The proverbial chicken (Klub Kakofanney Lockdown Letter)

The proverbial chicken

It is the first Friday of the month, and just in case you have been living in a cave, there is no Klub Kakofanney tonight. We had hoped to have restarted gigs by now, but venue woes are a major obstacle to live music in Oxford. So it's a quiet Friday night for me, but at least I have a big tub of ice-cream to keep me cool.... Hey! Where's the sunshine gone?

Hatching ideas

Have you made use of the last 18 months to try out new ideas? Here is a piece called "In The Blue Corner", using music kindly supplied by Jules Moss, the bass player in Charms Against The Evil Eye. Jules composed this one afternoon during lockdown, and I set it to some footage to make a simple and fun short video.

It would have been tempting to take the title of the music too literally, and try to make a video around wrestling and boxing themes, but I felt the gentle pace of the music was more in keeping with the antics of birds, so I went out and found some squabbling jackdaws and tempted them down with treats. Yes, I know a croissant isn't a healthy square meal for flappers, but then a tub of ice cream isn't a healthy square meal for me either, yet still I guzzle it down. You can find the high-quality version of the track without the added cackling of my feathered friends on Soundcloud, along with several other short pieces Jules has composed recently.

Remember, the video is just a device to give the music extra legs, to make it possible for people to stumble across it on YouTube, to give it a way of engaging with more people who might never hear it otherwise.

Did somebody say chicken?

In that last clip, the music came first and the video was used to supplement it. In this next example, the video came first, and the music was used simply to make this 90 second clip more interesting and watchable, to give a silent movie vibe, a feeling of jeopardy, some sense of pace and atmosphere.

Video and music work well together, and it doesn't really matter which one comes first, as long as you have fun doing it and you enjoy the result, so I hope you'll feel inspired to do something creative and original with your own compositions. Whether it's live performance videos, lyric videos, or miscellaneous images to draw people in, they can all work to your advantage as a musician, and get people to pay more attention to your music. As for the age-old philosophical question, which came first, the chicken or the egg, well that's obvious: A chicken is just an egg's way of making another egg.

Don't stop believing

I fear the Wheatsheaf is gone forever as a gig venue, despite the passionate pleas we made for its survival. If so, it will be a major blow to live music in central Oxford. Some other small venues such as The Library remain quiet at present, and the Home & Hubble is closed. The Bullingdon and The Jericho are both getting back towards a fuller gig programme, and this week saw Fusion Arts holding its first gig since last year. Musicians and live music fans are a resilient bunch so don't stop believing that it will all be better one day. And yes, "Don't stop believing" is the name of a song by USA band, Journey, which was first released almost exactly 40 years ago. Here is an interesting cover of it by Post-Modern Jukebox.

That video is a single shot with no cuts. Filming this sort of single shot video is challenging. Everyone has to know exactly where they need to be, and the timing has to be precise. It can give a very dramatic effect, but there is no room for error. However, today's digital video makes it so much easier to make seamless joins between different takes and to stretch the speeds slightly to match music, so we'll never really know anymore if videos are genuinely single shot or not. But they are still fascinating constructs.

Oxford or Harvard?

Here is another example of a single shot video, but this one dates back to 2008, by the New York band, Vampire Weekend, and is from their debut album. The song is called "Oxford Comma". Do you know what an Oxford comma is? There are plenty of them on this page, and it is just a grammatic device which promotes endless but ultimately pointless debate in writing circles. American scholars have the same arguments but call it the Harvard comma. Anyway, here is the video.

Did you ever watch the channel 4 comedy, "IT Crowd", which featured Richard Ayoade as the geeky and awkward Maurice Moss? You may also have seen Ayoade as a geeky and awkward guest on 8 Out Of 10 Cats, or as the geeky and awkward presenter of Travel Man. Hmmm,.... I think I might have spotted a trend here. So it may surprise you to know that as well as having a law degree from Cambridge, Ayoade is the film maker behind that Vampire Weekend video, and has also directed videos for Radiohead, Arctic Monkeys, Super Furry Animals, and Yeah Yeah Yeah, amongst others.

Those Covid passports won't go away

Downing Street has confirmed that, from the end of this month, it will be mandatory for nightclubs, unseated events, and adult entertainment venues to operate the Covid passport scheme. I'm not sure what an "adult" entertainment venue is. Perhaps it is a refined way of saying brothel.

So this means that to attend a gig or a football match you will have to show the NHS app on your phone to prove that either you have had both doses of the vaccines at least two weeks prior to the event, or that you have had a negative Covid test in the previous 48 hours. On the other hand, if you want to go to church in the morning, followed by a polo match in the afternoon and the opera in the evening, you should be okay. For more info on how to get your Covid pass, see this website:

I wish I could say that there was credible scientific evidence to show this will help us out of this pandemic mess, but I fear it is just politics which will give people a false sense of security. It seems to me that it is intended to bully the unvaccinated younger age groups into compliance, and that is a dangerous road to take. I do so want people to be vaccinated, it really is by far your safest choice, but I don't want to see coercion and compulsory ID disguised as Covid certificates.

The danger of unintended consequences

If people feel excluded from public events, they are more likely to gather together for unregulated house parties and unlicensed raves, where you are not only squeezing together the people at risk, but you are also doing it in environments where you are likely to have poor air flow, and without the responsible operators and organisers who keep places clean and safe, stop revellers drinking too much, and keep drug abuse and anti-social behaviour at bay. Good intentions can have unintended consequences.

3rd September 2021
The Lockdown Letters
Klub Kakofanney