Father's Telescope

1989 13 minutes
Baritone, speaker and tape
Text Michael Harlow
Revised 2022
 Altes Konservatorium, Zürich
David Thorner (Baritone)
David Thorner (Baritone)

First planned as “Nelson Duos”, ie., as a sequel to the Nelson Songs, but this time with an additional spoken part. Nelson Wattie, however, moved back to NZ before the work was finished. The tape was realized at home on our GMX, largely with sampled sounds. The first performance was in Rigiblick, Zürich, with David Thorner (baritone) and myself (speaker). Later we performed it again in Lucerne at the Tonkünstlerverein conference. First performed in NZ for Radio NZ by Nelson Wattie and Barry Empson.

Most of the texts were written while Michael Harlow was on holiday with us in Eglisau (during his period as Katherine Mansfield Scholar in Menton, South of France) – he was fascinated by my books for teaching English and started writing what he called “easy grammar poems”. At this stage we didn't discuss their setting at all, thus the scenario is from me: Two stereotype figures, one with power (the speaker: in black clothes and black mask) and the other under his charge (the singer: in white). During the course of the work the roles change – white learns to use black's power, black loses control.

Marc-Olivier Oetterli (B)  and Daniel Fueter (Speaker), concert of 2.12.2022
Marc-Olivier Oetterli (B) and Daniel Fueter (Speaker), concert of 2.12.2022

Video: (Marc-Olivier Oetterli + Daniel Fueter, 2.12. 2022)

Father's Telescope

1. Nein, nein. Ja, ja

1 not wonder 4 not fortune 8 not hate nor even 9 not nein but ja, ja ja . . ja . . . ja jaja

Father's Telescope (song 1)
Nelson Wattie (Baritone), Barry Empson (Speaker)
2. Father's Telescope

If you look through this telescope what can you see?

You can see a man and a dog you can see what they are doing, now

The man is picking up the stick in his left hand

And the dog?

The dog is waiting at the edge of the sea

Now, the man is throwing the stick with his right hand

He is throwing the stick far out into the water

And the dog?

Now the dog is paddling across

the lake

to the other side.

Father’s Telescope (Song 2)
3. Easy Grammar Poem for Where

Where are the twins? They’re on the wall Where are the pictures? They’re at the gate And where are the sweets? They’re near the house And where are the trucks? They’re in the jar And where is the jar? Beside the twins And where are the twins? Inside their shoes And where are the shoes? The shoes . . ? Ah, yes, The shoes are under the chair.

Father’s Telescope (Song 3)
4. Don't be silly

Don’t be silly, or even sad, & what do you want, anyway what’s the matter or even going on out there under the stairs, everyone is lining up to sign their names, then disappearing to a fine round of applause

Did you say you wanted to leave the room? Well, there’s the bell, and that’s all, for today

Don't be silly (Song 4)
5. Tomorrow & Tomorrow Morning

Tomorrow, tomorrow morning & tomorrow afternoon, even evening, that is to say all day tomorrow I’m going to look through this telescope to see what’s happening

Well, there isn’t much my love, & there are no oranges floating around out there, hardly even a cow jumping over hardly a moon but if you look closely, there are, yes, so many stars swimming back

Tomorrow and tomorrow morning (Song 5)
6. No I Don't, Yes I Do

Well, we won’t chase what couldn’t be caught, will we?

I mean, if you really want to know why everyone is just beginning to levitate three trees high. why don't you open & shut your books why don't you just try on this fine body for size?

No I don't, yes I do (Song 6)
7. Why Don't You

Why don’t you wake up, turn round and get into line? Why don’t you put up your hands to see what’s happening right now?

Why don’t you just put on the world’s hat the one with the snap brim, to see what’s happening inside the world’s head why don’t you do that before you die?

Why don't you wake up? (Song 7)
8. Are you the Milkman?

Are you the milkman? No, I’m not

Or the Milkman’s wife Perhaps?

No, I’m afraid not

Are you someone, then I might know well If I knew by chance Your name?

Not one of those, no

Would you step Inside, that’s fine And would you just Arrest this cow She’s been trying To jump over the moon For years (now)

Michael Harlow
Are you the milkman? (Song 8)
Father's Telescope, für Bass, Sprecher und Tonband, geht von … einer eindeutig definierten Zweierbeziehung aus: dem Lehrer-Schüler-Verhältnis. Eine reiche und abgründige Computermusik greift aus dem Hintergrund ein. Die Schrecken der Unterrichtsstunde von Ionesco sind gegenwärtig. Dann aber gelingt es der Vitalität des Schülers (David Thorner) die starre hierarchische Ordnung (vertreten durch Kit Powell als Sprecher) aufzulösen. — Jürg Schubiger
Father's Telescope, for Bass, Speaker and Tape, assumes … an unambiguously defined dual relationship: that of teacher-pupil. A rich and depressing computer music attacks from the background. The horrors of Ionesco's The Lesson are ever present. However the vitality of the pupil (David Thorner) succeeds in breaking through the rigid hierarchical order (represented by Kit Powell as the speaker). — translation KP