samedi 16 février 2013

To the theatre of digitally-enhanced reminiscence

The birth of a new art form is a rare event, but I think I was in the delivery room last night when it happened. The most excellent and worthy Lorraine Bowen rediscovered Barbara Moore by a circuitous route (she has more fans in Italy than Bognor Regis) and has constructed a jewel of show around this venerable arranger of 60s/70s loungecore classics. In Brighton's small but perfectly formed Marlborough Theatre, Bowen combined the geniality, listening skills and good humour of the classic TV chat show host, with her skill as a magpie collector of digital bijoux, the whole cued and replayed through the iPad lying on the occasional table to her left.
Beyond her was Moore's throne, and beyond that was a Casio Privia piano, an entirely acceptable facsimile for the purposes of reminiscence. Moore's hands are elderly now, but they are still sure over the keys; the ravages of a forty year career as an enthusiastic smoker have destroyed her singing voice; the wandering charm of octogenarian reminiscence at times recalled the Hollywood axiom that one should never work with children or animals, and perhaps its extension to the senior citizenry; but all that is as nothing for the overall effect was utterly charming and powerfully moving: a worthy assault on the alienation and dissociation for which recorded music is so rightfully criticised.
Bowen's curation of Moore's oeuvre lacked a little polish in places—please place a piece of thick carpet under the keyboard in order that her tapping foot be inaudible, and replace her headmic with appropriately placed stage mics—but the authenticity and humanity of the piece—a dutiful elder daughter presenting the best of a much-loved but now aging parent shone through, and the audience response in the intimate venue was universally warm and appreciative.
Bowen has reconstructed a musical life; "Ooh, even I don't have this one [track]," revealed Moore, as Bowen delved deep into her iPad for another thirty seconds of Moore-arranged orchestrated vocal lushness; for those of us whose record collections are a heavy mass of charity shop vinyl it was a cheesy treat indeed.
This was a successful piece of live musical theatre, but it was more than that too. With an aging global population, and the coming singularity in which every element of culture, no matter where or when it originally took place, will be available for remix and replay, connecting all that into a digitally enhanced neo-reminiscence of an elder of the tribe feels like an exciting new form. We look back at how far we have come—and muse on how far there still is to go—and the possibility of easy, instant, digital playback makes the quotations from memory vivid indeed. Bowen has invented here a valuable, precious form which should be widely imitated on cold winter nights in cosy venues across the planet.

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