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Category Archives: Art

I’d heard about music being a key way to communicate with people with dementia but hadn’t done much about it when I saw the BBC site of snippets of songs from decades. My Mum’s life began in 1926 so I started by listening to the ’20s and ’30s lists. I was surprised to find many songs I recognised from our family radio in the Fifties.

I started to practice singing some of the songs and downloaded lyric sheets. I then got my son and his son involved in playing and singing a small selection to my 92 year old mum in her carehome. Many people have responded warmly to the video we made of this visit.


After making this I realised that one or two things might be awry. One is that two of the songs are from the USA, and as the BBC radio in the period of her youth broadcast mainly live music, rather than playing 78rpm discs, it may be they were not in circulation in Nottingham. The BBC had a monopoly of the airwaves and was conservative in taste avoiding anything too vulgar or too ‘hot’ as in jazz! So she might not have heard these two songs, ‘Red Red Robin’ and ‘Bye Bye Blackbird’, until they were released in Britain in the Fifties. That’s maybe why I knew them so well. Henry Hall’s ‘Teddy Bears Picnic’ is a British hit song and the band that issued it was the BBC orchestra from 1932 – 37.

The second thing was that the songs that can break through the dementia communication barrier are often from out teenage years, when we choose ‘our own’ musics and these tunes get associated with the formation of our selves. Mum was only thirteen in 1939 – so maybe I should have been looking more at wartime songs? Flanagan and Allen’s ‘Run Rabit Run’ was one such song we did use in our session. Never mind, it was all a positive experience and I hope the video will inspire other people to try something similar.

The project has lead me to have an appreciation of the very lively popular music scene in the UK which seems to have been a mix a US jazz inspired dance bands and music-hall comedy soloists. Joan may have been too young to go out to the dance bands that must have played in Nottingham – except for a few years in the middle to end of the War when she was working as a nurse. She got married to a Polish Mosquito pilot and moved to Central London in 1947. But then I was born in February 1948 so that would have limited her social life in London to some extent. There are a lot of questions that I’ll sadly never have answers to.

Joan has always danced since she’s been in the Carehome – but not sung. It was only in the last year that I got more confidence in my own singing and started singing a bit to her. We never used to sing together at home. My mum’s mum Daisy worked in service in her young years and perhaps picked up that raucous working class sing-songs were a bit vulgar.

‘Playlist for Life’ is somewhat like my Agit Disco Dispersal idea – the suggestion that our lives have a musical accompaniment and a version of our life stories may be told in the musics that grab us at key times. If we do get dementia later in life this could be useful to our close relatives.

The Agit Disco project, of which this blog is a close relation, is archived here:

and is still available as a paper book from several sources.

Other links relating to music and memory:




This looks like a hip one. Interestingly, it includes a Cornelius Cardew composition. He was a big part of my life and is central to my latest book ‘Improvisation Rites’ . I also learnt new people, like Heiner Goebbels, and I looked up Red Krayola, and listened to them for the first time. The question marks indicate that I don’t know the track because it is in Japanese (Japanese readers can see photos of pages below)

01 ? (2007)

02. Heiner Goebbels/ Alfred 23 Harth – ‘Berlin Q-Damn’ (1981)

Evokes, for me, the horror of Kristallnacht 9-10th November 1938

03 ? (1991)

04 Cornelius Cardew and Scratch Orchestra ‘The Great Learning Paragraph 2’ (1971)

05 Charlie Mingus ‘Orignal Faubus Fables’ (1960)

06 Frederic Rzewski – 36 variations on ‘The People United Will Never Be Defeated’. Variation 13 (1975)

I nearly heard this in Athens in 2017 … but lost my iphone in a taxi on the way there. Earlier I had been having a meal with Federic and other members of Documenta 14 in a wonderful cafe in which he was frank in his views. Interesting to hear a US communist!

07 ? (1971)

08 ? (1968)

09 ? (1973)

10 ? (1994)

11 ? (1971)

12 The Red Krayola with Art & Language – ‘Keep All Your Friends’ (1981) from Kangaroo? album

Art & Language are a leading English Conceptual Art group. The Red Krayola experimental US rock band, who remind me of the ethos of the Scratch Orchestra, were formed in 1966 by Mayo Thompson. In 1996 They/he provided the soundtrack for a short film Japan in Paris in L.A.

14 Archie Sheep – ‘Attica Blues’ (1972)

15 Happy End – ‘Turn Things Upside Down’ (1990)

Now here’s an interesting one. This is a Robert Wyatt song done by an English 20+ person left-field political band formed by Mat Fox in the area of London I was squatting in at the time (1983). Their name is taken from the title of a 1929 musical play co-written by Bertolt Brecht and Elisabeth Hauptmann, with music by Kurt Weill. They played over 150 benefit concerts for miners during 1984 strike. Their last concert was in 2000.

BUT it is also the name, I learn, of a highly influential Japanese band 1969 – 72. Even known as the Japanese Beatles. They are credited with bringing the use of Japanese back into Japanese pop songs (from 2000?). So ‘Happy End’ is quite evocative to Japanese people.

Any Japanese readers who could translate items 01, 03, 07 – 11 please let me know!






e.g. Eliane Radigue – Stress Osaka (1969)

P.S. There’s nine more above. The idea is to choose something new I learn and illustrate it with a uToobe link.

Details via:

Almost forgot to blog my own Agit Disco dispersal event at Farnham. It was the closing event for the Working Press archiving exhibition ‘Building a Better World’ in the magnificent library social space. The Agit Disco project had arisen organically from the music chapter in 1993 The Conspiracy of Good Taste (Free Download new illustrated edition here)


Using the tiniest record deck in the world that was wired up to a more hefty portable college sound system. It managed to cause a rumpus in the library with the Head Librarian loving the arrival of music (studies) whilst one of her staff was bristling about volume and distraction to the upper reading rooms. They had a little set to and the head of Library had to give the other a stern order to put up and shut up!

The Working Press archive book on the round table above is available for free download from here ‘RISE’

It was a small event but a good crowd with selections from Susan Merrick and Emmanuelle Waeckerle.

Showing at Gimpel Fils Gallery, London until the 11th October 2014 M-F 10 – 5.30, Sat 11 – 4pm  The film is a visual performance to an eleven minute section of the soundtrack of Spielberg’s 2005 War of the Worlds, starting 22 minutes in when the war is underway. This is made in a domestic setting in a Tel Aviv suburb by various means: short scenes are acted out in a playful way with the use of domestic tools and everyday objects as plausible sound makers used by foley artist impersonators; children and adults lip sync to the moments of dramatic dialogue and action; the main interior room used is the kitchen. Inserted into this is a restrained use of theatrical props, mainly a rubber severed hand, and short snippets of news footage of war in Israel. The Spielberg sound design, mixed with the music composed by John Williams, is of course high-end and this contrasts, sometimes to comic effect, with the make-do quality of some of the props used to mis-represent the causes of these sounds. To rise to the challenge of the ‘War of the Worlds’ action a lot of things are smashed up including a basketball that crashes through a real window. Alarm clocks, hoovers, blenders, gas flames, spillages and domestic accidents appear to contribute their sounds. Who knows, some of these things may have actually been used by the Hollywood foley artists who are famous for their inventive use of everyday objects. Guy Ben-Ner Soundtrack2 The film is very affecting after the recent Israeli offensive but was in fact made at the time of the previous somewhat smaller scale conflict in 2012. The lightness of the playful action makes us feel the relation between our domestic lives and its comforts and the violence that is inflicted in other parts of the world. Perhaps it is not necessarily as a result of the production of domestic commodities but it is certainly a product of capitalism as a whole. We benefit whilst others suffer. This is all conveyed with frying eggs, children’s balloons, toddlers plastic trikes and the other paraphernalia of family life. Read More »

A ‘French Agit Disco’, an annotated list of songs made by son and mother, Francis Haselden and Sharon Kivland, was offered for an ambitious Agit Disco benefit for London’s Housemans radical bookshop in April 2014, in response to the wider Agit Disco project. Agit Disco is an archive project. It refers to the ‘domestic’ record collections both in physical form in our houses and flats and in our memories. The process of selection is a critical process of second distillation. The first process occurs as particular records, CDs, and MP3s are bought or otherwise obtained from the mass of commercial commodities that reflects systemic interests or constructs a panoply of material which is not conducive to challenging these interests or thinking critically about them. Selectors produce their Agit Disco playlist. Intellectual processes of review, comparison, and evaluation bring into focus the themes and effects of this heritage of listening. Then a collaborative and communicative process happens. The playlist is produced as a real object, a ‘mix-tape’ that can be given, sent, heard by others, or imagined, finding its place in archives to be heard again when the right moment arises, perhaps with others, at a real disco, a party, an after-dinner session. The process generates proposals and statements, and it is important the tracks are liberated from systemic worlds of commodity and become part of another gift economy.

The French Agit Disco song titles and commentary were printed in a slipcase booklet that formed the cover of a plastic CD case containing an audio CD of the playlist. The first nine songs are organised into groups under the following genre sub-headings printed in red: Chansons (from 1957 and 1965), ‘Ye-Ye’ (from 1966 and 1967) and ‘a few chansons from May 68. These are then followed by two songs from 1979 and 1980, and then a final three from 2001, 2008, and 2011.The audio CD that accompanied the booklet was presented as a keynote to that event.

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The Scratch Orchestra’s Nature Study Notes’ performed at Chisenhale Dance Space on  Saturday 28th June 2014  7.30pm  64-84 Chisenhale Rd, London E3 5QZ  

Click to hear a recording of Nature Study Notes

Photos of the event by Martin Dixon are now  archived here:

‘The Scratch Orchestra’s Nature Study Notes’ – performed by an ensemble of original Scratch Orchestra members and new performers including: Jane Alden, George Chambers, Linn D, Carole Finer, Sharon Gal, John Hails, Bryn Harris, Les Hutchins, Robbie Lockwood, Geraldine McEwan, Matt Scott, Hugh Shrapnel, Stefan Szczelkun, Emmanuelle Waeckerle, Ali Warner.

Nature Study Notes is a collection of 152 written instructions or ‘scores’ that was published as a booklet by Cornelius Cardew at the beginning of the Scratch Orchestra in 1969. The scores are called ‘rites’ and were used in many of the early Scratch Orchestra concerts. This is a music improvisation and visual performance event about one hour duration.

One review leads to another:


I must say, in hindsight, that the improvisation rites have an overall uniqueness – almost a new art form with elements of theatre, music, visuals – but amounting to something else. They have great variety (reflecting the individual character & preoccupations of the author) but an overall character (if this makes sense!).Hugh Shrapnel, 24-12-2013   

We made a rough programme so that popular rites that people wanted to do at the same time or which specified a group performance, didn’t clash. Other rites to be played by individuals, duos or trios are not listed below.

Skeletal Progamme mark2

20.00 HMSIR 5 led by Hugh Shrapnel starts the concert. When this ends we do rite CCAR17 ‘accompaniment and solo’.

20.09 ABP 128 co-ordinated by Jane. ‘9 basic sounds’

20.16 CCSR 18 ‘elected soloist repeats an action’ Ali Warner leads

20.25 HSBR 34 ’six deep breaths’ (group version) led by Bryn. NB dispersed in time version led by Sharon.

20.27 CFIRNTFM 145 ‘flower piece’ co-ordinated by Carolyn.

20.29 DJ68 led by John Hails ’slow metamorphosis to a snarling mob’

20.36 CCRR 66 co-ordinated by Carolyn ‘radiant rite’

20.40 FRLMDP 47 conducted by George ‘musical notation’

20.48 CCAMMR 129 ‘Look upward, move backward’ ensemble version co-ordinated by Sharon

20.54 BHUSR 35 ‘sing our own song finale facing the audience in a line’ led by Stefan who will signal start.

c20.57 after completing your song return to the space and continue quiet or visual improvising.

21.00 quiet ending..

21.30 Take our leave.

There won’t be a programme as such at the venue so this gives some idea of what occurred for those that came and those that didn’t.

Here’s our review in The Wire by Phil England:

Wire review NSN

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 Notes after a presentation by Viren Swami in late 2007

The psychological discourse on human beauty has been occupied by research from Evolutionary psychologists, which has in the last ten or fifteen years been mainly concerned with the ‘waist-to-hip ratio’, or WHR. Viren Swami pointed out that this research, which purported to show that men preferred higher WHRs in women, had a poor methodology that used crude outline figures which hid mens preference for healthy Body Mass Index, or BMI. His own and collegiate research shows that BMI is as important, or more important than WHR. Evolutionary Psychology assumes we have not evolved since prehistoric times in the way male desire translates into visual cues and this is universal. VS points out his own research which show the influence of ethnic, contemporary media exposure and particularly economic factors. He finds for instance that desire for higher BMI is related to hunger!

Question: Was the focus on WHR based on prior research which systemmatically prioritised the visual cues of desire? Where things such as: face (itself composed of many elements which could be analysed), hair, leg shape, breasts, hands, feet, skin, genitalia, buttock shape, height, etc found to be insignificant in relation to WHR? The tests described, choices made between female outlines, seem designed to produce reductive results.

To me all these things are important aspects of glamour (as in allure) and the WHR or BMI are only singular factors even if they are the ‘most’ influential. Even if each aspect could be given relative value the dynamism of the relations between each aspect would put considerable strain on any reductive ‘proofs’. Add to that the complex cultural variables and the reductive methodologies measuring single variables seems to have limited use. This does not mean that ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ only that the dynamic complexity of such multiple factors makes it appear to be a personal evaluation.

Would it not be possible to use computers to model dynamic responses to complex variables? On the other hand what about using the the choices of real people… much more expensive and difficult to sort out what factor had what effect.

Another point is that in selecting an actual sexual partner we will choose within realistic limits given by our own attractiveness quotient. We are not going to choose people who will reject us. So most people learn early to choose partners within the range specified by their own appearance. Desires outside of these strict limits are left to the realm of fantasy celebrity worship or pornography,

Just to complicate any research, as VS pointed out, factors like wealth, age and health can trump any physical characterics.

VS indicated how our appearance grades our life chances from job applications to being treated in a traffic accident where shocking and repulsive to our ‘ethical’ intelligence. Good looking victims of road accidents tended to get better attention. More awful was the indications that pressures for low BMI were becoming global, even in populations whose bodies genetic inheritance made this attainment naturally rare and harder to achieve through work (Samoa). And this was leading to a global explosion of eating disorders and body related dis ease.

A question: at what point and to what extent does the objects of our sexual desire become constructed? My own casual observations suggest that glamour quotients are constructed prior to the efflorescence of pubescent sexual desire. And that they follow pressures to be normative but may be directed away from norms by a number of factors. As this construction meets visceral pubescent desire, a crisis can emerge. One that is often not understood or appreciated by adults.

One thing that might happen is that early self expectations of beauty may not match post pubescent body development. 

Whether the sexual drive has an inbuilt goal that includes visual and gender related cues is unknown. There are of course a huge cultural/political vested itnerests in this being inate/ genetic and ‘natural’. As body beauty seems to create a hierarchy of human value that is based in the genetic lottery of nature. The implied conclusion is that superiority/inferiority of oppression is either the same (crude level) or has a basis or justification in nature.

C. Wright Mills quoted by John Barker from Variant 30  p24

 “In part they [celebrities] have stolen the show for that is their business; in part they have been given the show by the upper classes who have withdrawn and have other business to accomplish.” 

The spotlight and the self-confidently nosey tone of investigation is hardly ever turned on the power elite, not unless they have chosen the spotlight, which is normally left to those in search of celebrity status. This is because, as Mills understood, a subservient media is part of the elite itself , and because intelligent elitists’, as Jo Freeman put it, will not seek visibility. Rather they will maintain a certain privacy through the command of legal and architectural resources.”

My conclusion at the end of the Eighties was that the classifying effect of glamour had become a vehicle for the mechanisms of oppression/ class, that is with regard to the ideology of superiority /inferiority. So systemic media will tend to amplify that which stresses any disunification of the population or perhaps that which undermines peoples sense of self esteem (the point of class oppression being to instill feelings of unworthyness).

Notes on my response to a talk by Viren Swami on the publication of his new books:

Swami, V. (2007). The Missing Arms of Vénus de Milo: Reflections on the Science of Physical Attractiveness. Brighton: The Book Guild Publishing.

Swami, V., & Furnham, A. (2007). The Psychology of Physical Attraction. London: Routledge.

Spider seen attempting to enter Tate Britain. February 2007.
Spider at Tate Britain
Mark Wallinger’s recreation of Brain Haw’s one man protest in Parliament Square disturbed me.

Its as if the last 50 years of understanding how meaning depends on context has evaporated in the heat of the new global warming enterprise opportunity. Wallinger has suberb skills as a postmodern artist/artisan. This is how the work can be appreciated from a trad art POV. Awe in the face of the skill of its (re)construction.

But what is also happening is that a spectacular copy of revolt is being made that disposses us of the immediacy of revolt. That replaces revolt by its ideal virtualised facsimile reframed by the state. The illusion is that if the sovereigns Blair and Bush  can be sacrificed in the Tate Britain, with no disturbance to the state, then what can our own pettily resourced efforts achieve… Its is a wind up to the desperate to resort to violence, it is the parallel symptom of systemmic feigned indifference, that causes the teenagers to shoot it out. It is a vacination against the possibility of an epidemic of working class creativity.

But maybe Wallinger has put all future rights to the work of art in the estate of the family of Brian Haw. Or something that undermines these commodity effects and can throw this gripe back in my face. I hope so.

Anyway in contrast I found to my suprise the nearby bronze works of the Chapman Brothers, ‘When Humans Walked the Earth’ to be more radical and subversive in their classicbronze casings. I hadn’t been mad about their work in the past finding it often unpalatably extreme for the sake of shock for the sake of attention seeking. This seems to have matured, but the radical and visual analysis seems to have sharpened.