Six London Preludes contains 317 photos by artist Debbie Loftus and six short narratives by writer Paul Williamson created in response to the contemporary London scene. Words and pictures tell the same stories in different ways, mixing genres, tones of voice, viewpoints and frames of reference. The design by James Lunn showcases and complements the content by including a range of Fedrigoni papers and page sizes, and using assertive typography to achieve a provocative urban feel characterised by edgy glamour. The result is a graphic novel that’s also an artist’s sketchbook, a luxury brochure and an unorthodox city guide.
Combining street art with classical motifs, the subject matter and design of Six London Preludes reflects the ‘Un/Modern’ ethos of its publisher, Festival O/Modernt, Cambridge and Stockholm. The eclectic contents are designed in a contradictory fusion of styles, with short inserts at the beginning and end of each chapter adding tangible variety. The debossed gold foil cover titles enhance the discordant luxury feel, and the book is section-sewn and Otabound. Exploiting digital technology, the exclusive first edition of 175 is numbered and each copy has a unique cover image.
Published by Festival O/Modernt Cambridge/Stockholm Paperback 250 x 176mm / 342 pages + 13 inserts 175 numbered copies with 175 individual covers 1 December 2017 ISBN: 9780992891251
‘Highly Commended’. Fedrigoni Top Awards 2019. Featured in the Berlin exhibition of award winners, Radialsystem, Berlin, 8–10 May 2019.
Clay: Themes and Variations from Ancient Mesopotamia
Clay: Themes and Variations from Ancient Mesopotamia imaginatively reworks sixty ancient texts in a multiplicity of styles, reflecting the marvellous variety of the source materials and their inextinguishable relevance in the modern world. The first part of Clay includes several tales that have become familiar from other sources: notably two creation narratives, the Mesopotamian flood story and an epic of self-discovery. The second part explores themes of sexual love, marriage, birth, death and atonement. Witty, illuminating, entertaining, and suffused with human feeling, this spectacularly designed book is inventively written in a mix of verse and prose. Clay also includes 129 original images by artist Debbie Loftus, as well as an Afterword, a Who’s Who of characters, a map of ancient Mesopotamia and illustrations of two key cuneiform tablets from the British Museum. Reaching back across five millennia, Clay creatively invites the reader to revisit ideas and customs from ancient Mesopotamia and to consider their ongoing importance for the way we live now.
Written in blank verse, Ekphrasis examines four works shown by Richard Serra at Gagosian Gallery, London, 2008: Fernando Pessoa (2007–8), TTI London (2007), Open Ended (2007–8) and Forged Drawing (2008). The sequence is punctuated by an interlude devoted to Verb List Compilation:Actions to Relate to Oneself (1967–8). Ekphrasis includes an essay by Simone Kotva and Paul Williamson’s afterword, ‘Pyrrhics!’.
Contents 1 Point of View 2 Composition 3 Interlude – Light Continua 4 History 5 Coda – The Thing Itself Drawing Out by Simone Kotva Pyrrhics!
In ancient times the word ‘ekphrasis’ meant the oratory of vivid description, a style of speaking that addresses itself to the listener’s imagination. Over many centuries the term acquired a narrower focus: ‘the poetic description of a pictorial or sculptural work of art’, runs one influential, modern definition. Famous poetic instances include Homer’s description of the Shield of Achilles in Book 18 of the Iliad, John Keats’s ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’ and W. H. Auden’s ‘Musée des Beaux Arts’. Pursuing classical threads through a group of significant works by Richard Serra, Ekphrasis sets itself the ambitious task of using blank verse to create a thought-provoking addition to a literary tradition that is at least three thousand years old.
Festival O/Modernt, Cambridge & Stockholm, 2014. Paperback with flaps, 210 x 270mm, 72 pages, 18 tritone illustrations. ISBN 978-0-9928912-0-6
Click here to order Ekphrasis from Thomas Heneage in London.
Click here to order Ekphrasis from Gagosian in New York.
Ekphrasis | Part 2 Composition
Ekphrasis | Part 4 History
Ekphrasis | Part 4 History
The Art of Borrowing
Nothing comes from nothing. For most of its long history western art has been governed by that precept. Visual artists, writers and composers have gladly taken inspiration from their predecessors. The interest paid on artistic borrowings is new art – pre-existing forms refashioned to suit the ethos of a new age. In the seventeenth century a noisy debate erupted about the relative excellence of classical models compared to the newfangled discoveries of the wilful moderns. Then came the Romantics, worshipping at the shrine of original genius. In the twentieth century things turned full circle, with artists borrowing from the classics but also creatively reimagining the products of popular culture. Containing chapters devoted to the history of art, poetry, painting, photography, philosophy, theology and music, The Art of Borrowing takes a multifarious look at how, when the imagination reigns supreme, one thing leads to another.
The Spider and the Bee Paul Williamson Eduardo Paolozzi and the Borrowing of Art Teresa Monachino Hogarth’s Borrowings Robin Simon A Venetian Ode to Borrowing Edward Baker Airs Catherine Pickstock It’s Still There: Döblin’s Alexanderplatz Lorenz Kienzle Harvest Debbie Loftus Borrowing Sex: Speaking of Divine Love Alessandro Scafi Borrowed Gods Simone Kotva Organic Wholes: Ralph Vaughan Williams and G.E. Moore Paul Williamson Borrowing from Silence: Arvo Pärt’s Spiegel im Spiegel Hugo Ticciati
To read an extract from Paul Williamson’s introduction to The Art of Borrowing click here.
The Art of Borrowing Edited by Paul Williamson Published by Festival O/Modernt, Cambridge & Stockholm 2016. Paperback with flaps, 190 x 265 mm, 160 pages, 73 illustrations. Designed by Teresa Monachino. Paper by Fedrigoni. ISBN 978-0-9928912-3-7
Click here to order The Art of Borrowing from Thomas Heneage in London.
Lorenz Kienzle, ‘Döblin’s Alexanderplatz’, The Art of Borrowing, Chapter 5
Debbie Loftus, ‘Harvest’, The Art of Borrowing, Chapter 6
The Art of Borrowing, designed by Teresa Monachino
Galileo 24 by Debbie Loftus
Preface by Ian Stewart Introduction by Paul Williamson
Draw two concentric circles, one twice the size of the other, and fill the inner circle with an infinite number of radii. Now extend each radius to the circumference of the outer circle, and gaps appear between the extensions. But, if the radii filling the smaller circle are infinite in number, how can more be needed to fill the outer one? Infinity means infinity … doesn’t it? Outlined by Galileo in Dialogues concerning Two New Sciences (1638), this is the starting point for Galileo 24 by Debbie Loftus, a remarkable series of images based on the problem known as Galileo’s Paradox or Aristotle’s Wheel. Galileo 24 includes Paul Williamson’s essay ‘Infinities’, and a preface by Professor Ian Stewart, author of Infinity: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2017).
Galileo 24 Published by Festival O/Modernt, Cambridge & Stockholm, June 2017. Paperback with jacket wrap, 320 x 235 mm. Designed by Dmitriy Myelnikov. Paper by Fedrigoni. Printed by Pureprint, Uckfield, UK. ISBN: 978-0-9928912-4-4
To read an extract from ‘Infinities’, Paul Williamson’s introduction to Galileo 24, click here and to order a copy of Galileo 24 please click here.
In December 1883 Vincent van Gogh went to live with his parents in the Dutch town of Nuenen where his father was the pastor at the Dutch Reformed church. Having spent three and a half years struggling to forge a viable career for himself as an artist, Van Gogh arrived home hungry, impoverished and emotionally spent. His immense efforts had so far yielded nothing of substance, and the retreat to Nuenen was intended to give him time to repair his health, improve his finances and calmly pursue his art. When he left Nuenen two years later in November 1885, he had amassed a large body of work, including The Potato Eaters, his first masterpiece, but his time there had been fraught with incident. The New Potato Eaters looks back at Van Gogh’s Nuenen period, tracing his artistic development and setting his work in a broad historical context. Two pieces in verse and a set of new portraits of present-day Nuenen residents reflect creatively on Van Gogh’s achievement. Innovative, original and beautifully designed, The New Potato Eaters takes a fresh and distinctive look at Van Gogh in Nuenen.
The New Potato Eaters: Van Gogh in Nuenen 1883–1885 Edited by Paul Williamson
1 Introduction: Before Nuenen Paul Williamson
2 Van Gogh in Nuenen, 1883–1885 Ton de Brouwer
3 Vincent and the Gospel of Work Paul Williamson
4 Head of a Peasant Woman Colin Wiggins
5 Towards The Potato Eaters: The Long-Awaited Genesis of a Masterpiece Laura Prins
6 Van Gogh’s Colour Stephen Hackney
7 Fields: Vincent to his Brother Simone Kotva
8 Self-Portrait with the Pastor’s Boy Martin Huxter
9 In Many Places Catherine Pickstock
10 Van Gogh and the Camden Group: Reflections and New Directions Stephen Hackney
11 The Trouble with Rembrandt: British and Dutch Portraiture in the Eighteenth Century Robin Simon
12 Bacon and Potatoes: A Marvellous Vision of the Reality of Things Amal Asfour
Afterword Hugo Ticciati
To read Paul Williamson’s introduction to The New Potato Eaters clickhere.
The New Potato Eaters Edited by Paul Williamson. Published by Festival O/Modernt Cambridge & Stockholm 2015. Paperback with wrap, 272 x 240 mm, 136 pages, 100 illustrations. Designed by Teresa Monachino. Paper by Fedrigoni. ISBN 978-0-9928912-1-3
Click here to order The New Potato Eaters from Thomas Heneage in London.
Vincent van Gogh, Head of a Woman, April 1885.
Oil on canvas, 43.2 x 30 cm. Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation).
Vincent van Gogh, The Potato Eaters, April–May 1885.
Oil on canvas, 82 x 114 cm. Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation).
Founded in 2011 by violinist Hugo Ticciati, the weeklong summer Festival O/Modernt is dedicated to the discovery of vital artistic connections between old and new. A composer and theme spark the creation of an expansive programme that brings together music, dance, art and literature, using daring and imaginative juxtapositions to confound habitual responses. The artistic journey back to the present takes place in June at Confidencen, Sweden’s oldest rococo theatre, set in the idyllic grounds of Ulriksdal Royal Palace on the outskirts of Stockholm.
For artists in every creative field the past provides a perennial source of inspiration. The Swedish ‘O/Modernt’ (translated as ‘Un/Modern’) celebrates this imaginative ‘looking back’ with innovative programming that explores vital connections between old and new.
Since its inception in 2011 Festival O/Modernt has embarked on an ambitious publishing programme, commissioning new pieces in prose and verse for anthologies in Swedish and English, notably Vertical Realities (2013) and Twofold (2015), publishing Ekphrasis (2014), a major work about the sculptor Richard Serra, a collection of articles and miscellaneous surprises about Van Gogh (2015) and a volume dedicated to The Art of Borrowing (2016). Summer 2017 sees the publication of Galileo 24, a book of consummate new paintings and drawings, based on Galileo’s paradox of infinity, by contemporary artist Debbie Loftus.
Festival O/Modernt Inventing the past, revising the future.
Artistic Director Hugo Ticciati General Manager & Producer Louise Hughes O/Modernt Ambassador Helena Pellbäck Translator Michaela Beijer General Editor Paul Williamson
Music by Thomas Hewitt Jones Words by Paul Williamson
Prelude instrumental The Temple choir The Weaver’s Song soprano Lyric Suite instrumental Prometheus soprano, mezzo-soprano Shadows in a Dream choir The Birth of Pandora soprano, mezzo-soprano, choir Coda instrumental
Based on themes deriving from the Parthenon sculptures, Panathenaia is a cantata in eight movements for string orchestra, timpani, soloists and choir. The Parthenon’s famous frieze shows scenes from the Great Panathenaia, the festival held every four years in Athens to celebrate the birth of Athena. Two parallel processions move along opposite sides of the building towards their finishing point on the east wall. Participants are grouped in succession – horsemen, chariots, elders, musicians, water-jar carriers, tray bearers, sacrificial animals, magistrates or tribal heroes and young women. The festival included athletics events, horse races, chariot races, and music competitions in which the winners were given special jars, filled with olive oil, decorated with an image of Athena on one side and a depiction of their sporting or musical discipline on the other. There was also a feast whose centrepiece was the roasted meat of the sacrificed cattle and sheep. The ceremonial high point of this grand public holiday was the presentation of the peplos or sacred cloth, newly woven to adorn an ancient olive wood statue of Athena Polias (Athena the city deity) that was kept on the Acropolis. This is depicted at the climax of the frieze on the east wall where the seated Olympian gods and goddeses wait and the dedication of the peplos takes place.
Panathenaia Live from The British Museum Featuring William Kunhardt (conductor), Paulina Pfeiffer (soprano), Karolina Blixt (mezzo-soprano), Hugo Ticciati (violin), Joanna Stark (bassoon), Christine Stevenson (continuo), VOCES8, and the Arensky Chamber Orchestra in collaboration with O/Modernt Kammerorkester.
To download the British Museum programme click here.
Cavalcade from the Parthenon's West Frieze, The British Museum
Click here to listen to an excerpt from the UK premiere of Panathenaia.
Panathenaia Live in The British Museum
Live performance from the Parthenon Gallery at The British Museum, 4 June 2015.
Most people take great pleasure in listening to music, despite the fact that they often have little or no technical knowledge of how a piece of music is put together or how the principles of construction in western music have developed over a period of two and a half thousand years since Pythagoras passed the blacksmiths’ yard and heard the smiths harmoniously hammering on their anvils. So here’s the question: as well as enjoying music, how might we try also to understand it, armed only with our listening habits and possibly a sketchy knowledge of Grade 5 music theory? Answer: we do as the poor page did when he trailed along behind King Wenceslaus through the deep snow and the wild lament of the rude wind. We follow in the footsteps of the master, who in this case is Richard Taruskin.
The reason Taruskin is the master in this field is not simply because of his epic Oxford History of Western Music (2005) and his many other publications on a grand variety of musical topics. It is because of his method. Taruskin is, via a ‘commodius vicus of recirculation’ (to quote another master), a disciple of Giambattista Vico (1668–1744), author of the first systematic attempt at a theory of history. The ‘world of the nations’, Vico said, was made by people like ourselves, and is therefore comprehensible to all of us. In order to understand the things that human beings have conceived of and accomplished, no matter where or when, we must try to rediscover the principles of their thoughts and actions within ourselves. We must strive, in Vico’s phrase, to rediscover their principles in ‘the modifications of our own human mind’.
Students of Vico include Erich Auerbach, author of Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature (first published in German in 1946), who said that criticism is ‘an art that works with scholarly material’; and the philosopher R.G. Collingwood, who said ‘all history is the history of thought’, and you only succeed in actually doing history when you can finally say, Yes! Eureka! [I added that bit] ‘I see what the person who made this (wrote this, used this, designed this, &c.) was thinking.’
In other words, in the study of music, as in every other human discipline, the technicalities are a means of expressing ideas. Focusing on the technicalities is vitally important (and there are few better at it in the study of music than Taruskin) but the context of ideas is what brings the technicalities to life – history, as Collingwood said, is the ‘history of thought’. In any case, the two are inseparable because the study of notes, adjectives or brushstrokes helps us to understand the turn of an artist’s mind, and the study of the broader purposes helps us to understand the notes, adjectives and brushstrokes. Criticism, as Auerbach said, is essentially imaginative and creative – ‘an art that works with scholarly material’. And this, I think, is the lesson of Taruskin.
In June 2012 Taruskin lectured at Festival O/Modernt in Stockholm. His subject was ‘Music and Words: Who’s Really on Top?’ – a discussion of Monteverdi’s dictum, ‘Music is the servant of the words.’ The lecture began at 6.00 p.m. At 8.30 (or thereabouts) there was a break for refreshments. At 10.30 the caretaker popped his head round the door of the beautiful rococo theatre (Confidencen, Ulriksdal Palace Theatre), where the lecture was held, and said we’d really have to stop because it was time for him to lock up and go home. Taruskin, as he said himself, lectures on a Wagnerian scale!
To read an article published in The London Magazine about Taruskin in Stockholm and Festival O/Modernt 2012 click here.
To read a programme note on Bach’s Christmas Oratorio click here, and to read about Benjamin Britten click here. To read about Pythagoras and the origins of music theory click here.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–91)
Posthumous portrait, painted by Barbara Kraft in 1819.
Sloane Square Choral Society
Programme notes for SSCS, 2011–17. Programmes designed by Peter Williamson (no relation!) whose company for many years worked very closely with Wigmore Hall. For details about individual programmes please browse the Long List here.
Richard Taruskin at Festival O/Modernt, Stockholm, 2012.
Programme note: HT/RT Epistolary.
On Christmas Carols One etymology of the word ‘Yule’ suggests it might mean ‘noise’ or ‘clamour’ – it was certainly shouted out as a mid-winter cry of joy, and elsewhere was associated with the word ‘jolly.’ Both derivations indicate why early Christians wished to link the observance of Christ’s birth – portrayed as a serene, even solemn occasion – with the enduring popularity of rowdy pagan merrymaking. The two ingredients have remained inextricably (if sometimes uneasily) bound together. The modern corpus of Christmas songs attests to the continuing vigour of both sacred and secular strands in Christmas music, comprising carols of the nativity (Silent Night) alongside convivial songs of welcome and wassail (It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year); lullabies (Away in a Manger) and carols in praise of winter greenery, where Christian sentiments lightly overlay ancient pagan beliefs (The Holly and the Ivy; O Tannenbaum). The age-old struggle between Christian and pagan for mastery of the Christmas carol is one that could not ultimately be won by either side. As the extraordinary variety of the genre affirms, however, it is a contest which, for the most part, has ended in an enduring and perennially productive truce.
Incarnation Tracing a narrative arc from Advent to Epiphany, Incarnation looks afresh at the theological and human meaning of Christmas in order to rediscover the season’s spiritual and emotional power in a contemporary context. Fluid melodies work together with moving and evocative harmonies to depict the poignant energy of the texts and transport the listener to a musical world in which joy and disquiet, serenity and turbulence, achieve a fine dramatic balance. In seven movements, for choir, soloists and orchestra.
Christmas Carols by Thomas Hewitt Jones and Paul Williamson include:
A Golden Tree Boosey & Hawkes, 2015. To read more click here.
Hear the Angels Sing Boosey & Hawkes, 2014. Click here to order.
Verbum Caro Factum Est RSCM Music Direct, 2013.
A String of Pearls Commissioned for St Paul’s Preparatory School, 2013.
The Tree of Jesse, c. 1500
Geertgen tot Sint Jans, The Tree of Jesse, c. 1500. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. Out of the sleeping figure of Jesse grows the tree that represents the genealogy of Christ, including King David with his harp, King Solomon and the Virgin and Child.
Incarnation: A Suite of Songs for Christmas
Words by Paul Williamson | Music by Thomas Hewitt Jones
Gainsborough’s Vision This groundbreaking study of Thomas Gainsborough (1727–88), one of the most enduringly popular of British painters, provides a comprehensive re-examination of the intellectual and cultural context in which Gainsborough lived and worked. Close readings of individual pictures are supported by illustrations and citations drawn from an unusual range of sources: the populist and emotive culture of religious nonconformity; a philosophical and scientific outlook, epitomised by John Locke and Isaac Watts, based on self-scrutiny and careful observation of the external world; pastoral and emblem literature; eighteenth-century music theory; and the work of writers, including John Bunyan, Francis Quarles, Jonathan Edwards, William Cowper and Laurence Sterne. Detailed pictorial analyses clarify Gainsborough’s relationship with the work of his artistic contemporaries and predecessors – Hogarth, Hayman and Reynolds among Gainsborough’s British contemporaries; Rubens, Van Dyck, Ruisdael, Claude and Watteau further afield. The product of exhaustive research, Gainsborough’s Vision draws on previously unknown or neglected primary sources to demonstrate that the style, themes and ideas of Gainsborough’s images constitute purposeful expressions of an intellectual and visual culture whose significance in the development of eighteenth-century British art has gone unrecognised.
Gainsborough’s Vision Coauthored with Amal Asfour. Liverpool University Press (Liverpool, 1999). Crown quarto, 341 pages, 186 illustrations.
‘Richly informative.’ George Steiner, The Observer.
‘A brilliant and original contribution to British art studies, combining new insights into Gainsborough’s social and intellectual context with fresh analysis of the works.’ Robin Simon, The British Art Journal.
Thomas Gainsborough, Ann Ford (later Mrs Philip Thicknesse), 1760. Oil on canvas, 196.9 x 134.6 cm, Cincinnati Art Museum.
Cover: Self-portrait of Thomas Gainsborough, RA, c. 1787. Oil on canvas, 77.3 x 64.5 cm. Royal Academy of Arts, London
Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes
‘On Reynolds’s Use of De Piles, Locke, and Hume in his Essays on Rubens and Gainsborough’, JWCI, 60 (1997), pp. 215–29.
From the programme note for Good Education: Imagine some prehistoric troglodyte children (cave-dwellers), outside their cave, playing a game called bobblestones. Each child rolls a stone across the ground (no throwing allowed!) and the one whose stone rolls furthest is the winner. One of the children (her name is Dawn) selects the roundest, smoothest stone she can find and launches it across the dusty earth. Yes! Dawn is the winner! Dashing off to retrieve her champion bobblestone before her brother gets to it, Dawn catches sight of her parents, wearily plodding home, struggling with a heavy burden of meat. Suddenly, Dawn stops fighting with her brother. ‘Hmm,’ she thinks, ‘imagine if I could roll along the ground like my bobblestone! Imagine if my parents and my brothers and sisters and me (and the meat!) could all roll along together just like a bobblestone!’ And in a flash of inspiration worthy of the greatest genius in human history Dawn invents the medium-sized family car.
Well, not quite! But she may have invented the wheel. And there’s the rub. Don’t all inventions begin with a flash of inspiration? Words, numbers, writing, family cars, space rockets, cures for cancer … They all start with someone like Dawn imagining a new way of doing things. Julius Caesar said ‘To create is better than to learn. Creating is the essence of life.’ Yes! Except creating and learning are inseparable, and that’s what Good Education is all about: creative learning or learning creatively – taking a sideways look at the school year, from the obligatory after-summer composition via history, games, biology, music and many more … all the way to the end of school. Imagine!
Song cycles for children with music by Thomas Hewitt Jones and words by Paul Williamson include:
Good Education Bath Abbey 7 June 2016 Song titles: A Hedgehog on the Beach, Reproduction in Flowering Plants, Poor Binky, Amadé, The King’s Wedding, I Scored a Goal!, Snowingham, Welcome the Summer, Fire Drill.
New Best Tour of Bath with Songs Bath Abbey 9 June 2015 Song titles: The Ballad of Bladud, The Roman Temple, The Alderman’s Ball, The Portrait Gallery, It’s Not That Kind Of Circus, Little Acorns – Mighty Oaks, Children of The Light.
Daydreams Boosey & Hawkes 2014 Commissioned in 2013 by Oakham School, Rutland, as companion pieces to Britten's ‘Friday Afternoons’. Song titles: Friday Afternoons, Traffic Lights, —ER Verbs, Chocolate Crackle-Tops, New Year, Audio Guide.
Wildflower Meadows Kendrew Barracks 15 June 2014 Commemorating the outbreak of World War I. Song titles: The Lindley Bell, Autumn, Over the Top!, Hold Hard!, Remember Me, Small Sacrifices, Wildflower Meadows.