Sunday, 23 October 2011

KNIGHT PHILS THE SCREEN

The estimable Phil Knight now has his very own, very good blog.

Though it's not something I'm overly familiar with, I've been enjoying his recent occult-oriented posts (see here). By way of a tribute, here's a fantastic picture of early-twentieth century occultist composer/songwriter Peter Warlock (a/k/a Philip Heseltine, a/k/a Brian Sewell's dad), who I've been doing a spot of research on recently:


Primarily I just wanted to share what is without a doubt one of the best photographic portraits I've ever seen. Look at that infernally involuted mouth!

I don't really know much of Warlock's oeuvre, other than the carol service staple Bethlehem Down, which is brilliant I think, largely because of the melisma on the word "down" that seems to pre-empt the sixties, Tomorrow Never Knows, eastern mysticism-meeting-folk revival, that sort of thing:


It's very pop-song-esque isn't it? There's a palpable verse-chorus-hook format, and a Beatles-esque formula of basic, folk/primitive melody being subtly tweaked or warped with unexpected chords to haunting effect. Reading up on Warlock it seems that his approach to music writing was actually quite similar to the later pop tunesmiths: he was self-taught, intent on being a songwriter as opposed to a composer (in the way that many late-romantic English writers were at the time of Vaughan Williams, Gurney, Grainger et al), and a "vertical" rather than a "horizontal" writer according to the account that I read (ie. he was interested in chords, in seeing where rich chordal blocks would take the melody, which recalls Ian MacDonald's view that Lennon and McCartney spontaneously rejected traditional harmony when they lighted on an exploratory, "moving chord shapes around the fretboard" methodology.) 

Anyway, well done Phil, and big up the occult.

4 comments:

Phil Knight said...

Thanks Alex.

I'm now trying to imagine just how plummy Brian Sewell's dad must have sounded....

Mr. W. Kasper said...

For a minute there, I thought that was a picture of Phil!

Phil Knight said...

Oh I'm way more devilish...

Mr. W. Kasper said...

Ah - forgot about the monocle and fez...