Community Practice Spirituality Therapy Wilderness

Wormy Truth of Gardens

Wormy Truth of Gardens drawing for us by Ben Watson.

At Luke Davis’ poetry book launch last June I met the writer/musician/activist Ben Watson. He is chiefly famous for his artist-endorsed writings on Frank Zappa. Ben has been a friend of Luke’s for a long time. I knew beforehand that Luke and his fellow poet Jim Clarke had participated in Ben’s improvised music events on Friday at lunchtime at the Betsey Trotwood on the Farringdon Road.

AMMAS March 31st at The Betsey Trotwood.

Ben is a force of nature. He’s one of those rare people you encounter in life who is truly an individual. Very friendly, he’s not shy of taking a controversial position. I really enjoy his company even though I don’t feel I bring a tremendous amount to the table having given up being “an expert” on music, being too uptight to drink, and preferring at the times I’ve been along to the Betsey Trotwood to sit in the audience and enjoy the experience rather than participate. They make a tremendous sound at the BT and the collectivity of the action is truly thrilling.

As far as I’m concerned the best thing about improvised music is that it entirely eliminates the need for technical abilities. To talk about famous improvisers is to some extent miss the point. When you do so you are entering the domain of the appreciation of musical virtuosity. That’s ok but maybe it’s not its real value? To some extent that explains the DIY punk edge to AMMAS, Watson’s improvising group.

Since childhood, out of total incompetence, I’ve improvised on a range of instruments: hours tiny at the piano at my grandparents’ house, for many years alone in rooms doing so when I should have been practicing violin (or even in the middle of the second orchestra’s performances at school when I was entirely lost from the score), and on the flute. Then later, more recently, on electronic keyboards, electric guitar, bass guitar, drums. All the while making a horrible racket mainly for my own appreciation. And that’s the way it will stay with me, as a private negotiation. Right now I’m quietly mucking around with a recorder. That seemed like a sufficiently disparaged instrument to want to play. Though, as I now appreciate, there’s a lot to be said for it as an activity you can practice in a group.

Ben is in fact a pretty serious musician, with I believe, some degree of actual musical talent. If you’re curious check out this recent piano improvisation which has garnered well-deserved recognition.