Classical Music / THE BLUE CONCERT QEH / RFH2, London

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The Independent Culture
Not so much a concert, more a rite of communion. "Blue" was as in Derek Jarman's final film, Blue, and the baleful pallid rectangle stared out from a screen like a passionless Rothko. A huddle of the faithful gathered in the darkened front half of the hall. Simon Fisher Turner began the faintest of drones at the keyboards as the other musicians stole on to the stage. John Quentin opened his book.

"Do not be afraid to sleep during the concert,'' Fisher Turner had written beforehand. "Sometimes the music will wake you up.'' Not, however, on Saturday. It did occasionally swell in long surges of sound as the piano rippled, the drones merged into shifting chords, and percussion set a pulse going. But the music was not in its own right the centre of attention. Jarman the writer supplied Quentin's script of observations, aphorisms and reflections; Jarman the director's work was projected on to the blue in short sequences of film diary and creative fantasy, often not in real time but in flurries of separate stills.

As a partly improvised fusion of media it ran fluently enough. The narrative possessed a certain tight-lipped grandeur, though its striking turns of phrase never gelled into a sustained statement. "The further one goes, the less one knows." That was the sort of philosophy. What gave it integrity was feeling rather than ideas, the sense of transience taken to extremes, and not so much of loss as of defeat. The camera lingered on faces and bodies, but inevitably a stunning image would seize the attention from time to time. Towards the end, a ballerina danced in a wasteland, a rebuttal of defeat in deeds if not in words.

A number of intentions went undelivered - no "extreme volume'', no silence either, and the promised non-stop 90 minutes ran out at around 75. It made a strangely low-keyed and provisional tribute. Seventy miles away in Dungeness, Jarman's famous, still carefully tended, garden continues to bloom. What the photos never tell you is that the setting is hardly isolated. Extreme maybe, but the cottage is surrounded by dozens of others, with a nuclear power station's incessant hum half a mile away. It's the garden that creates and then overcomes the isolation: a defiant, joyous flowering out of the hostile shingle. That, surely, is the true memorial.