I wandered tardily down the stairs into the dank and wondrous world that is the Audio Foundation with a beer in my bag and a powerful thirst for strange experiences to see Jeff Henderson. Jeff Henderson is an experimental sax artist living deep within the scene of boundary-pushing sounds in this country. He has just released ‘The Charming Clarinet’, instruction manual and accompanying compact disc.
I arrived in a sparsely occupied room to stories of chasing camels in the deserts of Persia and stealing their ancient clarinet techniques. To follow was an illustration of how to play the clarinet as if your mind was riddled with phosphorescence, an electric eel, cold cucumber soup (delicious) and something that went on and on and just never stopped… Ahh yes, the horizon. It was illuminating, it was exhilarating, it was joyous. People were muttering under their breath about circular breathing. The man spewed forth notes like a technicoloured torrent. It was apparently supposed to change our state of mind. I was in rapture.
Jeff Henderson then announced a break, to be followed by more clarinet, and in fact more clarinets.
He now had five friends with all manner of clarinets on stage – from one as tall as a giraffe to one so tiny it can’t be seen with the naked eye. There are ‘scores’ on the floor which consist of some odd-shaped leather offcuts from the Parisian tie and belt factory upstairs. These six humble clarinettists will ‘read’ these scores, and we will hear their interpretation of the sound of some rubbish from a factory bin.
They squeak-popped-honked, they shrieked-bellowed-shone. I think somebody even farted at one point. It was a glorious cacophony. We were transported to a new world beyond space and time and melody. It really felt like a musical adventure and although I wished there were more people there to witness this aural feast, I was glad to look around me and see that this was quality, not quantity audience-wise.
A group of people wholeheartedly prepared to be taken to the outer reaches of the clarinettisphere. I purchased two CDs to inflict on family members for Xmas and rose back to the real world bubbling with sonic delight.
Thanks, Jeff Henderson, you truly are, as they say, a piece of work.