this showed up the other day in the Guardian

Tom Roche troche@...
Sun Feb 15 01:55:24 CET 2004

Subject: Guardian | The cult of Cutler

   The cult of Cutler

   The legend of poet and performer Ivor Cutler is intact, 50 years after
   he started songwriting. Will Hodgkinson meets him

   Friday January 16, 2004
   The Guardian

   "That's my chair," says Ivor Cutler, when I make the mistake of
   sitting down in the dark and cluttered living room of his little flat
   in north London. "You can go over there." Ivor Cutler - or Mr Cutler,
   as he likes to be addressed - lives on his own at the flat, which
   redefines conventional concepts of untidiness and enters into the
   realm of the bomb-shattered. Amid the debris of photographs, books,
   cuttings, ephemera and loose pieces of paper that fill the living room
   are three chairs, a bar heater and a harmonium: a miniature piano that
   wheezes into life when its foot pedals are pressed. The few records
   and CDs in the flat have remained unplayed since Cutler's record
   player gave up work some years ago. As a member of the Noise Abatement
   Society, the poet and performer is on an eternal if ultimately
   fruitless quest for silence.

   "I'm an extremely sensitive man and I'm very sensitive to noise," says
   Cutler. "There was some noise on the house opposite earlier today, and
   it was hell. So I went round there to complain and actually the man
   was very nice. There are a lot of nice people around. Have you

   Cutler has been enchanting audiences of nice people for over 40 years
   now. Dismissed from the RAF in 1941 for dreaminess, he became a
   teacher, and in the 1950s started to write songs in the hope of making
   enough money to give up teaching and become a painter. It didn't
   happen, but he did manage to broadcast his stories on the BBC's Home
   Service. Since then successive generations have formed their own
   Cutler cult: he hung out with a hip crowd at Peter Cook's
   Establishment Club, was lauded by the Beatles, and has kept his legend
   intact - with the help of John Peel's patronage - ever since.

   "John Peel has a show on Number One [Radio 1] on which he plays the
   latest gramophone records," Cutler tells us. "He put one of my records
   on, and a few days later there was a cloud of envelopes coming in. But
   some people like Cutler, and some people don't. When I did Monday
   Night at Home one man called in and said 'Hey! Get rid of that guy!
   He's driving me nuts and his voice is making my wife's hair stand on

   The flat is something of a shrine to its inhabitant. Cutler wrote a
   good percentage of the books on the shelves and the floor; there are
   large black and white prints of his younger self leaning against the
   windows; and some of his finest poetry moments are taped to various
   surfaces, such as this line on the top of a bookcase: "The earth meets
   the sky over the hill, I was told by a sparrow with a lump on his
   head." Poetry neophytes come to the flat to learn from the old master,
   and his advice is always the same: learn to bypass the intellect and
   use your imagination.

   "The intellect is the thing you get from your teachers, and - what are
   those big places that people go to for education?" Universities?
   "That's it. But the intellect doesn't come from the person. It comes
   from people telling you how to do things. As a teacher in Paisley I
   had to teach drawing. So I said: 'OK kids, here is a wee bit of paper
   and a crayon, draw an animal.' One boy drew an ass that didn't have
   four legs, but 14. I asked him why and he said: 'It looked better that
   way.' I wanted to lift him out of his cage and put my arms around him,
   but my intellect told me not to which was lucky, because I probably
   would have been sent to prison."

   There isn't much music that interests Cutler now, although he can
   point to musicians that have made an impact on him over the decades:
   his favourite composer is Arvo Part, his "second best song" is Didn't
   It Rain by the American blues singer Mahalia Jackson, and he feels an
   affinity with the folk music of eastern Europe, especially when it is
   performed by the Hungarian singer Marta Sebestyen. "Because I'm 80
   there are not many people who I can look up to anymore, and my
   capacity for listening to music has become very sluggish. But I used
   to like going to see Marta Sebestyen when she came over. Then at the
   last concert I went to, she went for a heavy sound and completely
   killed the thing that I was once desperate for. I've stopped getting
   my kicks from Arvo Part, too.

   "Who was that miserable German guy, the one who died? His book is up
   there somewhere," says Cutler, when asked about writers that he likes.
   It turns out that he means the Czech writer Franz Kafka. "The Castle
   was the one I loved because it was me he was writing about. The
   empathy was there - I was empathising with him, but really I was
   thinking about myself. But I don't read anymore. Shall I show you
   something interesting?"

   Cutler gets up to lead us to the toilet, but he collapses over the
   photographer's camera bag on the way. For a moment, as he lies
   groaning on the floor, it looks like this might be the first Home
   Entertainment that has actually killed off its subject. This would be
   awful, as not only is Cutler a unique talent, but also he has a gig to
   do at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London on February 1. He survives
   the fall, though, and gets up to show us two proud additions to his
   toilet: a sign on the faucet that states, "Once this has been opened,
   it cannot be returned", and a large group photograph of teenage girls
   at a finishing school. "I do what I do here, and I've got all these
   people to watch me. After relieving myself I turn and look at the
   girls at a finishing school. There's 18 of them, and I've never been
   able to decide which one I'd really like to know."

          Guardian Unlimited (c) Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004

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