The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #41879   Message #842892
Posted By: Joan from Wigan
07-Dec-02 - 03:47 AM
Thread Name: Graeme Miles -Songbook Launch
Subject: RE: Graeme Miles -Songbook Launch
Here's a copy of a review of the book by David Kidman from the Stirrings website. It shows the ISBN number, which should be useful for ordering:

Graham Miles and Robin Dale
Red Scarecrow ISBN 0-9541901-0-6

Songscapes is the long-awaited first published collection of the songs of Graeme Miles, Teesside resident and erstwhile songwriter whose profile outside of the North-East, hitherto confined to a relatively small number of connoisseurs of song, has recently been substantially boosted by Martyn Wyndham-Read's latest album release Where Ravens Feed (reviewed in Stirrings 109).
Devotees of the more northerly club and festival singarounds will know that one of the finest interpreters of Graeme's songs is Robin Dale, an excellent singer who, coincidentally, is also the photographer responsible for the compelling images carefully placed throughout Songscapes. It's clear at once, then, that this handsome volume is much more than just a songbook or a photographic monograph, quite naturally and creatively combining and integrating the very best of both worlds in (belated) celebration of a long-term artistic partnership.
Graeme's songs, of which 57 (the merest tip of a substantial iceberg!) are included in this volume, were written between 1950 and 1972, and largely draw on the Teesside and Cleveland region for their inspiration, chronicling the profound changes in lifestyle and landscape over those momentous decades. Features contributing to their uniqueness include an unrivalled sense of place, a deeply spiritual outlook and an instinctive and genuine response to the lives and aspirations of local people in all manner of trades; they cover a wide emotional range too, from the haunting street cries of Sea Coal to the ghostly primal incantation of Horumarye and the contrasting, yet deeply moving paeans to love (Exercise 77) and nature (Where Ravens Feed), to the earthy realism of Shores Of Old Blighty and the wistful idealism of My Eldorado (to mention some of the better-known examples).
Graeme's own simple yet beautifully evocative illustrations accompany the songs (for which straightforward musical notation is supplied of melody line only, for the songs are most effectively sung unaccompanied). These are interspersed with (and perfectly complemented by) groups of Robin's photographs, the technical, compositional and artistic excellence of which is mirrored in the state-of-the-art standard of reproduction (you could say that some would have made an even greater impact with judicious placing closer to the songs they might be said to counterpoint, though I appreciate the potential layout constraints).
Now I know you can't have everything, and I realise this may just be wishful thinking, but the only obvious thing lacking from the whole package (apart from a few more songs!) is the actual experience of hearing the songs performed, ideally by Robin himself, say on a CD, since the printed presentation of the song melodies and temporal phrasing is bound by its very nature to be an inexact representation—as Albert and Pauline Elliot write in their foreword, "the true worth of the songs is revealed in their singing". Perhaps a discography of known recordings of Graeme's songs would have been a useful compromise?
With any publication, there are bound to be minor quibbles (though Songscapes has no typos worth mentioning), but I'd like to have seen a more detailed contents page at the front. But by any standards, Songscapes undeniably represents a very considerable achievement, and is an essential acquisition not just for song buffs and admirers of high-quality photographic images, but for anyone interested in the preservation of the folk culture and heritage of the North-East.