Dinner-On-Wye

I was sat beside Robert
Roland. He was stripping away
The layers of convention and
Getting to the heart of
His belief in the soul.

He drank champagne
And spoke like it too.

I tripped over the
Extended leg of Lev
He made a joke about
Particles and interference
I made an uncharacteristically
Witty and urbane
Response. He rewarded
Me with conversations
About worlds.

I talked poetry, language
And Africa with Janne,
And God with Peter Atkins

Mary Midgley was there too
And I had to keep them
Apart. She winked at me and
Bared her right bicep.

“I’ve a wicked left hook”
She twinkled mischeviously.

Then Steve burst into the room
Verbally jousting with Tankus
And the Henge. The Correspondents
Appeared and Justin rose from
His dining position and
Manned the decks.

Bruce leapt onto
The table and kicked
The crockery on the floor.

A plate struck Hilary on
The temple and I
Thought he was going to cry,
But with a surprisingly
Deft manoeuvre he jumped
Onto the table top and showed
Mr Bruce how to soca-rumba.

By now Roland was flirting with
Janne and Paul was showing
His muscles to Susan.

David Nutt was rolling spliffs for
Everyone in the kitchen
While Steve Fuller attempted to
Deconstruct the goings on.

The psychologists danced with
Each other and tuneless
Physicists sang.

I ordered another bottle of Perrier
Jouet and took one of David’s joints.

It was going to be a wonderful night.

The End Of The Groove

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In The Groove. Photo by A. Nowell

James Brown famously recorded a track entitled Doing It To Death. I discovered this tune as a young man in my twenties (via my younger brother who was a huge JB fan). I loved the attitude that this record suggested, and I felt that it reflected my then hedonistic sentiments entirely. In the midst of sweaty, 1980s dancefloors – and while surrounded by my peers who were also creating intricate physical interpretations of a 4/4 rhythm – I vowed that, like Mr Brown, I too would being doing it until death. The it which I was pledging to do was to dance, to dig music, to be funky. How, I thought then, could life be worth living without the appreciation of funky and soulful music. I reasoned that even if septuagenarian dancing became painful and difficult, I was still going to attempt it – just to show the world that I was still alive.

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L’Instant Présent

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Live For The Moment – Photo by Montag

If you have read any of my other pieces on here or elsewhere, you might rightly reach the conclusion that I am utterly in the thrall of the philosophy which is known as existentialism.

Indeed on this blog alone, there’s one essay entitled Existentialism In The Age of Social Media and frequent references to this intellectual love-child of Jean-Paul Sartre in many of the others. I have written existentialist articles for my other blog but I can provide no proof due to my insistence on doing a Banksy and keeping the Montag identity a bit of a mystery.

It would be easy to think then, that existentialism is the philosophical substratum to my waking life and that it underpins my thoughts and deeds in the way that a good, practical philosophy should. The truth is that this is not completely the case. It is true that I am a great admirer of existentialist thought, but this is mainly because it gives contemporary expression to aspects of a much older philosophy which has informed my behaviour through the majority of my adult life.

Here’s the story.

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Freedom Lost

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Wood For Trees – Photo by Montag.

I was lucky.

I was born in the nineteen-sixties.

I grew from babe to child in the second half of that decade, and matured into a teenager during the colourful and spectacular nineteen-seventies. I consider this timing to be fortunate because it seemed to me then – and still does – to be a time in which the populace were not afraid to experiment. My impression is that the middle years of the twentieth century were alive with new ideas as well as the motivation to live them. Most importantly (and especially so from the perspective of today), denizens of that time seemed prepared, if the ideas they wished to live required it, to go against the accepted grain.

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Existentialism in the Age of #SocialMedia

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Existentialism as street art – Graphic by Montag

It was the summer of 2014. The online community was in the middle of the twitterstorm that had been raging since the Ferguson riots. I was enjoying beautiful vacation time in the south of France — waking late, drinking far too much of the produits du terroir, and generally having lovely times in the warm Languedocien sunshine.

Despite the noise and fury that had previously emanated from my @iammontag Twitter account about the amount of time that people spend online (and my short-lived #offline campaign), one of the first items on my vacation to-pack list is always my laptop. So when Ferguson kicked off I was able to keep up with the developments on the internet.

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News – huh! – What is it Good For? (Say it again)

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Houses of Parliament from Westminster Bridge – Photo by Montag

Have you ever seen the once-familiar in a whole new light? Looked really hard at something (or someone) previously taken for granted, and regarded it/them completely differently?

It happened to me once at junior school. I remember staring at one of my then friends. It was strange. It was like I was doing so for the very first time. A train of thought alighted upon me: Who is this person? Why am I hanging around with him? Why is he my friend? I stopped being so chummy with the lad shortly after that. It wasn’t that he’d done anything wrong. It’s just that awakenings can do that to you.

I had a similar episode regarding the concept of broadcast news a while ago.

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Pop Goes The Freedom

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Hackney Hipster Party (2007) – Photo by Montag

The creation event of twentieth century popular music – its big bang if you like – can, to my mind, be traced back to a singular event in January 1865. That moment could be characterised as a dark black explosion, the shock waves of which reverberated for the following one hundred and fifty years. Despite the myriad creative ways in which this basic story has been retold by the powerful and the political, it is, to me, a tale of slavery, of freedom and of novelty.

In this piece I’m going to ask you to suspend the accepted narratives and to think hard about the origins of what we now call pop music. Through this I hope to arrive at some conclusions about the trajectory of music – and society – in this the second decade of the twenty-first century.

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