Thursday, 24 June 2010

ETHER:Everything you always wanted to know about what happened in Ether Festival, when Radiohead performed for the first time Arpeggi/ Weird Fishes

ETHER - Reporter by ARTHUR El Nómade.

Translation Spanish/ English by Eraser & Queen H. Edition Leonard Woolf

My Lady !! Today is Thursday, and I’ve been in London for a week now. As I was saying, I arrived from Barcelona at the beginning of the Easter break to spend the holidays with Paul. The city’s still cold and spring hasn’t exactly sprung, but I can take just about anything if it means not having to put up with the Catholic fervour being unleashed back in Spain.

My reunion with Paul is going very well--which is reassuring--because we hadn’t seen each other for almost two months. We’ve been together for years. Maybe our relationship has lasted so long and been so intense because the distances forces us into a lack of routine, though it’s something I pay dearly for in my bouts of feeling neglected.

He wants me to stay and live in London, though not necessarily together. Work is easy to find here as Paul has a lot of contacts through the magazine, and he’s willing to give me a hand. A couple of months ago I covered Fashion Week and sold some pictures I took to Spanish Vogue for a good price. Paul tells me he knows the guys that work with Testino but, who knows, I don’t want to get my hopes up. Besides, I don’t plan on closing my studio back in Barcelona, and the thought of settling down doesn’t appeal to me. A brief stay here might be a better idea, and this really is a fantastic city. It’s as if history was again happening here.

Besides, there’s the endless gossip on the Windsor’s, and you know how fascinating I find gossip. Here’s the latest: for Prince Charles to finally be able to marry his long-time lover, he has to apologize in writing to Camila’s ex-husband for having had an affair with his ex-wife. The Anglican Church is making him apologize, otherwise they won’t give them their blessing. Isn’t that crazy! Something like that could only happen in a country full of eccentrics.

Well, I won’t go on. I know you’re waiting to hear about the Ether Festival, so I’ll get to the point. Since Lady Newell couldn’t go she’s been pestering me about it for the last few weeks by IM, so this time I’m the one who gets to play reporter.

As you know, Radiohead are not my favourite band by any stretch of the imagination. Their music is so depressing, and I can’t stand that freakish singer of theirs. But, as you can imagine, being with Paul who covers all types of musical events… And anyway, I think the only thing the French have any respect for from England are Radiohead. I didn’t really have much choice but to go with him to the Johnny Greenwood and London Sinfonietta show at Ether.

According to Paul, the arrangement is something like this: Greenwood was hired by the London Sinfonietta to be a guest composer for three years and to compose contemporary classical music. That’s how Paul defines it. It’s a bit like Cage’s music; it’s the new classical. The London Sinfonietta is a very prestigious orchestra with ties to the BBC. They’re considered avant-garde here, and have a lot people who support this particular kind of music. I’d call it “elitist” but if Paul heard me, he’d get mad. So anyway… it’s all quite sophisticated and very highly regarded.

There was a buzz going round during the intervals. Rumour had it Greenwood was hired not because of his talent, but as a way for the Orchestra to attract a new audience and to bring in a new generation of subscribers. What’s more, apparently a lot of members were unhappy with the decision to hire the Radiohead guitarist, claiming he has no real training as a classical musician and that he’s nothing more than a rock musician who, at best, tries to be alternative. But, there’s another group of people that defend him saying he’s been trained and that before he played the electric guitar he played the viola.

Whatever the case, I can tell you the poor guy looked scared to death during the concert, so tall and pale, with absolutely nowhere for him to hide.

I’d heard of him, but really didn’t know that much about him. I just remember his picture appearing years ago in gay chat rooms, but he’s supposed to be into women.

But, you never know, right? Anyway… let me go on with the news. A colleague of Paul’s who’s a journalist for the Guardian told us a few days ago that Greenwood, as a kind of a precautionary measure, said that he felt embarrassed about discussing his part in the symphony because he knows very little about the style. Though he is really really into of some of the composers (Penderecki, apparently), he doesn’t know anything about the others. He is also impressed with the talent, enthusiasm and help the other musicians have offered him, as well as their open-mindedness about new techniques. They deal well with the changes regardless of how radical may they seem.

Another titbit we overheard after the show was that Greenwood was so unsure about what he wanted to do that he was still making changes to the score right up until the end of the last rehearsal.

Below I have copied the program that was scheduled for his debut as symphony composer:

Ascencion by Messian (4to MVT), Cantus in memory of Benjamin Britten, Herrmann Psycho; Clavicordio Concerto de Gogecki; Juan Adams; Carl Ruggles Portals; continuous series by LigetiI; Dances by Bartok; Compositions by Greenwood; with the colaboration of the Nazarteh Orchestra, vocalist Lubna Salame, and the premiere of a Radiohead song performed by Thom Yorke. Pete Giman on clavichord, all of whom are directed by Robert Ziegler.

When we arrived at the theatre, I was quite surprised by the type of people there. There was a rather unlikely mix of ageing punks, post-modern intellectuals, grunge rockers, classical music fans and all types of eccentric characters. The atmosphere in the lobby that evening had an impossibly hip feel about it. Seeing all those offbeat people reminded me of something I heard Christopher Bailey say once backstage during a Burberry fashion show. He was describing his collection and made the comment that for him being English was tantamount to being one-of-a-kind/totally original; it meant being traditional but with hip sensitivity. It meant being able to express oneself with flair and know how to appreciate it, whatever the consequences.

The concert started and after every composition some of the audience gently applauded and another part almost jumped. The public annoyed with the fans and the fans looking fiercely to the habitués. A delirium, but an ordered one.

The concert was gaining quality. There were even some really unique moments. And when Greenwood played his strange compositions with the symphony, the sound seemed to illuminate all of us. Paul was fascinated. I, on the other hand, lost my concentration at times and went off on tangents. On one of those tangents, a strong memory burst into my mind and I didn’t hear anything else.

Years ago, in 1999 to be exact, I got an unexpected call from my agent to cover a vacancy as an assistant in Mark Seliger’s art production team. I had to go the next day to Los Angeles for the interview that Chris Head was doing for Rolling Stone magazine with Brad Pitt. It was my chance!

At that time Brad Pitt was the sex symbol of the moment after winning the limelight those unforgettable 15 minutes where he had sex with the blond one in Thelma and Louise. Fight Club had just come out and he was beginning to be considered a serious actor. I had seen “The Fight Club” and I was totally in love with the naked and sweaty trunk of the club’s leader. The film was fabulous, the script was hallucinogenic, a cult to the new virility, and the critic, as well as the public, get exited as the fight goes on.

I took a plane and the following morning a member of the Rolling Stone team was waiting for me in Los Angeles airport, and from there it was direct to Hollywood, to Pitt’s mansion. At the beginning I didn’t understand anything. English was still an obstacle for me. I was really anxious to participate in a Rolling Stones` production. My colleague advised me to calm down and to do exactly what he told me to. My work was to help in Seliger’s photographic production, more precisely in the wardrobe that Pitt was going to wear. Nothing much, but it was the beginning of something bigger.

The mansion was as one would have imagined, maybe a little more sober, almost minimalist for Hollywood but, of course, high tech. I wasn’t the only one nervous; the whole team seemed a bit jumpy. It was supposed to be the interview of the year, Pitt’s consecration and a massive boost for the magazine’s sales to make the the competition go green with envy.

When Pitt finally got to the garden, where the interview would take place, I couldn’t believe it; he was hotter than he was in the movies. He was dressed like in “The Fight Club”, with tight pants, white shirt and a red leather bomber jacket on top. It was obvious that the character had got to him. He drank coffee, smoked, was very considerate with everyone and seemed willing to begin the interview. Chris Head himself asked him the questions while we took pictures by the thousand. The guy looked perfect from every angle, whatever the lighting; he was a modern version of James Dean.

Everything was going well, I was already cool and I was told to go with the rest of the team to a room where we were going to make an special production with Armani’s clothes. While we were organizing the outfits, Pitt got in with the photographers and without saying a word he started to take his clothes off. I didn’t know what the rest of the team was thinking but I couldn’t believe my eyes. Brad Pitt naked in front of me! Better not to remember it because I could get in trouble. He seemed to enjoy the situation, confident about himself as if he were a nudist club habitué.

Just then, someone told me to give him a white shirt. I get closer to him; he turned back and asked me to help him to put on the shirt. Imagine, I had in front of me his fabulous back and he also smelled really good. Then the worst happened. My hands started to shake in a way that I couldn’t keep the shirt still for him to put the arms on it.

I don’t know how it ended; I just remember that I gave him the shirt and hid inside the team crowd as fast as possible. Later, already on my nerves, I started listening to the interview. Head’s assistants were worried. The interview wasn’t going very well; there was no way that Pitt enlarged his answers about the movie. “The Fight Club” was not going to be the main point of the interview. To every question, Pitt made a large digression and the point got missed. Why? What was Brad Pitt talking about all the time? You won’t believe me, but no matter what the question was about, he always ended up talking about Radiohead. He seemed to be obsessed with the band and told that during the filming of “The Fight Club” he spent all his time listening to Radiohead, particularly Ok Computer, which is his favorite album. He argued that his movie wasn’t art, that contemporary art was about Thom Yorke because, according to him, the Radiohead´s singer was so important for his generation as Kafka and Beckett. Who would have said? Brad Pitt a fan of Radiohead. He insisted once and again about his huge admiration and there was no way to make him talk about his character. He was completely captured by his devotion for Thom Yorke.

The vigorous applauses brought me back to the concert. Paul was praising Greenwood composition without stopping, and asked me about my opinion. tried to improvised a commentary but suddenly, the vibration of the hall changed. An absolute silence invaded the place and all the looks went to the tiny figure that was entering to the scenery, enlighten under the lights. Then, an unequal acclamation exploded. While the fans scream madly, the classic audience applauded with distrust. Wearing a short waistcoat, with the hair tremendously stopped, a violent expression of irritation on his face: it was Thom Yorke, and he looked like an electrocuted Goblin.

The tension could be cut with a knife. Yorke waited… and waited… and waited… confuse, stubborn to the microphone … lost in thought. He took out a sheet of paper, put it on the music stand, launched an imperceptible gesture to the director and the orchestra opened with Arpeggi, the new Radiohead´s song.

Greenwood in charge of the Martenot waves, that weird instrument that preannounce the electronic music, started with a elegiac tone that sounded like the buzzing of a piano.

Yorke´s trembling voice, as a sirens singing, captivated us immediately.

The vigorous applauses brought me back to the concert.

Paul was praising Greenwood composition without stopping, and asked me about my opinion.

I tried to improvised a commentary but suddenly, the vibration of the hall changed. An absolute silence invaded the place and all the looks went to the tiny figure that was entering to the scenery, enlighten under the lights.

Then, an unequal acclamation exploded. While the fans scream madly, the classic audience applauded with distrust. Wearing a short waistcoat, with the hair tremendously stopped, a violent expression of irritation on his face: it was Thom Yorke, and he looked like an electrocuted Goblin.

When the song ended, a dark atmosphere impregnate the auditorium, who hypnotized, took a while to react. I was decapitated because watching Thom singing, perceiving the aura irradiated by his voice, I finally understood how right Lady Newell was when she said that Radiohead makes evident our complete absence of individuality.

Cheers from Ether Festival !! Arthur !

Listen to the  story in Spanish