Languor, absurdities…

Clive’s thoughts on Supernormal

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Clive Henry






Thoughts on Hákarl communion:


Interestingly, for a few weekends after Supernormal i had one hours sleep on the friday nights. This destroyed me, making my body and brain so sluggish that the
saturdays were very difficult for me. Yet i had no comparable reaction during the Hákarl performance.
On top of this, during the 36 hours, i ate no hot food; or indeed anything substantial – merely snacking on sugary things and cereal bars/flapjacks. I didn’t pass any solid matter, and urinated three, maybe four, times.
Admittedly, for Supernormal i was sat down for the bulk of the duration, whilst in the weekends after i was at work; but the fact remains that as painful as Hakarl Communion was, with hindsight my body and brain coped surprisingly well.
Quite simply because i think my body and brain were prepared for it. Although the true ridiculousness of the venture didn’t really hit me until a few days before, the fact remains that i had an idea of what i might experience and prepared myself accordingly. In essence, this just means that my expectations of the weekend were realistic and respectful. I prepared myself for the prospect of a long, tiring weekend of “clinging on” and being tested. If i had turned up for a 36 minute improvisation, and then been told it had been changed at the last minute into a 36 HOUR improvisation, i wouldn’t have had these expectations and assessments to support, guide and prepare me.
Of course, in the reality of things, this didn’t help too much – it was exhausting; shattering. I was never particularly aware of being hungry or thirsty, but certainly during the last hours i was constantly eating boiling sweets. I brought a large five litre container of water, and as the hours progressed, lifting this weight became harder and harder. There was a stage, early into saturday morning, where i became very cold in my bones, more due to the stresses and strains on my body than the temperature itself. During the very last hours, i found myself falling asleep for a few seconds and dropping my plectrum into the body of the guitar. I did finally succumb to a nap in the early hours of saturday morning – i slept on the floor next to my gear for an unknown time. By saturday midday, it was just a case of clinging on till nightfall, and then gritting my teeth for the final few hours.
I felt that i paced myself quite well.


I didn’t imagine for a second that we would create 36 hours of beautiful improvisation, but i was surprised at how quickly we came to use rock forms and structures. A few of our beloved “guests” certainly took great joy in funking things up… My recollection is that the first 6 hours or so were quite alive with energy and ideas; and after that things varied wildly. After a certain point, personally, i was no longer performing musical acts in the conventional sense; i was more just interacting with a physical object, resulting in sound. To summarise and simplify: i spent the bulk of the duration producing a low level of textural sound, with a few ventures into more extravagant gestures – often resulting from a change from guitar to saxophone or trombone. At the time, this “low level of textural sound” felt (shamefully) like a cheap get-out clause, or the least painful way of playing for such a long time. But, looking back, its actually an incredibly interesting way to play and improvise; and certainly something i’m interested in pursuing further.
Someone else has remarked that there was a cellular aspect to the performance and i think that’s true. Part of this was simple volume issues – I was at the opposite end of the tent to the piano, and I could barely hear it. But there were also two clear pairings in the tent (jamie/huw, seth/myself) who were more used to playing together, which may have been a factor – certainly there was a section where jamie/huw appeared to be playing composed pieces.
We were “lucky” enough to be graced by several guest musicians, culminating in an argument on the first night between Mr Hákarl and some delicate/wasted types who had decided he was “stifling their creativity”. What a shame. Yawn. Looking back, it should have been obvious that the Hákarl tent would be a beacon for people looking to part-ay through the night; but it really didn’t figure in my thinking till the day itself. Due to the festival programme, there was some ambiguity over the role of “audience” participation; and thus we had a mixed bag: people who “got it” and made excellent contributions; people who didn’t really get it, but nevertheless played sympathetically and in the spirit of the thing; and people who were only there for the purposes of their ego and vanity. So, on the downside we had jazz flute; on the upside we had an eight year old boy playing drums with us for most of saturday, having the time of his life.
I think we all conducted ourselves well enough in these dealings; the intrusions from unwanted parties were dealt with stealthily, tactfully or firmly and fairly. Kev should have particular praise here for his handling of the “painful hipster” incident; but i also saw Seth and Barney being excellent diplomats for Hakarl Communion, chatting to interested onlookers or participants.

concluding thoughts

At the time, it DID feel like a fruitless venture; but looking back i feel i learnt a fair bit. Most importantly, it confirmed to me that my strengths lie in more “textural” playing – or rather, i’m not a natural melodic player. This has given me a greater sense of my abilities and also flagged up areas in which i need to practice.
If repeated, I think that a shorter duration, as well as a stricter adherence to some notion of non-idiomatic improvisation, would make the performance more beneficial. Perhaps also some clear delineation of the performance area – even to the extent of “trapping” or “caging” the participants.
On a final note, it was somewhat hilarious to finally finish and then have a ludicrously coherent conversation with Seth and Kev about  the recent riots, state policy and fascism!


Written by Hákarl

November 13, 2011 at 7:54 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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  1. […] Clive: “I didn’t imagine for a second that we would create 36 hours of beautiful improvisation, but I was surprised at how quickly we came to use rock forms and structures” (full text) […]

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