Sorry not to have posted recently. Since June I’ve been preparing for my annual teaching stint on The Oxford Experience, a five-week programme run by the International Section of Oxford University Department of Continuing Education. Last week was the first teaching week and I have five different courses to deliver. One has a musical theme: The Beatles and 1960s Britain. This week it’s Shakespeare’s Late Romances, and one of the extras I like to put in is some examples of musical settings of the songs which occur in those plays, as well as directing my students to larger works such as the two suites which Sibelius wrote for The Tempest.
On the composition front I managed in late May-mid June to write an 11-minute piece for string orchestra called ‘The High Oaks (Threnody)’.
I’ve been giving some thought to starting work on a new book at the end of the summer.
Otherwise, I’ve been revisiting some of the songs of Marc Bolan (1968-71). Some of the articles I’ve written about his songwriting and guitar-playing have been pasted up online by others. I may put revised versions on this site eventually. This was in part set off by the fact that a week or so ago it was 40 years since T.Rex’s ‘Get It On’ was a UK no.1 and Marc Bolan appeared on TOTP with a black Les Paul Custom. Earlier in the year Gibson finally produced a signature Marc Bolan Les Paul in what they termed a ‘Bolan Chablis’ (orange-amber wood) finish. I can remember suggesting such a guitar to the head of Gibson in London about ten years ago. At the time he was sceptical that there would be enough interest – but it has happened. Sadly, the guitar Gibson issued is a bit of a hybrid – based on the fact that in the spring of 1971 in the U.S. in a fit of frustration Bolan threw the Les Paul and snapped its neck off. For some reason a black Les Paul neck was then fitted to the guitar, so that looked at from the back you have a cherry-red body and a black neck. So the Gibson guitar doesn’t match the one with which Bolan is pictured on the cover of the 1970 T.Rex album.
More on Bolan anon …