You know… you know when you’re trying… erm… when you’re… you know there’s feelings, you know… and you want to… there’s feelings and you’re trying to, you’re trying to put them across…well, not feelings, but thoughts… you’re trying to put them across, and it’s… erm… it’s stop start… like this, but… you know, it’s better for it?
Well, what you have is Martin Creed‘s Words and Music, a performance lecture of bar-room philosophy. The Turner Prize winning Glaswegian artist stumbles round both stage and subject matter in the manner above, hitting truths on the way. There are a few slides, but mainly it’s Creed and mic or Creed and guitar, imprecisely expounding on… well, just some metaphysical stuff that’s occurred to him. With painterly skill, Creed finds a few broad brushstrokes represent the soul of his subject much more clearly than any exact, technical drawing.
It’s Creed’s style to number his works, hating the false certainty of titles, but in so much as Words and Music is a title rather than a description, it’s a good one. One of the insights he bumps into is that thoughts are to feelings what words are to music. The former seek shape and definition, the latter just “are”. And definition is not always good. A definite thing is not moving. And if a thing’s not moving it’s dead…
The spirit of the late Ivor Cutler feels present tonight. Like Cutler, Creed approaches everything from first principles with a childlike curiosity, and fills his songs with wordplay and absurdity (though his singing voice, similarly idiosyncratic, is reedy compared to Cutler’s). Another moment of Cutler-like uncovered realisation occurs when Creed discusses the migrant crisis. Creed hates borders. A border on a map is like “drawing a line in soup”. You can do it but it will soon fill in. Yet if borders between people are so bad, why then does Creed still lock his door at night?
Words and Music feels very Fringe-y for the International Festival. Trimmed to an hour, this would go down as well in Banshee Labyrinth on a Sunday afternoon does as it does in this rarefied atmosphere. But then again, the separations Creed identifies and questions here are as present in the world of Edinburgh arts festivals as they are anywhere else.