Saturday, 8 April 2017

Pan Review of the Arts - No.2

Editorial: Welcome to the second issue of 'Pan Review of the Arts.' Here, Tracy Tynan talks about her famous parents and the key role clothes played in their and, subsequently, her life.  In review, a 'prose poem' collection of past dreams reflects the waking life of its author, while Stephen J. Clark brings us a new prose poem, augmented by his very own art. Finally, Lidwine De Royer Dupre talks of the role the harmonium and harp play in her singular musical journey. Enjoy...


TRACY TYNAN had been silent, in print, for many years on the subject of her parents; the great drama critic Kenneth Tynan and the novelist and biographer Elaine Dundy, to whom she was their only child. Her new memoir, Wear and Tear – The Threads of My Life (Duckworth (UK) / Simon & Schuster (US)), definitively reveals why. Subsequently a costume designer for both Hollywood and independent cinema - on films such as 'Breathless,' 'The Big Easy' and 'Great Balls Of Fire!' - the book relates how Tracy's eye has long been strong on colour and broad in style and how clothes got her through the worst of familial times. Her tone, throughout, is admirably self-deprecating, especially through the early years of almost cavalier abandonment. Today, she lives in Los Angeles.

I never realised I cared that much about clothes - until I read your book. Then I recalled the silver silk and dark pink cotton shirts I once owned in the Eighties for evening wear, and the two-tone Mod shoes in the Nineties, and how I wanted to achieve a certain look --- and give a certain impression about myself. Have you found your book to have triggered similar, unexpected recollections in readers’ elsewhere?

TT: Yes, because everyone — except nudists! — wears clothing. Everyone has an association with clothing, a favorite item, a good luck item or the reverse. A bad experience wearing something can taint that piece of clothing forever.

Your child's-eye view on your parents' fighting is your memoir's darker underbelly. It's not uncommon for children of a dysfunctional relationship to experience self-destructive behaviour later in their own lives. How do you think you managed to avoid becoming another victim of such dysfunction?

TT: I think going to boarding school at the age of 10 saved my life. It removed me from a toxic situation and put me into a bucolic, supportive place. Also, I think I was just lucky not to inherit the addiction gene. Although I have dabbled with drugs and alcohol, my tolerance is pretty low, so engaging in long-term behavior was not physically possible. And then there was therapy. I have had years of therapy, which was very helpful, which led to me attending an offshoot of AA - Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA). In those meetings I discovered other people who had experienced similar things to me, and actually much worse, and I was able to share and process my experiences.

Have you found your book's personal revelations to have helped friends, or more remote readers, approach and confide in you about their own childhood and parental relationships?

TT: Yes, a few people have written to me and told that they identified with my sense of isolation and fear. Of being around unpredictable adults and having to become an adult before one’s time.

I realise your father wasn't at home very much but, later in life, did he ever relate to you his awareness of your mother's addictions and behaviour? For example, via greater empathy or sympathy towards you?

TT: I am not sure he really comprehended the extent of her mental illness, as he was not around to witness it. I think he understood that it was not a good situation but did not know what to do about it.

You write admiringly of your father's writing. What do you think of your mother's published work? (i.e. The novels, biographies, and autobiography).

TT: I think she was a terrific writer. Her first novel, 'The Dud Avocado,' remains a classic coming of age story. And her second novel 'The Old Man and Me' is very dark and funny. A fictionalized account of her friendship with Cyril Connolly. Both have been optioned to be made into films. I hope that comes to pass. Her non-fiction work was very deeply researched and her book ‘Elvis and Gladys’ is very respected by many Elvis scholars.

Your last line in the book states; '...I hope, as I grow older, that I shall continue to be curious and discover new stories to tell.' So, does this mean the experience of writing 'Wear and Tear' has fired you into writing more in future? For example, a biography, short stories or a novel?

TT: I would like to continue writing, but I am not sure what form it will take. I have enjoyed writing scripts in the past, and I like collaboration, but the odds of getting a script made are practically zero. Writing scripts taught me a lot about structure and dialogue. I am usually inspired by a real-life situation and use that as a jumping-off point. Also, I am very visual and have worked on various art projects and I would like to try working in that area for a while. A few years ago I collaborated on an art installation based on real suicide notes. I might try to turn that into a book. (I know, not the most upbeat subject, but some of the notes were actually funny).

What kind of writing do you most admire – why? - and who are you reading at the moment?

TT: I have very eclectic tastes. I read a lot of memoirs. Michael Arlen’s 'Exiles,' the classic, original memoir about dysfunctional, talented parents. Artist Anne Truit's memoir trilogy, 'Prospect,' 'Daybook' & 'Turn,' about the struggles of being an artist and a single mother. Anything by Kate Atkinson. Roz Chast’s amazing and witty graphic memoir 'Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant.' It should be required reading for baby-boomers with aging parents! The moving memoir, 'The Light of The World,' by the poet Elizabeth Alexander, about the sudden and unexpected death of her husband, which also has a few delicious recipes as her husband was a chef. And since Trump became President, I have been reading a lot of PG Wodehouse, which I find is the perfect antidote to Trump’s insanity! Plus, the complete Wodehouse has been re-issued by my British publisher, Duckworth, and they have very kindly offered to give me a steady supply of the venerable wit.

I'd like to thank Tracy for her time and hope she writes more for publication in the future.

Nights As Day, Days As Night by Michel Leiris, Spurl Editions, (Translated by Richard Sieburth)

A dream journal is not an easy tome to critique; mainly because it isn't clear what you are being asked to judge. What are the parameters, either side of the line between 'good' and 'bad,' 'success' and 'failure'? What have you to compare it to? Other dream journals that are a genre all their own? (If a genre at all). There is, of course, the psychological approach that wedges a foot in the door of biography. Here, instinct is perhaps a more reliable guage for the critic than primary academic research into the whole contrary life. So to Michel Leiris (1901-90), whose life to me was – thankfully in this case – something of a blank page.
  A stylish, cosmospolitan figure, Parisien-born Leiris was an art critic, poet and anthropologist, also described as 'a pioneer in modern confessional literature' who'd modelled for Francis Bacon; an almost uniquely French combo of specialisms, rarely repeated either side of the Atlantic. Initially associated with the Twenties Surrealists, Leiris subsequently slipped from view, in precarious mental health, reappearing – to the public – at the end of the Thirties with a form of psychological autobiography covering the missing years. At this point, he'd just spent four years as Director of Research at the National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris; a role he'd remain in for the next thirty-one years.
  Nights As Day, Days As Night is an occasional but consistently kept series of dream diary entries of varying length. Some are only a couple lines, some take up to five pages; most written the morning after the night before; others written from daydream or daytime ruminations that somehow clung to justify inclusion. (Hence the title). In his Translator's Note, Richard Sieburth states that Leiris's dream journal entries are 'best approached as prose poems, their skewed rhythms observing the cadences of dream...' since Leiris himself classified them amongst his poetry. 
 Kept between 1923 and 1960, each are beautifully rendered, considering the inevitable incompleteness and lack of linear logic. Named friends and colleagues feature, some with mystery spouses, such as 'Z' - a companion of Leiris's own. (Whether or not he/she is the same one throughout is equally uncertain). Places he's worked in and women he's desired rub shoulders with impossible perspectives, imminent Establishment takeovers and threats of execution seemingly based upon his leftist resistance activities in the waking world.

It seems likely its initiation influenced his third release, the surrealist novel Aurora (1927).

'What I like about this work,' he once wrote of it, 'is the appetite it expresses for an unattainable purity, the faith it places in the untamed imagination, the horror it manifests with regard to any kind of fixity - in fact, the way almost every page of it refuses to accept that human condition in the face of which there are some who will never cease resistance, however reasonably society might one day be ordered.'

  This 'untamed imagination' and 'lack of fixity' are surely a writer's key pleasures encountered in any dream journal. To one also defiant of Establishment norms, his 'refusal to accept (the) human condition' suggests Nights As Day was, if only unwittingly, the template. Finally published in 1961 as Nuits sans nuit et quelques jours sans jour, this new reissue includes a 1971 'foreword' by Maurice Blanchot; another long-living novelist and essayist with a profile even lower and for longer than that of Leiris. As glimpses into the psyche of a polymath, Nights As Day succeeds as the kind of book that makes you want to seek out, and make sense of, the likely source of his desires.

                                                     (On Drawing)

                                                   Stephen J. Clark

Perhaps we can no more dispense with myth than we can with words. In dreams we are carried in the currents of myth. Mythic forms persist as binding and constitutive elements within language and culture; through the imagination they can be invoked or awakened from their latency within memory, within the unconscious.

A key desire in my art is exploring where an image will take me; how it will unexpectedly evolve, leading me on the secret pathways of untold stories. As unforeseen associations and recurring symbols are revealed with each drawing, I find myself obsessively unearthing and piecing together a mythology that curiously knows how to speak intimately to me, and like an imaginary childhood friend takes the shape of my fears, my wishes and my memories. A prevailing assumption envisages human experience in Cartesian terms, wrongly de-limiting the unconscious as if it is sectioned from the conscious mind, the body and the world, reducing the unconscious to an estranged shadow within. Yet the unconscious is not only a repository, is not only something that contains, conceals or confines but can be responsive, becoming a way of reaching outwards to grasp, unveil and enchant the world we experience. In a sense the unconscious surrounds us, waiting in the world’s forms and in our encounters with others.

For me, drawing has become a process of revelation that is essentially to do with memory and the unconscious mind; my interest in drawing began in childhood with a love of comics and a fascination with monsters and mythology. As a child I recall chancing upon visionary and apocalyptic paintings by Bosch and Brueghel in an encyclopedia with the sensation of having crossed a line, trespassing on forbidden territory. Perhaps in childhood play there was the kernel of revelation I was to nurture later, in the poetry of the image.

The poetic image is a threshold where unexpected forms appear like messengers, leaving us speechless. This experience of seeing is often one of being silenced. In the gaze that ruptures speech signs take shape before us as seductive apparitions, curious interlopers or unwelcome guests. There is a dialogue, a dialectic communion, an exchange of glances between the visible and the invisible, between the present and the absent, the conscious and the unconscious. When we experience, we imagine.

Somewhere between reflection and chance the image emerges. A face is slowly coaxed to surface from the patterns of an ink wash. The image is a mirror; we find ourselves changed in its flickering contours. The act of drawing is a form of gnosis, of self-knowledge, of scrying into patterns, peering into hidden facets, a kind of meditative dream while awake. In drawing I’m lured into the image’s circle of influence, witnessing and participating in its transformations.

Affinities with alchemical and magical ideas and images have inspired and informed my understanding and process. In these drawings as in dreams mythic forms emerge through memory and as we remember we in turn cross thresholds, we take on different forms, wear other masks. On the other side we glimpse monstrous lives, encounter spectral doubles, phantoms of resemblance roaming lost margins steeped in fog or shadow. The personae and encounters in these pictures act out dramas on the stage of an inner theatre, a microcosm of the page where Faust enters to converse with his shadows. So the image becomes a hermetic riddle and the act of drawing a method of unraveling its many threads; a visual poem, a disturbance in habitual thinking where time is transmuted and the image stirs into life. 
                   All images are copyright: Stephen J. Clark (2013, 2014, 2015)

His collection of strange stories - 'The Satyr & Other Tales' - is available here:

See more of Stephen's art and writings at his official website:

LIDWINE was a name I initially discovered as a dustjacket credit, whose flawless photogenic features graced the monochrome cover of 'Ghosts'; a book of uncanny short stories by publisher Ray Russell (Tartarus Press, 2012) and reviewed in these pages on its release. A brief, subsequent surf revealed the subject – Lidwine de Royer Dupre - to be a musician of quite unique character; a harpist and harmonium player with a Bjork-like voice whose fluid musical genre reflects both the churches and chapels she performs in and the strikingly strange, cutting edge videos she produces. With a debut album behind her, ('Before Our Lips Are Cold' (Taktic Music, 2014)), and a new release imminent, it felt time to catch up, on what is one of her – so far – few interviews in English.

What can you tell me about your new album?

L: 'Alive' will feature ten tracks from my previous EPs' and album, but in new versions. My husband, who is also my drummer/percussionist, and I moved from Paris to Normandy end of 2015. At the time, I was performing with him tracks from my first album, in versions very close to the recorded ones; that is to say blending acoustic instruments and electronics. But, once we moved to the countryside, this way of presenting my work on stage did not seem relevant anymore. I guess having left behind the noise of the big city and finding ourselves in a very quiet environment surrounded by nature, we both felt the old versions were not in resonance with where we were and what we had become. So we unplugged everything and decided to rework the songs and make them totally acoustic.
  During summer 2016, we toured with this new set-up playing mostly unplugged concerts in churches and chapels in Normandy and Brittany. It’s been a great experience for many reasons; among them, the pleasure of singing and playing without electric amplification, using the natural acoustic of each place, the proximity of the audience and the sense of intimacy allowed by these kind of gigs, and the absence of technical problems related to electric amplification and the use of microphones… We wanted to document this, so we went to Mikrokosm Studios in Lyon last February and asked Benoit Bel, who I had been working with on my two previous recordings, to record us live in his studio. The tracks are currently being mixed by him. Meanwhile my husband and I are working on the artwork and packaging. We will release five-hundred CDs' in silk screen printed and numbered packaging. No exact release date for now, but it will happen sometime this spring.

Where were you born and raised?

L: I was born in Le Mans, west of France, and raised in the countryside of this region until the age of 10. My father was then asked to move to Chantilly (50 km north of Paris) for professional reasons (he is a racehorse trainer) and I spent my teenage years there and then moved to Paris to study at University.

What influenced you into taking up the harp and harmonium as your instruments of choice?

L: I found my first harmonium (an Indian harmonium) in an Indian shop in Paris. Tried it on the spot, fell in love with its sound and bought it right away. Then I got really interested in the harmoniums/reed organs in general and bought a big one. The harp came later. I had an autoharp and a friend of mine told me, half joking, that one day I will maybe play a real harp. Two years later, when I got enough money, I decided to buy one.

When you started out, was your priority to sing and write your own lyrics, or was it to find unusual instruments to play?

L: I started creating music with a computer and a keyboard, and then sequencers (Yamaha QY70 & QY700). Right away I was looking for sounds that were different, using the available effects to customize the factory sounds available on these machines. I had to do this, in order to be inspired to sing and write. I guess, this is the same with my choice of acoustic instruments, I have to find sounds which are not too much related to already existing music styles. For example, the sound of guitar does not inspire me. It is too much related to rock or folk music and it does not trigger my inspiration. To answer your question, writing and singing was my primal intention but in order to do so, I had to find sounds that inspired me. So, as far as I am concerned, both notions are interdependent.

What is your approach to composition? (e.g. do the lyrics inspire the music, or does the music inspire the lyrics?)

L: For my very first attempts and my first EP, I had lots of writings in notebooks I could dip into while finding sounds and musical phrases. (I can’t say I was really composing at the time, I had no notion of how to build a song…). I was doing things instinctively and learning step-by-step by myself. Now it’s different. My skills have improved with each recorded project, be it in composition, arrangements or production skills. As far as composition is concerned, I am versatile. I could experiment on my Logic (music software) and find the beginning of something, then rework it on the harp, or the piano. Or I could sit at the piano and find a series of chords that inspire a melody and/or words and then my voice would lead me somewhere and my fingers would have to find the right chord to accompany it, etc.
  The composition of the music comes along with the writings of the lyrics and vice versa. It is an intricate process. A phrase can shape the way the melody comes out and other times, I have to write lyrics to fit in an already existing melody. But I never give up on the meaning of the lyrics. Besides, I must admit that the rhyming issue is never a priority. Meaning and rhythm of the phrases are what count the most for me.

Your website states that you were self-taught on the instruments. Does this give you greater freedom to compose in a way personal to you, or does it have its drawbacks that formal training might have overcome?

L: Apart from a two years harp training with a teacher, (my first 2 years with the harp), I am a self-taught musician. I have great difficulties reading scores, so, working with my teacher, I took the habit of learning exercises or pieces by heart. I am mostly visual when it comes to memorizing what I have to play. That is to say, I learn on a visual and muscular basis. (My eyes tell me where my fingers should be, my fingers memorize where they have to go next, the movements they have to make). When it comes to the consequences of being self-taught on my composition skills, I admit I certainly do not play the harp as most classically-trained harpists do and probably don’t think about composition as classically-trained composers do. I still feel like I follow my instinct, but with several years of experimenting and learning by my mistakes, my instinct has become sharper and more efficient. I play the harp my own plain and clumsy way. Finding finger movements that my body can perform.
  Same thing with any instrument I play. I use them above all, as accompaniment to my singing. The drawbacks of this lack of formal training (and the fact that I did not start at an early age) are that on one hand, I will never be a virtuoso, so I have to do what my body and brain allow me to do, and on the other hand, I do not share the common language of musical scores with classically trained musicians. But, thanks technology and computer assisted music softwares, I am able to create arrangements in MIDI and print out scores I can give to musicians for them to play. Besides, I know nothing about harmony laws, I have to rely on my own judgement, maybe it gives me more freedom, but I’m not sure.

Some artists who are self-taught do not reveal obvious influences through their work. Instead, the very organic nature of their work means it often exists in creative isolation. Do you consider your own music in such terms, or can you hear outside influences when you play back your recordings?

L: I thought about it a lot with my previous album and the fact that some of its songs where built on a 'normal' structure, like any pop song would, and some others were pieces with different 'movements' inside them and no repeated parts, just like in a classical piece of music: a series of various emotions unwinding one after the other, bringing a climax at some point and then a real end. I guess years of ballet training and listening to classical music and opera led me to this. I also believe I am entitled to say I have a large musical culture going from concrete music, to classical, jazz, minimal electronic, R&B, world music etc… All these kinds of music have influenced me one way or another. I have listened extensively to Prince for years. Discovering, with each listen, a little detail here, a little detail there. His production has had an influence on my first EP and my first album, even though they do not sound at all like Prince… I took pleasure in adding details, hiding little things for listeners to discover…
  Women like Björk or Kate Bush have influenced me in my way to approach music and production as a woman, because they represent great examples of artistic freedom. I guess Björk has influenced my way of singing, at least this is what many people tell me… I don’t listen to music often though. I don’t need to and anyway I don’t stumble often upon things that really draw my attention. But once I do, I listen to them extensively! I guess that consciously or unconsciously, I am, now and then, using little bits of other artists. One would have to live in a cabin in the middle of nowhere with no Internet, radio or T.V., luxuriant vegetable garden and orchard, real skills in manual work and sewing to prevent him/her from listening to others music, be it only at the supermarket.

Many thanks to Lidwine for giving her time.

Pre-orders for her new album are available at Lidwine's shop: