Q: What links Cilla Black and Miles Davis to Donald MacRae, Simple Minds and Calum Kennedy? A: A Very Hebridean Take On John Cage’s Imaginary Landscape 5

Over the last year and a bit I’ve been buying records in the Bethesda charity shop, Stornoway,  according to a pattern devised using the iChing (and John Cage’s use of the iChing) in order to construct a new version of Cage’s Imaginary Landscape 5.

John Cage’s Imaginary Landscape 5 requires 42 random records to be cut and mashed together a set pattern (broken into steps of 3 inches of tape = .20 of a second)across 8 lines of composition. The total piece includes all 42 records, or parts therefore, and last for a little over 3 minutes total. And so, whenever I visited the shop in the last 13 to 14 months or so I bought a set number of records by counting in from the front of the pile of records by the numbers generated by the iChing pattern, and bought the resulting record whatever it was.

In order to ascertain the order of the records in realisation of the piece – and track to be used on each record – I have used the same randomly generated process counting first through the records purchased, and then through the tracks.

The resulting track list is as follows:

1. Father Sydney MacEwan with Philip Green and his Orchestra (45′ Philips, year unknown) – ‘The Meeting of the Waters’

2. Lars Gullin and the Kenton Sidemen (EP Esquire, 1953) – ‘Dedicated To Lee’

3. Celia Black ‘You’re My World’ (LP EMI Starline, 1969) – ‘What The World Needs Now Is Love’

4. Sarah Vaughan ‘You’re Mine You’ LP with Quincy Jones (LP Allegro, 1966) – ‘Witchcraft’

5. Teresa Brewer/Count Basie/ Thad Jones ‘The Songs of Bessie Smith’ (LP Philips Flying Dutchman, 1973) – ‘Gulf Coast Blues’

6. Donald MacRae ‘Donald MacRae Sings’ (LP Lismor, 1976) – ‘N Am Bhi Fagail Ghlaschu’ (Leaving Glasgow)

7. Stan Getz Quartet (EP Vogue Records, 1950) – ‘Sweetie Pie’

8. Na h-Oganaich ‘The Great Sound of Na H-Oganaich’ (LP Beltona Sword, 1973) – ‘Tha M’Eudail Is M’aighear’/

9. The Modern Jazz Quartet ‘Fontessa’ (LP London, 1957) – ‘Fontessa’

10. Dizzy Gillespie ‘The Best of the Dizzy Gillespie Big Bands’ (LP Verve, 1959) – ‘Birk’s Works’

11. Stan Getz Quartet (EP Esquire 1950) – ‘What’s New’

12. Simple Minds ‘i Travel’ (EP Virgin, 1979) – ‘Film Theme’

13. Slim Whitman ‘Birmingham Jail’ (LP RCA Camden, 1969) – ‘There’s A Tear In Ev’ry Teardrop’

14. Carl Orff ‘Carmina Burana (Herbert Kegel / Rundfunk Sinfonie Orchester Leipzig) (LP Heliodor, 1965) – ‘In Taberna: Olim Lacus Colueram

15. Stan Getz Quartet (EP Esquire, 1949) – ‘Crazy Chords’

16. The Sands Family ‘Folk From The Mourne’s’ (LP Outlet, 1972) – ‘Ramblin’ Irishman’

17. Sarah Vaughan ‘After Hours’ (LP Music For Pleasure, 1963) – ‘Sophisticated Lady’

18. Oscar Peter Quartet (EP Columbia Clef, year?) – ‘Stompin at the Savoy’

19.  Na h-Oganaich ‘Scot-Free’ (LP Belltona Sword, 1975) – ‘Come By The Hills’

20. Sarah Vaughan with Hal Mooney & His Orchestra ‘Cool Baby’ (LP Wing, 1963) – ‘It’s De-Lovely’

21. Jim Reeves (45′ RCA, 1962) – ‘Pride Goes Before A Fall’

22. Grupo Musical  Teatro Narren De Estocolmo ‘Lettre Du Chili Aux Dockers Du Monde Entier’ (LP Cedrec, year?) – ‘Carta A Los Obreros Portuarios’

23. Miles Davis ‘Kind Of Blue’ (LP Fontana, 1960?) – ‘Blue In Green’

24. Bill Wolfgramme with His islanders ‘Sounds Of Hawaii’ (LP Emerald Gem, 1974) – ‘Adventures In Paradise’

25. Sarah Vaughan & Count Basie  ‘ The Fabulous Sarah Vaughan’ (LP Allegro, 1966) – ‘Mean To Me’

26. Gerry Mulligan Quartet (10” Vogue, 1953) – ‘Love Me Or Leave Me’

27. Dinah Washington ‘Drinking Again’ (LP Allegro Pickwick, 1966) – ‘Lover Man’

28. Josef Schmidt ‘The unforgettable Voice of Josef Schmidt’ (EP Parlophone year unknown) – ‘Ein Lied Geht Um Die Welt’

29. Miles Davis & John Coltrane ‘…Play Richard Rodgers’ (LP Stateside EMI, 1964) – ‘Blue Room’

30. Na h-Oganaich ‘Gael Force 3’ (LP Beltona Sword, 1974) – ‘Alba Mo Ruin’

31. Stan Getz Quartet (EP Esquire, 1951) – ‘ ‘s Cool Boy’

32. John Coltrane ‘…Plays The Blues’ (LP Atlantic, 1962) – ‘Mr Knight’

33. The Lochies ‘Lewis Folk’ (LP Lismore Recordings, 1974) – ‘Mairi Bhan’

34. Chuck Berry ‘I’m A Rocker’ (LP Contour Pickwick, 1970) – ‘Christmas’

35. Miles Davis & Gil Evan ‘Plus 19’ (LP Columbia, 1956) – ‘The Duke’

36. George Shearing Quintet (EP MGM, 1950) – ‘I’ll Remember April’

37. UFO ‘C’Mon Everbody’ (LP Telefunken, 1981) – ‘Star Storm’

38. Paper Lace ‘ The Best of Paper Lace’ (LP Hallmark/Pickwick 1974) – ‘Billy Don’t Be A Hero’

39. Calum Kennedy & The Family ‘Meet The Kennedy’s’ (LP Golden Guinea/Pye 1970) – ‘A World Of Our Own’

40. De Danann ‘ The Mist Covered Mountain’ (LP Gael-Linn, 1980)  – ‘Mr O’Connor’

41. Stan Getz Quartet (EP – Esquire 1951) – ‘I Only Have Eyes For You’

42.  The MacDonald Sisters ‘ Four Bonnie Highland Lassies’ (LP – Emerald Gem 1969) – ‘Oran Na Maighdean Mhara’

The purchase period for this process has indeed been very entertaining. Some weeks I would call into the shop (the original chaotic place in the centre of Stornoway, and now the organised out-of-town Mall on Bay Head) and find that no new records had been purchased. It is these times that account for the density of certain artists and type of records being in the above list. I was lucky, some great jazz, and indeed some real rarities turned up. Other times, the pile would have grown by the addition of a massive set of new donations, and these visits resulted in some of the pop and more wayward purchases and the overall variety of the music.  Some very odd things happened too, with the purchase of all of Na h-Oganaich’s records, for example – and not to forget the complete oddball arrivals such as Bill Wolfgramme with His islanders’ ‘Sounds Of Hawaii’.

In a moment of highly enjoyable and unexpected madness, I entered the Bethesda shop on Friday last and, in an equally unexpectedly formal manner, asked to speak to the manager. Luckily the manager was in, and I explained in as normal a manner as possible, the above process, ending with the suggestion that I would like to complete the process by giving the first performance of the new construct live in the shop (using the chairs and sofas in store at the time of the performance as our venue), as a fundraising event and as part of my own programme to mark the centenary of John Cage.

The manager of Bethesda is a nice, very well organised and committed individual, anda thankfully she also has a very good sense of humour, and kind of understood where all of this was coming from in a moment. With her support for this made venture, I’ve approached the equally nice people who own and run the shop as part of the vital fundraising work for Bethesda Hospice to let this happen. The performance will of course be a fundraiser, and I’m also going to gift the construct to Bethesda (I’ll do this whether or not the performance happens in store) for them to sell as an MP3 download if they so wish.

Watch this space for details.

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