A diary reading from 1940 with accompanying compositions. Currently in development.
In the summer of 2021, whilst clearing out my dead father’s house, I came across a small red notebook. In it I discovered the handwritten diary of a young woman living in Ipswich during the Second World War. Memo Book is a reading of this diary set to music.
My Dad was a hoarder and collector of all sorts, so it was not such a surprise to find this text written by someone we are not related to. What was unexpected was the immediate impact finding this diary had. I found it instantly inspiring and reading the words of its 20 year old writer energised me to compose, perform and record Memo Book without intellectualising it too much. It's just sort of happening.
The diary entries begin in September 1940. I began recording myself reading each daily entry and creating their accompanying compositions in September 2021. I now work on each piece for a single day and then move on to the next - with some small revisiting of the compositions afterwards, to tweak, refine and mix. Where possible I try to write and record my rendition of each diary entry on the corresponding date to when it was written, albeit 81 years later. In this way I have formed a deep relationship not just to the text, but also to the writer’s descriptions of each passing month, as the same seasons passed outside my own window. I understand why receiving a new cardigan was so welcome in Autumn. I also recognise her fears as world events became darker and a means of returning to peacetime became less clear.
I do not share all of the writer’s values, and in our contemporary era some of her offerings seem jarring. So it is important to remember that they come from a different time; were written by a 20 year old young woman during a time of war when the wireless, daily newspapers and public exchange were the means by which information was shared and thus opinions formed. It would be easy to dismiss some of the writer’s values as unworldly or lacking analysis of the systems which govern, were they not so genuinely heartfelt.
In embracing this and not attempting to revise any of the texts, something meaningful has started to happen - the correlations between then and now, the joys, tragedies and complexities of the world, have come in to focus for me in new ways. The entries begin to mirror who we are now, how we live, and what it is to fear the future, either for ourselves or each other. Here is someone 20 years old laying out their hopes, concerns, beliefs and all the mundanity of daily life, in private, to themselves as a written diary. Perhaps not really expecting a reader, and certainly not knowing that over 80 years later an artist might find it, read it aloud and set it all to original music. Thinking through the ethics of this has been part of the creation process, and so the author of the original texts remains anonymous.