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Wednesday, 25 November 2015

A Ghost in the Machine

I'm supposed to be good at words.  That's my job, don't wear it out.  Finding words for difficult things should be second nature to me, but for the last year or so I have been failing.  That isn't to say that I'm not writing, I've written a reasonable amount this year, but, basically, quite a few friends or friends of friends have died and I haven't really had much to say.  Over a twelve month period I went to five funerals.  And on the news of each death I wanted to write something.  I got out the notebook or pad, booted up Word or hunted out this blog and... nothing.  Apart from the first sentence above.  Finding myself at a loss.
I think this is partly because anything I wrote looked trite - fake.  So this is an attempt to make up for some lost time, by not writing something too obvious about a friend, who has come back to me of late.  And this is because technology doesn't let go of the dead.

Earlier this year my friend Philippa Tatham died.  Not six months before she had come to my rescue by agreeing, at short notice (and on her day off from a run of a play in London) to appear in an audio play, Historic Crimes, that I was live streaming online.  I hadn't seen her in yonks, probably not since the last show I'd press ganged her into - but suddenly she was in my neighbourhood, saying my words, helping me out.  After eight or so hours of rehearsal, general natteration and then performance, she went back home.  Same old, same old.
I sat on the audio play into the New Year, as the edit for download release would take a while and other projects got in the way.  Then the news hit facebook that Philippa had died and no one could really believe it.  She was young, not much older than I, and so it didn't really make sense.  But there is was - in pixels on a smart phone, everyone said so, so it must be true.
And I still had this recording, sitting on a data stick by the computer, waiting.  Not that I could really face editing it.  That would make it true, some how.  So not yet.  This data stick (which I must return to my sound engineer at some point) sat by the computer till a month or so ago, when I thought it was time...  So, I had a listen.  Not a full listen, just a check.  It was very odd experience.  It still is.
You can forget things about people in their absence.  A photograph, especially professional ones, are misleading captures of the past.  Audio is strangely closer.  Even though the recording doesn't feature her own words, her natural phrasing, it does capture those little details you forget.  Ways of speaking, ways of thinking... but what the recording doesn't do is change.  No matter how many times I listen.

It was clear from the off that there was a lot of work to do with the recording - it was well recorded, but the room wasn't fully soundproof.  The play was supposed to have been recorded twice, once prior to the arrival of the audience, the second with audience for the live streaming.  We ran out of time to complete the first recording - so I don't have a clean record of the second half of the play.  This means I have had to do a lot of work to remove audience and other noise from the live version.  I've just finished editing a clean version, with a few edits and changes of timing.  Next, I will do a final clean up, mix in some effects and give it the final once over.  And then, on Thursday, I'll release it online for you all to hear.
 
Of course, what I've really wanted to do is re-record the play.  Not because it necessarily needs it - but because I can't.  Because I can't just phone up Philippa and ask her to do another take.  To ask her to read a new draft.  To have that option.

So, I return again to the problem of words.  What words do I really have to say about this, about Philippa and other lost friends?  Not many.  Just three.
I miss you.

Historic Crimes will be released on Thursday via audioboom.com.

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