News Update: October 2001

In the last few weeks, there has been much for us all to talk and think about and, for me at any rate, this has been a time to refrain from frivolous chat or comment.

September 11th saw me in the quaint and bustling Italian town of Reggio Emilia where I played with a bunch of quite proper flute players led by the good-looking flute-maestro Andrea Griminelli and supported by a large Russian Orchestra.  The horrors of breaking news hit at about 2 pm and a journalist friend advised  us by cellphone of the first vague reports, sending us scurrying upstairs to our hotel room to watch CNN.

The rest is history as generations will remember it.

We, at the concert that night, had to take the difficult decision whether or not to go through with the show – a no-win contest of moral and emotional strings a-tugging. In the event, with tickets all sold and half of the audience on its way from different parts of the country we decided to go with it. The mayor made a sombre speech and the evening of flute repertoire of the classical sort went off without a hitch.

I was on at the end with three pieces – Elegy, Bouree and Thick as a Brick – to lift the spirit and generally be the circus turn. I decided, given the response of the audience to keep the presentation light-hearted, but it was a difficult twenty minutes of guilty fun.

Sting was due to appear three days later with the same orchestra and other guests in the same venue, but decided to not to appear leaving poor Andrea, the organiser of the events, with no option but to cancel the whole show. Either Sting or I made a respectful but ultimately wrong decision, I can’t help but fear.

We were well aware of the apparent impossibility of getting Doane Perry and drum-tech Jay to Oslo for the Scandinavian tour in the next days – at least direct from LA – so we got them heading towards the Mexican border, pronto.

After a long wait, the authorities opened the border at Tijuana and the boys were on their way, via Mexico City and London to Norway for the first show. We had checked with theatres in London, Germany and Scandinavia  before leaving to determine the mood of the European audiences regarding the continuation of public performances, so forgive us, dear Americans, if we seemed at odds here in Europe with the complete absence of shows at that time in the US.

We received, for our trouble, a couple of real stinker reviews in Oslo and Bergen – not for choosing to perform – but for the quality of our performance. Strange, because I had listened to the tape of the shows both nights and thought them pretty reasonable. Usually, when reviewers don’t like Tull, they just don’t bother to write the piece in the first place and reviews, when we get them, tend towards good or ecstatic. Weird, therefore, to find ourselves plastered over the front page of the Bergen morning paper as the headline news item of the day for not being very good, especially in the context of the other events still unfolding in the wake of the 11th September.

Oh well, you lose some and you lose some………

Six weeks later and we still operate in a world quite changed from the one we thought we knew. The news runs continuously with the aftermath of the tragedy and the risky deployment in Afghanistan. Anthrax resonates in the pages of print and the sad obituaries of the thankfully few victims – so far.

The travel and tourist industries seem to have discovered irreparable economic realities and the stock market lurches between low and lower.

Music, as always, remains the power of hope and healing throughout this ongoing new home environment of terror and vulnerability. In how many homes have the sounds of comfort sung out to still the heartbreak and personal loss these recent weeks? How many touched souls have turned to their musical heroes and villains for consolation and escape from torment? More, I suggest, than turned to “Millionaire”or other light-hearted and ultimately shallow TV or movie frolic.

Perhaps the music we grew up with – the music which shaped our youth, whether thirty years ago or yesterday – has become, for many, the replacement for religious hymn or lament. For the moment, I am happy and a little proud to be of the tribe of Musik – the tribe of players who ask you not to forget but to celebrate the positive and purposeful future which we all strive for.

But forgive me if I’m not feeling too funny at the moment. I have some pretty strong views about Bush, Blair and the quest for vengeance but now is not the moment. Those of who have walked the streets of London, Belfast, Madrid, Paris, Tokyo or Oklahoma City, in these last years know too well the taped-off streets, bomb and other terrorist threats ringing from loudhailers and the sense of absolute bewilderment at the action of man upon man. In the names of freedom, religion or fierce, flag-waving independence are such acts committed. To those sad and soul-poisoned perpetrators I say,  “Get a life. Save one, don’t take one.”

To share the grief, spread the load of confusion and wonderment at the inhumanity of it all, we may huddle – not in family groups perhaps – but in the reassuring cyberworld of cellphone and e-mail. Not for us the hallowed halls of church or home but the strange detachment of technological chest-beating and the anguished howl. Well, that’s what I’m probably doing anyway.

Funny old world, isn’t it?

IA

Somewhere near a town in England.

26th October 2001.