), she commented that some research can be disseminated incomplete, ‘with a name on it’ for future researchers to cite. The implication was that this was ‘factual research’, which further implies that there is another space for creative interpretation of that material (in her comment, factual research was contrasted with creative composition). I am inclined to agree, since presumably that’s the purpose of this blog, which obviously comes with a request that it be cited by others who use it’s contents, but with no close guarding of copyright.

In mapping the ‘lieux de memoire’ of these events, my map making needs to embrace modernism’s lessons and to inhabit the tattered ruins of previous maps, by which I mean to be creative in the patchiness of memory rather than to focus on finding the edges of its tatters as a precursor to sewing it together. At the same time, I am reminded of Otto von Busch’s http://www.selfpassage.org/: I will to sow the edges together, to follow the trends of high-fasion and hack my documentation into new and exciting forms, forms that carry meaning through their connections to contemporary imagery and which transmogrify current practices into new versions for new fields and usages, and in doing so to ‘learn a new craft’. I am further reminded in listening to the podcast of his talk (what happening before such mnemonics? We took notes I guess…) at the RSA that it makes much less sense without the images he showed. Its also a very different experience to being there with the RSA’s varied audience and without the contrast of von Busch’s eccentrically dressed, pleasantly anti-earnest and self-effacing manner in contrast with the four suited men on the discussion panel. The panel included Colin McDowell who, given his happy declarations of an aversion to computers, updates his blog more frequently than I do.


** A postscript added after returning from a walk:

The first link is significant here, linking walking to design, architecture are fashioning. The latter link is important both for its potential to enliven the purpose of this blog, and as a justification for quoting from the podcast of David Malouf and Glenn Murcott’s discusion. The whole can be found here:


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