–Richard Feynman, physicist
Beginnings are easy.
Choosing one is hard.
Choosing what follows is hard.
Choosing, come to think of it, is what’s hard.
We’re early on in our thinking around a new piece, and it’s a time to relish. We’re playing with sounds and images and objects and information that might be in the form of pictures or movement or words.
We still don’t properly know what it is. I mean, obviously, there are starting points. Or is that obvious? We start somewhere, but we don’t necessarily select things to bring into the space with us. There’s the news and what we’ve been reading and last night’s TV and that song on the radio and the lady in the lobby we walked past as we came in. There’s far more in the space than we thought we were bringing.
We’ve got to be disciplined about this.
It’s a piece about ageing and declining culture, or that’s where it starts.
The problem is that as we start to think about ageing, it’s also about time, and time is pretty complicated when you start to think about it. Our producer sends us a link to this because she’s thinking about time and what’s left and the sliver of a moment we occupy between what’s already been and what’s still to come. Hawking’s A Brief History of Time is only brief by comparison with other scientific texts on the subject. I get diverted into thinking about black holes, and time travel (isn’t living itself a kind of time travel?) and the news that black holes colliding created a window to see gravitational waves are real, and then, as I followed links, the news that they’d already been detected, which reminded me that I still haven’t seen Chris Dobrowolski’s Antarctica. (There’s an artist with disciplined time-consuming process.) And I reflected on the years these scientists had spent on this project — 25 years, a whole career, and the people who had built their sensors, four kilometres of laser beam and mirror.
They did this not to discover something new, exactly, but to prove that they, and a whole century of physics, were right about something. They’ve contributed to knowledge, to culture. In my mind, these colliding black holes and the waves they’ve revealed have a metaphor in jazz musicians coming together for a spectacular jam session and the resonances of those riffs that stay in the minds of the audience.
Kat tells me that I’m not paying attention, that we’ve got a story already. A space, a domestic basement space, filled with items which are in an uncanny way a kind of mind palace made real, a history of knowledge not only of one man and his life, but of his culture, stretching back thousands of years. And I counter that the coal I’ve been speaking about (don’t ask, I can’t trace a line from jazz to the coal, perhaps it was something to do with ‘digging’, or perhaps it was the colour of black holes and the reflection and absorption of light) goes back further, a relic of the lives which occupied a place not thousands but millions of years ago. Food for the industrial revolution, it enabled a culture of leisure — enabled people to live healthier, more comfortable lives. Alongside that, the educational and cultural values of contemporary civilisation developed.
Kat is quiet, eyebrows raised. Do you think, I ask, that it would be a fire risk if we bring a couple of tonnes of coal onto the stage?
And we break for lunch.