Posts tagged ‘poetry’

Thud Dub and the sound of one hand clapping.

Mark Mace Smith is a performance poet who lives in the North of England. As you would expect from a poet, he’s lyrical and also pretty witty. In fact he’s so lyrical that he’s performed at many poetry slams across Britain, including at Glastonbury Festival. He also enjoys classical music (sometimes), makes short films from his bedroom window and does percussion. All of this is part of Thud Dub, his own style of ‘dub poetry’. Some Thud Dub paintings are on display in a laundrette in Whalley Range, Manchester. If you’re in the area and need to wash your smelly undies, drop in and have a look…here’s what he thinks about life / music – awfully deep with a touch of Zen.


What was one of the first sounds you can remember hearing? How did it make you feel?

My early years were full of reggae and classical music. My family had four classical music box sets from Readers Digest. Beethoven, Schubert, Bach and Chopin. I know we preferred the Chopin and Beethoven but I’m sure the others got played because we were a family who would not waste anything. My dad also had some seven-inch singles including some reggae that he had cut of his own. I know that these two genres have greatly influenced my taste in music.

However, the first sound I can clearly remember hearing was my first word. “Fitzroy”, he is my brother. I remember this because of the fuss everybody made when I said it. I guess I decided there and then that I’d like to be a performer of some sort. I felt important for, as the last child of six, I rarely felt anything other than ‘in the way‘.

How and where do you enjoy listening to music: at home, on the go, at a gig?

There is a time and place for everything. Even music that I love can annoy me in the wrong place or time. Particularly on adverts or covers. (Nina Simones ‘Aint got no’ or Run DMC’s ‘Walk This Way’ for example). If I listen to a new album, which an audiophile insists is awesome, I will take it in on a long journey. The five hour megabus from Preston to London is a great way to truly absorb new music, or on a long walk around my local park. I don’t listen to the radio for I can’t really suffer dj’s (Guy Garvey is OK) and I detest all adverts.  I enjoy live music (and live TV) because you don’t quite know what you are going to get and it is good to see the artistes  being forced to (re)create, somewhat adrenalin driven and fear filled.
I have particular morning music: classical, easy reggae. Afternoon music: funk, upbeat reggae and music with intelligent lyrics. In the evening, if I’m having a beer, I like it loud and bass heavy but If I’m writing, which can be at any time of the day, I like nice soft mellow tunes. I’m particularly keen on Ivan Campo at the moment. I often listen to new versions of my own tunes when in the bath. You get a lot from the acoustics, there is a certain purity, and if I ever need to skip a track when I’m having a bath, risking getting my CD player waterlogged, then I know that it just isn’t chilaxing enough.

You use words to make poetry, in what way is music also poetry? How do the two art forms relate / connect with each other for you personally?

Music is not poetry but poetry can be music. But it isn’t. Yagetme? The right combination of words, acapella, can make you dance. A composition of notes can make you think deeply, as poetry should, but the words, or images or emotions, that are created are not specifically designed by the composer to create those images, emotions or words, that you experience.

Poetry is direct. Music is like an enveloping mist. You are in it but you don’t perceive all of it at once. What you get from it is only what you perceive of it. There are many ways to interpret Wordsworth’s Daffodils but you can’t really go beyond the words and word sounds. There are a thousand and more ways to interpret Mozart’s ‘The Marriage of Figaro‘. (which I am currently listening to).

It depends on how you feel. Those daffodils will always be fluttering and dancing in the breeze. Figaro’s marriage may inspire you one day or leave you limp the next. Music can be in the background whereas poetry can not. For me, personally, I’d rather create an emotive piece of music than an emotive poem. The latter is restricted to my emotions. The former can be experienced in a multitude of different emotional ways by the audience. And music can also just be there without any demands on the consciousness.

What’s so great about rhythm and percussion?

The heart’s beat is a human beings first perceptible sound. In fact, now I come to think about it… I remember, as a foetus, holding my breath so as to try to synchronise my heartbeat to my mothers heartbeat which was pulsing at a half time to mine. Then I’d kick her belly and try to shock her into doubling up her heart rate so that we both pulsed to my rhythm. It was great fun for a while but then she made me leave.

Why do people talk of ‘the sound of one hand clapping’? Does that mean anything to you?

Zen Buddhist monks send their students away to contemplate the concept of “the sound of one hand clapping”. They send them away partly because it is important that their students learn these things for themselves but mostly because students are bloody annoying. If they return, without the answer, unenlightened, they are admonished in some way, sometimes with a big stick, and sent away to think about it again.

And again and again until they achieve enlightenment. However the enlightenment they may eventually receive is not from an understanding of what the sound of one hand clapping actually sounds like. Their enlightenment comes from the depth of their meditation in pursuit of the answer.

It is when the mind is clear of all pursuits, focused on one thing, centred on a concept that mortal man would believe is beyond earthly knowledge, (the sound of one hand clapping), then the true awakening of The All is experienced. The sound of one hand clapping is the same sound as creations heartbeat. Of existence itself!  Possibly.


I recall sitting on a mound, on a hill, at Glastonbury festival in the early nineties, with Lucy (in the sky with diamonds) and Aretha (Green) listening to many drums being played and awaiting the sunrise. There was one huge drum and loads of smaller drums and chanting and whistles and instruments and bongs, pipes, chalices…

That huge drum held the beat, in fact it seemed to hold EVERYTHING together. Every other drummer could play whatever the heaven they wanted but that one huge drum held it all in shape, maintained the form of the rhythm and it did not stop regardless of many a false dawn. Drums are the heartbeat of music, of life.

For my heart is my drum and I will endeavour to do whatever the heaven on Earth I like as long as I do not cause it to stop beating. Perhaps, indeed, our hearts make the sound of one hand clapping. Discuss.


June 15, 2010 at 19:39 Leave a comment

The Last Poet – Mister Gil Scott-Heron is back

The man who hasn’t released an album for 13 years is back with a very interesting project: he has joined forces with producer and XL label owner Richard Russell on this one. ‘I’m New Here’ is a fusion of Heron’s unique spoken word poetry and electronic beats, sometimes mellow, sometimes dark. This is not just your average one-trick pony-comeback record. It’s a big deal, especially if you think about his rollercoaster life.

‘Me and the Devil’ is the first single – a lyrical a nod to Robert Johnson’s blues and maybe a personal reflection. There’s no doubt he had a huge influence on rapping and soul music. Kanye West used his ‘Home is Where The Hatred Is’, a song about addiction and solitude.  Masters at Work and many others have used his music and made their own versions of it, but they won’t compare to what’s still to come from the master poet.

There won’t be another track like ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’ or his album with Brian Jackson, but don’t worry, you may find a future classic on the new one

January 19, 2010 at 10:15 Leave a comment

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