Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Baltic, Sage, Newcastle-on-Tyne

Chris is off at Java classes, leaving Bondi and I to have a good look around downtown Newcastle, particularly around Grainger Town. The Side Cinema/Gallery/Cafe is being managed by a Canadian from Vancouver Island, and she knows her way around an espresso machine. While foraging in Spin, an interesting little CD shop, I heard a little bit of interesting music. The vocalist sounded familiar... I fumbled for the name "Is that Jane Birkin?"
"Charlotte Gainsbourg, her daughter...good catch".
"They sing.."
"Not very well? But quite atmospheric, yes".
I heard a fragmentary lyric "five fifty five", and commented "well she sings bigger numbers than her parents". The album's title is in fact "5:55", with lyrics by Jarvis Cocker, and music by Air.

I dropped Bondi back at the hotel to rest while I went to visit the two big landmarks on the Gateshead riverbank, the Sage music centre and the Baltic art gallery.

The Sage is the Norman Foster designed glass armadillo which is home to the Northern Sinfonia, a music education centre and two world-class auditoriums. There's a concert tonight focussing on the early musical lives of Brahms and the Schumanns, but it was sold out even before the season program was printed.

Over lunch at the Sage cafe I finished off The Worms of Euston Square, which I had very much enjoyed, particularly as the author didn't tie himself in knots to be completely faithful to period detail or to be overly mannered in the dialogue. The clever construction of the principal characters allows a great deal of interesting exposition of Victorian England to take place, and allows walk-on parts for Dickens, Marx and the royals.
The Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art is housed in the Baltic Flour mill, with the great height providing 7 levels of spacious galleries. The main downstairs gallery had a solo show by Chiho Aoshima who blends contemporary manga style with traditional scroll paintings. There was also a 7 minute animated film "City Glow" presented on 5 wide screens that featured glowing skyscrapers looming like giant worms over the lush undergrowth of a fantasy world. In the stairwell leading up through 20+ flights to the upper galleries there was also a huge installation of screens and speakers delivering a raucous tribute to John Lennon.

Went out for dinner with Chris and his colleague Charlotte. Abandoning the concentration of Italian restaurants near the Quay, we set off to find Chinatown, on a quest longer than Marco Polo's excursion to the Orient. Dinner was OK but my middle-of-the-night dreams and headache was a surefire indication of an overload of MSG.

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