Friday, 22 November 2013

Ron Geesin : Genuine Artist


People always say you should never meet your heroes. It’s pretty good advice but I made an exception recently and had the great pleasure of talking with Ron Geesin, composer, sound artist, poet and performer.

Like all great artists his immense knowledge and experience was evident in almost everything he said and his enthusiasms extend well beyond the field of music to discussions on topics as diverse as apple trees (I have one sorry specimen, Ron has a small orchard), architecture, counterculture film, cutlery and adjustable spanners.
Have banjo, will travel
Ron was a pioneer of British electronic music, a sort of one-man Radiophonic Workshop with particular skills in tape editing and manipulation. He is also a great live performer, graduating from playing trad jazz as a teenager from the back of an old Austin bus, via folk and working men’s clubs and the 14 Hour Technicolour Dream (Ron bottom of the bill, Pink Floyd at the top) to Parisian theatres and the Uffizi Gallery. The influence of comedy music and the neo-Dada antics of The Alberts created an anarchic absurdism with which to provoke audiences, as opposed to his contemporary Ivor Cutler’s more gentle approach.

Ron was speaking at a special event held as part of the exhibition Sam Smith : Boats, Beasts and Beauties. Ron had provided the distinctive soundtrack for the Arts Council film ‘Genuine England’ about the artist and toymaker Sam Smith, which was given a rare screening. Ron has provided many hours of incidental and library music over the years but few projects proved as rewarding as this. Sam and he formed a great collaborative friendship; they responded to each other’s independent sounds and visions and continued to meet and correspond until Sam’s death in 1983.

We present a recording of the presentation and Ron’s banjo improvisation finale, dedicated For Sam. It’s almost like being there, without having had to travel through the Scottish wind, rain and darkness.