All Tomorrow’s Parties
Together with some friends, I’ve spent the past weekend at ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’, which is one of the ‘All Tomorrow’s Parties’ music festivals. These festivals are each curated by a particular act. The one we’ve just been to was curated by Godspeed You! Black Emperor, meaning that they chose all of the acts and (I think) scheduled the whole thing.
It’s no surprise, really, that the event had a definite end-of-the-world feel to it. Not with Godspeed curating. The nature of the acts that they’d picked, coupled with the fairly bleak milieu of an out-of-season Butlin’s holiday camp, really worked together to create the sense of some kind of post-apocalyptic gathering. (The vast number of bearded men in attendance probably had something to do with it too). I can’t put it any better than Godspeed You! Black Emperor did in their introduction to the programme:
‘we’ll be chopping up the furniture soon enough, betsy, ’cause we all know it’s going down. and fucking auld lang syne while the gilded ballroom lurches and the water rises ankle deep. a lifetime full of end times, brother. a lifetime of yesterday’s confetti, still unswept, heaped like snowdrifts, and then kicked up by the wind, obscuring the pale blue moonlight so’s we all end up blinking in the dark like burnt stars.
somewhere out there in the nighttime, dumb human virtue still sputters like a muddy coal-fed engine in the rain. and there’s more of us than there are of them. so, this next round’s for all of you, all you little firecrackers, who was born buried already but strived to kick holes in it anyhow. you’re all of you golden. for real and for true.
music is a ruinous thing. it’s made some dead, many broke, and a handful plump and wealthy – a conspiracy of dull vanities that conspire to diminish the true gleam of your own goddamn lives and glories. don’t ever fall for it – make your own holy noise with whatever’s at yr. disposal. hitch a mule to a daydream and drive it slowly forward.
don’t bend, ascend.
music is an impossibly wond’rous thing. this weekend, a whole lot of stubborn folks’ll make all different kinds of ruckus. a host of miracles and tiny liberations, and we thank them for it. we’re fans of their ruckus and we hope y’all will be too, and we hope that you find some jubilations there, either in the dawn or up all night wondering why.
all that matters is all of us together, or not at all.
and all of earthly heaven’s right here once we decide to.
take care of yourselves and look out for one another.
and thanks for coming.
xoxoxoxox god’s pee’
I’ve been a fan of Godspeed for a long time. Since starting to write novels, I’ve found their music – instrumental, dramatic, described by Barry Hogan (ATP founder) as ‘a soundtrack to the best film I never saw’ – ideal for writing to. The appeal of their music in particular, as opposed to that of other post-rock instrumentalists, is exactly what they capture in that programme introduction above – the feeling of hope in the face of total, corrupt, world-ending power. They convey the drama of that power too, though, and the fear.
This kind of brings me to the point of this blog post, and maybe even the point of this blog. I’ve been struggling a bit, recently, with my writing. Not the act of writing itself, but the more general difficulty of articulating what it is that I’m trying to do in my writing. I’ve just started work on my third novel (The Ravenglass Eye) and so, as you might expect, I’ve been thinking a lot about my aims. What I’ve been trying to capture, I think, is that sense of fascination with The End of the World. The horror, yes, but also the amoral thrill of it, and the (probably futile) hope that a new, better world might emerge as a result.
It’s been a favourite theme of writers through the ages, just as belief that the end is coming has been widespread since the very beginning. It’s not a new thing. Far from it. But it does really make me tick. It’s there in my first two novels (the second novel, The Thing on the Shore, being published in April), albeit only in a small way. It will come to the fore in the third book though. That’s not to say that these books need to be read in order, or that you need to read all of them to make sense of one. (And obviously, you don’t need to read any of them at all). My intention is to convey, across a series of standalone novels, that sense of a world on the edge. Or maybe just past the edge. Filtered through the lives and narratives of various characters in and around West Cumbria. With some characters very upset about it all. And some characters that maybe just don’t mind so much. And in there, somewhere – and this is what All Tomorrow’s Parties has helped me realise – I want to get that very stubborn, and quite probably perverse, little spark of excitement. Hope, even. (Though that might be pushing it).
The reason I’ve decided to start a new blog is that my first one – Fell House – was just a bit too explicitly connected (via its name) to The Leaping, my first novel. (Fell House is the primary setting of the book). In addition, I didn’t really like the way it was going. It was all news and plugs. Not enough fiction, or fiction-related posts. I’m going to be strict with this one. This one’s for actual creative writing and writing about writing only. I might keep Fell House for news and stuff. I don’t know. We’ll see.
Anyway. It’s cold outside. It’s pretty cold in here too. Need to warm up.
So – yeah. Get the axe, Betsy. Come on.