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The Vacuum Issue 12 Down Mexico Way spacer The Vacuum Issue 12 - Down Mexico Way
Touched By Genius
by Brian Irvine
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I was in New York. It was a retrospective Cy Twombly... I'd never heard of him! Museum of Modern Art. I took a taxi, a cab, it was raining, it took a while. Cabbies were choosing pick ups carefully, using the rain to their advantage. Got one! Arrived. Through the entrance like the giant see-through doors of a safe into a labyrinth got a map I'm in a big room surrounded by walls, each carrying a glorious hanging palette of colour huge, wild, dripping canvases scurrying adventurous lines, squiggles, graffiti, hearts, pinks, browns, crayon, oil, alive and electric, scraping, clumpy scratches of paint.. like meat.. like a child on a blackboard, swooping letters, dirt and blood, poetry and movement. Unbelievable! Staggering! an overwhelming monumental Beauty! I watched and gorged and listened as the monster godlike tablets yelled out to me and played a glorious cacophony... I heard it... I felt it. Like the wind in a wind tunnel, in your face, the power.. breathless. I bought the book, the catalogue, the print, the cards, the article in the New York Times, read the reviews, the comments, his life, the photo (a smiling phoneless recluse), seventy, the escape to Italy away from Rothko, Pollock, de Kooning the rest the return to America, home, the old reclaimed legend, respected, celebrity, glorified painter now, at last.
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I went home to Ireland. I started writing the music .orchestra music .could have written for ever. Remembered the lines, the shapes, remembered the unplayed sounds. Put it all down. As best I could and three months later.. I finished.
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The concert was in the Ulster Hall, the new autumn season, the Ulster Orchestra. Under my coat was the secret recorder in a bag with a microphone poking out from the side. I clicked and hoped, recording from the balcony. And after it was finished I copied it onto a tape, put the tape in an envelope, wrote some words but not too many, on a plain white card. On the envelope the vaguest address: Cy Twombly, Lexington, Virginia. Carried it to my local Ballyhalbert post office shop, popped it in the post and that was that!
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Some time passed. I remember it was a beautiful winter sun morning. I heard the postman and the "flap!" as something landed on my mat. The odd looking letter was bigger than the usual everyday ones. It was brown and on the front in huge scrawling letters was my name. I remembered it all then, but couldn't believe it .I opened it .. I read slowly . Dear Brian, thank you so much for .. your truly beautiful music! .the letters swooping across the page, looping and twisting, giant like the canvases, unmistakable, graceful familiar, poetic strokes .. your truly beautiful music! the words filled me like a mighty fuel . your truly beautiful music! . an everlasting wave of hope washed over me, sucked me up and I swam about like a kid.
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That was 10 years ago. I still I treasure that letter, like nothing I have ever treasured before, now stashed away in a secret place, sellotaped firmly to the inside of my Twombly catologue, I take it out from time to time, read it and carry on to my next adventure in music. Superman had kryptonite but I have a letter from Cy Twombly.
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