Thursday, June 14, 2018

Post Fables...

As in 'after', not that I'm posting fables, on walls or through the mail.  Though I did receive a small marvel, a heartbreakingly beautiful treasure through the mail this morning.  This.

I've been a Karine Polwart fan for a while, due to Terri Windling, who has opened my ears to many marvellous singers and musicians through her regular 'Tunes for a Monday Morning' posts.  A recent Monday post featured Karine, and information about her one-woman music/theatre/storytelling show Wind Resistance, and the subsequent CD/Book package.  I found a couple of Youtube snippets, and fell in love with the whole idea, so I treated myself.  It arrived this morning, and what a beautiful, heart-rending thing it is too.

I've been thinking on the 'next project' (apart from the visual The Wolf Bride that I'm currently working on), and wondering about the possibility of doing something more personal, more local, still with stories and myth and folklore, because I can't let that go, but something more grounded in the 'here' of my life.  But as ever, I wonder if I'm brave enough.  My songs and performance work always, I suppose, have an element of the autobiographical, because how can they not?  But it's not really about me, it's the old stories, reimagined and universal, more the macro view than the micro view.  I'm always hiding behind a mask, so to speak.

So I wonder, have I got a story that's interesting enough, and am I brave enough to tell it without the mask to hide behind?  I don't know, and I don't know how to go about it.  But hearing/seeing Karine's beautiful work, and the marvellous way she has seamlessly created this organic and fluid piece, sliding effortlessly between personal story, local history (recent and ancient), scientific observation, political commentary and more, has inspired me to at least think seriously about giving it a go.  It will probably be a long time coming, and I don't know what shape it might take, but I think I might try.  If nothing else, I might create a body of work that I can leave to my daughters, and granddaughters, that will tell them who I was.  And maybe I might find out along the way too.

*            *            *

But, leaving that aside for now.  Fables went well, and I discovered some useful things that will improve (I hope) future work.  I had lovely, and very appreciative audiences, and again was asked, "will there be a cd?" more than once, so I suppose I'd better seriously plan how to go about that.  I was terribly nervous the first morning (and first show in the venue at 10am is not the best for me, I'm better a bit later in the day), but I remembered everything, didn't falter or stop or lose where I was up to.  So I know when I know it, and I know I can do it, even if I'm not feeling relaxed and in control.  A very useful thing to know!  The second show was much better, even with a couple of minor line 'fluffs' which I recovered easily from because I knew it well enough the find my way back.  Performing when you're relaxed enough to enjoy it, and not stress about minor mistakes, is a beautiful thing.  I like that feeling.  I should perform more!  And I definitely sang better on the second day.

An interesting thing that I discovered, is that I think I prefer performing a single story narrative, like The Wolf Bride, to a series of tales like Fables.  This was echoed by something a friend who came said, that she'd just relax into one story, only to be dragged reluctantly out and into another.  I carefully planned my 'segues' to avoid obvious ends and beginnings, to hopefully blend one story into another and avoid any uncomfortable jolts or shifts between them.  But even so, each was only a snippet of a tale (I must have cut at least half of my original script to get it down to 50mins), and there was so much detail and richness that I had to leave out.  And so, subsequently, I was not as 'attached' to this show as to The Wolf Bride.  I know this was also due to the fact that I'd been working on (and living with) The Wolf Bride for several years, and it was on a theme that I'm personally quite attached to (and I've had some more insight into what attracts me to it, but that's for another post), but with 50mins with one story, you can really get 'into' it, dive in and immerse yourself, and really enjoy the more gradual unfolding of the story, the depth and the richness of a single tale.  So I may stick with that for future shows.

But for the moment, I'm in R&D mode for a 'new and improved' The Wolf Bride, experimenting with ideas that will bring a more theatrical feel to the show, without making it so complicated that I need a stage crew to produce it.  I'm playing about with paper models and simple lighting effects using everyday, cheap electric candles and small battery fairy lights.  Very simple stuff that I can do myself onstage, but which will enrich the experience for an audience.  And without losing the simple 'storytelling' aspect in a welter of fancy things to look at.  I've always been a fan of very simple stage/set designs (though I must admit I adore marvellous lighting).  Something that enhances, rather than overwhelms, the beauty of a person standing/sitting in front of an audience and telling a story.

A few 'baby steps' experiments!

Electric candles inside plain paper printed on inside with text/pictures (so it appears plain white until the light is on).

Fairy lights and leaves cut from plastic milk bottles.

Can I make my drum into a moon?

Yes, it looks like I can.

IKEA battery lights and tissue paper.

And a plastic yogurt container.

A 'loo roll' castle.  VERY simple, I can expand on this greatly.

A stone wall pattern printed on inside of paper...makes a stone tower!

A fire and curling smoke around a tea light.  The flame cut paper is red, but it doesn't show as such when the candle is lit in complete darkness, so perhaps a 'stained glass' effect with red cellophane might be the go?!

And someone doesn't like it when mummy's attention is all on the computer and NOT on him!

Wednesday, May 30, 2018 I ready!?

I think I'm ready...I hope I'm ready!  There are always butterflies, but I'm learning to trust that I DO know it, even when I'm convinced I don't.  Last year, I was utterly beside myself before the first performance, absolutely sure that I wouldn't remember anything and it would be an unmitigated, and hugely embarrassing, disaster.  And it went fine, I remembered everything, and the audience was gratifyingly enthusiastic.  So fingers crossed, the same will happen again.  As long as my children don't pass anything nasty on to me (next week is fine), they've both been sick!  My 'little one' (inverted commas because in no physical sense is she 'little' anymore, now being considerably taller than me), is home sick again today, and has been since last Thursday, poor love.  Doctor says it's a virus, so nothing but rest and lots of fluids, and trying not to worry about what she might be missing at school, will help.  At least it's sunny today, though chilly.

We've had some remarkable weather lately.  We're fine, but last week there were serious wild fires in the area, and storm warnings, all at the same time.  One home has been lost, and thousands of hectares of bush burnt out. We've had some unseasonably warm weather, including warm evenings, which is very unusual this close to winter, and wind and wild weather, but not everyone got the rain we got (we're on the south west side of a hill, facing the Great Southern Ocean, so we usually get rain even when people 10 mins away don't).  Warm nights and lots of wind is a recipe for disaster when there's still so much fire fuel lying around.  Prescribed burns got out of hand, and locals who should have known better lit bonfires to burn off, and things went rapidly pear-shaped, with major roads being shut.  Beloved informed me yesterday that our big tank is only a quarter full, which is a bit worrying this time of the year.  We've had rain, but not the usual autumn rains which should have filled the tank up much higher than that by now.  We'll need some serious weeks of serious rain if we're to have enough to see us through summer.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

'Fables' music.

Just a quick post.

'Fables' is coming along, though I keep getting distracted by 'The Wolf Bride', but that's OK, they can inform each other!

Here is my original song about a strange and uncanny encounter.  I'll be performing it as part of 'Fables' in June at the Denmark Festival of Voice...although not with the harmonies (the wonders of multi-tracking!)

Note: there's a few seconds delay at the beginning, but I haven't worked out how to get rid of it without a lot of fiddling and phaffing in Garage Band, so I'll leave it for the moment...a job for another day!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Voice of the Wolf

He seems to speak in single thoughts.  One thought, one poem.  Short.  Perhaps he's struggling with this new way of speaking/thinking.  Or perhaps I'm just unable to translate the complexity of wolf-thought into English.  I suspect it's the latter.

On a side note...I usually write poems ranged left, with indents.  But it didn't look right when I was typing them up here, and so I tried them centred instead.  Hmmmm...I think I rather like it.


I, in tooth and claw
pelt and paw
saw you first.

Balanced in air
sky dancing there
between heaven and earth
a peculiar bird
above my head.

Feet calloused, bare
fingernails grimed with dirt
a leaf creeping girl
whose scraped knees bled.

And I knew you were wild like me.


I, beWILDered and beWOLF├ęd 
dare not think 
of a girl in a tree 
with eyes like leaves. 

Fur legged or two legged 
it is the same. 

I dream my head on her soft breast. 
Her nipple between my teeth. 


My words 
are leaf mould 
are falling autumn leaf 
steeped in humous rich and black. 

My poetry 
scribbled in 
the desperate flight of the hare 
the falling flight of the lark. 

How can I tell her I love? 


From her tongue 
such singing comes 
my hail to the moon is dust in my mouth 
and all my song struck dumb. 


Too rough for caress. 
Yet I 
in tooth and claw 
would bare my breast 
to the bright spear point for her. 


This man-skin 
an unfamiliar thing 
four legged to two legged. 

Too long a quadruped 
my gait is halting 
and unsure. 

And I did not know 
how to use my hands 
until I came to her. 


When I am man 
there is some part 
that stays unmanned. 

When wolf 
a part 

The hand that shaped me 
shaped us incomplete. 

Imperfect cyphers who compete 
for a whole 
that cannot exist.

Fergus asleep.  He won't stay still long enough for me to draw him awake, and he does NOT like the intense stare I give him when I'm concentrating on drawing, so if he notices me, he turns around and presents his back to me!

Please remember all the poems here, and the visual images, are © Christina Cairns, and don't copy or share without permission.

Friday, March 9, 2018

The Wolf speaks...?

All along, I've left it to audiences to decide for themselves...does he speak?  Somehow, I imagine him, even when he's a man, as silent, speaking with eyes and expression, touch and gesture only, and it being enough.  It was enough for me.

But yesterday, in the car on the way into town (and luckily, Beloved was driving, or it might have been a bit awkward!) a poem in His voice came to me (or at least, the first stirrings of a poem), and I had to dig out notebook and pencil, and very messily scribble it down as the car bumped its way along South Coast Hwy.  I'm not sure it's entirely a poem in the Wolf's voice though, perhaps more like a poor translation?  For how could English ever encompass the inner thoughts of a Wolf?  Or of a man who is Wolf more often than man?  But then today a few more little snippets floated in.  So I wonder if there might be a book of poems from Wolf to Girl, in the new The Wolf Bride.  They seem to be following a simple pattern, short, single thoughts.  I'm probably a very poor translator, being a woman who does not actually 'speak' Wolf, but I'll do my best.  Who knows, they may not go anywhere, but I'm enjoying them right at the moment.

Some snippets from my no particular logical order...

25 August 2017
White:  Obvious for all the snow references, but also because in practical terms, white is a good colour to showcase artwork against.  Easier to make/get white stuff.  Old sheets, white paper etc.  I'm in two minds about the idea of leaves and roses made out of scraps of text.  I love making stuff like that, but: 
 a) I don't have much time  
b)  Do I need to spell it out all the time?  If I just have scraps of torn text/paper, which will rustle and can picked up and thrown, they will 'read' as leaves if I'm speaking about leaves, they don't need to be 'leaf' shaped.
 The idea of the rose is significant, it plays an important part in the original story (though it's an illogical part), and I wanted to include it in my story, using it a bit differently, and I have, and I'm pleased with how I've incorporated it, I think it works.  But do I need to actually have 'roses' in any obvious form in the Visual component?  I like the idea, but at the same time wonder it it's a bit 'naff'!
White is also innocence.  White/snow also prefigures death, or possible/almost death, in my story.  White is a kind of silencing blanket, like snow.  When spring/new life comes, greenness and sound (birds, streams) break through.

1 September 2017
-  Remembered from old TV series "Robin of Sherwood", and apparently a historical fact, that a 'wolfshead' was another name for an outlaw.  Presumably both had a price on their heads, and both could be killed with impunity.   
-  Thinking of a smaller painting, same style as large, for "The World Has Changed".  I'm thinking of her as a kind of witch figure, a mad old woman everyone is afraid of.  Thinking again of the idea of a mask, something she wears for a kind of shamanic shift into 'wolf mind'.  Is she looking through it in the painting, or holding/carrying it?  It is her link to her lost love, and also to the wild, non-human world.  A way of seeing the world through wolf/non-human eyes.  A different point of view, a different kind of consciousness.  A mask like this would not be strictly representational, may be more about essence/feeling when it is worn, rather than what it looks like on the outside.  She can't see what it looks like when she's wearing it, it's how it makes her feel that's important.

The odd inconveniences of 'the company of beasts'!

And some gratuitous photos of the culprit!

Fables is coming along as well, though I'm still at the first draft stage of each story, so I have WAY too much material at the moment, and need to seriously cull.  I've been fiddling around with music too, so here's a little of it.  I've always wanted to set Keats' poem La Belle Dame Sans Merci to music, but it never seemed to quite come together.  Ah, but then I got the bouzouki, and suddenly something started to emerge.  I don't think it's there yet, still need to do some fiddling...maybe it needs a bridge to break it up a bit, I'm not sure, but it's a start.  At the moment I'm planning on it appearing in Fables (in the 'dangerous faeries' section), but it may have to be discarded depending on how the culling process shapes up.  Of course, I won't be able to play more than one instrument...or sing a harmony with myself, in a live performance (if only THAT were possible!), but it's always fun to have a bit of a play in Garage Band.

Fables Notebook

Thursday, March 1, 2018

New things growing...

I have no real excuses for the long distance between posts.  I could say we had 7 weeks of school holidays which always seem to end up so BUSY, with to-ing and fro-ing between the deep south and the big smoke and in other parts in-between, and visitors of various kinds...and Christmas of course...and birthdays, that I end up longing for the quiet days of term.  Or that worldly issues (global and local) have kept my mind occupied (which they have).  But the truth is I just haven't got around to it.  So here is a bit of what's happening in my neck of the woods, and what I'm working on.

Firstly, Fergus, who, although he IS a new thing, he's NOT growing (thankfully!) But I'm sure those of you who are 'dog-people' will want to know how he is.  Fergus has fit into this family like an old sock into an old shoe.  He is the teenage son I've never had.  He takes up way too much space, lies around in the way for most of the day (always wherever you want to walk or stand), his hygiene standards are basic (that's being very generous), he tracks in so much sand that I feel like I'm living at the beach, he is always hungry and has his head in the fridge whenever he can manage it, and he sheds so much fur (in lieu of shoes/shirts/jackets/socks of the hypothetical teenage son) I swear I could knit a new dog (if, indeed, I could knit!)  His farting is silent but deadly.  He also steals unripe tomatoes out of the vegetable patch (I'm not quite sure that's teenage son behaviour though).

Me - Fergus, why is your face green?
Fergus - (innocent look) Gosh mummy, I have no idea!
Me - Fergus (stern look), have you been pinching the tomatoes?
Fergus - (shocked look) NO mummy, I would never, ev...oh, THOSE tomatoes........

Or, at least that's how I imagine his side of the conversation going...he certainly has the innocent/shocked looks perfected!

But he wins over every single person he meets, he hasn't not got a mean bone in his great, long, lanky body, and he is just so completely gorgeous he gets away with everything.  He makes me smile when I'm feeling down, his love in unconditional, he just adores hanging out with his family (definitely a 'people' dog), he puts his head in your lap and looks up at you with those big golden eyes, and you melt into a puddle of jelly on the floor.  He's rather like a cat actually (I'm not a cat person, but I've heard cats do this), because when I'm working at the computer, he will come up and shove his head under my 'mouse' hand, and flip it up over and over to get my attention, and a pat.

But that's probably enough about Fergus...although I could go on...and on...and on...but here's a few pics anyway, of the Boy with Debby-Zebby-Zebra, his Tip Shop toy.

I also have another new addition to my musical 'family'.  Quite by accident really.   I blame Terri Windling :) it's all her fault, really!  Every Monday she posts gorgeous music on her beautiful blog, and I can't count the number of marvellous musicians and singers that I've discovered through Terri's posts.  A couple of weeks ago, Terri posted a video of Nancy Kerr and James Fagan, marvellous folk duo, and I became intrigued by the instrument James was playing.  Looked like a guitar, but 4 double strings, not 6 single strings...what on earth is it?!  A little while later, after some 'surfing' on the net, I discovered an instrument I'd never heard of before.  The Irish Bouzouki.  That was Tuesday.  And that's when the universe intervened.  Just out of vague curiosity, I did a search for this strange new instrument on 'Gumtree', the Australian online classified ad site.  And I actually found someone selling an Irish Bouzouki in my nearby 'big smoke'.  It's difficult to express the unlikeliness of this to people who don't live here, that's why I'm sure the universe stepped in!  So, I drove to Albany to have a look.  It was lovely.  And cheap.  And so, by Wednesday afternoon, I was the proud, though somewhat surprised, owner of said instrument.  I was saving to buy a good steel string guitar...oh well!

But onto other things.  I have two projects currently 'in development' (that sounds far more fancy and professional than it actually is).  The ongoing expansion of The Wolf Bride into a visual exhibition/installation/set (I'm still not sure what yet) in time for the 25th anniversary of 'Brave New Works' in November, and a new show for this year's 'Festival of Voice', in June, called Fables.  It will be another storytelling show, but this time is several shorter stories as well as original and traditional songs, built around a very basic (and deliberately vague, because I didn't have a clue when I applied!) theme of strange and uncanny folklore/legends.  So I have begun new journals for each, and am in the 'gathering' stage, which I love best, of collecting material; quotes, artwork, essays, articles, as well as my own scribbles and thoughts and random ideas, and anything and everything that seems relevant.  The 'culling' stage (which I don't enjoy half as much) of having to make decisions about what stays and what is discarded, comes later.  So, a few pics from my new journals.

The Wolf Bride


More to come...I promise!

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