Deirdre: The trouble is, if you want to make a decent living out of any form of creative activity, you've got to become commercial, at least to some extent.
Robin: It's almost an axiom that the better the piece is, the harder it
will be to get it across. Luckily that is not always true, some-times you can do something that's really great and get it across, but it then has to retain a lot of communicativeness to be understandable by people.
John: That is something I feel ..... a lot of the Keltic Bards are famous
for their very involved poetry, which used a a lot of kennings, symbolic terms, which you pretty much have to be schooled in Bardism to understand.
R: Absolutely ..... well there is a Bardic aecret, there genuinely is a Bardic secret, and the reason it is a secret is because you can't describe it to someone who doesn't know what it is. What does it mean, I mean what are these people on about? I mean it's like I'm trying to say in 'Song of Mabon', "There's a treachery hidden in words and human love." I mean, there's no way you can describe to someone what that is, unless they know what it means, unless they' re already aware of that treachery hidden in words and human love.
J: How difficult do you find it to incorporate some of these important but, to everyday people, obscure, ideas, obscure terms?
R: Well luckily, these things don't have to be comprehensible intellectually, provided that they have word-music, melody, provided they have musical movement, harmonious content, provided they create a spell. I think these things have a charm of their own.
D: Do you think then that these things which you're trying to express get through to people on whatever level they are able to understand them?
R: It seems to be so. I don't think it matters, because I think that when you get into talking about pieces that are involved with myth and so forth, myth being a subjective thing, it means different things to different people. The pieces as I wrote them have a meaning for me - they might have an entirely different meaning to somebody elae. I don't think it matters, because it's the performance of them that is important. It's the ritual aspect ..... it's the actual doing of the thing that has meaning.
There are extraordinary depths in the Celtic Heritage - I think there 's a sort of Renaissance coming in Scotland and Ireland. I'm getting more and more passionately Scottish the older I get, you know, I really want to see Scotland awake. It's been held under this dark waterfall so long that its fire has been quenched out. Victorian/Knoxian prudery has killed the passionate flower that it should really have been, and anyone looking at Scottish scenery and hearing the best of, say, Pibroch music, can see that there is undoubtedly a very wild soul there, which can still infect even the most mundane hearts with certain forms of •'xaltation. I'd really like to see Scottish art start to wake up to its (quote/unquote) "Celticness" instead of being quite so Tartan cimraick orientated.
D: Do you still miss Scotland a lot?
R: Well luckily I've been in and out of it a lot recently. But yes, I miss Scotland even when I'm here, the Scotland I miss is not here yet.
D: Are you still planning to move back here?
R: Oh yes ..... oh yes. But I think I will always be a traveller.
J: Some of the material you want to incorporate in your muaic/theatre at present is quite serious, involved with myth, involved with symbolism about meaning, about life, about seasons, about things like that, that's quite a serious content.....
R: 'Tree of Leaf and Flame" is that.....for better or worse that is what it deals with. But there are a lot of other things I'd like to deal with, including such things as humour, lighter things.
J: But even in the performance last night, there was a lot of humour. How much is that a natural expression of your character, or how much do you consciously say, "Well I've got quite a lot of serious stuff here, I'd better lighten it up a bit"?
R: Well I think in 'Tree of Leaf and Flame", I did that less than I've ever done in my life. I mean I very consciously perform, you know, but I think it's a temptation to overdo that, and I think this was the least I've ever yielded to that trap. But I do think humour has a definite place.....it's a marvellous thing.....laughter is very powerful. I like it! Ideally you should have both. Last night was presumably mostly serious, but I think it had its humorous bits.
J: Staying over here myself, I'm quite interested in how people in the States approach the celtic field. You know, there are a lot of Highland Societies, Gaelic Societies, Welsh Societies, and so on, in America. We tend to get get bad reports about them, that people are into them because of their name, because their name is Macintosh or suchlike.
R: There is that, there definitely is that, but on the other hand, looking on the more positive aids, there is a lot of really sincere enthusiasm, especially in music. For instance, some of the Scottish pipers in the States and Canada are absolutely staggeringly good. One of the best pipers I ever heard was a young American with a sort of German sounding name, from San Francisco, he was great. He was only about nineteen, he was a Pipe Major, and he'd been a member of the pipe band that won the competitions in Scotland the year before. Also some of the Cape Breton fiddlers are fantastic. So there is a lot of enthusiasm, which is very refreshing.
One thing I'd like to add: it seems that there has been a sort of pattern over the last few years in my own Keltic Path. The 'Glint of the Kindling' album was really about childhood and about growing up, particularly growing up in Scotland, and I then got into this whole thing about 'Merlin'sGrave' and the various connections of Wales to the South of Scotland, which I think are very important connections. Edinburgh really is the scene of certain very key events in early Bardic matter, and also in early chivalric matter. So we've got the Arthurian, the Chivalric, and of course that leads into the Masonic and what have you .....Knights Templars.....anyway, the next thing from there was, I got into the whole issue of Bardic and Provencal things, Amour Courtois -that's what the 'Songs of Love and Parting' album was about. But I'm currently in a very different state again, having actualized a lot of that.