David Thorner (Baritone), Kit Powell (Speaker)

First planned as “Nelson Duos”, ie., as a sequel to the Nelson Songs, but this time with an additional spoken part. Nelson Wattie, however, moved back to NZ before the work was finished. The tape was realized at home on our GMX, largely with sampled sounds. The first performance was in Rigiblick, Zürich, with David Thorner (baritone) and myself (speaker). Later we performed it again in Lucerne at the Tonkünstlerverein conference. First performed in NZ for Radio NZ by Nelson Wattie and Barry Empson.

Most of the texts were written while Michael Harlow was on holiday with us in Eglisau (during his period as Katherine Mansfield Scholar in Menton, South of France) – he was fascinated by my books for teaching English and started writing what he called “easy grammar poems”. At this stage we didn’t discuss their setting at all, thus the scenario is from me: Two stereotype figures, one with power (the speaker: in black clothes and black mask) and the other under his charge (the singer: in white). During the course of the work the roles change – white learns to use black’s power, black loses control.

Father’s Telescope

1. Nein, nein. Ja, ja

1 not wonder
4 not fortune
8 not hate
nor even 9
not nein
ja, ja
ja . . ja . . . ja

Michael Harlow

Father’s Telescope (Song 1) - Nelson Wattie (Baritone), Barry Empson (Speaker)
2. Father's Telescope

If you look
through this telescope
what can you see?

You can see
a man and a dog
you can see
what they are
doing, now

The man is
picking up the stick
in his left hand

And the dog?

The dog is
waiting at the edge
of the sea

Now, the man
is throwing the stick
with his right hand

He is throwing the stick
far out into
the water

And the dog?

Now the dog
is paddling across

the lake

to the other side.

Michael Harlow

Father’s Telescope (Song 2) - Nelson Wattie (Baritone), Barry Empson (Speaker)

3. Easy Grammar Poem for Where

Where are the twins?
They’re on the wall
Where are the pictures?
They’re at the gate
And where are the sweets?
They’re near the house
And where are the trucks?
They’re in the jar
And where is the jar?
Beside the twins
And where are the twins?
Inside their shoes
And where are the shoes?
The shoes . . ? Ah, yes,
The shoes are under the chair.

Michael Harlow
Father’s Telescope (Song 3) - Nelson Wattie (Baritone), Barry Empson (Speaker)

4. Don't be silly

Don’t be silly, or
even sad, & what
do you want, anyway
what’s the matter or
even going on out there
under the stairs, everyone
is lining up to sign
their names, then
disappearing to a fine
round of applause

Did you say
you wanted to leave
the room?
Well, there’s the bell,
and that’s all,
for today

Michael Harlow
5. Tomorrow & Tomorrow Morning

Tomorrow, tomorrow morning
& tomorrow afternoon, even
evening, that is to say
all day tomorrow
I’m going to look through
this telescope
to see what’s happening

Well, there isn’t much
my love, & there are no
oranges floating around
out there, hardly even a cow
jumping over hardly a moon
but if you look closely,
there are, yes, so many
swimming back

Michael Harlow
6. No I Don't, Yes I Do

Well, we won’t chase
what couldn’t be caught,
will we?

I mean, if you
really want to know why
everyone is just beginning
to levitate three trees high.
why don’t you
open & shut
your books
why don’t you
just try on this fine body
for size?

Michael Harlow
7. Why Don't You

Why don’t you
wake up, turn round
and get into line?
Why don’t you
put up your hands
to see what’s happening
right now?

Why don’t you just
put on the world’s hat
the one with the snap
brim, to see what’s
happening inside
the world’s head
why don’t you do that
before you die?

Michael Harlow
8. Are you the Milkman?

Are you the milkman?
No, I’m not

Or the Milkman’s wife

No, I’m afraid not

Are you someone, then
I might know well
If I knew by chance
Your name?

Not one of those, no

Would you step
Inside, that’s fine
And would you just
Arrest this cow
She’s been trying
To jump over the moon
For years (now)

Michael Harlow

Are You the Milkman? (Song 8) - Nelson Wattie (Baritone), Barry Empson (Speaker)

Father’s Telescope, für Bass, Sprecher und Tonband, geht von … einer eindeutig definierten Zweierbeziehung aus: dem Lehrer-Schüler-Verhältnis.
Eine reiche und abgründige Computermusik greift aus dem Hintergrund ein. Die Schrecken der Unterrichtsstunde von Ionesco sind gegenwärtig. Dann aber gelingt es der Vitalität des Schülers (David Thorner) die starre hierarchische Ordnung (vertreten durch Kit Powell als Sprecher) aufzulösen.
— Jürg Schubiger

Father’s Telescope, for Bass, Speaker and Tape, assumes … an unambiguously defined dual relationship: that of teacher-pupil.
A rich and depressing computer music attacks from the background. The horrors of Ionesco’s The Lesson are ever present. However the vitality of the pupil (David Thorner) succeeds in breaking through the rigid hierarchical order (represented by Kit Powell as the speaker).

  • trans. KP