Why do I find the performance of Karl Jenkins’ Adiemus by the Carmina Slovenica girls choir and the Chorus Instrumentalis Orchestra under the direction of Karmina Šilec so deeply moving? Why does the sight and sound of these girls fill me with such joy? Probably for the same reason that I was moved to write my novel Stories People Tell about Annie, a shy schoolgirl who, despite sustained, cruel treatment and personal doubts, blossoms into a major voice in a London-based movement celebrating gender diversity while struggling to end violence against women and care for the weak and marginalised. The power of these girls lies in their potential and their sheer beauty striding forward into adulthood as expressed in their movements, in their voices, in their very being both individually and as a group united.
The dresses of the Slovenian girls are not fanciful, just a sober blue that leaves their forearms and calves uncovered. Their bare feet are firmly planted on the floor, their heads held high, their hair pinned up to reveal the lines of their faces, etched with determination and lit with joy. The word sensual would be misleading. Yet these girls inhabit their bodies in a way that is both earthy, spiritual and true. This worldly and ethereal presence echoes the force of their voices which come to us directly, as Karl Jenkins’ music requires, without all the cultural artefacts that have hemmed in much of western singing. Directness but also sensitivity are the hallmarks of my character Annie. She stands behind her words in much the same way this girls’ choir invests its music and movement. Beyond Jenkins’ music, the ritualised gestures of the girls’ hands, their feet and their heads, while remaining seated throughout, evoke age-old ceremonies that stir the forgotten depths of our memories. There is something truly beautiful and uplifting in these girls who reach out to embrace their full potential.
Jake on the verge of flight. This reading from the draft 1st chapter of People of the Forestby its author, Alan McCluskey, was filmed in the forest which inspired the novel. The forest is situated in the hills above the village where the author lives in Switzerland. In this extract, Jake, in thinking of the forest, says; There was an inner peace to the place, like an insistent silence that called to him. There are several such places in the forests of Neuchâtel, but this setting is one of the most potent. It’s a joy to sit there just listening to the silence that rises and falls beyond the twittering birds, the squabbling squirrels and the wind rustling through the trees. The full text of this extract can be found in The birth of a new novel. And more about the draft novel, including other extracts, can be foundhere.
Above is a video filmed in the forest that inspired the novel People of the Forest. In this clip, the author, Alan McCluskey, reads an extract from the second chapter of the draft book. The text of the extract can be found here:…and what about the girl?And more about the draft novel, including extracts, can be found here.
Almost every day I go for a long walk in the forest above our home, pausing from time to time to sit and write the next paragraphs of my latest book. As I walk, I turn over ideas and words for my book while trying to fend off the myriad other stories that bustle for my attention. I examine the world around me and take photos or film from time to time. I had been meaning to film the funicular which crosses the path at one point but as the train goes by only once an hour, my passage rarely coincides with that of the ‘Funi’. Today I was lucky.
But it is not only flowers and birds and inspiration to be found in the forest. As I walk, exploring further and deeper each time, I meet a rich variety of people who have also opted for the forest. Here is today’s selection.
The man with gray stubble for a beard opens his plastic bag and proudly exhibits the mushrooms he’s found before plunging behind trees and around bushes in search of more. A Kurd plodding steadily along the road, leans on his sticks. “It’s diabetes,” he says. “And the heart.” He talks of his doctor and the hospital and the precautions he must take. But today he’s decided to be more daring and walk as much as he wants. A woman struggles after a husky up the steady incline as she does everyday. Taking it in turns with her husband, she exercises her dogs whenever using the sled is not possible. A man in a t-shirt, shorts and running shoes cuts through the forest extolling the virtues of getting in amongst the trees. When challenged about the dangers of ticks that are prevalent in the area, he replies, “I’ve been vacinated.” I didn’t now a vaccin against Lyme Disease existed. Finally there’s the lumberjack sawing off lengths of trunks with a cunning measuring device he made himself. Once cut and dried, the wood heats his home and brings “warmth and light” to his friends. When asked whether ecology or cost-saving motivates his work, he replies, “Both. But above all the pleasure.” He talks with evident relish of the different types of wood, how they dry, what they smell of and how they burn.
I stumbled on a very informative discussion between JK Rowling and Daniel Radcliffe about the Harry Potter films. I was fascinated by the relationship between the two which is very hard to classify. There is genuine concern and interest on the part of each of them for the other. Both are still immersed in the story and common memories, but they don’t make us feel like outsiders looking in. I appreciated the self confidence of Radcliffe, his articulateness, and his overflowing enthusiasm and the candour and relaxedness of JK Rowling.
When I began writing my novel Chimera– which is finished but awaiting editing and publication – I had no idea what I was embarking on. I had my own experience of being wrapped up in my stories and my worlds, missing out on what was going on around me, feeling worryingly absent at times around people. But from there to imaging myself in the head of a being who was totally unable to communicate with words and gestures was a giant step. My intuition was that seen from the inside Sam, my character, would be wildly creative but no one else would know. What frustration. He had no iPad or computer to bridge between him and the world. To make things worse, or possibly better in the longer term, he discovers he is a chimera, someone who shares his mind and body with another being. Sami, that other being, is quite the opposite to him. She is articulate, communicative and deft with her hands and feet. She offers him a chance to leave his long-standing isolation and span the gap to the world through her. But will he want to relinquish the security of the fortifications he has built around himself?
The video: a contribution from Apple to celebrate International Autism Day.
The artist Alexander Hahn recently opened at exhibition entitled All the World’s a Stage at the Kunstraum Oktogon in Bern. It was a chance to catch up with artist after twenty five years. I wrote several articles about his work in the early 90s. I have include photos of two of these and a series of photos of the exhibition on the Artworkssite.
Elsa Schwarzer Hirsig gives a demonstration of suminagashi, Japanese marbelling that dates back to the 12th century, on the closing day of her exhibition at the Centre de Santé in Colombier. She was accompanied on the guitar by Flavio Piervittori. Visit the Suminagashi gallery for more photos. See a video of Elsa finishing one of her sumingashi. See also a videoof Flavio playing at this event. All photos and videos are by Alan McCluskey.