A crazy morning, this morning. Julie, our young lovely dark brainless heifer, didn't turn up for breakfast at the pens. We both and our neighbours Katie-Mary and Ruairidh searched the crofts, but no luck. Finally Bar spotted her trapped under an abandoned lorry trailer. She had stepped in over a metal bar and couldn't figure how to get out. From the pile of cow dung she must have been there all night, poor soul. We had to saw and bash away the metal bar, with rusty metal falling on Julie's head, so she was even more spooked. Eventually Ruairidh pushed her head enough to persuade her to engage reverse gear. She doesn't know Ruairidh so that may have been an added incentive for she finally backed out scraping the top of her back on the underside of the trailer. Bar sprayed her back so it doesn't get infected.
In the middle of all this I was fielding a phone call about an enigmatic object dated to 500 BC and which may well be another bridge for a stringed instrument, though not the same kind as the High Pasture Cave one. The Oakbank Crannog Centre are working on a major outreach programme in which this object will have a starring role.
Today my piece for Taonga Puoro (Maori musical instruments) and bassoon is up on the web. It's called Puna. I mentioned it in an earlier post. Now you can hear it at:
On Thursday I am invited to chat to/with the first year Gaelic students at Sabhal Mor Ostaig. I still can't believe that my Gaelic is good enough. It's not so very long ago since I was one of them - well, 20 years but I was already 60. Is that an excuse? Murchadh MacLeoid is still there - a wonderful teacher who makes everything fun and possible.
Twice recently the past has caught up with me in unexpected ways.
I had almost forgotten a composition I wrote for taonga puoro and bassoon - that's Maori musical instruments and bassoon. As one does. The piece is called Puna which means a spring or water-source. This one is at Hamurana on Lake Rotorua and roughly 4 million litres per hour surface there, silently, smoothly and, at 10 degrees C, very cold. I remember it well enough as I skinny-dipped there with the Maori artist James Webster, and Pania Witoko. It would kill me to do that now.
The bassoonist, Ben Hoadley asked me to compose Puna for himself and Richard Nunns to perform in the British Museum in front of the collection of Maori artefacts and they did so back in 2005. I remember that occasion well too, because a young New Zealander was so moved by hearing his people's instruments played live in the Museum, that he broke into a spontaneous celebratory haka.
But that, I thought, was that. When would a piece for bassoon and Maori traditional instruments ever be played again?
Only last night a link came through to a performance of Puna in Aotearoa (New Zealand) in March last year. It is, of course, Ben Hoadley, but this time with Rob Thorne on taonga puoro, and the playing is really beautiful. It should be up on the net soon.
Thanks guys! What a wonderful memory to come alive again so vividly.
The other call from the past was a request to write a word or two about the playwright and poet Joan Ure (Betty Clark). A book of her poems, The Tiny Talent, has been published in Orkney and the publishers have invited people who knew her to send in a word or two. My piece is titled Visiting Meikle Mochrum and is up there on the BRAE editions website.
Joan's poems are sensitive and subtle - and the book is very nicely produced. Well worth buying.
Meanwhile, miniature daffodils declare war on winter, along with crocusses and snowdrops and hellebores. Even the willow has pussies on it. We humans, however, being much less hardy, negotiate regular truces, and the cows accept it all with their usual stoicism.
John Purser is widely known as a composer, musicologist, poet, playwright, and broadcaster.