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Robin Williamson: The Inner Keltia Interview - Part One

I had the chance to get an approach to this magnificent magazine through Wendy Newton from Green Linnet Records who kindly send me some volumes as a present by the 80's. Thus I got acquainted of the outstanding work of J.A.Johnston (also known by his druidic name Kaledon Naddair ) who was it's editor and reviewer.Besides several articles each volume contained amazing interviews like this one published on Inner Keltia 3 issued on Jan '83 , and I thought worthy to post. If you wish to purchase more of Kaledon books and works please feel free to visit the official website of Keltia Publications. In this opportunity Robin was interviewed by John A Johnston and assistant editor Deirdre Green.

To most people Robin Williamson will need no introduction, being popular from the Sixties as a member of the Incredible String Band. Since the dissolution of that group Robin has continued to follow his Muse, first of all with his "Merry Band" and of late in solo ventures. Over the years his sources of artistic inapiration have varied (e.g. Egypt-ian, Gypsy, Troubadour etc.); the prevailing trend has led him back to his Spiritual Homeland, Keltic Culture.

The interview which Deirdre and I conducted with Robin was a very informal chat, no pre-arranged questions and no pre-arranged answers. There was however a notioeable amount of agreement and conoord in the ideas and aentiments expresaed. Indeed if I had concocted answers which I would nave 'liked' Robin to have given to 'set' questions, I couldn't have come up with anything better than he actually said in natural conversation. The concord was (i feel) in the main due to the similarity of our Spiritual Paths, and where we've reached on them. This was strengthened by Deirdre already being friends with Robin, and I, like Robin, am an Edinburghite Sagittarian so we have many character traits in conmon (a strong creative drive, an indominable sense of humour, counter-balanced by a serious interest in Religious Philosophy and the Hythopoetic Muse).

This Muse has called to us, as She has called to many, and as She calls still:-
"I am the secret Heart-land of your fathers
In me the virtue stays
I will bring back my children
After certain days."

JOHN: I've noticed over the laat couple of albums you've released that you distinctly wanted your musical productions and creations to be linked to Keltic themes. I was wondering what are your reasons for doing that.

ROBIN: Reasons.....it's a kind of home.....it's the kind of music I've always enjoyed most really, and I always thought there was a tremendous hole in the whole music field and that no-one was writing much in the way of new material in Scottish or Irish folk styles, although there's a lot of very good playing in traditional styles. But more than that, I also like storytelling, and currently, having looked at a variety of Keltic things, I see myself directly in a literary tradition that goes back through Dylan Thomaa, Teata, Joyce, and through a variety of other things, back to the days when poetry and music were not so rigidly seperated as they are now.

J: The performance you did in the last few days, 'Tree of Leaf and Flame', contained a blend of music, poetry, stories, dance, and even a backdrop of a Keltic design. Have you any further plans to weave those different artistic fields together?

R: Very much s0.....that will be an ongoing project.....'Tree of Leaf and Flame' is really a ritual piece, you know.....it'a a ritual piece, in the same way as Yeats was trying to do with his plays for dancers, except he was very much into the Japanese No plays, where as I am much more interested in doing it as a vaguely contemporary theatre piece, but with strands of other things running through it, In and out, and using the dancers very much in their own right rather than as a chorus to the action. I want the dancers and the dances to have the same sort of stature as ths spoken word and the tune and to have them all blend in. And also it's a ritual piece because of the nature of the subject matter, which ia basically a Keltic theme relating to the changing of the
year from Midwinter to May to Summer'a End.....and possibly ultimately there'll be a third piece, from Summer'a End to Midwinter. The idea, of course, of the three dancers and of the storyteller/singcr/harper which I play, has a good solid archetypal grounding.
The three dancers is a marvellous image, you've got all the Goddeas connections, the Three Graces connotations.....Greek mythological ideas.....and so on.

J: I've seen similar things done by other people and I was wondering what you felt about using back projection, or film projection, as part of that multi-art approach?

R: Well Geoff, (Gooff Moore, choreographer of 'Tree of Leaf and Fíame' - Eds.) you are, being a, sort of pioneer in mixed media stuff - all the way through the Sixties he was one of the originator of the whole concept, music, film, spoken word, slides and stuff.....we both felt that it would be nice to use what was a very simple and direct approach to it. So I think that it's again that sort of Yeatsian No play, a very minimal sort of approach that is exciting.
You were asking me what I would do to continue that - the point is, it's an ongoing project, and next year I'm doing the music for the open-air performance of the Mabinogi which ia being done at Caernarvon Caatle and also at Cardiff, and which ia being taken on on a yearly basis by the City of Cardiff as part of their City Festival. It's got a cast of fifty. It's being done in Welsh and English, in the open air, by torchlight, actors on horseback, in the middle of a medieval fair.
It's a massive thing, I'm doing both the live score for the musicians there and the taped stuff, and some of those pieces that we did last night will be included in that.
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