I spent the morning looking at art galleries, as paintings are better at getting out of bed than performers. I found Stephen Campbell’s installation On Form and Fiction at the National Gallery to be interesting: a room full of pictures from various sources, apparently including film noir and Boys’ Own adventures, while “Je t’aime ... moi non plus” played continuously in the background. It’s visual effect doesn’t really come across in words, but I would like to think that’s very much in the nature of a successful artwork. I liked it ... me neither.
So the first actual show I went to was Emily Snee is Bifurious. I was relieved that there were already three people in the room when I arrived. “These are my family,” Emily explained, and I realised that I was the audience. Her songs were pretty good, mostly about her various relationships and only getting slightly awkward when she started singing about her family. The only oddity was that although she was certainly singing about relationships with more than one gender, she never directly addressed the concept of bisexuality, even though I suspect the show’s title put off more people than it attracted.
The rest of my afternoon turned into a bit of a faff - it’s impossible to get anywhere fast in Edinburgh at the best of times, and I realised if you need to be anywhere in ten minutes, you’ve already missed it. I had a brief interlude at the Royal Mile where I found myself chasing a member of The Mechanisms down the street loudly demanding a flyer (a newsworthy event during the festival, but one that I think they’re starting to get used to). I also got chatting with a comedian called James Ross, who liked my hat and thought I would be interested in his show Unicornucopia, as I looked as if I’d read a book and could cope with some difficult words. He even gave me a badge with a unicorn on it, and I promised to make it to his show.
That unicorn is the unicorn of guilt, its horn pointing at me like an accusatory lodestone to the magnetic north of broken promises. I’ll get there next year. (I didn’t get any other hat comments today, although someone seemed to be muttering about undertakers as I walked past.)
In the evening I went to another concert by the Kronos Quartet, this time offering pieces by Philip Glass and Clint Mansell. Fortunately I’d had the sense to buy a programme this time and realised that they were playing considerably more than that, although tonight David Harrington had got over his shyness and actually told us what they were playing. The first piece was Nicole Lizée’s “Death to Kosmiche”, which incorporated a stylophone (an instrument whose star, you would have thought, had no further to fall in the twenty-first century) as well as other archaic proto-electronic instruments which reminded me that my brakes might need seeing to when I got home. Philip Glass’s “String Quartet no 6” sounded very much like a Philip Glass string quartet (as a longtime Glass fan I have a certain sympathy with people who think his music sounds the same - it can take a second or third or fourth listen before you start to hear what’s actually going on in the piece, what’s actually different. I remember being particularly tripped up by his second symphony, which isn’t anything like his other music. It just sounded like it) and Mary Kouyoumdjian’s “Bombs of Beirut” was a major piece which really should have had the star billing above Clint Mansell’s loud film music. It incorporated interviews with her family and recordings of bombings and attacks on civilians and was quite effective, although the music didn’t catch me as much as Vrebalov’s yesterday, and the text didn’t integrate with the music to the extent of its obvious precursor “Different Trains”.
After this it was time for more filth in the form of Nymphonerdiac, a double-act with “Nympho” Carmen Ali and “Nerd” Ella Murray. At first it looked as if they didn’t have an act - they involved the audience in a game of “I never”, in which I chose to keep quiet, as virtually the only thing I never did was announce it all to a room full of complete strangers. But then they got started with two stand-up spots. Ali was the filthier of the two, but I think Murray was funnier, even though she seemed to spend just as much time talking about sex. Carmen Ali felt that you hadn’t really had anal sex unless you can feel your heartbeat in your rectum the next day: Ella Murray mentioned how disappointed she was when she took the veil off and discovered that her flesh wasn’t tempting sex-crazed men into carnal acts. I think that probably tells you enough about both of them, and with the bedtime stories over with, I went to bed, possibly with two or three people fewer than Carmen Ali.
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