Saturday, 2 August 2008

The twirling of men in kilts

I drove against the festive traffic crawling into town. Feather boas fluttered out of car windows. Roadside stalls were setting up in odd places. Men in kilts crossed at the traffic lights. Girls dressed in cowboy hats and not much else were shouting and flirting across the street at each other. Drag queens tottered on high heels, fluttering eyelashes. The air buzzed. The place was grinding to a halt for a massive crazy party. 

In the midst of it all, the street sweeper scratched and scraped his broom along the gutter. A human chain threw sack after sack of buns from a van straight through the vacant open hatch of the burger stall. A postman with a long quirky feather in his cap emptied the letterbox on the corner, rattled a monstrous chained set of keys and slammed the narrow creaking metal door like he was intent on sealing a door to hell forever. The lights changed and I was on my way again.

On smooth and empty roads I rushed past fields of wheat so endlessly wide that it felt like I wasn't moving at all. The music on the radio reminded me of trains, of journeys, of pushing ahead, of days spent like this. I curved round slow forest bends in the rain and started thinking about the music I would perform today.

Pieces I am revisiting. Well loved, like old friends. Music from the European folk tradition that has largely been passed from musician to musician, singer to singer, fiddle to fiddle. Music that would have been lost centuries ago if it hadn't been played again at parties, dances, celebrations and more sombre gatherings. Music that thankfully has finally been written down so that we can keep it for longer and embellish it without forgetting the roots.

The musician I am playing with is an old friend too, someone I don't see often now. But when we begin, it is evident that our old magic is still alive. As the church embraces our sound, mysterious resonances come into play. The music takes on it's own life again and I am imagining workers in a high field of yellow wheat chanting and singing in time with their repetitive actions, of travelling musicians riding into town on a cart pulled by a long maned snorting horse, of feet stomping on a bare and chicken pecked patch of ground, of dancing way into the night and the twirling of men in kilts.