Performances by Rrose

Rrose Sélavy at the Upright Egg Shebang, photo by Mark Mortimer

Having done two this month, it seems like a good time to collect a record of the large and small live performances of various sorts I’ve been part of since the re-development of myself as an artist nearly two years ago. These don’t always get noted in the blog or scrapbook. They are in reverse chronological order here. The photo to the left is by Mark Mortimer, taken at the Upright Egg Shebang.

  • summer 2009-present – singing and playing guitar at the gwerinABERfolk Tuesday sessions at the Coops. This is something like an open mike without the mike, and is not limited to folk music by any means. People tend to quietly listen to the performances as it goes around the circle. There is any kind of acoustic music (even electric music at times) and poetry. Mostly I sing my own songs, some traditional songs, and some covers of singer-songwriter type stuff. Once I have read poems, might do that again.  It is a very friendly group with a wide range of talents and I recommend anyone interested to go along and check it out. Ian Gulley organises this and creates a lovely warm and welcoming atmosphere.
  • 20 March 2010 – walkabout and one song at the Upright Egg Shebang (cabaret evening) at the RAFA Club. This is the second time that Tony and Cory have organised an Upright Egg Shebang on the Spring Equinox. This evening is fantastic but hard to describe, but my bit was to do Rrose Sélavy in character with full costume including six-inch red spike heels (borrowed), red feather boa and Mardi Gras mask. The rest of the outfit was a nice black top and flouncy skirt with sequins and rose print, fishnet tights with rose pattern. On the stage (with mike!) I did an a capella version of my song ‘Portrait of Rrose’ with an intro in fake Cajun. The walkabout portion of the evening involved interacting with the punters (audience members) individually in character. It is pretty much a comedy evening, so I played it for broad humour. In a way, it is similar to what I did for ‘Stuffed Bird’ (see below), except that I was in character, with accent. People seemed to like it, and I found the same thing as before…I had the opening worked out in advance but improvised as I went along, and then was able to build on the improv I’d done with one person when interacting with another.  I have to say that I wore flat shoes for most of it, only in the heels for the singing.  With mike.  Have I told you that yet?  See below….I’m getting addicted to singing with a mike.  If it isn’t too unmodest, the audience response to the singing was great.  I feel I’ve really developed my voice over the past year plus of focussing on music (started doing this seriously in January 2009, thank you Ted for inspiring me).
Rrose Selavy
  • 12 March 2010 – Singer-songwriter evening in Machynlleth organised by Harmony Bee. Each performer had a two-song slot. Mostly people do their own songs, but there were a few covers. I did two of mine – ‘Random Walk’ a capella and ‘Barbed Wire on the Borders’ with guitar. I don’t know how often these events are, but it was a great evening with lots of really good performers, held in an intimate space. Some people just come to listen. It is a proper performance with mike….I realise that I really really like singing into a mike. It gives you more ways, somehow, to control your voice and bring out rich tones.
  • December 2009 and February 2010 –  Borth folk session at the Friendship Inn. This is a once-a-month open session in Borth, featuring members of the Hittites and others. I’ve played twice so far. It is more of a typical ‘jam session’ where you can play anything you want, and anyone who wants to join in, just joins in. It is great for me, as I’m able to learn new songs as well as play my own stuff. It is a lively pub night where the people come to the Friendship Inn specifically for the music. We probably had about 10-12 musicians each time. The closest thing to this experience for me was back in a previous decade when I first started to play guitar in Virginia, where people would jam at someone’s house at a house party. I learned a lot from friends there. There is no culture in the US for having jam sessions in pubs. Anyway, hope to go back to the Borth sessions whenever I can get the late-night transport back to Aber worked out (I can get there by train but there is no public transport late in the evening to get home).
  • 20 January 2010 – Axons and Dendrites at the Arts Centre. Anyone following this blog should know about this by now. Some members of the Surrealist Salon Sélavy plus a few others spent six months in total developing and practicing this performance piece. It was a cross-modal improvisation using music, sound, narrative, poetry, dance and movement to express the sense of one journal entry in the series Extracts from the Journals of Rrose Sélavy. It is well-documented in the Conceptual Art Scrapbook. It was an exhilarating night. We had suspended the regular salon evenings, and now have started to re-instate them.
  • 20 November 2009 – 20-minute set as part of a Dark Gate nightclub night at the RAFA Club. I sang and played five songs, four of which are my own compositions plus one cover, ‘VooDoo Workin’ by Imelda May (cover of a Charles Sheffield R&B song).  I’m not sure how to refer to these evenings, but people in Aber might say ‘Matt’s night at the RAFA’. These are fantastic evenings with several headlining bands and one or two supporting acts (I was a supporting act).  Matt transforms the back room of the RAFA into a nightclub with professional sound and light show. You get a whole night’s entertainment for a modest door fee. This was my first proper music gig.
  • November 2009 – singing and playing guitar for a couple of my own compositions at Scholars pub open mic nights. They have had a variable schedule, but I performed on two occasions. This was my first time singing into a mike. The first time I played, I had to borrow someone else’s classical guitar because my acoustic folk guitar couldn’t be picked up by the microphone. It was my first time trying to properly play a classical (wide-neck nylon string) guitar, being used to narrow-neck steel string guitars but it worked really well and I’m thinking I might consider getting a classical guitar in future. The second time, I used my own guitar with a borrowed pickup.
  • 5 December 2009 – Stuffed Bird. Presented as part of Freaks and Geeks at the Ceredigion Museum, this was a live piece where I constructed a sculpture while interacting with audience members as they walked past. There was a lot of improvisation and development of the piece in the audience interaction, but I wasn’t exactly in a ‘character’. I asked the audience members questions in response to my clothing changes, in order to ‘interrogate’ preconceptions.
  • 28 November 2008 – In/Out of the Box. Presented as part of Showroom upstairs at the Coops, this piece had a video clip I made with soundtrack by Dr. T and a live component with performance by myself and music by Christoph. It was complete prepared in advance, not improvised.

Wim Wenders Wings of Desire

It can’t possibly be 23 years ago that I saw this film in the theatres! How can life do this to a person?  Anyway, saw it again tonight on the big screen at the Arts Centre and want to share some responses. You can read a plot summary and lots of critiques elsewhere – in short, an existential tale of very secular angels overlooking Berlin in the days before the wall was torn down.

Here I’ll talk about two threads running through it that resonated on very deep personal levels.

I’d forgotten the ethereal soundtrack. Running throughout the film are interior voices of the people of Berlin, thought fragments that are captured by the angels, as if tuning in a radio across many channels. I sometimes have very vivid dreams, some of which stay with me for a lifetime. One of them is a striking dream I had in 1984-5 when I was teaching in China. In the dream, I was tuning into the thoughts of the people in Harbin in the middle of the night, just like tuning in a radio. The effect was just like the film, but that came out in 1987, several years after I returned from China, so I couldn’t have remembered the image from the movie. I think I was just on a similar wavelength with the vision of the film. Watching it tonight, I had the sense of re-experiencing that vivid dream. In reality, we inhabit the same space, and pick up snippets of other people’s lives through observation and random bits of conversation overheard as people walk past, thus connecting even when there is no direct communication. In the dream, this goes deeper, we are somehow witness to the very personal revelations of inner thoughts and dreams. We are like fish in the sea, responding to the same currents.

The other resonant thread that runs through the film is from the poem, in particular the line where the child muses on why he is one person and not another. This also connects with the previous image, doesn’t it?  But the specific articulation of this question led me to very philosophical musings in my early teens (maybe it is a childish thought, who knows – did you think this way as a child?). I had the same question, and decided that it was by pure chance that I’d been born into precisely this life and not someone else’s. This is great for developing empathy. I did a thought experiment and ran a little ‘test’ to check my preconceptions – if I imagined myself born into another life (different race, culture, or just another specific person’s shoes) and the preconceived ideas held up, then I thought they were pretty solid. If the preconceived ideas fell apart when I imagined myself in another person’s place, then I abandoned them. This was one of my most formative experiences, and I still hold true to this test.

I won’t tell you in what year I was in my early teens, but it was prior to the film 🙂

Anyway, perhaps the film could benefit from ‘judicious editing’ as someone put it, but I still found it beautiful and moving.

song lyric – Shipwreck Blues

Shipwreck Blues

by Mary Jacob, April 2009

Shipwreck blues, whoa I got ‘em

Gonna swim on down to the very bottom.

Out on the boat, heard a crack,
Little did I know I would never come back.
Looking out a porthole, what do I see?
Little bitty fishes looking back at me.

Shipwreck blues, whoa I got ‘em

Gonna swim on down to the very bottom.

Seaweed tangled up in my hair,
Sharks are circling around everywhere.
Fishnet stockings, got fishnet shoes,
Fishnet around my neck like a noose.

Shipwreck blues, whoa I got ‘em

Gonna swim on down to the very bottom.

Oh babe, I got a date with Davey,
Davey Jones’ locker and I don’t mean maybe.
Whoa, babe, I got a date with Davey,
Davey Jones’ locker and I don’t mean maybe.

Gotta go down, gotta go down, gotta go down to the bottom.

Gotta go down, gotta go down, gotta go down to the bottom.

Gonna swim swim swim swim swim swim swim swim swim.

Gonna swim swim swim swim swim swim swim swim swim.

But wait just a minute, I don’t wanna go there.
I wanna swim back up, gotta get some air.
Gonna swim swim swim up for air.
Swim swim swim up for air.

Shipwreck blues, whoa, I got ‘em,

Gonna swim right up from the very bottom.

Shipwreck blues, whoa, I got ‘em,

Gonna swim right up from the very bottom.

Shipwreck blues, whoa, I got ‘em,

Gonna swim right up from the very bottom.

song lyric – Portrait of Rose

Portrait of Rose

by Mary Jacob, July 2009, expanded Sept 2009

Em
She’s got a bag made of rattlesnake skin.
Em
She’s got a bag made of rattlesnake skin.
Am                                     C
She went down to the beach lighting candles
Em
to let the spirits come in.

Em
She’s got her grandmother’s gypsy jewellery.
Em
She’s got her grandmother’s gypsy jewellery.
Am                       C
And when she puts it on, it transforms her.
Em
She jingles as she walks to the sea.

B7                        C7

She speaks the language of the birds in the trees.
She speaks the language of the snakes and the bees.
She can whisper a gale or a soft summer breeze.
She can help you go wherever you please.

She’s got a jar of crushed alligator bones.
She’s got a jar of crushed alligator bones.
And if you don’t do right, she might use ‘em tonight
and make you face up to what you have done.

[guitar break]

She plays your heartbeat on her guitar.
She plays your heartbeat on her guitar.
And if you dance to the music she makes for you,
you’ll see clearly who you are.

And if you don’t like what you see,
and if you don’t like what you see,
well, you’d better change your heart in a hurry,
and don’t come crying to me.

She dances on the beach on her own.
She dances on the beach all alone.
On a midsummer night or in the dim winter light
she’s gonna sing your dreams in her song.

So if your dreams turn out to be nightmares,
if your dreams turn out to be nightmares,
it’s your own damn fault, it’s your reflection, that’s all.
See if Rose even cares.
So if she sends you a dream that makes you wake up and scream,
it’s your reflection, that’s all you’ve seen.

song lyric – Dark Connection

Dark Connection

by Mary Jacob,  November 2009

Saw a little girl in the street
Saw a little girl looked just like me.
Something dark behind her eyes,
something bleak you can’t surmise.

There’s a boy stood out there, too,
and that young man, he looked like you.
Ragged shirt and tangled hair,
singing like he just don’t care.

Out in the howling rain how can they stay alive?
Must need some dark connection in order to survive.
Must need some dark connection to keep yourself alive.

That young woman told her story to me, that young woman told her story to me
That young woman told her story to me, and this is what she said:

One man hurt me, said he’d love me forever,
Another man hurt me, said he’d love me never,
Third man hurt me though I said, ‘Not ever.’
Took what he wanted though I said, ‘Not ever.’
Took what he wanted though I said, ‘Not ever.’

That young man told his story to me, that young man told his story to me
That young man told his story to me, and this is what he said:

Age of fourteen, thrown out on the street,
Didn’t have enough to eat,
Hard to find a safe place to sleep
Don’t know where to go, got nowhere to sleep,
Nowhere to go, got nowhere to sleep,

Saw a little girl in the street
Saw a little girl looked just like me.
Something dark behind her eyes,
something bleak you can’t surmise.

There’s a boy stood out there, too,
and that young man, he looked like you.
Ragged shirt and tangled hair,
singing like he just don’t care.

Out in the howling rain how can they stay alive?
Must need some dark connection in order to survive.
Must need some kind of protection to keep yourself alive.

Song lyrics – Barbed Wire on the Borders

Barbed Wire on Your Borders

by Rrose Sélavy (Mary Jacob), started July 2009, expanded Sept 2009

D                                   G
Can’t get through your checkpoint
C                             Em
There’s barbed wire on the borders
D                                   G
Can’t get through your checkpoint, no,
C                            Em
There’s barbed wire on the borders.
Asus2                               Asus4   Asus2
We’ve got double-speak, we’ve got ‘War is peace’.
C                  Em
Don’t give me that propaganda.
Asus2                                      Asus4            Asus2
White lies are worse than the truth they conceal.
C                      Em
You can talk to me, just make it real.

Now you’ve set the dogs on me
and I’m not attacking you.
Now you‘ve set the dogs on me, yeah,
and I’m not attacking you.
You’ve got landmines and tripwires, tiger traps and all.
Wherever I step, I’m bound to fall.
There’s guns in your turrets pointing everywhere.
I should walk away, but I still seem to care.

I see you in the shadows,
although you’ve got the searchlight on.
I see you in the shadows, yeah,
although you’ve got the searchlight on.
I see pain pain pain pain pain
pain pain pain pain pain.
While you avert your eyes and you turn away,
I’m here listening to what you say.

Can’t get through your checkpoint,
there’s barbed wire on your borders.
Can’t get through your checkpoint, no,
there’s barbed wire on your borders.
We’ve got double-speak, we’ve got ‘war is peace’.
Don’t give me that propaganda.
White lies are worse than the truths they conceal.
You can talk to me, just make it real.